I know it‘s a privilege here in Germany to be able to take some - or even a lot of - time off of work to take care of your children. It‘s even more privileged to receive money while not working during that time. It’s also not very common to be able to get a paid parental leave if you’re the father. So, we‘re lucky to live in a country with great social-, health- and family-care!
I also am lucky to work for a company that fully supports parental leaves and which is able to absorb a colleague who’s not available for an extended period of time. I know other fathers working for smaller companies are facing heavy resistance to this from their colleagues and bosses. So again, I‘m lucky!
My daughter is just over one year old now and I am back to work from parental leave for the second time. I took two months off earlier this year when we went on a long trip to Canada. Of course I don‘t think that she will remember any of it, but I think it’s important to show her the world as early as possible. She will learn from early on that the world is huge, that there are lots of different people and ways of living. That there is more than just our small town where we live with the forest next door where we often take her for a walk. She can only benefit from it and for us as a family it was a great way to spend as much time as possible together, to grow and to learn our way of parenting and handling the day-to-day business of it. We sure had a great time and I wouldn’t want to miss any of it.
For the last two months the situation was different… After more than ten months at home, my partner started working again and I was alone with our daughter most of the day until she came home from work. That’s a totally different experience! Suddenly I was the responsible person. I needed to prepare the food and make sure there’s some action happening. Everything that needed to be done and makes the baby happy. I did this before as well of course, but now it was my fulltime job to be a dad. It‘s a hard job. I would even say it‘s much harder than my normal day job and I have the greatest respect for everyone who stays at home for several years to take care of the kids.
But it‘s also much more gratifying than anything else I‘ve done during my worklife! It‘s great! Being there for this cute little thing day in and day out. You learn a lot during that time… about the baby, about you, about your family. You learn that there are things way more important than showing up in the office every morning. Of course it is nerve wracking at times and I do need a break from time to time, but things have changed now. It’s a totally different connection.
On my second day back at work I had a conference call with colleagues in California. Naturally it was pretty late for me already when I left the office and when I came back home, my daughter was already in bed, ready to sleep. It was rough! She was around me nearly 24 hours for the last two months, and now all of a sudden I barely saw her the whole day. It was heartbreaking.
I realize this is a mediocre summary of what I will remember as being one of the best times of my life, but it really was a great experience and I’m very grateful that I had this opportunity. I would recommend every parent to do the same. It will help you, your kid, your partner and all of you as a family. Spend as much time as possible with your child! Take that time and don’t care about the money. I had my four months of parental leave and I wouldn’t mind to take another four. But we live in a time where it is hard for a family to live on one salary. Although I can imagine to regret this in a few blinks of an eye when she will be 18 and living far away from me to go to university. Time flies… I have no idea how the last year went by so quickly… and it scares me.