SIR – I was puzzled. Why does a man need a fortnight paid holiday for no other reason than his wife has given birth? They call it paternity leave. I thought it might be out of recognition, a sort of reward, for the effort he put in nine months previously, thus initiating the happy event.
Having given the matter some thought, I now see there is a very good reason for it. As a lifelong bachelor I have no experience of what life is like when a new baby is brought into the family home, but I am disposed to imagine that it is not exactly conducive to peace and tranquility.
It amazes me the amount of noise a baby can make; babies are like Jack Russell terriers, small but capable of turning up the volume when they want to. Babies cry, they wail, at any time of the day or night when they want feeding.
Then there is that all-pervasive smell of dirty nappies. Men are not good at coping with this; they find it very difficult, unlike womenfolk who can take it all in their stride.
So at long last the problem has been addressed; he can now absent himself for two weeks leaving the wife to do what she does best. He can go on a fishing holiday, play golf, go on a wine tasting tour of France, attend a beer festival, he can lie on a beach somewhere warm – the choice is his.
Let it not be said that he loves the dear little child any less, he loves his new son or daughter even more. The old adage: absence makes the heart grow fonder is very true.
How such an idea, so beneficial to a man, ever got past the feminist agenda I do not know. I am told there are some women who expect a husband to assist, i.e. interfere, with nursing the small child. This can only result in nappies coming undone at the most inopportune times.
It would be as well for Irish husbands to come up with some suitable explanation to justify their absence. They should look to Sweeden, where paternity leave was first introduced. It puzzled sociologists as to why most Swedish men are careful to arrange it so their wives give birth during the elk hunting season; this only occurring since the inception of paternity leave.
The explanation is simple, it happened to coincide with the revival of an ancient Scandinavian superstition. As with all social theorising, the less plausible the explanation the more chance it had of being believed.
I fear it is only a matter of time before on RTE’s Prime Time we get a 20-minute rant on the subject of husbands using their paternity leave to go off and have fun. So, before husbands are accused of a scandalous abuse of a privilege, they must, like their Swedish counterparts, come up with an explanation.
I have it! In ancient Celtic times when a man became a father he would go off to some place of tranquility in order to seek wisdom. After two weeks, he would return and, having found wisdom, he would impart it to his child as he or she grew up.
For some obscure reason, lost in the mists of time, where he went was a secret known only to the man himself, but sometimes imparted to the wife symbolic of the trust he had in her. This elevates paternity leave to a higher, nobler level; it raises it above the mere ‘hands-on’ approach to changing nappies.
This explanation might work, but then it might not. As I have already pointed out, in these matters I don’t even qualify as an amateur. But this I do know; if ever I had to change a nappy I would need a gas mask, otherwise I would need something very strong to quell the turbulence in my stomach.