Why now

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Ok, so that was a lie, but reading that “the average American used 16.8 days of vacation — even though they earned 22.6 days” it means that the average American is leaving 6 days per year unused, which COULD be used to instead stay home with their child -with pay! Six days per year over the child’s first fifteen years is 90 days.

The idea that people “do not have time” to stay home with their kids, or that they “can not afford” it falls flat when you realise that the average person (in America) is leaving paid vacation days unused.

And if you choose to work over using – paid! – vacation days to spend time raising and connecting with your own kin you are telling yourself, and your child, that your job is more important than your child.

This not not about “work-life balance”, this is about “job-parent balance”.

Ask yourself: When the intensive parenting period (0-15 years old) is over which one would you hate to have failed in:

Your role as a professional?
Or your role as a parent?

And no, I do not think 90 extra days spent with your child is the difference between “failing as parent” and “succeeding as a parent”.

(But a lot of messed up people seem to have one thing in common: lack of a caring parent being present during childhood.)

What I do think is that taking 90 days off (of vacation days you already have!) over a 15 year period – to be with your child is in no shape or form going to have any effect on your success as a professional.

And your child is absolutely going to love you for it.
And your quality of life will go through the roof.

Take your 6 year old and teach her how to fish for a week.

Take your 12 year old to Paris to get her to fall in love with French.

Take your 3 year old to the zoo 5 days in a row to show him what all his favourite animals look like in real life and let him set the pace for when he is “done” looking at each animal.

If you think your life is better spent throwing away vacation days than getting to know your children a bit better while you bond and teach them about life and pass on your values, then you might want to reconsider your values.

Do your child, and yourself a favour.

Take out those unused vacation days and spend them being a parent.

If not for you, then for your child.

 

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Talk about an unlikely hero.

Last months Games Industry reported that the computer game developer Unity would start offering all its US employees (and soon all employees worldwide) who are the legal parent of a child 12 weeks of fully paid leave. They will also offer the parents an additional eight weeks of part-time work with full-time pay.

A computer games company in the USA is championing parental leave!

Wait? What?

A company that help create computer games like “Hitman Sniper” and “Lara Croft: Relic Run” (not your typical “family entertainment”) is pushing ahead to get fathers to spend time with their toddlers.

I am still trying to wrap my head around this.

But when I think about it a little bit more it starts to make sense.

The computer game industry is a relatively young industry which still has a bit of a “rebel label” to it (even tough it is by now a almost 100 Billion (!) dollar industry). This means that the industry is not stuck in how things “used” to be done.

It is also an industry that is extremely trend sensitive (The computer game industry is notoriously fickle and a hit yesterday does not mean you are guaranteed a hit tomorrow so you need to constantly feel where the wind is blowing.) This means that the computer games industry is probably one of the best industries in the world right now at seeing and understanding trends.

Finally the industry that Unity is in is very male dominated and there is a huge competition for the best talent. And unity has probably understood that offering paternity leave to dads (and maternity leave to the mothers) is a great way to retain staff, especially more experienced staff who is coming into the “getting-ready-to-have-a-kid-years.

So I guess it makes sense that a computer games company is pushing for better paternity terms for it’s employees.

But then I read a quote from the HR director of Unity, Elizabeth Brown, where she explains why they are doing it.

She said:

“It’s a common occurrence (in Scandinavia) to see men walking around with strollers in those cities as an example but that’s not the case in the US, and we want to change that. We want to help make it the social norm here in the US, and eliminate the stigma of taking time off to take care of children.”

Wow. Blown away.

A gaming company pushing to change the social norms in the USA of what it means to be a man.

Respect.

And no, I do not think that Unity, by itself will change any social norms about fatherhood in the USA, but I do think that small changes like this matter.

And attitudes in societies can change.

In 1983 only 23% of Americans stated that they knew someone who was gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 1983 that number was 24%, in 1993 it was 55%, in 2000 it was 62% – and in 2001 it was 73%.

