On Swedish dads, paternity leave and adorable, tow-headed kids
March 27, 2015 2:07 PM   Subscribe

This sweet set of photographs by photographer Johan Bävman depicts Swedish men caring for their children during paternity leave. Many of these men indicate that they are still considered rather unusual despite Sweden's notably progressive stance on paternity leave. The UK is changing, too: from this coming month, paternity leave will be more generous for men thanks to the efforts of the Lib Dems.
posted by averysmallcat (20 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yup. that's how we have it here...
Nice pics!

(I can still remember how it feels to step on a Duplo block, then side-step, and step on another one...)
posted by Namlit at 2:25 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Love it. Love it, love it, love it.

Also, the NoseFrida. So effective, so gross, and also what exactly do babies expect when they're stuffed up and can't breathe and yet fight you tooth and nail to keep you from cleaning their nose?
posted by aabbbiee at 2:51 PM on March 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Love the photo of the dad painting his daughter's nails. Everything in that photo is top notch.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 2:57 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm confused - does everyone in Sweden live inside Ikea?!
posted by latkes at 3:19 PM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


yet fight you tooth and nail to keep you from cleaning their nose?

more like nail and nail.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:41 PM on March 27, 2015


Those pictures are wonderful, and have a sort of sloppy, lovely realism that really looks like how those sorts of moments felt to me, coming home to a boy and man doing things together during my husband's (all too brief in the US) paternity leave. I wish there were more images of competent normal fatherhood out there.

Somewhat off-topic, but what's that indoor clothes-drying room thing? Is that a standard off-the-shelf piece of equipment in Sweden?
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:04 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


latkes: "I'm confused - does everyone in Sweden live inside Ikea?"

One of these guys is actually a product developer at IKEA. But yeah, Scandinavian interiors do often kind of look like that.

I don't feel like this is a totally representative selection, though. These mostly feel upper middle class, urban, progressive, highly educated, etc. Not all of Sweden is like that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:06 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was a guy (not Swedish but in the US) who posted a picture on Imgur who admitted that he spent the majority of paternity leave playing video games, and he had perfected holding the newborn baby and the controller.

I hope he was kidding, though I wonder what Swedish dads really do on paternity leave and if these awesome pics are normal and can I have one?
posted by discopolo at 6:20 PM on March 27, 2015


I'm lesbian, married for 10+ years and already have two kids but these photos made me want to move to Sweden, shack up with any of these men (or maybe be one of those men) and live in those birch wood interiors. Well done Mr. Bävman.
posted by Cuke at 6:36 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somewhat off-topic, but what's that indoor clothes-drying room thing? Is that a standard off-the-shelf piece of equipment in Sweden?

I might be wrong, but that looks to me like a drying rack in one of the communal laundry rooms that are common in Swedish apartment buildings (one of the most regimented and ordered parts of apartment life in Sweden is the system for reserving laundry room time...).
posted by gemmy at 7:13 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Those were all really beautiful. Thanks for posting this.
posted by rtha at 7:32 PM on March 27, 2015


I came to this truth late in life, I'm sad to say: I am a caring, nurturing man. When I was young, like these guys, I was an emotional basketcase, looking very seriously at knives and guns to prop up my weak idea of manhood. It took me a long time, too long, to get over that.

This morning, the daughter of a co-worker was in the office. She smiled at me and my heart melted. I went about my job, but I cried a little every time I heard her voice, "Dad! Let's go! C'mon!" "Bye!" she waved to me. I cautiously waved back.

And that's what my life is: I'm an old guy that is fond of kids and just wish them a better life than mine. But I keep my hands to myself and eyes downcast, because men caring about children is frowned upon.
posted by SPrintF at 7:55 PM on March 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't know, besides being weirded out by how these looked like they were clipped out of an Ikea catalog, I just didn't find these that moving. I have done all these things with my kid (and friends' kids) and they are just... normal things? I mean, parenting is moving, but it's also just normal life. I guess it's pretty sad that fathers parenting stands out as so striking. Of course it's a wonderful think that these dads have the option and I hope this photo series encourages more dads to take advantage of it, but yeah, it's like, photos of someone washing dishes or doing office work or sleeping. Parenting is just... life?
posted by latkes at 9:26 PM on March 27, 2015


I might be wrong, but that looks to me like a drying rack in one of the communal laundry rooms that are common in Swedish apartment buildings (one of the most regimented and ordered parts of apartment life in Sweden is the system for reserving laundry room time...).

This is only tangentially related, but I have a Canadian friend who is living in Stockholm. She guiltily confessed to me that she has a one-bedroom apartment. I, being an American and used to a lot of space, asked her why she felt guilty about that, and she told me that in Stockholm, it was normal for middle-class families with 1 or 2 kids to all live in a one-bedroom apartment, and that taking up all that space for just one person was seen as a bit self-indulgent or wasteful.

I found that fascinating - American liberals tend to idealize the Scandinavian way of life but I doubt most of us would be keen to live four people to a one-bedroom city apartment on a middle-class salary!
posted by lunasol at 10:01 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


All this Prime Lens Adulation of male parents for doing EXACTLY what is expected of parents? I can't shake the impression that this reinforces some wrongheaded ideas about equality, gender and class.*

That said, I do envy the parental leave options in Sweden. That would have been amazing. I got 10 days for each of my little creatures, and that's considered pretty good. A lot of companies around here don't give men ANY paternity leave of any kind, and they very begrudgingly give women about 3 months or so. Sometimes it really feels like US Employers actively hate the families of their workers.

