Simon reports that he’s probably one of the few dads among his friends to stay at home on paternity leave with his child for their entire first year.
“It was a decision that my partner Mareen and I made jointly, that we were both convinced was right. Mareen also took full parental leave for the first three months after Hedi’s birth.”
Simon’s decision to stay at home with their daughter for her entire first year was virtually unheard of in their circle of friends. None of the other new fathers he knew were doing this.
“It’s still more common for the mother to stay at home for the first year and for the father to go to work as usual,” Simon believes.
The early days during paternity leave
“It was obviously a seismic change to take care of our little girl all day for a year and do everything myself. But at the same time, it was one of the most exciting and instructive years of my life. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single day.”
Simon tries to describe the very first week of fatherhood. He uses words and phrases like “surrealistic,” “cloud nine” and “our little miracle.” And “lack of sleep.”
We didn’t get much sleep in the first few weeks.
“The first week I was home with our little baby was completely surrealistic. We still hadn’t got our heads around the fact that she was actually here with us and no longer swimming around in Mareen’s stomach.
I felt like I was on cloud nine and I was so incredibly proud of our little miracle! We didn’t get much sleep the first few weeks, but we didn’t get bent out of shape about it. I guess nature has arranged it like that intentionally,” laughs Simon.
Thoughts about work and life with young kids
Both Simon and his partner Mareen have been self-employed for many years. That made the issue of parental allowance more complicated. It’s easier when you work as an employee in Germany.
But during Hedi’s first year, Simon and Mareen started their blog at ohwego.com. Simon was usually able to write blog posts and reach new readers while Hedi was asleep. Simon on his career:
“I for one don’t believe that you’ve absolutely got to have it all – I mean, juggling kids and a career at the same time. I’d already decided to prioritize the time with my child and leave my career on the back burner. And I don’t feel that decision has cost me anything – quite the opposite.
This paternity leave has given me greater patience and greater strength. But I don’t believe it’s a one-size-fits-all situation. Parents must follow their hearts when deciding what they want to do during the child’s first year, and they’re the best judges of what’s right for them.”
Parental allowance in Germany
Simon briefly explains the parental allowance in Germany, which makes it possible to stay at home for a year with your child.
“In Germany, a parent has the right to receive parental allowance for 12 months. The size of your parental allowance depends on how much you were earning before the child was born. I think it’s 60 to 70% of your monthly pay.
If you’re self-employed like me, it’s unfortunately quite complicated to apply for parental allowance. You have to fill in tons of confusing forms, and it usually takes up to six months to start receiving your parental allowance.
I’d strongly advise other self-employed expectant parents to make sure they put aside a good lump sum before the baby is born or they could be left high and dry.”
4 things I want to do during my paternity leave
Simon regularly took Hedi to a playgroup close to their home. But he also wanted to…
- Stay healthy
- Follow his child’s development
- Continue to be a good father and partner
- Make the most of each new day.
More about Elterngeld – the German parental allowance
On January 1, 2007, the Elterngeld parental allowance was introduced in Germany. It is paid out for 14 months after the birth of a child. Two of these months are reserved for any partner, while single parents get all 14 months.
Parents are entitled to stay at home with their child for three years without losing their job. Both legal guardians can receive parental allowance simultaneously or alternately.
Since July 1, 2015, ElternGeldPlus has been available for people who want to combine part-time work and parental leave. (Other changes were also made to parental allowances in 2015.)
Grandparents can receive the allowance if the child’s parents are underage. Elterngeld contains a bonus for siblings under the age of three years. There is an upper limit above which high earners lose their entitlement to the allowance. Source: elterngeld.com, bamf.de