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How Paternity Leave Redefines Manliness

In Sweden, paternity leave is just as important as maternity leave. American Nathan Hegedus describes over on Slate what state supported work leave and fatherhood are like in the country of his wife’s birth and his new homeland.

Hegedus has spent the last 18 months using one famous Swedish product many of us in unpaid parental leave hell would like the Scandinavian country to export: paid paternity leave. After his wife returned to work when their second child turned 18 months old, Hegedus started his 18 months of full-time care-giving to their two kids. He says he, an American, couldn’t imagine what it would be like — what his male peers who were also on leave would be like — when his work leave kicked in.

To his surprise? Hilarity did not ensue.

The men were just as capable as the women. And just as boring, really. They talked about poop and milestones and discipline just like he had been told mothers always did. No talk of sports. No talk of what line of work they were in. Everyone faced the same day-to-day challenges as each other — and as their wives had before they returned to work.

His piece is an interesting read for many reasons, not the least of which is what he has to say about modern masculine culture and how the Swedish paid work leave policy has actually changed — forced the change — in what’s perceived as masculine, what is considered a mother’s innate ability and the roles society has, until now, forced on one gender or the other.

Of course, for Americans this can be a particularly maddening piece to read, what with no sign of significant paid maternity/paternity leave in sight, and no sign of a coming end to gender stereotyping for parents or kids.

Is there really a case to be made against some kind of parental leave being the norm?

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Photo: By Jesper Wiking [via Flickr]

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