*Maybe that's too picky. It's overall a good thing to share with people. I should probably climb down of this high horse before I smack into something
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:57 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I keep my hands to myself and eyes downcast, because men caring about children is frowned upon.

I keep my hands to myself obviously--anyone should--but I totally wave to little kids and play peek-a-boo on the subway. Kids are awesome! A couple weeks ago a little girl on the streetcar had a Very Serious Discussion with me and a random lady about her sparkly boots and why they were the Best Boots and so much better than my shoes. She was right on both counts. (Admittedly she was asking all and sundry if they liked her boots, only I and the lady sitting next to me responded). One day...

All this Prime Lens Adulation of male parents for doing EXACTLY what is expected of parents? I can't shake the impression that this reinforces some wrongheaded ideas about equality, gender and class.

Is this what's really expected, on average, in North America though? It might be a prevalent ideal amongst the more lefty liberal squishy people represented here on MeFi; I don't think, if you scratch the surface, it's likely what most people expect out of parenting as a reality. I mean, look at Beardo having a bath with his child! Probably naked! That would leave a hell of a lot of people across North America reaching for the smelling salts. Or a Manly Male Man painting nails? He must be gay right?

We're commenting on this because this is unusual in North America. Not least because so few men even have the financial option to stay home, whether they would choose to or not. And even maternity leave, where one could if one wanted at least argue some biological imperative, is a fucking joke.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:24 AM on March 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


in Stockholm, it was normal for middle-class families with 1 or 2 kids to all live in a one-bedroom apartment

I suspect she might have been sampling from a somewhat narrow group of younger white-collar workers with pre-school children who want to live in a very central location in a major city, and are willing to trade living space for location while they're saving up money to buy a house outside the city center.

Looking at actual numbers, the Swedish norm is one bedroom per kid and one bedroom for the parents, plus living room and kitchen, and less than 20% in the three major cities don't hit that norm -- and that number is dominated by singles living in typical "one room" apartments (which per definition aren't large enough if someone lives in them :), single parents with young children in small apartments, and large blue-collar/immigrant families living in the "million program" or other suburbs (if you're renting, it's hard to get past 3-4 bedrooms). And outside the big citites, the numbers are much lower. So four middle-class people in one bedroom is an anomaly.
posted by effbot at 5:36 AM on March 28, 2015


I suspect she might have been sampling from a somewhat narrow group of younger white-collar workers with pre-school children who want to live in a very central location in a major city, and are willing to trade living space for location while they're saving up money to buy a house outside the city center.

Probably - she's in her mid-thirties working for a NGO so that sounds about right. But even here in the US, most people I know in that category, if they can't afford a 2-bedroom apartment in the city, they'll move to close-in suburbs. I don't know any middle-class, white collar Americans with 2 kids living in one-bedroom apartments, not even in NYC. (Not that they don't exist, obviously, but it's not common)
posted by lunasol at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2015


I keep my hands to myself obviously--anyone should--but I totally wave to little kids and play peek-a-boo on the subway. Kids are awesome!

I might be inoculated because I have a bunch of kids but I certainly don't keep my hands to myself, if, for example, a little kid falls off a swing or otherwise needs some parenting and their parental unit is further away. I used to feel a bit iffy, but now I defiantly look after every kid I meet exactly the same as if they were my own (and I invite you to do the same for mine). I am not a child molester, your chances of meeting a child molester are slim, and your kids just fell over and hurt themselves, why should you look askance at me helping them up and asking if they are ok.
(I also play peek-a-boo and poking out tongue games with strangers kids in prams or slings when I encounter them. I don't want to minimalise people who have had bad experiences, but the vast bulk of people are good and kind and helping).
posted by bystander at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I was in the fantastic position to be able to be the house husband for 9 months when my first child was about 1yro. It was probably the best lifestyle I ever had, running the pram to the local fruit & veg market to see what was cheap and in season, stopping in the playground, having hours to plan and cook the evening meal, dropping by the library on the way home, scrubbing a bath cleaner than previous paid house cleaners had done.
I found immediateness in the daily ups and downs I had never had before in my up-to-then experience of education and work.
It really changed me. I recognised more enjoyment in 'hands-on' chores and activities that I previously had unthinkingly outsourced or avoided. I found it immensely rewarding just kicking a ball at a flock of pigeons and hearing a little girl squeal with laughter.
When I resumed full time work (cause another kid was imminent) I ended up taking a pay cut and work from home options that allow me to participate in school reading groups, cook dinner 4 nights a week, do some housework etc.
Coming from a perspective of somebody who previously valued many of these things lowly, and worked hard for more money/prestige etc. it was a surprise.
A decade or so later and that little girl is a grown, if young woman, and we have the challenges of her teen years along with her siblings younger challenges.
But I reckon all of us are closer, and do better because we have been in each others faces all along and it has so far resulted in less conflict than some of her peers are showing. We'll see, and I am very aware everyone is different, but so far it is going great.
posted by bystander at 6:54 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


« Older Why not a whole fryer?   |   Anyone have a Pop-up blocker? For houses? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments