Sweden’s Parental Leave Policy Doesn’t Just Sound Awesome — It Looks Awesome, Too

Pretty Swede.

by Jonathan Stern
Originally Published: 
photo gallery

If you thought your boss was generous letting you spend 2 weeks with your newborn, you’re probably not Swedish. In Sweden, parents get 480 total days to split, and at least 60 of those must be taken by dad. What’s that? Why, yes, this is a website devoted to helping you find a job in Stockholm.

Photographer Johan Bävman (who recently just had his second child) decided to show all those fathers who took 6 or more months off for his book, Swedish Dads. Below are stay-at-home Swedes who are intimately familiar with tea time, more than ready for a sink bath, and who definitely witnessed their kid’s first steps in person.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Parenting in Other Countries

Michael Winblad is on leave part- time for 9 months with his children Matisse, 2, and Vivianne, 5 months. “I struggle to get a good relationship with my children. Therefore, parental leave in the beginning is important to me and I have been lucky to have a wife who can cover for me when I had to work.”

Johan Bävman

Loui Kuhlau is on leave for one year with his son Elling. “There was never any discussion about who should stay at home with Elling. That we would split parental leave more or less equally has always been obvious to us. Had I not had the opportunity to be at home with our son for almost a year, I would probably not have known who he is as a person and what his needs are. This said, there hasn’t been much time to just sit and enjoy being in his company. Most of the time has been spent making everything work. It really is a full-time job.”

Johan Bävman

Jonas Feldt is currently on parental leave for a year with his one-year-old daughter Siri. He was previously on leave for 9 months with his daughter Lovis, who is now 3-years-old. “It was a wake-up call to read about a survey by the youth magazine Kamratposten expressing that most children turn to their mum when they are upset, seeking comfort or just need someone to talk to. Second to the mother came a relative, then a sibling, then someone at school, and only a long way down came dad. I want my kids to feel just as safe with me as with their mum, and that bond is something I’ll build during my parental leave. I don’t just want to be the fun parent.”

Johan Bävman

Andreas Bergström has been home since his youngest child, Sam, was born. He was working quarter-time and about to start 6 months of parental leave. “Our children have as much trust in me as in my partner. It is important to me that I am also able to comfort my children. Since my partner fell ill due to complications at childbirth, I had to take on the lion’s share of upbringing during the period just after birth. It is easy to glide apart unless you share grief, guilt, and happiness with each other when you have children.”

Johan Bävman

Ola Larsson is currently on leave with his son Gustav for 8 months. “It is important that everyone is free to choose to take time off for parental leave or not. It is the culture that needs to change on a grand scale and more male role models must be promoted. I had to dry many tears after I left my son in daycare for the first time. It is a true gift to be allowed to create such strong emotional ties. You almost have to experience parental leave to understand what you lose before you decide to work instead.”

Johan Bävman

Juan Cardenal was on parental leave for 18 months, 9 with Ivo and 9 with Alma. During that time his Spanish friends admitted they were envious they weren’t able to stay at home as much with their children in Spain. “My older relatives expressed doubts as to whether I would be able to handle the children myself. With my extensive parental leave, I believe it was easier to connect and bond with my children than fathers that don’t stay home. I am eternally grateful for having been able to be on leave for such a long time. Parental leave changed my way of looking at life. It created a break in the rapid pace and allowed me to reflect.”

Johan Bävman

Marcus Bergqvist is currently on parental leave with his oldest son Ted for 6 months and youngest son Sigge for 8 months. “As a mother I think you grow into parenthood during pregnancy. For fathers, it all happens very suddenly at childbirth. I’m probably a better dad now than when my oldest son Ted was born. A dad is not something you become over one day, I think it takes a long time to be secure in your role as a parent. In Sweden, we have a system that seems like a utopia for many people around the world. But we have a lot of work ahead before can call our society equal.”

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