Joy of Fatherhood

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When people hear that I am on paternity leave they usually smile and say: “How old is your child?”

When I reply “Five years old, three years old and 5 months old”, people often let out a nervous laugh in the beginning of my answer that lasts until I come to the part of “5 months old.”

It’s like people get confused around the idea of a father being on paternity leave with a three or five year old, as if I somehow must have missed the memo about how paternity leave should happen when the child is born.

I see it in the opposite way: I do not think paternity leave should happen after the birth of the child.

Just after giving birth the woman who just became a mother needs the man who just became a father to be there to help, support and assist the woman who just went though a tough physical trauma. At that moment it’s not primarily about taking care of the child, but about taking care of the mother – and the child.

It is of course important to be home with the child when it is born – but I do not call that “paternity leave” – I call that “supporting the mother leave.”

Instead I think it makes much more sense to be on paternity leave when the children are a little bit older.

For my newborn there really is not too much that I as a father can do. With the 3 and 5 year old on the other hand the bonding we are doing is amazing (regardless if it is taking a detour while walking to Kindergarten, going for a swim, learning how to bake or making up stories about small, angry purple dragons.)

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I therefore find it unfortunate that governments tend to restrict paternity leave to when the child is just born, or when it is very young.

In Singapore for example the rule is: “Paternity leave can be taken as a 2-week block within 16 weeks after the birth of the child by default, or flexibly within 12 months after the birth of the child if there is mutual agreement between the employer and employee.”

In Sweden, my native country, a country in the forefront of paternity laws the rules are different: There parents can take out their parental leave anytime from the day of the birth until the child is 8 years old (!)

Should fathers stay home with their family when their child is born?

Absolutely.

But the true magic of parenthood happens when a child is a little bit older and when you as a father can bond on a totally different level. A deeper level.

If in any way possible, save some of your paternity leave for when the child is older.

Do not let the magic of “having a baby” stop you from using your paternity leave to “have a child”.

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There are quite a few people who think that the raising of children is a woman’s job. Who think that the role of parenting belongs to the wife.

I never understood that view.

If a woman is supposed to bring up the kids, then how is the kid supposed to learn about what it means to be a man?

Children need role models. Both male and female.

As fathers it is our responsibility to teach the “male curriculum”.

To teach our sons how to be a man.

And to teach our daugthers what to expect from a man.

If we do not take the time to teach them that, then we put this very important subject into the hands of others.

I do not see how any man would like to outsource the teaching of “being a man” to someone else.

But as fathers we should teach much more than just the “man-lessons”.

If we want our children to be great students of life then we have to be our children’s best teachers.

And, as any teachers will tell you, the key to being a great teacher is not knowledge – it’s compassion, connection and presence. It is to have the ability to be there for the student to help, inspire, motivate and, yes, to teach.

The key words being: “be there”.

So it comes down to this:

1) Children need role models to learn.

2) To learn about what it means to be a good man, our children need good, male role models.

3) As fathers, that is our most fundamental role – and we should not surrender that task to anyone else.

4) But to be great teachers of manhood, we need to be great teachers.

5) And great teachers prioritise their students.

So: As fathers we need to be there for our kids.

 

Children learn about the world from the world that they are in.

So, the more you are in your children’s life the bigger affect you will have on the world view they get.

Especially around what it means to be a man.

But the opposite is also true: The less the father is in the picture, the less control or influence he will have on how his child ends up looking at the world.

It is true that many men choose not to be in the picture.

And sure, if you think that your children should learn about what it means to be a man from women, or from strangers – then go ahead and let the women and strangers do the child raising …

Personally I think the job of teaching our children about being a man is a man’s job.

So be a man.

Be that man.

 

 

ps. Watch this ad (from a mobile operator in the Philippines) about the need for fathers to be the teachers in our children’s life.

(Side note: This ad is another example of a company in an Asian country using their advertising budget to promote the idea of fathers taking a bigger responsibility in parenting. (See my previous posts for other examples. Something is definitely happening in the attitudes towards men and parenting in Asia right now.)

 

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How often can you see a shooting star?

I asked a few of my friends and their answers ranged from “every 2-3 days” to “once every 6 months?”

But according to “Ask an astronomer” at Cornell university the correct answer is: “when stargazing you can expect to see a shooting star every 10 to 15 minutes.”

The key words here are “when stargazing”.

The reason most of us do not see more shooting stars is simply because we do not spend enough time focusing on the night sky.

If we want to see more shooting stars we should.

And if we want to experience more magical moments with our children we should spend more time focused on them.

Because just like a shooting star is gone in a blink of an eye, so are those magical parenting moments.

But if you pay attention you can catch them and cherish them forever.

Those “Shooting Star Parenting Moments” will rain over you when you decide to focus on your child.

And suddenly something as seemingly mundane as cutting your child’s nails will become unforgettable.

Once you get hooked on “Childgazing” you very likely will feel an urge to spend more time being there in the moment with your child.

(Videos below of an adorable Shooting Star Parenting Moment with a dad cutting his child’s nails. I also included a video of one of my own SSPM with my daughter. Enjoy Fatherhood.)

 

 

 

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