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Saturday, May 24, 2014

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Don't belittle 'love labour' of dads

The Straits Times | Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dr Andy Ho suggested retaining current spousal maintenance laws that favour women ("Pay women alimony for 'love labour' "; last Friday).

The basis of his paternalistic attitude is that men and women are intrinsically different - as innate caregivers, women extend more "love labour" to their families than men.

In today's society, however, women have different priorities in life.

Some embrace family life fully and become housewives, while others prefer a mix of work and family life.

Some prefer married life with no children, while a minority reject marriage for the sake of their careers. The concept of "love labour" is lost on them.

Dr Ho quoted a sociological study to show that in the United States, even as husbands increase their childcare time, wives do so too, instead of cutting back.

This puzzling mutual increase appears to be related to higher standards for both mothers and fathers with regard to spending time with their children.

However, Dr Ho neglected to add that the same paper indicated that there has been steady growth in Britain in the percentage of families where the man contributes more time to the family than the woman.

Today, there is intense pressure on men to be good caregivers, on top of their roles as breadwinners and protectors of the country.

There are calls to extend paternity leave, and organisations such as Families for Life actively promote bonding between fathers and their children.

Some men have even given up their jobs and become stay-home dads, the highest form of "love labour".

We can no longer afford to let paternalistic attitudes define our divorce laws. To maintain such laws is to belittle the "love labour" fathers are increasingly extending to their families.

Sulthan Niaz


This article was first published on May 22, 2014.
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