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In Norway we have a choice between 46 weeks (with 100% pay) or 56 weeks (with 80% pay) parental leave. Six weeks are reserved for the mother, 10 weeks reserved for the father (plus the 2 weeks off they get at the time of the birth), and the rest can be shared. Next year, the fathers 10 weeks will be increased to 12 weeks.
Some fathers, however, feel that they are not able to take this leave, but this very much depends on the type of work he has, e.g. somebody who is paid on commission can hardly afford to take 10 weeks off. Or, for somebody who is running their own company, it might be difficult to take so much time out.
The mother does not have the “luxury” to decide whether or not she can afford to take maternity leave, as she kind of has to take at least some time off, and traditionally it is expected that the takes most of the leave.
By reserving 10 weeks for the father, I believe, the Norwegian government is trying to make the point that fathers also should take time off; and therefore, trying to make men and woman more equal — not only at home, but also in the workplace (think about it – if you had the choice between hiring a man in his thirties or a woman the same age, who would you choose? I know I wouldn’t choose the person who is likely to take up to a year in leave, but that is discrimination and is not allowed…)
Most men take only the allocated 10 weeks, but there are those who are lucky enough to have wives who ‘let’ them have some more time – and my husband is one of those lucky chaps. He will have a total of 4 months “daddy leave” and has recently started it!
I think I have been very lucky to have a husband who willingly takes such an active part of the wee lads’ life. My husband would sleep in the spare bedroom in the beginning, so that he would have enough energy to help me out in the daytime (or in the evening after he came home from work). But, some weekends he would do the night shift for me.
When he came home from work he would take over from me and play with the lad and also do the “bedtime routine”, which, for us, consists of bath, tooth brushing, bedtime story and/or song. Then, I would be able to get a “break” to do the cooking and cleaning etc.
But now, I am the one working, whilst my husband is at home, and he seems to realise that it is a bit more tiring to play with a baby the whole day than he imagined, and that there isn’t really much time to do other things. (And, I guess I have to admit that I realise how tiring it is to be at work all day.)
The dad has even been to the “new mummy group”, not sure if he had a latte and a croissant though (as I would) — he normally goes for the healthy option. He is also taking the lad for his doctor’s appointment, and going to “baby singing” and going for long walks everyday with the baby in his “backpack carrier” (we have this one). And, he even has dinner ready for me when I come home from work (almost every day)!
He seems to be managing just fine without me, apart from the odd phone call. The last one I got he asked if I was especially attached to certain pyjamas because it had pooh all over it. He was hoping he could just throw it out, instead of trying to clean it!
It is a little bit strange for me not to be the one who knows when the next nap is due, or not know what food the lad prefers. And, it was hard the first time the wee lad preferred his father to me (this happens especially when he is very tired). But, at the same time, seeing the lad with his daddy is one of the nicest things I see. It makes me feel so proud of them both.
It sometimes even brings tears to my eyes, and then the daddy asks me what is wrong, but it is difficult to explain. I can’t even explain it to myself, as I seem to have turned into an emotional wreck at times! And, I can’t blame the “breastfeeding fog” or hormones anymore, or can I?
On a side note: if the dad was to read this article, he would never let me forget how perfect he is, so I had better mention a few other things as well:
The dirty laundry does not make its way to the laundry basket by itself, and maybe you could even put on a wash? The garbage does not throw itself out, and yes, sometimes you may have to plan what we need from the shop. I am at work all day, and I can’t guess that you just finished the last pint of milk or that we are running out of nappies. Oh – and no, I do not know where his stripey jumper is, I was not the last to have it… There – now this article is a bit more balanced!
Do you share the parenting tasks with your husband or partner? How balanced or unbalanced would you say your share is?
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/nateone/3278507922/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.