Yesterday was the last day of my paternity leave. Tomorrow I have to go back to work. Almost 9 months together with the two little ones 24⁄7. It’s weird how fast time can fly and how much can fit into such a relatively short amount of time. I enjoyed every moment - the good, the happy, the stressful, the adventurous, the calm and the tough ones. It was great to talk to so many people to realise how special the situation in Germany and a few other Scandinavian countries is for the fathers. That the parents can share the parental leave freely opens a huge amount of freedom, but as well responsibility. Freedom in the sense that it’s possible to be with the kids with the luxury of a monthly income. (You can still discuss if it’s fair to be bound to the previous income and if the basic payment isn’t too low. But that’s maybe something for a different post) Responsibility in the way that you cannot discuss away the following: It’s your very own choice whether you stay at home or not.
With Linnéa I took only the “mandatory” two months. Annika was working then, we were in Helsinki during the time. I took over after 10 months and Linnéa cried pretty often when Annika was leaving for work. Even though she was OK after a very short time it felt always a bit sad. The connection to her on an emotional level was there, but definitely not comparable to the one she had with Annika. It improved during the time I was home. But still it was different to the one she had with Annika. And who would blame her for that. It was nice to be on the other side now. This time I was the one Niklas went to when he was tired, hurt or in cuddling mood. Man, that was cool!
Many guys give financial reasons for not staying home more than two months. I did, too. With Linnéa I changed jobs a month before she was born, because Nokia decided to close our department. But I could have stayed at Nokia for an entire additional year. I could have been looking for a job even during the paternity leave. I think subconsciously changing jobs was also an excuse which came along pretty neatly for not taking a longer paternity leave. But why is paternity leave not seen as an investment to make. People invest into cars, houses, televisions, computers. Why not into time? How much can the difference be between the money you get from the state + the net income the mother has than the other way around? It’s not forever. In Germany it’s just for 7 months, if you share equally. The other financial aspect is the career. But please, which move in your career is not risky. If you take more responsibility, you might fail. If you change employers, you might fail. If you take paternity leave, you might loose. But there is always the chance that it’s the next step in your career. If you are convinced about it, why on earth would it hurt. Of course once back you might find different circumstances than when you left. Of course you might have to fight back responsibility you had before. Of course somebody will say you were on a 7 months long vacation. And what?
I heard fathers say that the mother wants to be at home. That this is what she wants to do. But then turn it around and be honest to yourself. So, that’s what YOU DON’T wanna do. It’s absolutely ok to think like that. But don’t use this as an excuse :)
Finally, I know that the time enriched my experience and I think I’m able to use it personally and professionally. When the alarm will ring tomorrow, a wonderful time will end. I enjoyed it a lot. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to being at work as well. I think the kids will be as well happy to go to daycare, where they can play with a bunch of kids they know every day. We enjoyed the time, and now we’re ready to move on. But the trip, the time together is something we won’t forget (even though I cannot guarantee for Niklas).