By Marileidy Munoz (El Toque)
Photos: Aracelys Aviles
HAVANA TIMES — He gave up his news reports and studio recordings. He overcame the social dogma that mothers are better prepared to look after babies and he became one of the few men in Cuba to ask to take Paternity Leave.
Israel Hernandez Planas is a well-known name on TV in Santiago de Cuba and national channels. However, he preferred to put his career as a journalist on hold and stay at home looking after his son.
“He has his mother’s eyes and his grandfather’s nose, I hope he also looks a bit like me,” Israel says as soon as you ask him, who already knows about this obsession human beings have to look for similarities in children when they are born. Hernandez Planas describes his less-than-year-old son in detail and we can just smile and support his thesis: “I believe he even has what it takes to become a journalist,” he says seriously and we don’t know what to do.
“I believe that both parents taking responsibility for their children’s care and attention is crucial, that’s why Dorellis and I decided that I would be the one to take post-natal leave. She is in the last year of her journalism degree at Oriente University and in order for her to not lose the degree and do her thesis, we decided we would do it this way.
When I got to my work center’s administration, they didn’t have any problems, even though when they consulted the law, they realized that a studying mother isn’t recognized for the father to receive this benefit. Nevertheless, they helped me to adjust at work and be able to take on this responsibility and for my wife to graduate like she had planned,” Israel said.
“We really thought about this decision a lot. I had my doubts because my son was very small and I thought it would be very hard for my husband to take on his care,” said Dorellis, the young mother. “I thought that Fabian wouldn’t adapt, but it was the opposite. Israel handles everything perfectly. Everything comes so easily to him and the understanding they have between them is extraordinary.”
“In the beginning, I used to say: when he’s at day care school, I’m going to get a call to run over there because something is missing. I never got that call,” Dorellis affirms.
Ever since 2003, under the protection of Decree-Law 234 of Working Maternity Rights, Cuban Law recognizes the right both parents have to decide which one of them takes leave from work to look after their children during the first year of their lives, once post-natal and breastfeeding leave has been taken. However, this legal recognition still isn’t complete, it only mentions mother’s rights and doesn’t go into details about financial/pay benefits for fathers taking this leave.
Between 2006-2014, only 125 men have taken on this right in the whole of Cuba. Machista legacies which establish prejudice and taboos towards both genders may be the reason for this, as well as a lack of legal information.
“In my opinion, this is a very important experience for my son’s education. In the same way women and men taken on different social roles in an equal manner: in the workplace, personal and family spaces, this will build a better society,” journalist Israel says.
“When I decided to take paternity leave, my work colleagues didn’t understand and criticized me. We are still a patriarchal society.
I don’t know of any other friend or colleague who has taken Paternity Leave but that wasn’t going to be determining for me.”
“In our family, we haven’t really established who does what and how, we negotiate everything. The only important thing is to keep a balanced relationship and to lead Fabian down a happy path free of any prejudice.”