Of paternity leave and men who change nappies

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I recently read an article in Mmegi newspaper about men employed in the public service who want to be accorded paternity leave. It’s an interesting idea, which I hope the union will take into consideration because it would allow men to share the responsibilities that come with having a baby.

From the comments I read on the Mmegi facebook page, I realised that some people have a wrong perception of what paternity leave is. Of course a man taking paternity leave doesn’t mean that he’s going to nurse the baby. There are other duties a man can carry out to make things easier for his partner during this period, which includes accompanying the mother for clinic visits, helping with preparing the milk bottle, changing or disposing nappies, burping the baby, and so forth. These tasks may seem menial but they are tiring. A woman in her lie-in period (botsetsi) usually doesn’t have the energy to do all this, and either way, she has to focus on resting, eating right to regain her energy, and bonding with the baby. 

Unfortunately, in our society, it’s still perceived as “taboo” for a man to do household duties, or care for a baby. Our traditional culture dictates that men and women carry out separate duties. Often time, with regard to taking care of a baby, the principle is that only the mother of the child is confined so it’s her sole responsibility to care for the newly born offspring. In Setswana culture, during the lie-in period, her mother, grandmother, mother-in law or any elderly female relative usually assists the woman. 

Editor's Comment
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