Dear husband, the last time you were on paternity leave, it was 2018 and those two weeks after our second child was born just whizzed by. I asked if you remembered what you did, and you said you bought diapers, nursing pads, maternity pads and random mother/baby supplies – because online shopping wasn’t a big thing then. Also, you mentioned something about taking me and the baby to the one-week postnatal checkup. Was that all you did?
I can’t recall the details, because I was on an eat-feed-pump-clean rotation and fire-fighting mode. Everything was a blur to me. I guess two weeks of paternity leave is a little short to expect more contribution to baby chores, although it’s better than nothing.
Oh, wait. I remember you taking our older child (3 years old at that time) on some outings. You said it was to spend time with her and help her adjust to having a new sibling. I couldn’t disagree, though I felt somewhat bitter about having to deal with the newborn (which I hadn’t yet developed strong feelings for) myself, with occasional help from my mum. I also couldn’t help thinking that those father-daughter dates were smooth attempts to escape the mundane chaos of living with a newborn and a hormonal wife trying to recover from childbirth. Even for a day. You knew how soul-sucking it could be, from our first postpartum experience.
But you should also know, misery loves company. I would have appreciated it if you stayed at home to *just be there* for the Painfully Mundane Yet Potentially Chaotic things happening 24/7, like helping to burp the baby post-feed, clean up the baby vomits, do the laundry, wash and sterilise baby bottles and breast pump parts, change diapers on repeat, and maybe even bathe the newborn. Let’s not talk about the TCM belief that a mother in confinement should avoid contact with water as much as possible. How was I supposed to rest and recover well if I had to take on those chores? We both weren’t keen on hiring a live-in confinement nanny, remember? Luckily, I asked my cleanliness-obsessed mum to help out and she agreed. But honestly, I don’t think she was pleased with your overall performance. I thought you could do better, too.
Now that we are on the fence about having another child, I thought I should let you know my expectations of you on paternity leave, should we (touch wood?) get to be parents of a newborn again. After all, if our third child is born on or after Jan 1, 2024, you should be entitled to four weeks of paid paternity leave, as announced at Budget 2023.
First, you’ll be glad to know that the very important chore of buying mother/baby supplies is just a few clicks away. With major time savings from travelling, hunting for products and queuing up to check out, you could stay home more often and bear witness to the Painfully Mundane Yet Potentially Chaotic things that need to be done. Perhaps, chip in a little. I know you aren’t fond of cleaning and washing things, but I can’t guarantee that my cleanliness-obsessed mum will be agreeable and able to help me out this time. If there’s no other reliable option, how about sucking it up and being my Cleaning IC for those four weeks of paternity leave? In the event that you get bailed by my mum, you may take on the role of Burping and Diaper IC. (You’re welcome.) Regardless of which role you’re taking up, the overarching rule is: Don’t question. Just execute.
And if you feel the need to head outside, go ahead and take both kids along. I know you need off days too. How about two days a week? I promise to be more grateful than bitter this time.
Ellie Koh is a working mum to two school-going kids who get on her nerves increasingly as they grow. She didn’t know what gender inequality truly was until she became a mum. She dreams of the day when stay-at-home mums are regarded equally as stay-at-home dads.