Jonathan Jäger and Michele Trapella and their respective sons are seen in a portrait taken for Delano by Patrick Galbats
When Jonathan Jäger started part-time parental leave in March to be with his one-year-old son, he quickly realised something was missing: there were plenty of Facebook groups for mums, but none for dads.
Jonathan says: “The issues dads are interested in are different [from those of mums]… Dads don’t run through the same pregnancy and post-pregnancy phases which are connected to a lot of issues and uncertainties.”
So he decided to do something about it, founding The Luxembourg Daddy Group on Facebook in March. It was soon apparent he’d reached an untapped market: in under two months, the group grew to 250 members.
A “hipster-fun” lifestyle
On 21 May, the group had its first meetup at Parc de Merl, bringing together 30 dads and their kids.
Some dads had registered, but others merely stumbled upon the event, curious about the group’s poster and logo, a bearded man with sunglasses. Jonathan put a lot of thought into the design. “It’s reminiscent of a barbershop… a bit this hipster-fun-healthy lifestyle and transports a lot of emotions to dads who want to be part of that, and it creates a common identity.”
The fun is evident from the group page, where members post daily--from jokes and videos on the joys and trials of fatherhood; pros and cons on crèches versus nannies; recommendations on the best hoovers; and, at the time of writing, members helped reunite a dog owner with a missing pup. The group even hopes to organise a beer brewing workshop (dads only, of course).
There are also plenty of family-friendly event suggestions. “We have a lot of farms in Luxembourg that do special days with barbecues, guided tours, where you can feed the animals,” Jonathan says. Sometimes fathers even say where they’ll be to encourage informal meetups.
“Time well invested”
Michele Trapella, father to a one-year-old son and newborn, serves as group co-admin. “When my [first] son was born, I quit my job and wanted to spend time with him,” he says. “I don’t want to say I have a lot of free time because the little dude is a full-time job, but it’s a good time for me to do something different.”
As a stay-at-home dad, Michele recalls at first feeling “almost sexist stuff” while he was doing things like pushing a pram. But as he started talking to dads, “they wished they could be in my position. It’s nice they can be proud of being stay-at-home fathers.”
Based on feedback he’s received, Jonathan thinks an increasing number of fathers are taking time to be with their children, especially after the December 2016 parental leave reform. Although it’s too soon to tell whether the reform has made an impact, family minister Corinne Cahen told Delano that the new system, which offers more flexibility and higher compensation, “has also been designed with a view to encourage more fathers to take advantage of their personal leave allowance.”
Nevertheless, Jonathan acknowledges the practical challenges some still face vis-à-vis their employers when requesting leave: “If your employer is very demanding, it’s unlikely you’ll take parental leave. But this is changing: there’s a growing community of dads taking it, which is also why they needed a place to share their thoughts and experience.”
For Jonathan, taking the time off has been well worth it. “If you invest your time in your family and kids, it’s well-invested. It’s time your employer might not reward in the same way,” he says. “In the end, I think you need to ask yourself what will last longer: the time you invest in overtime, or the time you invest in your kids.”