If you ask how many Americans who know of a father who has gone on paternity leave, I am guessing that the number will probably be even lower than the 23% who knew a homosexual in 1983.

But if you ask in Sweden today I think you will probably hit 95-100%. And 20 years from now you might reach 73% – or more- in the USA as well.

All thanks to small changes like the ones introduced by Unity that creates other changes that create other changes and then suddenly the tipping point is reached.

As anyone who plays computer games knows: there is only one way to beat the high score – and that is to slowly collect more and more points until you have reached your goal. Unity just collected some new points for the daddy’s of the world.

For that I salute them.

(Picture Credit: jordannypoo (Creative Commons.)

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South Korea is, to say the least, not a country know for dads going on paternity leave.

And if you want to paint a gloomy picture of the state of South Korean men taking time off with their children it is easy to find depressing statistics.

Like the fact that just 3,421 Korean men took out paternity leave in 2014.
Or that fathers only make up 5 percent of parents taking leave.
Or that the Korean Women’s Development Institute found that just 2% of Korean men had taken out leave.

But then again, if you prefer to take a positive approach to what is happening in South Korea you can instead read the statistics like this:

The 3421 men who took paternity leave in 2105 was double the number who did so in 2012.
Or, that the number of fathers taking paternity leave increased by 40% last year.
Or that 64% of Korean men are WILLING to take paternity leave.

I think this is a classic example of seeing the early stages of a strong trend.

If you double 1 you get 2. If you double 2 you get 4 and if you double 4 you get 8.
With a quick glance it might look like not much is happening, but as we all know if we go on for a few more steps we quickly reach big numbers.
16, 32, 64, 128, 256 and 1024.
In 10 steps we increase the number with a factor of 1000. In 20 steps we increase it by a factor of 1 million (!)

But when the increase is small in the beginning it’s hard to see what is going on.

I think it is very much the same with the attitudes and behaviours around men’s (and society’s) view on the fathers role in bringing up the children of a family.

Call me an optimistic optimist – and perhaps I am – but perhaps I am instead just good at spotting a trend …

In an article on Reuters (where the statistics above also are taken from) they write about the success of the TV show “Return of Superman” where male celebrities are taking care of their own children and about how reality shows like “Return of the Superman” changed Koreans view of what a father can, and should, do when it comes to rising the children.

Men want to be superheroes, and we are now living in a time where male celebrities in a conservative country like South Korea as described and perceived as super heroes – for taking care of their kids…

Who would have thought.

We are living in interesting times, and I think we very soon will look back on today as the time the world woke up from a collective hypnosis of thinking that children only needed one parent and ask ourselves “What where we thinking?”. And because we are in the early stage of this strong change I think that most people haven’t yet understood what is happening around us.

For the sake of our families, and our children, I hope I am right.

 

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You know something is changing with men’s attitude towards work vs fatherhood when you see a advertising campaign with the message “Am I a good father?”.

Especially when you realise that it is a global campaign for an investment bank like UBS is making it.

Let me say that again: A global, investment bank is trying to attract new customers by running a campaign about fatherhood…

It is bold.

(And honestly a bit stupid, since the banking industry and especially the investment banking part of it is known for ridiculous long working hours of up to 90-100 hours per week. (Source)

I guess the campaign is targeted at the bank’s customers, not its employees. (Then again, those customers are probably also working way too much.)

But just the fact that a advertising campaign for a global investment bank has fatherhood as a theme is just awesome.

Change can not come unless we first start to address the issues.

Will the men of tomorrow prioritise “work-life balance” more in the spirit of “life-work balance”? In other words, will they put “life” before “work”?

We will see.

I actually think so.

And I think that the fact that someone in an advertising agency thought this campaign was a good idea is proof of it.

And I think that the fact that someone at UBS decided to run it is another proof of it.

Change happens in small steps, but many small steps create a long journey.

I salute UBS for the decision to run this campaign. I just hope that they also make sure that the message that it brings is brought back to its own organisation.

 

(Below is the video ad that goes with the campaign.)

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