Ben Foden may be a top rugby star in his own right whenhe turns out for the Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership or for Englandin the Six Nations’ tournament, but he is also proud to be a doting father off thefield for his two-year-old daughter Aoife Belle. He has even gone as far as tostate that he feels just as at home changing nappies as he is when on the rugbypitch.

With that thought in mind, he has decided to back agovernment drive that is hoping to encourage fathers to take their parenting roles more seriouslyand to increase their involvement in helping to raise their Children from whenthey are born.

He voiced his belief that nowadays “women can just as easily bethe main breadwinner as men”, clearly recognising the talent and earning potentialthat his own wife has as a member of the successful girl group “The Saturdays” (theyare valued at around £2.5 million at present). The full-back dismisses thehistoric stereotype of the man going out to work, while his wife (or partner)remains at home to look after the home and their children, thus sacrificing anyhopes of a career of their own.

His views are not universally backed by other celebrity(and non-celebrity) fathers, as evidenced by the thoughts of another man whowas faced with the same dilemma in recent years. X-Factor’s Simon Cowell was adamant in his views, asserting that “I’mnot doing that, 100 percent absolutely not going near that” when asked if hewould be changing nappies.

Foden’s backing comes at a time when the government isintroducing changes to the law to allow parents to share their ‘maternity’ leavefor raising newborn children, a policy change that applies from April 5ththis year.

Under the revised law, as much as 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks ofpay may be utilised across the parents involved instead of just being for themother of the child. That begins after an initial two weeks granted for themother to recover from childbirth itself. Presently, the only option for theman is to take two weeks off as ‘paternity’ leave.

Employment website “Glassdoor” held their own survey inan attempt to establish whether the changes were likely to have backing, with atell-tale three-quarters of men from the 2,000 men and women asked beingagainst the changes.

The government’s own forecasts have the figures atsomewhere between 2% and 8% of men taking up the option for sharing the leavein the first year.

It remains to be seen how many fathers would actually bewilling to roll their sleeves up and share the duties on a more formal footing,rather than when time permits after their working day ends or at weekends. Manymay outwardly welcome the opportunity to share the duties but inwardly(secretly) be glad to escape the rigours of childminding for a few hours.

Thenovelty of being with their newborn may soon wear thin after a while, when thereality of feeding, washing, looking after a sick or teething child and moppingup after the child has thrown up, besides all the other chores around the househave been factored in. There is no guarantee that the father would actually beany good at childminding neither, despite their apparent well-meaningintentions.

Some fathers may alsosee it as hampering their career earning potential or lowering their perceivedstatus within the workplace, as other workers are able to progress theircareers while they are away from work. The jury seems to be well and truly outon whether or not this policy change will bear fruit. 
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