About half of new Dutch fathers regularly take a (half) day every week or two off work to care for their children. In Dutch this is a ‘papadag’. It literally means papa day.
Leave Provided by Law
European law paves the way for this type of arrangement, giving parents the right to at least three months unpaid parental leave after one year of service. This can be taken up to the time your child turns eight. Many fathers use this arrangement for their papa day.
The option to return to full-time work remains once leave is used up or circumstances change.
Whilst this leave is unpaid many families find a way through the financial impact to keep it to a minimum.
Papa Day in Practice
For many years every other Wednesday was ‘papadag’ in our house. My husband was home for one weekday every two weeks to spend time with the kids. We often made it a family day. We tried to keep these papa days sacred, not overrun by errands and obligations, something which tends to happen at the weekend.
Papadag was a dedicated day for playing with the kids, or taking them out for the day, or afternoon once they were school age.
That was how we used the day.
Other families take a different approach. The father stays home one day a week whilst the mother works, providing more flexible options for working arrangements and child care.
Papa days have lots of positives; one important one being that this dedicated time strengthens the bond between a father and their children.
The Dutch Example
The Dutch are masters at balancing work and family life. It is something they regularly top surveys about happiness and wellbeing with.
In fact, the Dutch are doing a lot right because surveys reveal that workers in the Netherlands are happy. Workers are also incredibly productive during their working hours. The happiness is not money related – it’s working hours related. It’s work-life balance related.
Not every country focuses so much on work-life balance. And certainly not every workplace helps men find a balance between work and family.
Whilst papadag is certainly a sign of the evolution of parenting roles it is notable that the term mamadag is not used for the parental leave that Dutch women take.
Who knows, one day the term papadag may be non-existent too.
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