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One Photographer Documents Sweden's Amazing Leave Policies

Johan Bävman

When Swedish freelance photographer Johan Bävman had a son, he decided to take a deeper look at his country’s extremely generous parental leave policies. No other country offers 480 days of paid leave, with an allowance from the State. Of those days, 60 must be taken by the father. (The country recently added a third month that fathers can either use or lose.) It even goes beyond that, Bävman explained. “In order to promote a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women, a so called ‘equality bonus’ has also been introduced. The more days that are shared between parents, the higher the bonus.”

Despite this unique policy, Bävman found that he had a difficult time finding literature or resources written for him specifically as a father, and he also found that only a fraction of fathers actually took the same amount of time as mothers. “I thought it was going to be easy to find fathers who had shared the insurance days equally with their partners. It wasn't, only 12 percent have been taking this opportunity. ... I hope my project can plant a seed for dads in Sweden and in other countries—to think of what it would mean for yourself, your child, and for your relationship to stay home with your infant for a long period of time.”

Bävman is looking for a total of 60 fathers to photograph, to symbolize the 60 days of parental leave they’re allowed in Sweden, and eventually wants to turn this project into an exhibit and a book.

Alfred Nerhagen, 38, Landscape Architect, with Zack, 4, and Mira, 18 months. "My paternity leave has meant a lot to me. The children have almost become more attached to Dad than to Mum. Now, I am often the one who has to put them to bed."
Johan Ekengård, 38, product developer at Sandvik. Johan and his partner share equal parental leave for their children Ebbe, 7, Tyra, 5, and Stina, 1. "The financial loss that goes with my parental leave is worth every krona. I gain instead higher confidence as a dad for my kids, understanding for my partner, and stronger ties to my children."
Urban Nordh, 33, infrastructure consultant, on leave for ten months with his son Holger. "My wife and I try to be as equal as possible in our everyday life, and taking equal responsibility for bringing up our children is part of that effort."
Samad Kohigoltapeh, 32, Construction Engineer, with twins Parisa and Leia, one week old. "Now that you’ve decided to bring two new individuals into this world, you also have to take on the responsibility to raise them throughout their lives."
Ola Larsson, 41, purchaser, on leave with his son Gustav, for eight months. "It is important that everybody 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. The state needs to be better at providing information regarding the advantages that parental leave gives both parents."
Juan Cardenal, 34, industrial design student, was on leave for 18 months, nine with Ivo, 1, and nine months with Alma, 4. Cardenal received many questions from his Spanish family when he told them that he was going to take time off from work to be with his children. His Spanish friends, themselves parents, admitted they were envious and were not to be 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."

[tnr-photo style="centered-inline-with-caption" src="" width="624" height="832" lightbox=""]Nils Jarlsbo, 33, graphic designer and illustrator, with baby Bibi. Jarlsbo shares equal parental leave with his partner. "I'm on paternity leave because I can. Getting paid to be with my child is one of our civilization's highest peaks [...] At the same time it is a difficult job to be at home and have full responsibility, often with the result of ruined sleep."[/tnr-photo]

Ingemar Olsén, 37, IT consultant, currently on parental leave for nine months with his son Linus, 1, the same amount of time he spent with the elder sibling Joel, who is now four years old. "The everyday routine as a stay-at-home dad can be quite boring, which is something I won’t miss. The child’s needs comes first, and it’s very easy to become isolated and lose touch with your friends. Still, being on parental leave has given me a lot of happiness and a better understanding of my children’s needs."