With this patriarchal mindset switch, there is another growing revolution on the horizon for South African dads – the stay-at-home dad

We still seem to have this idea in our minds that fathers are merely there to provide for families, discipline misbehaving children and the occasional babysitting gig.  It is still quite clear that fathers aren’t parenting their children, rather, they simply stand on the sidelines while mothers do everything. 

It should come a s no surprise, then, that modern fathers are kicking up a storm about this trend and asking the question, “What about us?”

It seems as though the linked issues of maternity leave and paternity leave have been in the headlines everywhere this year, and for good reason: according to the department of labour, South African men still only have three-day family responsibility leave at their disposal.  Family responsibility leave is limited to three days per year, which may be used for the birth of a child, death of a family member or if your children are ill. Three days that the father is able to use to spend with his newborn child and exhausted partner.  So it isn’t entirely surprising that dads are up in arms and that something is now being done about it.  

As we head into 2016, it is still surprising how far behind we are as a nation in terms of what we allow for the head of the household.

Campaigning for change is 38-year-old dad from Brackenfell in the Cape, Hendri Terblanche.  When his twins were born premature, in November 2013 he was faced with the challenge of leaving his wife, Giselle to care for their babies for the months that they stayed in hospital, on her own.  His three days “family responsibility leave” didn’t come close to the time that they needed to be with their newborn babies, so he did something about it.  He has been petitioning for paternity leave to be extended to 10 days paid leave since the birth of his babies.

While the South African government seems to be stuck in the 1950s when it comes to the legal allotment of leave for new dads, many tech companies are forging ahead with ground-breaking new policies.  Social media giant, Facebook, has recently made the staggering global announcement that dads employed for the company will now get four months paternity leave.  The four months of leave allowed to dads can be used at any time during the first year of their child’s life. This comes as Mark Zuckerberg prepares for the birth of his first child with wife, Priscilla Chan.  Can this spell the rise of more companies following suit, or will the battle for paternity leave continue for dads wanting to play a role in the lives of their children?

Many companies have seen the importance in keeping new dads happy and in staying with the times, they have extended their paternity leave to 10 days of paid leave. Retail frontrunner, Pick n Pay understands that all parents need to be present for their children, and have a standard eight days paid leave for new dads. If that isn’t enough of an incentive for employees, dads who have been with the company for more than eight years can share in the impressive 11 months maternity leave on offer. That way, both parents are playing an active role in the raising of their new child, making Pick n Pay a perfect example of a company who is moving with the times to keep talented employees happy.

With this patriarchal mindset switch, there is another growing revolution on the horizon for South African dads – the stay-at-home dad. While South Africa as a whole has a society that is still very stuck in traditional roles, there is a growing number of fathers opting to be stay-at-home dads.  According to employment website Employ Men, there are around 60 000 stay-at-home fathers in our borders at this very moment. So it seems as though more and more women are taking over the role as breadwinner so that dad can have a more hands-on approach to parenting, and isn’t it refreshing? It is great to see the way we approach parenting changing in such positive albeit drastic ways. Dads are becoming more involved in the raising of their children, and taking a load off moms’ shoulders in doing so. 

Countries such as Sweden and Norway are putting South Africa to shame with their paternity and maternity leave policies. 

Norway is specifically progressive with its father quota of 10 weeks of paternity leave for new dads. 

Sweden offers new fathers two weeks of paternity leave, with an incredible 480 days of parental leave that both mom and dad can make use of over the first eight years of their child’s life.  With this policy in place, both mom and dad can be as hands-on as necessary to raise a healthy, happy child.  So, how long is it going to take for us to catch up to countries like Norway or Sweden?  How far behind are we really trailing the rest of the world in terms of what we offer our new fathers?  How do we fare compared to other fathers the world over? 

Around The World

Three days seems ridiculous compared to 480-days leave, but if you were in Mozambique you would only qualify for one day paid leave every two years.

China and South Africa seem to share more than friendly, economic relations and Chinese fathers also get three days paternity leave.This is on condition that the employee has a continuous contract and the leave doesn’t necessarily have to be taken consecutively.

Thai fathers are encouraged to take paternity leave by the ministry of labour, but that is at the employer’s discretion, which means that new dads can have up to 15 days paternity leave with full pay, or nothing at all.

Kenyan fathers are legally allowed two weeks of leave with full pay after the birth of their child. 

Cameroonian fathers have it easier, with 10-days of paid paternity a year that include three mandatory – or family responsibility – days as well.

But Ghanaian fathers can only now start enjoying the benefits of five days’ paid paternity leave, providing they can produce a medical certificate. 

Australian fathers are entitled to 14 days of paid leave at the national minimum wage.  This is increased to 18 weeks of paid leave if the father is the primary caregiver of a newborn baby or adopted child.

Another country who take adoption and paternity leave seriously is the United Kingdom which offers both parents 12 months’ leave.  This is to be shared between the parents, who can hash it out to decide who gets the most time with the child.

So, in hindsight we could be worse off than what we are, but as progressive parenting becomes a trend we need to consider our alternatives.  The rise of stay-at-home dads, and companies trying to keep new dads happy with paternity leave that is worth talking about.  It is the time of the different dad, the time of enlightened thinking and open-minded parenting.  The question remains though, how long will it take for South Africa to catch up.