I've just spent 18 months at home taking care my kids, says Nathan Hegedus at Slate. "I am not unemployed." I have a "real job" — but I live in Sweden. Thanks to the Swedish welfare state, I get a year and half of paternity leave following the birth of a child. "And, yes, I get paid." On a national level, generous parental leave policies have made child-rearing skills part of the masculine ideal, just like physical strength and career success. During my time off, I've found myself bonding with my children in a way that was "revolutionary to me as a working dad." They see me more as a nurturer now, and they always will. An excerpt:
Here is the funny part: The dads act exactly like the moms. They talk about poop, whether their babies sleep, how tired they are, when their kid started crawling or walking or throwing a ball or whatever. ... No sports. No politics. No cars. And no questions about your job. Think about that. When in America — outside of maybe a sports bar during a really huge game — will any group of men gather and never ask the question, "So, what do you do?"
I had expected great physical comedy in Daddyland — fathers covered with diaper leakage, babies covered with motor oil, men forcing resentful toddlers into soccer matches. I realize now how insensitive to my Swedish brothers this was. Swedish dads of my generation and younger have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing. They simply expect to do it, just as their wives and partners expect it of them.