In today’s society, most of us agree that equality is important. Equality between genders, races, religion, sexuality. It’s/we see it as a human right, that people are judged by their actions and not by their looks, beliefs or who they love.
However. When it comes to building a family and raising children, the line often becomes blurrier and the inequality increases. Mothers take more time from work, both during paternity leave and sick days and make bigger sacrifices in their careers. Research shows it, and we know it from experience.
In Sweden, we have come a long way and the country is considered one of the most equal countries to live in, in the world. However, when we become parents, the gap between the genders increases.
We can have different reasons (good and bad) for making the decision that the mother who gave birth is the one that stays home for the majority of the parental leave. It can be due to career opportunities, to partners higher income, that she wants to, or something else.
Some of the things are hard to control, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t do our best. The mother (who has given birth) is usually the one who stays at home for the first few months, and for a reason. She is recovering from giving birth and from carrying a baby for nine months. And she is often breastfeeding and therefore automatically becomes the prime caretaker of the child.
Research shows that couples in Sweden are mostly equal, by the time they start living together and up to the time the first child arrives. Then a gap is created between the genders.
Even though it’s usually the logical choice that the mother stays home at the beginning, we believe that we should put in all the work that we possibly can to close this gap by sharing the parental leave. It might be the harder choice and maybe a worse choice for the household income. The mother might not be ready to go back and feels like she has a better attachment to the baby. She knows the child’s needs and routine.
However, if the other parent doesn’t get the chance to bond with the baby, this will always be the easy way out. If we just go with the old norms and culture, nothing will ever change. Men will continue to be a more obvious choice to hire as they take less time away from work. Men will have higher pay as their career is uninterrupted by parental leave. Men will not be as active in the upbringing of their children, because the mother is the one who stays at home more and the one who takes the main responsibility at home. As she is the one who is at home more, she will probably be the one taking care of the household and making dinner.
Closing the gap
We encourage everyone to make the hard decisions and share equally. The work, the responsibility and the reward. Here are our tips for you to contribute to the fight for equality and paving the way for our children.
Lay the groundwork
Be prepared before you decide to have children. Discuss with your partner how important this part is to you. Make sure you are on the same page and why. Why is it important to you and your children that you share the responsibility of raising them? (link to a blog about raising children equally)
Make a plan
Make sure you have a plan. Discuss how you are going to make this work. Sharing the parental leave. How you will share the cooking, changing diapers, putting the baby to sleep or picking up from kindergarten. Make a plan for both of you to get some free time to do something for yourself or together. Put the hours into the plan, for taking a run, reading a book, meeting with friends or something else you want to do – for both parents.
Stick to the plan
Try to stick to the plan. If you have decided that you will stay at home for the first 6 months and then your partner will take over, try to stick to it. It might be overwhelming at first, but it’s important for you to get back out there and continue with your life. It’s also the father’s right to take time with their child. Not the least the baby’s right to have a good relationship with both its parents. If one of you feels like they are putting in more work, go back to the planning and find a new way that works.
If both of you are sharing the challenging tasks of raising a child, keeping a household and making your career, you will have a better understanding and respect for each other. Staying at home with a 5 month old and not getting anything done is hard to understand if you haven’t tried it. Being moody and exhausted after waking up 8 times during the night can be difficult for your partner to understand if he or she hasn’t tried it. Being exhausted after 9 hours of work and coming home to change diapers and making dinner can also be hard to understand if you haven’t tried it.
If we have experienced what the other one is going through, it’s easier to show understanding and respect. If everyone is putting in the work you will love seeing your partner doing something good for themselves. Seeing them going out with friends or being the favorite parent.
Doing parenting your way is still a thing we believe strongly in. You should not live up to anyone else’s expectations of parenting. The pressure can be both ways, that the mother should be home to breastfeed or the pressure to share everything equally. So do it your way, but give these things thought and try to make the hard decisions. The hard decisions that will reward you in the future. Such as both partners having the same career opportunity, a good relationship with their children and that both of you can be the role models for your children, by sharing equally.