Monday, 17 November 2014

On being a feminist dad: working part-time

Hello everyone. I hope you're having a wonderful start of the week.
So anyway, I said that this week's post was going to be about Japanese bondage. Bummer! It's not! First, I'll need to do some more "research". And because lots of you have expressed an interest in more parenting posts, today's is my partner's musings on being a feminist dad and his decision to work part-time. Here we go:

For once, this week's post will not be grim and cynical. Quite the opposite: today, I will describe my great experience as a dad working part-time.

When Gwen and I first started talking about me working only four days a week for a year, I wasn't sure. I still remember my parents telling me how working part-time ruins your career, or these internet articles about how you are given the most shitty tasks just because you want to spend more time with your kids. After weeks of thinking about it, I thought “Frouk it, my daughter is more important than my career.” Neither Gwen nor I wanted to be the main carer. We both wanted to be equally involved in all aspects of our relationship with Momo. That started with spending the same amount of time with her. As far as possible. So we both decided to work 4 days a week.

I discussed this idea with my family and with my bosses at work, and then signed the paperwork before Momo was born. I would be officially working 80 per cent when Momo was 4 months. Why wait? Well, this is what happened:

When Gwen gave birth, I was allowed 2 weeks paternity leave, that I took immediately. Gwen was tired, and I wanted to spend some time with my daughter. However, these were two frustrating weeks. With Gwen breastfeeding, I was feeling like a secondary parent. Momo's crying? Here is Gwen to the rescue. The only thing I felt good at? Carrying Momo on my forearm (type “the happiest baby on the block” into the Youtube search engine for the technique that inspired us). So after two weeks, I was quite happy to get back to work. Gwen was on maternity leave anyway, so it did not make sense to work part-time then. When Momo was 3 months, she was to start with a nanny and Gwen would go back to work. I took three weeks off to help with the transition, and I started working part-time just after that. By this point, Momo would do more than just cry and feed. She would smile, recognize people and even play.

I immediately noticed a shift in the way Momo was behaving towards both of us. I wasn't a secondary parent anymore, but she would turn to me just as much as she would turn to Gwen whenever she needed anything. Cuddles, food, reassurance, going to bed, you name it. Of course, not everything was perfect. Four days a week, I would get home just as Momo was about to go to bed, so I would barely see her on those days. And at this age, after two days without seeing a person, they already seem to start forgetting you exist. Work meant Gwen had to pick her up almost every day at the nanny's. But still, I felt as though if Gwen had to be away for a few days, I could handle everything, apart from breastfeeding maybe;-)

Looking back, I can honestly say that I made the right decision. Work-wise, it did not make a noticeable difference. I was able to work on any project. My colleagues made an effort to schedule meetings on the days I was there. I also realised that I was more efficient in my work on the days I was there. On the other hand, I really felt that this extra day made a big difference in my relationship with my daughter. Today, we're very close, and most of the time, I don't feel like the secondary parent any more. 

I have had to stop working part-time for a few months for financial reasons. However, I decided to go back to working part-time recently, and had to talk to my new boss about it. And once again, my decision was greeted with smiles and enthusiasm. Can't wait for next week to start spending Wednesdays with my daughter again!


Paternity leave in France:
French law allows either parent to stop working completely, or work part-time. If a person chooses to work part-time, they can work any amount of time per day of the week, with a minimum of 16 hours a week. This arrangement is valid for a year, and can be renewed up to three times, until the child is 3 years old.


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