Norman, whose main commitment usually is to knit stories with everything he finds to keep our followers on the edges of their seats with excitement, talks about his paternity leave. Norman, the stage is yours:
Ok, well, here I am sitting in front of my computer trying to put some words together while my daughter is having her afternoon siesta. Almost two months have passed and I am about to reach the end of my parental leave. Time has been flying like an arrow, or should I rather say like baby lunches being catapulted at the walls? But this article isn’t about my daughter and me, rather about the topic itself, the legal right to paternity leave.
To start with, let me just mention that I am originally from Switzerland and moved to Austria about 9 years ago. There are many things I miss about my neighboring home country and some others I do not. It took until late 2020 for Swiss voters (including myself) to finally get to vote on a parliamentary initiative on the matter. It passed and since January 2021, fathers have the option to take 10 days of paid paternity leave, which is a great thing. Some of you might think that 10 days aren’t much. I couldn’t agree more. However, before that, new fathers were legally entitled to only one single day! Anyways, this isn’t meant to be a lesson in Swiss Law, but it does emphasize how lucky I feel that I get to make use of Austria’s more generous legislation when it comes to paternity leave.
This brings me to the next point. Just because they “have the right to” doesn’t necessarily mean that fathers will claim this right for themselves. Unfortunately, this particularly holds true with fathers and paternity leave. I won’t bore you with the numbers (there are enough studies online) but I’ve reached an age when lots of friends in my entourage have become or are about to become fathers. And when we meet, the topic often becomes a matter of discussion. Believe it or not, many of them remained hesitant or uncomfortable to inform their superiors about the use of offered paternal leave. Why? It’s all about perceptions. Am I a less dedicated employee? Is this going to affect my career? How are my colleagues going to react? Indeed, even in 2021, there is still a stigma around these things. And I must admit that even I myself felt very nervous when announcing my intentions to apply for time off. And this is why paternity leave needs to get more attention.
Reflecting on the conversations I had with fellow fathers, I realized how fortunate I am to work for hotelkit. A young and open-minded company that seems to follow one core value – happy employees are more engaged and productive. And let me tell you, this works 100 percent! Back to the conversations, some of my friends received subtle (or less subtle) hints from their superiors that them taking paternity leave is undesirable, even if it’s in the employee handbook …
To close this chapter on a positive (and maybe useful) note, I thought why not summarize my experience in five points: 5 reasons new dads should take paternity leave.
- Break the “norm”: Taking time off when the baby arrives remains a “mom thing”. Well, it shouldn’t be. My wife does a lot more than me, just with breastfeeding alone. So, since she started work again, doing my bit helped her to fully focus on her return. If I hadn’t had those two months, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. Taking care of our daughter is the responsibility of both of us.
- Develop stronger bonds with your baby: The last two months I got to spend “home alone” with my daughter are priceless. It hasn’t always been easy. However, I can sense that the bond between us has reached an entirely new level.
- Paternity leave is not a vacation: To everyone out there who believes that paternity leave equals vacation time – it does not. Diapering, feeding, dressing, bathing, laundry, preparing lunch, dinner, cleaning, keeping your belongings safe from the child and your child safe from your belongings, grocery shopping and the list goes on. When my wife came home after a long day at work, I just wanted to hand over the baby and collapsed on the couch. It’s not that easy. The couch had to wait until the baby was asleep. One more tip from my side. Never ask your partner, “What have you been doing all day long?” when they are on parental leave and you’re at work. Just don’t.
- Build your confidence as a daddy: The only way to learn how to swim is by jumping into the water, they say. Well, learning how to be a dad is quite similar. I learned many things while my wife was away. The kind of things I took for granted when she was still on her maternity leave. And now, I even became the master of getting our daughter back to sleep, in the middle of the night, just by telling her so.
- Be happier at work: Paternity leave has in no way affected my career. On the contrary. It has enhanced my level of satisfaction with my job and the company I work for. As mentioned before, happy employees are more engaged and productive and that’s good for business, too.
I am already looking forward to being back at work. This will mean the start of a new chapter in our parenting life. My wife and I will have to divide our schedule for drop-offs and pickups at the toddler’s group. She might cook one week. I will do baths and vice versa. But that is another story. 🙂