Why women don’t need any more maternity leaves! (And what we actually do!)

We’re pregnant, is the new way couples are announcing their pregnancies these days! So, why then should girls have all the fun? And no, I don’t just mean the 9 months of feeling bloated and nauseous! I mean the endless diaper changing and baby burping and rocking! Child bearing – that’s a woman’s job if there ever was one! But why pray, is child rearing being added to the list?

Why should only women share the joys of parenthood? Aren’t we all moving towards a gender neutral world after all? Despite the obvious biological limitations, men can really make themselves useful – especially during a baby’s first 12 weeks! So, what better way to ring in actual gender equality than by passing a paternity leave bill as well?

The recent maternity bill which has been passed by the government has been a long pending reform considering that we are living in the 21st century now! Indian women continue to bear the major burden of household and childcare duties, preferring even to opt out of exciting job opportunities – to focus on their family, look after an elder or invest in their kids’ education – rather than their own potential.

From the ‘housewife’ to the ‘home maker’ to the ‘stay at home mom’ to the ‘work from home mom’ to the even newer ‘momprenuer’ women have really, really come a long way! Before I emerged from my postpartum depression and put my marketing skills to work online – I too dreaded anyone asking me the question “So, what do you do?”

The present set up allows women in India to have jobs – not careers! So, if our law makers had really understood the changing dynamics, instead of sounding the death knell on women’s careers by making a mandatory 26 weeks paid maternity leave – they could have introduced a provision for paternity leave in the private sector.

Already HRs are apprehensive of hiring women in a certain age groups who’s ‘biological clocks’ could be a ticking! Many women give up their jobs or take a career break to take better care of their children and in this regard the steps taken to ensure crèches in workplaces is a welcome one.

Men too are coming forward to share in the parental duties. In fact, most fathers these days would genuinely love to spend extended amount of time with their child, especially during the growing years.  Paternity leave in India is at present allowed for Central Government employees. This same courtesy should be extended to males working in the private sector as well!

Increasing maternity leave is a welcome move no doubt. However, an even better move would have been to increase the existing 12 weeks maternity leave to say 16 weeks and at the same time introducing a corresponding 10 to 12 weeks paternity leave for men.

The gender equality debate aside – this is a much needed step especially with Indian families moving towards nuclear family setup! All the help at hand falls short, when there’s a bawling baby to be fed, clothes to be laundered and meals to be served.