Involvement of fathers: I feel like my work doesn't understand
Fathers-to-be experience a lack of understanding at work if they want to take longer periods of parental leave. Unlike for women, longer periods of parental leave remain the exception for men. “Even within the family there are tangible reasons for mothers overwhelmingly taking on the childcare role, such as men mostly having higher incomes and the greater levels of competence in housekeeping and taking care of the children, particularly in the first few months of their lives,” explains Matthias Geitzenauer.
But it is precisely these reasons within the family that mean fathers should be more involved in parenting: “Women pay for this relative implicitness that they will take longer periods of parental leave and experience professional limitations to look after children with a significant interruption in their careers and the known gender pay gap.” Most men have the attitude that if they come home early they can also work on the weekend. There is often a high price for this attitude – the success of family relationships.
If men spend a lot of time with their newborn children in the first month of life, this changes their hormone balance and strengthens what are known as motherly skills. Geitzenauer says “men’s bonding behaviour changes and they have the opportunity to get to know themselves as an entirely different person.” They would also have the opportunity for a relationship that will shape them for their whole lives: their relationship with their children. They need to do something to achieve that, though. Relationships don’t just develop. The relationship between a father and his child is strengthened in particular by being there when the baby’s stomach is painful in the first few months and the mother needs some peace to relax or work.
Each person needs to decide for themselves whether the payoff of the relationship is worth the price of the career and the loss of income for fathers, too. “As a side note I would point out that there is no better soft skills training for managers than spending intensive periods of time with their own children!”, says the counselor. This in turn could be a good argument to make to colleagues.
If you need to talk to a professional about fatherly involvement in parenting, you can arrange a free appointment with an Austrian family counseling center.
Our interview partner
Mathias Geitzenauer is a qualified social worker and has also done a Master’s degree in social management. He is a counselor, coach, mediator and head of Kolping Lebensberatung in Vienna.
The interview was conducted in March 2022.