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Fighting for Stay-At-Home Dad’s in Germany – Questioning Parental Leave Options

30 Mar Posted by in Culture, Family Life | 4 comments
Fighting for Stay-At-Home Dad’s in Germany – Questioning Parental Leave Options
 
I read an article today in The Local (A German online news source translated to English) about a group of women questioning a politician, Social Democrat leader, Sigmar Gabriel regarding whether or not he was taking paternity leave and/or how he planned to work after having a newborn baby.

A quick background on German laws, there are specific stipulations for the mother before and after giving birth, but after this time period has elapsed, there are Parental Leave stipulations that pertain to whichever parent (if any) would like to stay home with the child. And these laws cover either parent (not just the Mom).

Maybe these women were antagonizing the politician to create a publicity stunt, but the publicity stunt worked on me. The women’s intent seemed to be to bring attention to the fact that women are questioned and looked down upon if they return to work too quickly after having a baby, yet a male is never questioned for going back to work immediately; thus leaving the responsibility on the women.

Interestingly enough in our household, we questioned things a bit differently because of my American background and view of social acceptability.

I have mixed feelings because a lot of different assumptions are being made between countries.

1.)    Women in Germany are fighting to remove the assumption that they must stay at home after giving birth.

2.)    As an American, I am completely grateful I have the option to stay at home with my son.

3.)    In Germany it is not found to be socially acceptable for the man to be a Stay-at-home Dad.

4.)    In America, Stay-at-home Dads are cool for going against the norm, but Stay-at-home Moms often have to justify exactly what it is they do all day.

The question of parental leave occurred after we had Fynn. Kay and I debated whether or not he would use some of the parental leave at the same time I was using it for us to travel somewhere as a family.

Some of the reasons we decided not to: it was a long time to be away from our daughter, who would cover Kay’s workload while we were away, contracts are put on pause and what would we do without both of our company benefits (this doesn’t include health insurance which the insurance companies must provide under German law while on parental leave), and how would Kay’s boss view such a request?

While I can’t speak for Kay, I was genuinely worried that he would face setbacks at work for choosing to take parental leave.

This article brought back many past feelings and questions.

When I first learned of my pregnancy, yes, it was a surprise, but I didn’t like how I was viewed in the work place. I can’t go into too much detail, but the looks that I got made me feel like they were saying, “You just gave up your prestigious career at a global head office.” They were already assuming I would not only take Parental Leave, but take it to the full extent and/or not return.

This is vastly different from the US where the women can have it all; a baby and return back to her career. Much different than in Germany where it is already assumed that the mother will stay at home with the child for most times, longer than the Parental Leave timeframe and/or a minimum of a year.

I immediately thought I would be back to work after three months and debated whether or not to report I wanted more time off. Once Fynn came, everything changed for me, of course.

After six weeks, I couldn’t even imagine going back to work and leaving him in the care of someone else. Six weeks was the marker because I was so sad to think of what all the mothers must do in the US in order to keep their jobs. As Americans, we don’t have much of a choice to stay home with our babies and keep our jobs.

Words can’t describe how thankful I was that I had this choice (a completely different perspective than what is assumed in Germany, especially for the mothers who do want to return to work quickly and then are chastised for doing so.)

After reading this article, again, I must question, why can’t men have this same choice? Yes, legally they do, but why socially are they restrained?

In fact, when I lived in the US, I knew more Stay-at-home Dads than Moms. Ok, so I only knew three, but that is more than I know here. Any Stay-at-home Parent here is a woman. I have yet to meet a Stay-at-home Dad. Oh, wait, there was one British Stay-at-home Dad I met at an Expat meeting, but still no German men.

On one hand I am grateful to have this time with Fynn. On the other, I feel a bit guilty that socially, men aren’t able and/or don’t take the opportunity to use Parental Leave.

I am so grateful for this time that I really hadn’t considered the fact that it is assumed that women must stay-at-home in Germany.

Mixed into this mess is taking into consideration the glass ceiling that still exists. Men still get paid more than women in any country. When choosing financially, of course it makes more sense for the men to continue to work. That’s a lot of pressure for a man who just may want to stay at home with the children.

So what exactly separates Americans from Germans in that there are Stay-at-home Dad’s in the US? I’ve written before that Germany is in some ways socially back in time and this is a great example.

After reading this, Kay asked if Sigmar Gabriel is going to take Parental Leave? The article stated that Gabriel answered it wasn’t anyone’s business. Fair enough. But then who is willing to be the Stay-at-home Dad Spokesperson in Germany?

Do you agree with the assumptions I am making or am I completely delusional after having lived away from the US for two-years and not following any news within this time period?

Anyone want to add their thoughts/comments/ideas? Does anyone know a Stay-at-home German Dad? Bueller? Bueller?



stayathomedad

Please don’t confuse Kay with Alicia Silverstone; this was taken quite some time ago, he was joking and using a spoon.


  1. Ally04-01-12

    true assumption..I actually think the same. Funny to read though :)

  2. Christin04-01-12

    I can only speak from the p.o.v. of a military wife since B. was still active duty when the boys were born, but paternity leave wasn’t even an option. He had to save as much regular leave as he could so that he could take off 2 weeks. Of the stay-at-home dads I know here, (all 3 of them!) all have jobs that allow them to work from home (one owns his own machining company, one’s an architect & the other is a graphic designer) so while in theory they’re going against the norm, in practice their career & earning potential hasn’t been given up entirely & that part of their identity is still intact.

  3. Miguel Mena04-05-12

    Tomas L.! :P He should know about it!

    • Mommy04-05-12

      Tomas is my hero!

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