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VOICES

Referendum vote 'I realise now we men were conditioned to think women are more natural carers'

Father of one, Mick Gaskin outlines why he’s voting Yes in the referendum.

MY DAUGHTER WAS born at the height of the second lockdown in October 2020, a mop of curly hair, and a violent opposition to ever being put down. As a first-time Dad, I of course had no idea what I was doing, and as I stumbled through night feeds, colic and endless nappy changes, I wondered how I could ever do this, my share of raising my child if I was also working outside the home.

Because I was one of the very lucky ones. With the advertising company I worked for, I was given 12 weeks paternity leave. This very much enabled me to share responsibility for raising my baby girl, and to form a bond with her that I believe I never would have had if I was juggling those early weeks with work.

Because, unlike women, men have the luxury of not really thinking about things like work and care until they have children. It was only when I became a Dad that I understood how lucky I was in this situation. So many friends and family were lucky to get two weeks leave, and then they were back to work.

I write this now because, in the context of the referendum on Article 41.2, I think it is an important moment to talk about how we value care as a society, and the importance of sharing care more equally between men and women.

Work in the home

When we have these conversations about sharing the responsibility of parenting, it is also about sharing in the exultation of parenting and the joy that children bring. So many of us, myself included for a long time, assumed that men are naturally more suited to paid work, and women were just more natural carers.

Experience, age and a bit of reading have clearly shown me that this is a cultural assumption, not a biological fact. But while society assumes that women take responsibility for caring, this is often how it plays out within families.

So much of the time when we talk about things like paternity leave, we talk about it helping fathers to support new mothers, that it helps close the gender pay gap, that it promotes a positive workplace culture and helps organisations retain their staff. All of these things are of course true.

But more than that, allowing for men to spend more time with their families so often reflects the reality of our lives nowadays.

Yes, there is still a long way to go until we achieve equality in care, by any measure; women are known to spend double the time of men on caring and more than twice as much time on housework.

But things are changing, especially since Covid-19 and the expansion of remote working, it is clear that Dads being around isn’t just good for their partners, or their children, or their work, but for them too.

And let’s be honest, Article 41.2 isn’t just offensive to women. By stating that their life is in the home, it is wildly offensive to any modern family which strives to showcase equality to their children, and to any Dad who loves and cares for their child too.

Evolving

As a State, we have a long way to go. Childcare in our house can at times come close to the cost of a second mortgage. Parent’s Leave, though increasing in length, is low-paid and inaccessible to many as a result.

Statutory paternity leave, that is the leave a father is entitled to once his child is born, is still only two weeks in length. All of this very heavily indicates that parenting is still the responsibility of the mother.

Right now, the Constitution tells us only women have ‘duties’ within the home and that the State should encourage women to stay at home. A yes vote is our chance to change this and to kickstart a conversation about the changes we need to better support care, to make it visible, and to ensure that men are persuaded to share responsibility.

Voting yes in the care referendum means recognising for the first time in our Constitution the crucial role of care for the well-being and functioning of our society. We know that families cannot meet their care needs in isolation and there is a clear role for the State to provide greater supports for care.

This referendum is a unique opportunity to be a crucial first step towards real change for women, for care and for equality. And by the way, these challenges are faced by all families, married or not, which is why I am also voting yes to recognise all families and the children within these families equally.

Voting Yes tells the Government and all political parties that all of us expect these referendums to be followed by real improvements in policy, legislation and funding so that people can make real choices with regards to how we raise our families and balance our work.

Mick Gaskin works as a Media Manager. He is a father of one.

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