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When Daddies Take Care of Kids – Gender Equality Posted by on Jan 24, 2009 in Culture

I am back from my Caribbean adventure and it was indeed lovely. We didn’t meet any Swedes along the way. Instead, we ran into two Norwegians while driving to Half Moon Bay in Antigua. So that was our Scandinavian connection for the week.

It was an interesting trip, but the most interesting bit happened in Europe – at Heathrow in London.

We were somewhere in Terminal 3 deciding what should we get to eat when a couple with a baby appeared. Or rather, a woman holding a baby followed at a safe distance by a man. In addition to holding the baby, which was screaming quite loudly, the woman was also carrying a blanket, a bag, and a bigger bag with all the baby paraphernalia. The man was just fiddling with his cellphone.

The woman sat down next to us, and while rocking the baby in one arm, she reached with her free hand into the big bag, pulled out a small box of ready-made formula, opened it using her teeth, then fished out a baby bottle, unscrewed the top, poured the formula in, and screwed the top back on. Mind, you she was doing all this with only one free hand.

The baby was still screaming and the husband was suddenly very interested in his newspaper.

The woman fished out a thermos out of the baby bag. She opened it, poured some hot water into the cup and put the bottle into the cup to warm up the milk. She did all this while cradling a screaming infant. She eventually ran out of hands and since I was sitting right next to her I offered to hold the baby so she could look for a clean diaper. Her husband was busy reading the sports section.

The woman handed me her baby, put the cup in which the bottle was warming up on the floor and having finally the use of both her hands back, expertly located a pack of diapers in the giant baby bag.

The husband turned to the comics page, totally ignoring his wife.

That was at Heathrow in London.

At Arlanda in Stockholm we witnessed this:

A young dad with an infant strapped to his chest and a backpack strapped to his back is walking back and forth, amusing the baby while the wife is sitting down reading a book.

He unstraps the baby and the backpack, locates a jar of baby food and with precision suggesting he’s done it many times before begins to feed the infant. The mother gets up and goes to buy a candy bar, for herself. The dad seems quite content to take care of the little one.

This is one part of the Swedish culture that I love and whole-heartedly embrace. The men pitch in and share the work with the women. They cook, clean and take care of the kids. They can take “paternity” leave and stay home with a kid, if the mother chooses to return to work early after the birth of the child.

The term for the maternity leave for daddies is pappaledig, and for mommies – mammaledig.

I Sverige har mamman eller pappan rätt att vara helt ledig (från jobbet) från barnets födelse fram till det är 18 månader.

And just so you can see for yourself how common and normal it is for daddies to be on baby duty, compare these signs:


Restrooms at Arlanda airport, terminal 4, between gates 38 and 40.

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Comments:

  1. Golnar:

    Hi Anna ,
    welcome back .
    great point of view .

    viva sverige.

  2. Lelia:

    Hej Anna,

    Glad you had a great vacation. Your blog is great and makes it easier to learn Swedish. You writing and wit make me enjoy reading your blog whenever you have a new post. Your posts about child rearing and gender equality was great. I wish other societies had such gender equality in regards to raising children and in many other ways. Great work.

    Cheers and Thank you.

  3. Naveed:

    Simply love this swedish style

  4. Nicole:

    Great post!!!! I too love this about Sweden and the Swedes. The Heathrow example would have made my blood boil!!

  5. ceci:

    hej anna! heheh love love love it!!!! and the woman in london…how unpractice women can be…i think: you take the baby bottle and asked the people on the nearest bar to warm it!
    thank you for the post!
    ceci

  6. Carol Santos:

    Hello everyone, I’m a brazilian exchange student arriving to study at Lund University next moth. I really would like a native contact. So please I ask you to send me a email (krol89_poe@hotmail.com) if you’d like to talk and helpping brazilian people lost in Sweden.

  7. Kenia:

    Hej Anna,

    Welcome back! We missed you.
    I wonder how this woman in London was still married to such a selfish man! I mean, how could he be reading a newspaper without even caring about his wife being out of hands to deal with the baby? All women would probably love swedish style, but to be honest, I’d prefer it to be 50% of responsibility for both members of the couple.
    I’m glad you’re writing again. Thank you!

    Kenia

  8. Luke (Sydney):

    Almost got myself a Swedish girlfriend before, now I know why she wasn’t that interested in me…certainly better than other reasons I had come up with before…lol

  9. Gimena:

    Heeej!
    Well, as usual, great blog Anna! You have no idea how eagerly I look forward to each and every single one them!
    I was wondering if you could explain a little bit how college/university works up there? Are they free, is it hard to get in and so on…
    Anyways, thanks a lot for everything!
    Pussar

  10. Ronnie McGowan:

    What a strange sense of equality the Swedish seem to have: the father struggles on like a pack horse whilst the mother stuffs her face with a candy bar? What must her complexion be like with all that sugar?

  11. Luke (Sydney):

    hehehe, the men’s room in Ikea next to my office has exactly the same signs! Missed that!

  12. Kenia:

    ha ha, the subject seems to be quite popular, don’t you think Anna? Everyone has something to say! =D

    Cheers

  13. Anders:

    Funny how people feel it’s somehow their business how others lead their private lives.

  14. Ronnie McGowan:

    Just back from a trip to Stockholm. On the flight from Arlanda to Heathrow I was sat behind a young woman who had two young children – one either side of her. Her partner was sat opposite with a young baby strapped to him (how cute I hear you say). This man pretended to sleep the whole journey (occaionally opening one eye to see what was going on). He only woke up to get his complimentary drink. The woman struggled on for the whole journey trying to keep the other two children entertained and under control.