When Daddies Take Care of Kids – Gender Equality Posted by Transparent Language 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: