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Paternity leave

Now it’s getting political. I guess the first time in this blog, but the discussion is a central part of my life right now. And the public discussion is bothering me. A couple of weeks ago I read in the weekend-part of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, that guys like me are annoying. Trying to combine job, family and the little bit of “me”-time and talking about it. Being proud of the little one, taking pictures laughing and posing and trying to show how much dad is in us. But at the end just staying two months at home and being able to do all that, while the woman has to stay much longer. The whole “daddy”-thing is just a little show of equality, which is far from being reached. Partially that’s true, and I see the point. Personally, we chose the adventure of moving somewhere else over our goal of equality. But there is no excuse. At the end I’m two months at home and Annika twelve. Still I feel really involved, even though we had the goal of equality, when we were thinking of a baby previously. Bummer.

This article made us discuss a lot, and which was worst of all, it hit me emotionally. I guess it’s known, that there are hardly any good results out of an emotional debate. I did the obvious: blocked, declined and discussed badly. No excuse for that either, but let’s face it – the inequality is evident and I don’t want to go there. I understand the hard feelings of the articles’ author against this whole daddy thing, as there is still such a long way to go. But on the other hand we don’t get there either by fighting each other. And this is basically what is bothering me in the debate. The problem is always presented as a womens’ problem, whereas in fact it is a problem of young families, including dad and child. Especially in Germany the debate is far too one-sided at the moment. No matter if it’s the debate about the early child-care (“good” mother vs. “bad” mother) or the extra-money for staying home longer that the first year after the child is born (“Herdprämie”) – it’s debated as if it would be just the mothers’ issue.

I think it’s understood by quite a lot of young fathers, that raising a child involves them as much as the mothers. And – as I’m part of the group – we want to participate in the same way. So I think the question should not be to just focus on how to empower women to realize their professional goals, but as well how we can empower young fathers to spend the equal amount of time with their new-borns. And this is not just about money. It’s also about the employers, and about acceptance in society. I heard about someone who just wanted to stay the minimum of two months at home, but who was out of question to raise as lead of a bigger project, just because of his decision to stay at home. And he was told so. Even though, in reality and compared to others it was just a longer vacation. We want to stay home, and we are willing to push our career plans further away, but we need support.

And not just financial support. The German goverment pushed a bit of money into the system, and is wondering now, why 5 years later our generation doesn’t pop out as many kids as they expected when they started the program. But there is so much more to be done. Most issues are still in the unsolved question of equality between the sexes.

And it’s time to work together on that. Yes, we need more flexibility from the employers’ side. Yes, we need some financial support in the first year. Yes, we want that our kids can get to know friends in the kindergarten, after they spent the first year or so with their parents. Yes, we need political support to get our rights through at work. Yes, we want a model, where it should be as “risky” to hire a young guy as a young woman, because both will be away for some time. Not just “we mothers” or “we fathers”, but “we” as young families.

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