“Having nearly a month allows you to reclaim the arrival of the child” – Release
Time. For nearly two decades, fathers and mothers have been clamoring for it, barely shaking up an indestructible patriarchal pattern that the birth of a child is primarily the responsibility of mothers. A little more than three months after the entry into force of the extended paternity leave – passed at the beginning of July to twenty-eight days (including the three days of birth), doubling that of eleven days allocated since 2002 -, the majority of fathers questioned through Release fully enjoy this new right. Guillaume is 32 years old. Extracurricular manager and director of a leisure center in Cergy (Val-d’Oise), he welcomed his second child in mid-July. “We created it together, I do not see why I should not have the right to be present at that time”, he blurted out. As required by law, he first took the mandatory seven days for the birth of his daughter before continuing on his summer vacation and taking the rest, in one go, in September. “I still worked a week, I wanted to be there for the start of the school year”, he explains admitting “To have wondered if [son congé] was going to bother the employer or not ”.
In addition to this week to ask imperatively, the remaining days can be taken in the six months and divided into two times. Here, no mandatory character. An arbitration which has left a taste of unfinished business to a certain number of activists: in 2013, according to a study by the Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees), three out of ten fathers were not already taking their eleven days of paternity leave, also optional. The report on the first thousand days of the child’s life, which prompted this reform, formulated a completely different ambition: an extension to nine weeks. More than double what was wrested from the government. Contacted by Release, Health Insurance and the Ministry of Health ensure that they do not yet have data on the use of this extended second parent leave, which also benefits homosexual couples and spouses living under the same roof as the mother.
“It really helps”
The pioneers of this new system, however, praise an undeniable advance and a newfound serenity. “The little one remained in the hospital almost a week after her birth at the end of July because she suffered from jaundice. If I had only had fourteen days, I would hardly have enjoyed his return home ”, remarks Eric, a 34-year-old production planner. A reassuring presence although too short for his spouse. The 30-year-old opted for the twenty-eight day option at one time. A choice that he questions. “The little one does not react much with me yet, it is not the moment when the child is most awake.”
Guillaume, for his part, remembers the «frustration» felt at the birth of her first child, before the entry into force of the measure. This tenacious impression “To have missed the beginning”. It sums : “Eleven days of life is nothing, the child is exactly the same as when he left. He eats, sleeps and then we work again. “ These twenty-eight days are for him a good compromise: “A lot of changes take place during this period. The newborn becomes a baby, we approach it differently and that really helps. “
“It also helps the father understand all the mother has to go through, her mental load once he returns to work.”
— Louis, father of a boy born in February
For those who have plunged into fatherhood by taking advantage of this new right, such transience appears unthinkable. “At eleven days, I was not at all ready to go back to work, I had the impression of leaving the hospital”, remembers Louis (1), 28, an employee of Doctolib. Her son was born in February. According to the legislation then in force, the Parisian should have returned to the turbine. But faced with the arbitrariness of the date of birth set for July 1, some companies had taken the lead: at Doctolib, the twenty-eight days were offered to fathers from September 2020. Keeping one step ahead, the company offers now two extra weeks. “By taking the measure upstream, the employer shows that he is fully in favor of it and that he almost pushed it, which can help to resort to it”, congratulates Louis.
“We were two”
Olivier, 36, should also have passed through the legislative cracks. Her second son was born, prematurely, in May: “My employer, the French Development Agency, has decided to retroactively apply the new regulatory framework from January 1.” Twenty-five “bonus” days were therefore added to the three days of birth and three weeks allowed for hospitalization in July. “It changes your life. In my previous job as a liberal lawyer, I had fourteen days, it’s extremely short!» remembers the one who then had to dig into his vacation.
To the central issue of equality is added that, preponderant, of public health while suicide is the second cause of death for women who have just given birth. “My wife was really tired. If I hadn’t been present, I think she would have really had a bit of slack ”, Guillaume remarks on the specter of postpartum depression. “There were two of us, we were able to overcome that.” If Louis savored each day that allowed him to forge this precious bond with his child, he also used this time to help his partner as much as possible. No more cooking, household chores and, ultimately, awareness: “It also helps the father understand all the mother has to go through, her mental load once he returns to work.”
