In his photo series Swedish Dads, Johan Bävman documents men who take advantage of Sweden’s comparatively generous paternity-leave legislation to spend more time with their babies than the average father.
“The current system allows parents to stay at home with their child for 480 days in total,” says Bävman, “whilst receiving an allowance from the state.
“Out of these 480 days, 60 must be taken by the father or else are lost.”
In spite of the generous allowance and bonus, Bävman says that only 12% of Swedish fathers share the 480 days of parental leave equally with their partners.
“I started this project when I was home with my own son. I had a hard time finding anything that was written for me as a father. So I got the idea that I wanted to document fathers during their parent leave, to hear why they wanted to be home with their children and what they hoped to learn from it.” – Johan Bävman
Johan Ekengård and his partner share parental leave equally for their children Ebbe, 7, Tyra, 5, and Stina, 1. Both took nine months of parental leave with each child.
“The financial loss with me taking parental leave is worth every krona. I have gained confidence as a dad to my kids, understanding for my partner, and stronger ties to my children that, as I see it, are important for their growing up.” – Johan Ekengård
Urban North is on leave for 10 months with his son Holger.
“My wife and I try to be as equal as possible in our everyday life. Our son Holger was diaper-free at the age of 4 months, something we both worked really hard on during the first months, and which I am very proud of today. My day consists of cooking and playing with my son.” – Urban North
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. It was obvious to my partner and I that we would split parental leave equally. 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. Even though it is a full-time job, I have a hard time understanding why you would not want to be at home with your kid.” – Loui Kuhlau
Samad Kohigoltapeh is on joint leave for the first four months, and thereafter will spend six months on his own with his twins Parisa and Leia, who are 1 week old.
“When you decide to bring two new individuals into this world you also have to take on the responsibility to raise them throughout their lives. I had to argue with my partner to get my months with the children but I think it is important for them to have a present father early on in their lives.” – Samad Kohigoltapeh
Ola Larsson is currently on leave with his son Gustav for eight months.
“The state needs to become better at providing information regarding the advantages that parental leave gives both parents. It is a true gift to be allowed to create such strong emotional ties to your child. You almost have to experience parental leave to understand what you lose before you decide to work instead.” – Ola Larsson
Tjeerd van Waijenburg is on leave with his son Tim for 1 year and 4 months.
“In my job at Ikea they encourage me to take time off to be with Tim, which feels good. I am considering reducing my working week in order to spend more time with him during his first years. It is a shame that more dads do not see the advantages of the egalitarian system promoted by the Swedish state.” – Tjeerd van Waijenburg
Andreas Bergström has been at home since his youngest child, Sam, was born. He is about to start six months parental leave, and was previously on sick leave due to his partner’s complications with childbirth and his eldest son’s health.
“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. As a result I got a direct link with Sam through bottle-feeding.” – Andreas Bergström
Marcus Bergqvist is currently on parental leave with his oldest son Ted for six months and youngest son Sigge for eight months.
“As a mother I think you grow into parenthood during pregnancy; for fathers, it all happens very suddenly at childbirth. I wonder if my son Sigge would have come to me when he was sad and needed comforting had his mother and I not shared our leave days. With our second child I tried to be more present, said no to things I thought I would not be able to handle while on leave, and lowered my own demands on myself as a parent.” – Marcus Bergqvist
Marcus Pranter is on parental leave for eight months with his son.
“I think the regulations are silly. You should only take parental leave if you want to, not because the government tells you to. My partner and I are equal parents to our son and therefore we should share the responsibility for his upbringing. The longer you wait with taking parental leave, the more difficult it will be to bond with your child as it is easier for children to accept new things and create ties at an early age.” – Marcus Pranter
Göran Sevelin is currently on a ten-month study leave to look after his daughter Liv.
“The baby sling is a substitute for the closeness between a mother and child during breastfeeding. I think it’s important to share the responsibility of staying at home with your children, even if you lose out financially. We have less money because I stay at home, but at the same time I will have more time to bond with my daughter and that is what is most important for our future together.” – Göran Sevelin
Jonas Feldt is currently on parental leave for a year with 1-year-old daughter Siri. He was previously on leave for nine 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.” – Jonas Feldt
Ingemar Olsén is currently on parental leave for nine months with his 1-year-old son Linus. He was previously on leave for nine months with his other son, Joel, who is now four years old.
“For me it was easy decision to take parental leave. Although my workplace is very male-dominated, my employer values family life and encouraged me to take parental leave. Being a good parent is also about dealing with the chores and challenges of daily life. Parental leave has given me a lot of happiness and a better understanding of my children’s needs.” – Ingemar Olsén
Martin Gagner is on parental leave for about six months with Matilda, 4, and Valdemar, 1.
“I feel guilty about not having been at home with Matilda as much as I am now with Valdemar. I worry that my relationship with her will be weaker in the future since I worked during the start of her life and I think that as a parent, it is important to participate in the beginning.” – Martin Gagner
Juan Cardenal was on parental leave for 18 months, nine with Ivo, 1, and nine with Alma, 4.
“I am eternally grateful for having been able to be on leave for such a long time. Parental leave changed the way I look at life: It created a change in pace and I had time to reflect on things. During the second parental leave I had the opportunity to change my career and at the same time I got to see my kids learn how to walk, talk, and eat.” – Juan Cardenal
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.” – Michael Winblad
Johan Bävman has photographed 30 dads so far. His goal is to photograph 60, representing the 60 days of leave that fathers are encouraged to take.
All Images are © Johan Bävman.
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