What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Guest post: Good to talk about dads for a change!

A friend of mine just wrote a great reply to the recent question about parental leave for men! He's agreed that I can post it here, since he doesn't have his own blog. I'm grateful for that, since I think it's an interesting and though-provoking piece! For or against paternal leave by law - I hope you'll enjoy reading this.

Dads for a change...

Parental leave has been one of the important topics that I have been dealing with during one year of campaigning for more and better childcare in Europe. My conclusion is that the Icelandic model which forces dads by law to take a percentage of the parental leave is a first (good) solution. Even if generally I prefer non-legal solutions for this type of societal problems, I have to admit that the urgently needed changes in that area (change of culture) can in my opinion only be reached by forcing a little bit the change...as unfortunately in this kind of gender issues lines are moving to slowly and time is urging.

All fathers should see parental leave as a chance and by considering it as one of the most intense and important periods of their lives! This should help them to argument in front of their probably a little frustrated and "women-afraid colleagues" who should try to harass or ridicule them when taking parental leave. Men should try to imagine all the possible changes that would occur in their formerly very gender oriented vision of parenthood once they would agree to take their part of the active parent job as from the start on:

  • Their partner would feel less isolated, less tired, less stressed, less only-mother and more-woman-like...I don't know if you can imagine what positive changes in the daily couple-life this will induce, but I can tell you, especially for the last argument it has been a terribly intense and funny period for us ;-)
  • Giving birth certainly is a reserved women's domain, rising and educating children from birth on is certainly not a matter of gender, but much more a matter of discovering that both men and women can give and receive a lot when taking care of a young child.
  • Building up a strong and “life-long-learning relationship” with your child is something that one should invest in from the very beginning on, as I am convinced this will make the most qualitatively high difference in the relationship with your child for the rest of your life.
  • Acting and not reacting in the framework of "modern" fatherhood will be your very contribution to the achieving of gender balance and will allow you to be n positively constructing actor and not a victim of modern times, which will certainly help you to cope with this new situation without having the impression to loose your virility...

So fathers, if you don’t want to be harassed change your view on the basic things of life…we can discuss all the difficulties and traps being induced by the fact that only women take parental leave, and though the solution lies on the side of men…at least for half of it. So if you don’t want to do it for the sake of the person you chose to have children with, do it for your child and even for yourself...and never forget that women can be our strongest allies and our best enemies at the same time ;-)

Out of my personal experience I can only tell you that I have been missing hugs and a kind of special relationship with my father, which until the end of my teenage life was based on a very cold and patriarchal way of looking at the things of life…I don’t know that if he had taken parental leave it would have completely changed his way of dealing with it’s kids and wife, but at least he would have given me the chance to also influence his life of young father…it is all a matter of give and take…like with nearly all essential things in life!

So yes, the PES should push men to take their parental leave, because politics is all about changing society for the better - I am sure there could not be a better start for change than this!


Lennart said...

"So yes, the PES should push men to take their parental leave, because politics is all about changing society for the better - I am sure there could not be a better start for change than this!"

Well. What is 'better' then?

Are you one those Guardian Philosophers Plato talked about?

I'll make this very clear:

The PES has no right to use the State or EU to push its own agenda on me!

R. said...


Thank you for your comment.

Right or no rights - I think it's a bit of a dramatic statement, Lennart :-) We are talking about a political party and political parties have opinions and work to 'push' political agendas. You can agree or disagree with the opinions and beliefs of a party, but the party is still entitled to air them (and work for these views, if their representatives are democratically elected).

Just for the record - the view expressed in the above post is the view-point of an individual, making a suggestion to what he - in his opinion - thinks should be the stand of the PES on parental leave.

R. said...


To play the devil's advocate and return to the major issue here:

Tell me, what is so bad about granting men the right to spend time with their families and have a close relationship with their children?

In my ears it sounds like a win-win situation for both fathers and mothers...

Lennart said...

If staying home with children is so integral to men's lives I am sure they will find non-coerced ways to do so.

Men already have the right to stay home. Nobody is keeping them from doing so.

What I oppose is a State SANCTIONED duty to stay at home. Others should not be forced to pay for these "rights."

But then again. I happen to oppose coercion, generally. Nothing good comes from it.

Yes, a party has a right to air its beliefs - but even a majority does not have an unlimited right to push its agenda on a minority.

That's why we have a constitution.

Have a good weekend!

Marianne said...

It is wonderful to hear such progressive reflections on the topic of paternity leave. I could not agree with you more, and I feel that men being more involved in care issues and the private sphere in general, is an extremely important step in the process towards gender-equality as well as in transforming and broadening the public perception of masculinity in general. I just wanted to add that in addition to all the positive effects you stated, men being more involved in care issues - in particular parternity leave - will doubtlessly have effects on the gender pay gap (in the EU, women in average receive 15% less in her pay check than men). When employers know that gender is no longer a differentiating factor when it comes to parental leave, they will not be as hesitant to hire young women as might otherwise be the case. Moreover, paternity leave will have an impact on the current demographic crisis in Europe as the dilemma for women of chosing between having a child or a career will be less prevalent. If she can rely on her partner to be equally engaged in the role of parenthood, the chances of her being able to chose motherhood as well as a career are much higher. Thank you again for your valuable comment and I urge you to speak of it as often as possible to all your male and female friends and colleagues.