When Joerg Schudrowitz learned that he and his wife would soon have a child, he faced the same question that all expectant mothers and fathers ask themselves: Should I take parental leave, and if so how much?”
There are certainly many reasons not to take parental leave,” admits Schudrowitz, who works as a marketing manager for the BSH Gaggenau brand. “But at the same time, there is no second chance to experience this unique time with your child.” One thing was clear to him from the very beginning: “The memory of the wonderful experiences during that time will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Decision with positive reactions
Drawn between considerations that touch work on the one hand and family on the other, many parents, especially fathers, opt for a middle course. As the federal statistics in Germany for parental benefits shows, in 2017 three out of four fathers took exactly the two months of paid leave that they could not transfer to the mother.
Schudrowitz chose a different path: he decided to take 14 months, eight of them together with his wife Nadja Markussian. The remaining six months he would take care of his son by himself during the day, while his wife returned to work in business law.
Schudrowitz remembers that he had never had any serious doubts as to whether he would take a career break as a young father. “It was rather a certain uncertainty as to how the environment, especially colleagues and superiors, would react to the long parental leave of 14 months,” he says. But these doubts soon turned out to be unfounded: “The reactions were extremely positive, and I was supported by everybody involved.”
Family visit in the US
There are several reasons why Schudrowitz was glad to have so much time for his family. First, it provided him with the opportunity to travel to the United States for four months and visit his wife’s family there. Back home in Germany, daily life also offered him many opportunities to experience valuable moments with his son and his wife. “I often went for walks in Munich and got to know numerous child-friendly cafes.”
After eight months his wife returned to work. This brought new challenges for Schudrowitz. “I must confess that I was glad when my wife came home after work and could help looking after the little one,” he says. However, it was still fascinating for him to see how his son grew and learned new things every day. “To experience that development was incredible.”
What really matters
Schudrowitz himself also developed on a personal level in the 14 months, he says. Summed up in one word he calls it “serenity”. He has begun to see his own experiences differently. “Things that I would have considered important before, now sometimes seem almost trivial.” But at the same time he has also learned something else: “It is very exhausting to constantly be there for a baby. That is something that men tend to underestimate.”
Something that Schudrowitz had assessed correctly though was his way back to the office. “The return to work was no problem at all”, he says. Already before his parental leave, he had agreed with his department that he would not only take on the same tasks but also the same office as before. So on a personal level his return was also very enjoyable. “Everyone was happy to have me back on board as a colleague and employee.”
Today Schudrowitz is not only glad about his decision to spend a lot of time with his young son. He also encourages others to take a similar decision: “I would strongly advise anyone to take parental leave”.