Berlin (dpa / tmn) - Kai Behrens and his partner quickly agreed: With their first child, they want to split the 14 months of parental leave on an equal footing. "For me, the main reason was that I wanted to spend time with the child," says the 42-year-old, who works as a controller for a software company in Berlin.

After 20 years in the job, he is happy to take on completely different, new tasks for a while. In addition, he adds, the timeout will not change his professional situation. "It is not that I am blocking something with it." This is exactly what many men are afraid of.

"A legitimate concern," says Karin Schwendler. She is the head of women's and gender equality policy at the Verdi union. Parental leave and part-time work are still "career killers". In many jobs there are opportunities to reduce working hours. Surveys also showed that more fathers want to work part-time. "Nevertheless, many men are still hesitant," said the trade unionist.

Financial reasons play a role

Although the number of men taking parental leave is increasing, they are still in the minority. According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), the share was 37 percent in 2016. Of the men who received parental allowance in 2018, 72 percent did so only to the minimum of two partner months. A DIW study from 2019 shows that fathers would hold back primarily for financial reasons.

In his circle of friends, too, most men only take the two so-called “father months” to extend the reference period, says Kai Behrens. The idea is still widespread that fathers can hardly contribute anything in the child's first months. "But I think that loyalty to the father is also important - especially at this time," says Behrens.

In addition to role ideas, financial issues also played a role. Many families are still more able to forego women's income. "Most of the time, the fathers have the higher income," confirms Wido Geis-Thönen, an expert on family policy at the Institute of German Business. According to Geis-Thönen, fathers are worried about their careers. Opportunities for advancement would generally be reduced through parental leave.

Men rarely work part-time

"You have to fear that you will not be taken for full if you can no longer work around the clock," says Brigitte Dinkelaker. She heads the project “Making family and work compatible” by the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB). The proportion of fathers who work part-time is only around six percent.

Often it is not superiors, but colleagues who have problems with part-time solutions or parental leave claims, says Geis-Thton. Because often they have to make up for the lost work. In teams in which women also work, it is usually easier for men too, he explains. There, the experience with compatibility issues is greater.

Use the domino effect

"If the men make it clear what they want and apply for parental leave and parental allowance, a domino effect quickly arises," says Dag Schölper. He is the managing director of the Federal Forum for Men, which works as an interest group for an equality-oriented men's policy. As soon as more and more men work part-time, it will eventually become the new normal. But it is not yet there.

The idea of ​​the father as breadwinner is still firmly anchored in society, said Schölper. "It is still not really common for a man to demonstrate family responsibility through attendance, caring and housework," he explains.

Brigitte Dinkelaker also believes that role ideas play an important role. Family-friendly shift schedules, flexible working hours, part-time promotion opportunities, regular childcare or the right to return to full-time work would make it easier for men and women to reconcile work and family life.

Institute of German Economy

DIW 2019 study

Women and gender equality policy

Compatibility of family and career DGB

Federal forum men

Men's advice network