“He is a ‘woman wrapper’” (a weak man). “His wife has him under her arm.” “She has used juju (spell) on him.” “I can’t do it in public.” These were some of the responses to a photograph our reporter shared on Facebook of a father with his baby strapped to his back as a woman – presumably his wife – walked freely next to him.
When queried further some of the respondents said, that’s what the woman should be doing instead of working freely. That’s what her back is made for. Some others said while it is something they could do, they would not do it in public.
In Nigeria and some other climes, fathers, stepping into roles society has prescribed for women when it comes to raising and caring for their children, is frowned at and considered out of place.
But for an Abuja father like Anthony Abraham, he understood the need to actively be a part of raising his children and has been a long time beneficiary of bonding with them from conception. The effect of this is visible even to strangers meeting his family for the first time. This is the ripple effect of having a father who gave him and his siblings, 100 percent attention.
Abraham, a journalist, said getting married changed his habits as he knew he wanted to start a family immediately. He said, “I stopped keeping late nights because it was important to be the right model for my children. As fate would have it, I am father of two boys and have a nephew.
“My children don’t cry for their mother when she’s going out. But when I am the one, regardless where, you can hear their screams from a mile, asking to go with me. I sometimes have to bribe them with snacks before I am able to sneak out.”
Although he has effectively immersed himself with raising his children without the extra benefit of paternity leave, Abraham who says it is something he would “gladly advocate for and welcome” also prays that in Nigeria, it becomes statutory like the women have.
Recently, a video went viral of a father of three, who rushed on stage to help his two-year-old daughter overcome her fright during a ballet performance.
For about two minutes, in spite of the giggles from teachers and other parents, the father of three girls, helped Bella get back into action, while holding on to his youngest, Suri. Seeing her father beside her, stopped the sobbing and brought back her self confidence as she began performing again.
Far and above being within arm’s reach to rescue the situation, was the fact that Daniels knew the entire dance routine and did a good job of displaying his ballet talents. This gained him a lot of cheers and applauses.
Watching the video, what immediately comes to mind, is how involved with raising his girls this father is and also how much trust and confidence they have in him. To know those steps meant he was with her during practice and probably made time to rehearse with her at home.
Speaking on his move, the self-employed barrister said, “Bella was very emotional and needed hugs from her daddy.
“Despite having a tantrum, I can tell she wanted to stay on stage and I didn’t want to discourage her before the big performance by making her be the only one to come off.”
Research has also shown that, children whose fathers are involved have a social and academic advantage over those whose relationships with their fathers are distant.
Angela Osarumwense, who has been school coordinator of Lakeland School Ogunu, Warri, since 2000, said the children, whose fathers helped with their homework and were actively involved in their education, did much better at school.
Following a survey, she said, “We noticed that the fathers were more patient with the children and we could see a confidence boost in the children.”
A researcher and professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Maureen Black, PhD, in an article ‘Why dads matter’ by Kristen Finello, said that the added involvement from a father helps children tremendously.
Black who has researched on the subject said, “We found that fathers who are involved with their children have children with fewer problems.”
Her research specifically revealed that children with actively involved fathers had better language skills and fewer behavioral problems. An interesting fact about the findings is that it also applies to children whose fathers lived separately from them like in divorce cases.
She said, “It appears that how involved the dad is – not where he lives in relation to the child – is the crucial factor.”
With a lot of families, there is usually a beautiful father-child relationship when the child is born but as he/she grows older, the relationship changes. The most popular of the general hypothesis is that fathers have to be firmer as children grow older, because they are getting into a phase when they need more disciplining.
Daniels’ action shows the important role fathers play in their child’s overall development from birth and how it could impact them as they grow older.
As the world begins to appreciate the need for more father involvement in raising children, the call for the establishment of paternity leave and for better pay at such a time is growing louder.
Last week, UNICEF called on governments to among others, invest in family-friendly policies including paid paternity. It said about 90 million children under one-year-old, live in countries where fathers are not entitled by law to a single day of paid paternity leave. It stated that positive and meaningful interaction with mothers and fathers from the very beginning helps to shape children’s brain growth and development for life, making them healthier and happier, and increasing their ability to learn.
Its Nigeria Country Representative, Muhammed Fall, said, by implementing national family-friendly policies that support early childhood development, government could provide parents the time, resources and information they need to care for their children.
Nigeria is one of 92 countries where fathers do not enjoy paternity leave due to the lack of national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies. This is in comparison to countries like South Africa, and Brazil which has high infant population and national paid paternity leave policies albeit offering relatively short-term entitlements.
In November 2017, South Africa’s parliament passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill that allows fathers the right to take 10 days paid paternity leave. The bill, according to reports, allows more parents who were previously unable to take part in their children’s first few days, the opportunity to bond with their newborns and help their partners out in the first few weeks.
In Brazil, the Law 13,257/2016 was introduced, extending paternity leave from five to 20 days for employees who work for companies enrolled in the Citizen Company Programme.
Whilst Nigeria grapples with UNICEF’s new call, and Abraham’s children continue to grow in strength, love and confidence supported by their father, Sweden, Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary, Norway and Finland rank as the world’s best countries to be a new father with the best paternity packages.