September 2nd, 2010
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For nearly 18 months, I woke up at 4 a.m. with my all-too-alert toddler son. Three hours later, when my Swedish wife left for the day, I would set out a second breakfast and then dress the boy and his 4-year-old sister and walk them to her state-subsidized preschool. Then my boy and I would go build sand castles in one of five nearby neighborhood parks. I packed snack bags, changed diapers, and pretended to be a grumpy old troll. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” more times than I want to think about.
I am not unemployed, and I am not a stay-at-home dad. I’ve got a “real” job; I just haven’t gone to the office since last December. In total, I’ve spent 18 of the past 36 months on paternity leave here in Sweden, my adopted country, “off” work to care for my two kids. And, yes, I still get paid.
Over the past 15 years, the streets of Stockholm have filled up with men pushing strollers. In 1995, dads took only 6 percent of Sweden’s allotted 480 days of parental leave per child. Then the Swedish government set aside 30 leave days for fathers only. In 2002 the state doubled the “daddy only” days to 60 and later added an “equality bonus” for couples that split their leave. Now more than 80 percent of fathers take some leave, adding up to almost a quarter of all leave days. So in the middle of, say, a Monday afternoon in March, the daddies and their strollers come at you both singly and in waves, the men usually either striding fast and stone-faced or pushing the stroller nonchalantly with one hand, cell phone glued to their ear.