Olivier also acknowledges that this month at home has opened his eyes to domestic chores. Gathering the number of laundry, bottle dishes, shopping, he concludes: “It’s very heavy.” More unexpected effect of this paternity leave? The relief of getting back to work. “Office work looks surprisingly calm and straightforward compared to the needs of a tyrannical baby.!» laughs Olivier. The opportunity for him to raise a semantic misunderstanding: “Paternity leave is not a vacation. Not everyone has it in mind, colleagues wrote to me “have a good rest”… ”
“I need to work”
In this whirlwind of diapers and bottles emerges the feeling of finally being an actor in your home. A fatherly role that contrasts with this impression of parking on “A jump seat” during pregnancy and childbirth, as Olivier figure.For the 30-something, “Having nearly a month allows you to reclaim the arrival of the child” : “Having extremely reduced paternity leave, after a pregnancy where we are excluded and a birth where we do not have a big role, did not allow us to get involved. Perhaps this explains why some men have never been concerned with a toddler.», he believes.This summer at the detour of gas stations, Olivier was delighted to see the presence of many fathers busy changing their babies, which he did not have. “Not noticed for [son] first child, six years ago ”. In a company that advocates professional achievement more than family investment, Guillaume notes: “Some people think it would take away their masculinity, but it didn’t change my personality at all.!»
The fact remains that for many young fathers, a twenty-eight day break always seems incompatible with certain professional obligations. Brakes already identified in the 2013 survey: barely more than a quarter of farmers, artisans, traders and business leaders had thus granted themselves the right to stop. Frédéric, whose fourth child is due in April, already knows that going away for a month will be unthinkable: “I am not replaceable”, considers this secular ceremonial officiant, who says he maintains a “Very personal bond with the bride and groom”. This TPE boss hopes to be able to take a few calmer days after giving birth, while working in the evening. “I need to be with my children but also to work. As a business manager, if you don’t generate sales, you don’t have any income ”, he justifies.
In the middle of the fields, the difference between the law and its real effectiveness is also difficult to bridge. Jordy is 27 years old. He is the head, with two partners, of a farm in Lucs-sur-Boulogne (Vendée). His companion Anaïs gave birth on September 4 to their first child, Noé. For his leave, which he divided in two times, he called on a replacement agent financed by an allowance from the MSA, the agricultural social security. “All young farming parents see this leave as a chance, but we work with living things, passing the torch is very complicated”, he recalls, referring to his suckler cows and poultry. The disconnection is far from total. The farmer spends part of his time traveling around the farm, sometimes with a stroller, to give instructions or talk to his associates: “In agriculture, the break between professional and private life is complicated, the two are very much involved.”
“We are a little guilty”
This leave remains unthinkable in some professional circles. “When I tell the technicians or salespeople who call me that I am on paternity leave, they answer me ‘it doesn’t matter, we’ll come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow’ as if it only lasted one day!» Jordy remarks. Misunderstanding shared by some relatives. “There is always the generation of parents or grandparents to tell us’ we didn’t have all that and it had to work anyway”. Sometimes we feel a little guilty ”, confides the young father.
Jéremie, a dairy cow and pig breeder in Pays-de-la-Loire, also used the replacement service at the end of July to replace him for seven days after the birth of his third child. The request for the service must be made at least one month before the due date, administrative rigidity not necessarily adapting to the unpredictability of a birth. His wife gave birth a week before the due date, set for Wednesday August 4. “From Monday morning, I had to be on the farm because I had no replacement agent before the 5th”, relates the 34-year-old farmer, who intends to enjoy the rest of his life in two stages, between the end of October and December.
Jérémie was lucky: not all requests for a farmer’s absence were met. “Recruitment is currently under pressure”, recognizes replacement service. According to Capital, the 2022 social security financing bill provides for the allocation of a daily allowance to heads of farms who have not found a replacement. Parental leave could also be extended to employees of liberal professions, such as lawyers or doctors. Voices are also being raised to go to the end of the logic of equality, by granting the same number of days of leave to the second parent as to the mother. A measure which for the moment is not on the political agenda.
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