Fathers on Leave Alone As an Instrument for Socialising Men in Childcare. the Experience of Spain

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW1.3.02 (Tower One)
Gerardo Meil, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Pedro Romero Balsas, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Jesus Rogero Garcia, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Father´s right to a leave for caring children has been gradually introduced as a way to foster gender equality. This presentation focus on the experience of Spanish fathers who have taken a leave to care for their new born children while their partners return to paid work, in order to discuss its usefulness as an instrument for socializing men in childcare and foster greater gender equality.

The presentation is based on a research, where 11 fathers who have taken a leave alone for at least 4 weeks, were interviewed. Fathers were asked about the reasons for taking the leave, the reaction  this decision had on their employers and social network, how they evaluated their experience, what did they do during the leave and how it impacted on their childcare and housework. This research is part of a comparative research project leaded by Prof. Karin Wall (University of Lisbon) and Margaret O´Brien (University of London).

The analysis shows that during their leave, fathers reported devoting their time to caring for their babies, viewing the various tasks involved as their own responsibility. They assessed the experience in a positive light, although the level of stress reported varied. We have found two different profiles of fathers: Independent and dependent caregivers. The latter express the need of help from other caregivers and they would prefer to have a complementary role in chilcare rather than having the main responsabilities while they were alone. By contrast, independent caregivers are able to develop their role of fathers fully when they were alone with they child, since they feel free and unjudge by the partner. In both cases, the main advantages of the experience were that caregiving created bonds that fathers wanted to maintain and develop over time, in addition to the pleasure deriving from some of the activities themselves. Respondents deemed that the leave had allowed them to devote time to care giving, which materialised in specific routines to which they have continued to adhere over time. The inference is that leave so taken contributed to “socialising” men into childcare and therefore constitute an effectiv instrument to foster gender equality..