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Sweden Has 16 Months of Paid Parental Leave! What One Dad Discovered When He Used It
  • While a lot of fathers have stepped up in helping their wives raise their kids, it’s still the moms who take charge of child-rearing. But with the Expanded Maternity Leave on its way to becoming law, dads will have a 14-day paternity leave, and we highly recommend you take advantage. Children will reap lifelong benefits with a hands-on dad.

    In fact, the Philippines should take note of how Sweden does it — the country is most generous when it comes to providing paid parental leave to their citizens. It is the only country in the world that offers 480 days (16 months!) of paid parental leave. Moms and dads can share it between them as they see fit, but there’s a catch: three of those 16 months are “use-it-or-lose-it” — if one parent fails to use it, the days will be forfeited.

    Johan Bävman, a Swedish freelance photographer, availed of the paid parental leave back in 2013 to take care of his son, Viggo. That was when he realized that he couldn’t “find much information or inspiration” for fathers on parental leave.

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    “I heard about this study. They were asking children who they were going to if they were seeking comfort. The first choice was the mother. Not until the fifth place came the father. And it was after the alternative of not going to anyone at all,” he shared in a short video documentary uploaded on Sweden’s Official Facebook page, Sweden.se.

    Bävman was further disappointed when he learned that there were only 14% of Swedish parents who actually shared the 480-day leave equally. It inspired him to use his background as a photographer to take photos of dads like him who choose to stay at home and raise their kids. He wanted to show other fathers the benefits of being home and taking full responsibility of the household.

    His project, Swedish Dads, which took two years to complete in 2015, has been exhibited in 25 countries and has also been turned into a photobook. It features 45 fathers and their children in snapshots of everyday life.

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    In an interview with Japan Times in 2017, Bävman says the purpose of the photo essay was to show role models who are often “not perfect” as fathers. They are also worn out from taking care of the kids.

    It’s far from most pictures of parenting that always show happy dads or parents pushing their children on park swings, which leave out the negative emotions that creep up when raising kids. “Not often (would) you see pictures that express the emotions of tiredness and hard work you have to put in becoming parents,” he tells Japan Times.

    “[Raising children] is something women have done without recognition,” says Bävman in the video documentary. “I wanted to plant a seed to dads around the world, what impact it would mean for yourself, for your child, and actually for your relationship, if you would stay at home with your children for a long period of time.”

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    Bävman, who actually spent a total of 19 months on parental leaves for his two sons, shares in an interview with Cosmopolitan US the benefits he’s reaped from staying at home with the kids. “The prime thing is getting the connection to your children. You understand them. And you also get a better understanding of your partner.”

    “You see a lot of couples separate when the family becomes more than two, and one of the reasons is they don’t understand each other. Having a child is hard — you don’t get enough sleep, you can get exhausted and angry and frustrated. Being able to be home helps you understand your partner and have a better relationship,” he says.

    He adds that really sharing parental roles also gives the mom more chances to become successful in their career or do the things they want to do in their lives.

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    Most importantly, Bävman says staying at home while they are growing up shows your kids that you are there for them just as much as mommy is. They can seek your advice, or come to you as a father. “[You become a] part of your children’s emotional space,” he says.

    Bävman believes there shouldn’t be an argument on whether the mother or father is better at parenting. At the end of the day, everyone is capable of taking care of children.

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