Joy was in the air.
The hospital’s doorway was littered with excitement and happiness.
The meaning of life was right here with me, and nothing could produce this excitement I had in my heart.
It is the moment most men look forward to. And for my wife and I, it represented more: we welcomed our first child and an additional bundle of bliss.
I was grateful for the relief drawn on my wife’s face and happy at the prospect of having someone in our home to love and cater for.
But that joyous moment was preceded by a long nine months of waiting, and about 36 hours of discomfort before delivery. This made me uncomfortable since I had not experienced that before.
I had never seen my wife go through such unexplainable pain before. She could not sleep. She was restless and nervous. Her palms were cold. And for the first time, I saw my wife on the edge.
Eventually, she delivered at exactly 9:45am. It was a sigh of relief. I was intensely proud of her for no distinct reason. I could only shout Thanks Be To God!
Like any newbie to parenthood, I thought for a moment our troubles were almost over after we welcomed our son – even though I had heard from friends on what the man’s duties are after delivery, I cared less about that. All I cared about at that point was, “We can confidently smile again because our 36-hour ordeal was over.”
Well, that was obviously the thoughts of a newbie indeed.
The main activities began when I had to run errands with my mother-in-law to make sure everything my wife needed were provided for – meds, food, other child stuff. A car was available so as usual, I thought the whole process will be easy. I mean I can just drive around town and make the purchases; after all, it is Takoradi where you can virtually drive around the city in 10 minutes if you really know the easy routes to use.
As you can imagine, that was not the case – it was far from easy.
After combing the town to buy foodstuff, running to the hospital 3-4 times in about 4 hours, and bringing my wife home that same day she delivered (after doctors indicated she was fit to be discharged), I had no energy and bones left in me. I was simply a bunch of tissues stuck together.
My mother-in-law was tired and wearied. My wife was worn-out. Everybody was so exhausted that night, but we had to still put it all together. We needed to welcome the new member with happy, smiley faces and with confidence and energy as if nothing had happened prior to that moment.
Day two (well, day one after delivery) came and a visibly jaded me had to wake up and begin another set of errands. At this point, I was already coming to terms with what friends had told me earlier, “The child becomes the new boss of the house after birth… all others needs come second …etc.”
I made that realisation in less than 24 hours.
With the help of our friend (Kate) who happened to be in town on the day of delivery, I went to town to get other baby stuff from mini-marts and pharmacy shops in and around Market Circle (Takoradi’s major market centre). But it was a Sunday, which meant we couldn’t just go to a specific place and get all we needed. We had to check around many shops to get almost all what we had on our list. While at that, my mother-in-law also pitched in to prep the baby for his first bath at home as well as get breakfast prepared for Abigail so she could adequately breastfeed our baby. My mother-in law, who was tired from the previous day’s activity, had taken ill but still dedicated herself to our new home duties. Her grandson needed her.
Having returned from a long buying spree, breakfast was set, mother had eaten and child had been breastfed. Grandma was resting. But with the slightest noise that came with our entry, the child woke up, and all attention was drawn to him again. Experiences went on and on.
Days three, four, and the rest were no different from the previous days.
My wife and I, joined by our families, marked the first month of our child with a very simple christening ceremony in Accra. The 45-minutes ceremony took place in church and was well attended by friends and colleagues from work and church as well. Finally, the little boy got a name; Samuel. I then took the opportunity after the naming ceremony to return to Kumasi and take care of business whiles my wife was still in her family home.
That week in Kumasi was not easy for me, at all. The absence of little Sammy’s cry and little worries really made me unstable. I had to call almost every hour or two to be certain that they were alright. Of course, you should know that was the exuberance of a new father. But most importantly, I felt very odd devoting my attention to work (which was good anyway) when I could have been having a nice time with little Sammy.
I have taken the time to scribble these down just so you can understand how it feels to be a first-timer dad, and how businesses, especially startups can support their human assets to give off their best in such situations.
Farmerline’s Board of Directors have been having conversations on annual leave, with paternity and maternity leave dominating discussions. We have been wondering if it is fair to only allow staff, who work so hard and are very dedicated to the mission of the company, to enjoy the 5-days paternity leave as prescribed in the latest amendments to the constitution. Prior to these proposals, there had never been any provision in the law on paid or unpaid paternity leave. Well, we figured it is only wise that the company advanced male staff a hand in their time of need. In view of that, the board has taken the opportunity to study my experiences, as well as those of Amos – our Director of Customer Service and the first father in our fold, so as to come to some practicable decisions on the implementation of an enhanced paternity leave for our male staff.
These learning on paternity leave has become even more important because there has been a divided opinion on the role fathers play in the lives of children in Ghana, and probably elsewhere. For those of us in Ghana, fathers have almost always been blamed for almost all problems that befall kids, especially in their early stages. At least, in our lifetime, we have seen children celebrate their mothers in a special way and shower gifts on them during mother’s day, but at best only buy a piece of bathroom towel or a set of handkerchiefs for their fathers during father’s day celebrations. That alone should tell us something might have gone wrong in our upbringing.
I was sad when I read a comment someone made on Joy News (as reported by GhanaWeb) to the news that a five-day paternity leave was being proposed – “It will be good news for all fathers, but I think it is not necessary. What do fathers do?” Is it not ironic that we require the highest standards for dads and yet do not want to provide them with adequate avenues to execute what we expect of them?
No one should point to the US when it comes to issue of paternity leave, because the US even looks to Finland for best practices. Paternity leave is offered for a maximum of 9 weeks in Finland.
We, as a growing company, believe that with the appropriate structures in place for annual, maternity and paternity leave, staff members would be adequately rested and well-motivated to face challenges ahead. Appropriate paternity leave will not only offer the father the chance to bond with his kid(s), but also strengthen the entire family bond as well as redefine the relevance of fathers in their homes. They may never look back with sadness and regret for working so hard for the company, for themselves and on behalf of their families.
I believe this is just a kick starter of an all-important conversation; one which many young business owners would not want to grant much attention to, since the general unproven belief and irony is that, the more staff work the more company gains. And so any attempt at giving ‘too many free’ resting periods is frowned upon. But it is equally essential and highly important that a father takes fair responsibility in the upbringing of the child and organizations need to support this in all the possible ways.
(We promise to share our outcomes and resolutions in due course so that young businesses would learn from them.)
By Emmanuel O. Addai
The writer is co-founder and CTO of Farmerline Ltd