"In all our considerations, we have always been guided by what would be most suitable for our employers. When we realized that, we changed our focus."
Maternity leave is something very special. I wish that every parent takes as much time as possible to be able to focus on the new family member in the first few months. It is a real luxury when the parental leave of both parents even overlaps. At best, longer than the usual two months. That's how it was with Isabella and me. We had planned it differently, but in retrospect we were both very happy with how it turned out.
Originally, our bold idea was that Isabella would go back to work after five months and I would be at home for at least twelve months. That was naïve, because Isabella wasn't ready to go back to work so soon after giving birth. Fortunately, Isabella is a teacher and the Berlin Senate is family-friendly. She was able to extend her parental leave without any problems. Nevertheless, I didn't want to give up my parental leave under any circumstances.
In the following discussion, we noticed one thing: in all of our considerations, we have always focused on what would be most suitable for our employer. Once we realized that, we changed focus and thought about what would be best for us as a family. We both wanted Rubin time, but also family time. And we wanted to have space to process our birth experiences.
So Isabella extended her maternity leave until October, so we would have had three months together anyway. In the end, those three months turned into six months. In the course of our parental leave together, we felt that it was very good for us to be together, also to process the experience of the birth. I would like to tell our birth story in detail elsewhere. Summarized in one sentence, it was a traumatic process and the pictures haunted Isabella in particular for a long time. The idea of not seeing Rubin for several hours a day tormented her. That's why she extended her parental leave a second time and stayed at home with me until February.
But I also threw my plans overboard. The original twelve months have “only” become eight. Of course, I would have liked to have stayed longer on parental leave, but the economic constraints and a very good professional opportunity have led me to shorten it. The legislator does not actually have in mind that both parents are on parental leave at the same time. This means that the available parental allowance is converted to parental allowance plus (50% of the parental allowance) and is still available for a maximum of 24 months. Sounds like a long time, but is quickly used up.
As a result, we had to use up all of our savings to cover our living expenses. And yet the money was never enough. The opportunity for a new job came at me at the right time. To my surprise, it wasn't a problem that I started part-time (25 hours a week). Somehow I thought that was unrealistic after a job change, especially in a managerial position.
Of course, that was only possible because Rubin got a place in a day care center at short notice from March. If someone had asked me before the birth when Rubin should go to daycare, I definitely wouldn't have said so at one year old. But Rubin loves being with other children and adapts very quickly to new surroundings. That's why it was clear to me that an earlier visit to the day care center would not be a burden, but an enrichment for him.
The parental leave together was wonderful. We were in Croatia for almost two months and in Lanzarote for two weeks. On vacation it always worked very harmoniously. At home in Berlin, on the other hand, there were often arguments. Everyday life within your own four walls simply requires more coordination. And being together 24/7 naturally also harbors potential for conflict at one point or another. Still, I would recommend it to any couple. For Rubin, having mom and dad around all the time was the greatest thing. And for me, the best thing is being able to spend so much time with my son. My tip to all fathers: take as much time as possible with your children! It's best if you split it up. One to two months right at the beginning, so that you are definitely at home in childbed. And then again after the baby is weaned. That way you're just a little bit more independent. From my point of view, it is important that dad can also handle everyday life at home on his own and is not only there on maternity leave. (Which I should also do for every couple, by the way. When else do you have the opportunity to travel for a longer period of time)