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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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I saw on a couple of daddy blogs that Lego has introduced a Lego set where the mother is working and the father is a stay-at-home-dad. Lego is getting a lot of positive respons for being so “progressive” – and I think it is awesome that they have done it.

But I am at the same time surprised how “a dad taking care of the kids” can be such a “groundbreaking” idea.

In a way it would have been cooler if the introduction of the “stay-at-home-dad-Lego-set” had not created any news at all. Like if an active parenting father was the most natural thing in the world. Because I think it is the most natural thing in the world to be an active father. And soon, hopefully, more people will think so too.

The fact that Lego is launching that stay-at-home-dad-set is perhaps a sign of how things are changing, like if the dad-lego-set is a small lego piece in a big puzzle to slowly change the perception of what it means to be a father.

It would not be the first time Lego has tried to push public opinion on gender-related issues.

In a letter to parents published in 1972 LEGO wrote:

“To Parents

The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls.

It’s the imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls house or a spaceship.

A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.”

 

I would like to propose an alternative text:

“To Parents

The urge to connect with their parents is equally strong in all children. To connect with both Mum – and Dad.

It’s the love that counts. Not skill. You parent whatever way comes into your head, the way you want it. Put your child to bed. Pretend to be a truck. Play with a dolls house, teach them about spaceships.

A lot of dads like to play with doll houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of mums prefer to teach about spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important things is to put in the right amount of time with them, to lead, teach and inspire them to believe that they can create what ever appeals to them.”

Lego is a made-up word created by combining the two danish words for “play” and “learn”, and it is really an amazing tool to inspire creativity. I grew up on Lego and spent hundreds and hundreds of hours alone (or with my brothers) building with those small, plastic bricks. I am absolutely sure that Lego helped me develop my creative skills.

But I am equally convinced that playing alone with Lego was not the most important thing that triggered my creativity.

It was things like my dad tying a rope behind the car so that we could hold on to the rope while he would drive on snowy country roads as a make-shift and flat ski-lift. Or my mother teaching us to bake, or our parents letting us pretend to be fire-fighters who would use small water-spray-bottles to put out the egg-cartons that they had set alight in our fire-place.

Children develop their creativity by exploring, being curious and imagining – but this creative development can be multiplied by the right support from their parents. And the number one tool to develop a child in any possible manner is the tool called TIME.

Dads playing with their kids is not “cute”, “sweet” or “endearing” – it is “essential”.

Make sure you put in the time needed to do it.

 

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“If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?”

That was the question asked to a number of parents (and later their kids) in a brilliant advertisement from Master Foods in Australia.

The parents would all choose famous people (from Nelson Mandela to Justin Bieber).

Then they invited the children and the children said things like: “Mom and Dad”, “Family”, and “Does it have to be a celebrity? Could it be family?”

I highly recommend that you watch the video.

The film is obviously created to get families to eat together more (it is paid for by a food company after all.)

But even if it is advertising I find the message very strong.

Especially the message that is sent out at 1 minute 25 seconds, where the father says: “A bit of a message there for me…” and you can tell (by the look in his eyes) that this is said by a father who has been away from too many dinners with his family.

The video ends with the slogan: “Let’s make time for the people who matter most.”

Kids knows that the answer to that question is “family” (not Justin Bieber). And so does mothers and fathers – they just need to be reminded of it once in a while. Which this video did in a very good way.

Now, go home and ask: “What are we having for dinner?” (Or even better, ask your kids: “What do you want to have for dinner?”

 

 

 

 

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There are a few things that you will never know until you come to that phase in life.
Like how you will never fully appreciate what your parents did for you until you yourself have a child.

And I think another of these things is that you will never fully appreciate how you should have behaved towards your children until you become a grandparent.

I, of course, will not know this for sure until I myself have grandchildren, but it seems to hold true when I look at how amazing my own mother and my own mother in law, for example, are with their grandchildren.

On a website I visited recently they had asked 8-years old the question: “What is your grandparents’ role in your life?”

The answers were, as you could expect, adorable.

They said things like:

When they take us for walks, they slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars.”

“They don’t say, “Hurry up”.”

“When they read to us, they don’t skip. They don’t mind if we ask for the same story over again.”

Adorable – yet serious.

One said: “Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don’t have television, because they are the only grown ups who like to spend time with us.”

It’s like grandparents have understood that the one thing that kids should be given is time.

An advantage of having kids late in life is that you somehow get a little of that “grandparent wisdom” into you already as a parent.

(My mum just told me that when she was the age I am now (47) all of her three children had already moved out of the house (In comparison my oldest child is 5 and my youngest is just born… It was a realisation that made us both feel very, very old…)

When I see the patience, presence and commitment grandparent approach children with I get inspired.
Inspired to try to get some of that attitude towards my own parenting.

And I think this is extra true for fathers who tend to spend shorter time periods with their kids than mothers. (You can say “it’s easy for grand parents to do, they are usually retired.” But that is why it is so important for fathers to take paternity leave. To get more time with the children.)

The word “Grand” literally means: “magnificent in appearance” or “denoting the largest or most important item of its kind.’
The synonyms are: “magnificent, impressive, awe-inspiring, splendid and superb.”

That is what we should aim for as parents: To be magnificent, impressive, awe-inspiring, splendid and superb.

We should be grand.
Grand parents.

We should slow down and spend more time with our kids.
They deserve it.
After all, our children are grand children.