I’m lucky enough to work for a company that provides fathers with 12 weeks of paid paternity leave, worldwide. Coincidentally, I happened to become a father for the first time 7 months ago. So, I decided to grab this opportunity with both hands.
I wanted to try and live like mothers normally would. So, I decided to take it all in one single 10 week period while my wife was already back at work to make sure that I would be the only one taking care of our baby during this time.
This experience has been incredible in terms of bonding with my baby, and also amazingly enriching for me.
First and foremost, I had incredible moments of pure joy with my baby.
Like playing with him, making him laugh, helping him discover vegetables, bringing him to the swimming pool for the first time, helping him start to grab his milk bottle and crawl by himself. All of those are precious moments that I would have had less of without this paternity leave.
Second, I realised how carrying the whole weight of a household on your shoulders while taking care of a baby can be exhausting and time-consuming.
A baby requires attention and care all the time except during 2 or 3 short daily naps (I’m writing this during one of those!). Doing the grocery shopping, cleaning the sheets and the baby clothes, preparing food for the baby, making sure he sleeps enough and so on, all with just one arm because you’re carrying him with you most of the time, is frankly a real physical challenge. And I only have one child, yet…
And third, which is professionally the most relevant, I realised how time-consuming it can be to plan for almost 3 months leave.
3 months is usually too short to hire someone to replace you temporarily, but also too long to just wait for you to come back. You have to anticipate a lot (in my case easily 6-8 weeks) to plan properly for your leave and to make sure all the different aspects of your job will be covered while you’re out. Trust me it’s super time-consuming, and you’re definitely not 100% dedicated to your core job during this time.
In my case, I’ve been lucky enough to have great colleagues who have been very supportive and helped me a lot. I can only imagine how tough it could be in a less friendly and open environment.
I really feel that I learned a lot during this time and I will look at people taking parental leave in a very different way by trying to be even more helpful and supportive.
I’m amazed that in countries that pride themselves on women’s rights and gender equality (I work in France), there is no bold discussion about making parental leave similar for both mothers and fathers.
There is no doubt in my mind that it would have a massive impact on the employability and careers of women.
In economic terms, if we talk about 3 months per child, that is an average of 6 months leave per person on a career of roughly 40 years.
That would make a 1.25% impact on the cost of labour for men. If we assume they make up roughly 50% of the workforce (I know, it’s probably a bit more), that’s a total impact of roughly 0.6-0.7% on the cost of labour. We’re not talking about a massive impact at all here.
And it is actually possible. Some North European countries have even more accommodative policy for fathers (source: Business Insider) :
- Sweden: New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. Dads get 90 paid paternity days reserved just for them.
- Iceland: Icelandic parents can split their nine months of post-childbirth leave straight down the middle. New mums get three months, new dads get three months, and then it’s up to the couple to decide how they’ll split the remaining three months. Each parent receives 80% of their salary while on leave.
- Finland: Finnish fathers are granted eight weeks of paid leave, while both parents can split the 23 weeks of leave split between pregnancy and child-rearing.
I hope I have convinced you how great paternity leave is. My final message here is to really think about it, talk about it, and try to push your employers and law representatives to grant more leave to fathers, not only because it’s great for men, but ultimately because it also helps promote more gender-equality in the workplace.