Life Style

Paternity leave: what it means to become a father, from yesterday to today

He said it straight away, it was another time. That of the 1970s, who stretched their days on the banks of the Loire. Yves was just starting a career as a literature teacher in a high school in Saumur. Of this period, he especially remembers that moment like no other when, returning from a walk, he and his wife rushed to the hospital. They were about to become parents at the age of 24.

→ READ. The extension of paternity leave definitively adopted

“I had the chance to attend the delivery, which was not very frequent, explains the man who has since had three children and seven grandchildren. I am very proud to have been able to be there at that time. In a man’s life it matters. We come out grown. This gave me the measure of my new responsibilities: I fully understood that my wife should now be able to count on me. “

Yves was therefore a “new father” or a “papa hen”, who appeared at the end of the 1960s. “In the space of three generations, a real revolution in fatherhood has taken place, recalls the sociologist Gérard Neyrand. Under the effect of the relative prosperity but also of the development of the mass media which popularized the concepts of child development, attention to the little ones has increased. At the same time, many fathers freed themselves from the models of their elders, and agreed to be close to their children. This is one of the achievements of contemporary individualism: the new fathers invented their role, far from models. “

Yves testifies to this great gap between generations

Yves still bears witness to this great gap between generations. “I was lucky to have a loving father who gave me values. He was a good man, who was far from indifferent to his children since he was a widower early and raised my younger sons on his own. Yet he was not very close to us. He remained an especially respected figure. Conversely, when I see my sons and my sons-in-law, they talk a lot with their children and know how to do everything: bottle-feed, change diapers. Me, I was a bit in between. I have always taken care of them, but above all to play, to awaken them. Rather, it was my wife who took care of the daily routine. But I must say that we were very helped: the family was close, we had a housekeeper made available by the Caf, etc. “

Younger, Stanislas, 43, confirms having invented his role as a solo father. “I didn’t want to look like my father, he admits. Because he was caught up in his professional life and did not take care of my brothers and sisters or me at all when we were young. I love him deeply but I feel like I met him when I was 18, when he softened his career. I then told him how much I had suffered from his little investment. “

→ MAINTENANCE. Paternity leave: “from now on, the State legitimizes the involvement of fathers”

Stanislas had sworn to “make family”

Also, on getting married, the young man had sworn to “Make family”, according to the expression of psychologist and psychoanalyst Daniel Coum. “It is very revealing of this generation”, Fr. Sylvain Gasser, for his part, has been preparing young couples for marriage for 25 years. He also notes that a “Fatherhood revolution has taken place around diapers. From now on, young men make it a point of honor not to miss the birth of their children ”.

Where does the change come from? Basically, “Young men now find a way of personal fulfillment through the child, Daniel Coum advances. My hypothesis is that for a long time men have devoted themselves to professional life because they observed the very close proximity of the toddler to his mother who carried him. They did not always know how to find their place in the family. The great novelty of the time was that, without confusing the roles, men succeeded in inventing a more active role. “

DEBATE. How far should parental leave be extended?

Stanislas thus played a key role in the birth of his first child. He felt he was becoming a father by talking to his newborn son placed under a light therapy lamp. “Baptiste was born without crying. He was immediately transferred to intensive care and I followed him there. We were alone, him and I, and I understood what it meant to be a father then, as I spoke to him through the glass wall. I don’t remember what I said to him, certainly we were very happy that he was there. “

Since then, the father of three children has been very involved in their education. He knows everything from diaper sizes to clothes “Who button in front and those who button behind”. He enjoys this role even in rituals he creates with his children, such as dancing on Friday evenings to mark the start of the weekend. “I have a childish side to myself that I rediscover by being a father. It is a great happiness. “

Will Charles dance with his kids?

In a few years, will Charles be dancing with his kids too? The 30-year-old psychiatrist, who works in a Paris hospital will be a father for the first time next December. Not completely ready – “I still have time before preparing your room” – he nevertheless already knows what he will say to his child: “That I love him and that he has a family to count on.” He also knows he can build on what he learned in the hospital: “I know how to change diapers since a pediatric internship”, he smiles.

However, the young man already anticipates that reconciling his profession and his new role will not be easy. Moreover, even though it is one of the first potential beneficiaries of the measure, Charles, even ” very motivated “ is not sure to take the 28-day paternity leave in full. “The problem is that in the hospital, we are not replaced in the event of absence. Many of my colleagues are therefore giving up part of their leave. For me, leaving will be even more complicated because I will just take my first position as head of clinic a month earlier ”, he anticipates. But he doesn’t see it as a major drawback: “Being a father isn’t just a few weeks after birth, it’s a lifelong commitment. “


Paternity leave, a recent advance

Paternity leave, subject to reform on July 1, is a very recent creation. Indeed, for a long time, fathers were only allowed 3 days for the birth of a child. It was not until 2001 that they were granted 11 additional days under paternity leave, ie a total absence of 14 days.

The current reform doubles this rest period by bringing it to a maximum of 28 days, in the wake of the recommendations of the commission on the “first 1,000 days of the child” chaired by Boris Cyrulnik in 2020.


To read

* Individualist lovee,

by Gérard Neyrand,

Ed. Eres

The sociologist deciphers how the couple, although weakened, at the turn of the century became the main instrument of self-realization.

* Paternities,

by Daniel Coum,

2016, Ed. Ehesp presses

This book answers a deceptively simple question: what is a father?

* Why do fathers work too much ?,

by Sylviane Giampino,

Ed. Albin Michel, 2019

The relations of fathers with their children have changed but the former are still reluctant to work less or to get involved in domestic tasks, explains the psychoanalyst.


Contradictory polls

What do men think of the extension of paternity leave? Two recent polls give diametrically opposed answers to this question. According to the first, produced by Kantar for the Women’s Foundation in February 2021, men clearly favor this measure (80% consider it good).

This finding is not that of another more recent opinion survey, carried out from May 12 to June 2, 2021, according to which only 39% share this opinion, when 78% of French people questioned (men and women women combined), assure that they will continue to telework during their maternity or paternity leave.

Perhaps the explanation for this discrepancy lies in the activity of the sponsors: in one case, it is a feminist association; in the other, a designer of workspaces for companies.


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