- Saykoson Sanoubane
“Her kiss makes my day,” Phonesouphanh Thepbandith, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) assistant at the UNICEF office in Vientiane, says with his smile. “My life – including my priorities – totally changed when Ailynn was born.” He and his wife Anny gave her the name Ailynn, which means graceful and light, lover of nature.
Phonesouphanh is excited to take on is his new role as father, more so for having a supportive and enabling environment. When he joined UNICEF, his wife was just four months pregnant. In that critical time, he needed to balance his new job and his role at home. By availing UNICEF’s flexible leave policy, he took on both new roles in stride.
“UNICEF is a father-friendly office, I feel very fortunate!” he exclaims, adding he learned to deal with new things every day. He started to do his research on how being a good father and supportive husband to his pregnant wife from internet sites, talking to his parents, friends and colleagues – all of which allowed him to ask the right questions to their doctor.
Following through nutrition advice from his doctor, Phonesouphanh made sure he provided the right nutritious food for his wife; including fresh and organic vegetables. “I also learned how to cook and now I am good at it,” he proudly says with a smile. And on the day of his daughter’s birth, Phonesouphanh stayed by his wife’s side – scared but excited. But the moment he laid his eyes on his newborn, he cried in relief.
To help him and his new family settle, Phonesouphanh availed UNICEF’s paternity leave to take care of his wife who was recovering – and to enjoy his new role as a father. “I am so lucky to work where I can use my paternity leave, with a supervisor who is very supportive,” he recalls.
Now Ailynn is six months – with lots of energy, giggles and in the pink of health. “She is being breastfed by her mother,” Phonesouphanh proudly says. He also remains committed to support his wife with all that he can provide; and is very eager to see his daughter grow healthy and full of love.
Fathers play a very important role in the early moments of a child’s life, especially to enable their wives to breastfeed, and to help her provide health stimulants to their newborn by playing with them and providing the love and care. Phonesouphanh continues to visit the market after work, to get his supply of nutrition food for his growing family. He also still cooks and takes turns in changing her diapers at night, and most of all to calm her when she cries.
“I love the new role I play for my wife and as a father to my daughter. The closer Ailynn feels the bond with me and his mother, the happier we are as a family. Even with just a kiss or getting a moment to play with her before going to work – that alone gives me the whole day’s supply of energy to work harder for my family.” Spoken like a truly doting father. Because every child deserves all the love and affection, health and protection that only a father can provide.