In the context of an international project on child care, the Dutch family council recently published a report in which they expressed their concern over the fact that in Dutch families, the emancipation process seems to stagger to a halt as soon as a family has children. Child care is still mainly considered the mother’s task, it concludes, and it is therefore usually the mother who holds a parttime job, rather than the father. One of the solutions offered by the council is to offer men a longer paternity leave, so that parents can share the experience of child care from the very beginning – and once men get used to it, they will want to share in the care also after their leave. Also, the government should start a TV-campaign to change the attitudes of boys and young men towards childcare, the council writes.
Now, the Dutch government is to introduce a new scheme next year, entitled the course of life scheme, in which employees can set aside parts of their gross salary in order to take longer periods of time off from work: for child care, to care for an elderly family member, or to have a sabattical year off. This would seem the perfect opportunity for young fathers to get more involved in the care for their child. Yet, the first TV-commercial I have seen about the scheme seems to confirm traditional gender roles, rather than to support the family council in their plans.
The commercial by insurance company Achmea features a young man abseiling from a church in a small Dutch town. A reporter interviews him, and it turns out he is practising for a mountaneering stint in Nepal, facilitated by the course of life scheme, of course. Then a woman appears in the street down below. I think she is even wearing an apron. “Are you coming in, dear,” she shouts to her husband, “dinner is ready!”. This confirms gender roles as it is, but the best part is yet to come. The reporter asks the man whether his wife is coming to Nepal, too. No, is the answer, the scheme will enable her to extend her maternity leave!