Only 6 percent of men venture to go on paternity leave. Happy parents shared their storied with The Day
Andrii Muravsky, economic journalist and The Day’s correspondent, is a father of three kids. The oldest Bohdan is two, the younger twins Ruslan and Liudmyla are eight months old. Muravsky considers himself to be a happy father because, unlike the majority of men, he spends plenty of time with his children, watches them grow, and never misses important moments of their lives. In their family, the mother is not the only one who knows what it is like when a child is sick or being naughty.
When the first child was born, Andrii was the one to go on paternity leave, and he never regretted it for a moment. “This makes you so much closer to the child and gives you an opportunity to truly feel like a father. You spend a lot of time with the kid: walk, play, start understanding each other better,” Andrii says. According to him, most of the things, including everyday routine, which scare dads so much, in reality are much easier. “A lot of things, like bathing a baby, for example, I have done well intuitively. I quickly mastered all the necessary skills: how to feed the baby, what to do if they are upset, how to lull a child to sleep, etc. Some things I was unfamiliar with before that, but I learned them on some kind of subconscious level. A lot of things are simpler than they seem,” Andrii says. When Bohdan was born, the couple took care of him together for the first few months. During this time Andrii learned from his wife, and when Maryna returned to work, he knew how to do everything necessary. Besides, Andrii says that when a father is on paternity leave, it does not mean he does absolutely everything. “My wife was busy with the child too, she prepared baby food. I cannot say that I did everything only by myself. No. We did it together. That is why it was not that hard for me as it could have probably been,” says the man. “People have an impression that being on parental leave is all about laundering, changing diapers, and preparing baby food. But there is such thing as a washing machine and other achievements of progress.”
Andrii’s wife Maryna believes that this “diapers and stove business” is an outdated stereotype of parental leave. “There are washing machines, porridges, and vegetable purees made specifically for babies. The main thing on parental leave is not about performing household duties like washing, ironing, cooking. The communication with the child is what matters! And trust me, there are men who have a calling and talent to do this!” wrote Maryna in the parental leave discussion topic in a social network. However, other opinions were present in that discussion. For example, one of the women wrote that she had never met such men who would have a talent to take care of a baby. “Raising a child must be a common cause for both parents, it is just that a woman is designed to be a mother, and this explains everything,” she wrote.
The survey on The Day’s website showed that the majority of Ukrainians think that women understand the needs of children better and can take better care of them than men. Such answer was chosen by 42 percent of survey participants. 28 percent of The Day’s readers think that so few men dare to go on paternity leave in Ukraine because of “gender stereotypes and outdated distribution of social roles (man is the breadwinner, and woman is the homemaker)” which still dominate the territory of the former Soviet Union. 18 percent of respondents think that such state of affairs, when only 6 percent of men go on paternity leave, is the vestige of the previous epoch, and soon the number of men on paternity leave in Ukraine will grow. And only 12 percent of interviewees believe that the reason for such statistics is the financial one and does not relate to any philosophical issues: in Ukraine men receive higher salaries and that is why women, who make less money, go on maternity leave.
Today, men that are taking paternity leave belong to the minority, but their number is ever growing. According to Halyna Zhukovska, head of the Department of Gender Policy and Child Health Care at the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, today about six percent of men are on parental leave, though five years ago there were only two percent of them. According to experts, a lot of them are scared by the prospect of losing their jobs and professional skills. Zhukovska notes that when men return to work, they face the same difficulties as women: loss of professional skills, competence, business contacts, and very often even the job itself.
Another important reason why it is mainly women that go on maternity leave is the financial support of the family. The average salary for women in Ukraine is 71 percent of that for men. Thus it should come as no surprise that 94 percent of workers who go on parental leave are women.
In Sweden a parental leave lasts for 14 months; at least half of that time should be used by the mother, and no less than 30 percent – by the father. During the first 8 months the parent on leave receives 100 percent of their salary, and during the next 6 months the mother or father receives 80 percent of the salary. In the United States there is no such thing as a parental leave. 12 weeks are given to take care of the baby, which are paid as sick leave. In Great Britain the total parental leave can last up to a year, but the salary is paid in full size only during the first 26 weeks. German mothers are guaranteed to have their jobs until the child turns 3, but full compensation of the salary is provided only for the first 14 weeks after the birth of a baby.
The Kyiv-based psychologist Maria Kokhan, who is not in favor of paternity leaves, explains the situation in Ukraine in the following way: “In our mainly Orthodox country, patriarchal order is still dominating in many areas of life. It is considered that the nature or God gave a woman the opportunity to be a mother, and it is very important that it is the mother who stays with the child during the first year of its life: they are connected energetically, the baby does not separate itself from the mother and believes the mother’s breast to be an extension of itself. The baby does not understand that the mother is a separate human. That is why we do not have that level of ‘civilization’ to disrupt the natural balance and change the roles for the woman to start making money and be the breadwinner, and for the man to take care of the household. In Western countries the rights of men and women became so leveled that the line between a man and a woman is no more, these are just individuals, and they see no difference between themselves. Personally I do see it, and if the tendency towards ‘civilization’ will develop further, the number of men on paternal leave might grow. But as a psychologist, I would not be very happy with that.”