In Sweden, parents are given a generous 480 days of leave between them (240 days each) that allow them to stay home with their children from birth until the age of eight, whilst receiving allowance from the state. Out of the allotted number of days, 60 must be taken by the father; if the father decides not to take them, they are lost.
However, if they are a single parent, they get the full 480 days.
Photographer Johan Bävman’s project, a photo series entitled Swedish Dads, documents fathers who take the paternity leave, some with just the 60 days or less, and others, the full 480 days — changing diapers, going on grocery runs, and doing regular household chores.
However, for reasons of their own, not enough Swedish dads take this golden opportunity. Official research shows that only about a quarter of Swedish fathers use their reserved days. A smaller 12 % choose to share the total days equally with mum.
Martin Gagner, 35, administrator at Malmö University
Martin Gagner is on leave for around six months with his children, 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
Andreas Bergström, 39, senior probation officer
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
Samad Kohigoltapeh, 32, construction engineer
Samad Kohigoltapeh is on shared leave for the first four months; afterwards, he’ll 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, 41, purchaser
Ola Larsson is currently on parental 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
Urban North, 32, infrastructure consultant
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, 28, artist
Loui Kuhlau is on leave for twelve months 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
Tjeerd van Waijenburg, 34, product developer at Ikea
Tjeerd van Waijenburg is on parental leave for 1 year and 4 months with his son, Tim.
“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
Marcus Bergqvist, 33, construction engineer
Marcus Bergqvist is currently on parental leave for six months with his oldest son Ted, and six months for his youngest son, Sigge.
“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, 29, wine salesman
Marcus Pranter is on 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, 27, student
Göran Sevelin is currently taking a a ten-month leave from university to be with 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, 31, job centre administrator
Jonas Feldt is currently on leave for 12 months with 1-year-old daughter Siri, while a couple of years prior he was on leave for nine months with his daughter Lovis, who is now three.
“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, 37, IT consultant
Ingemar Olsén is currently on parental leave for nine months with his 1-year-old son Linus, and was also on leave for nine months with 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
Michael Winblad, 35, self-employed
Michael Winblad is on leave while on part-time for 9 months with kids 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
Juan Cardenal, 34, industrial-design student
Juan Cardenal has taken parental leave for nine months with Ivo, 1, and another 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
Johan Ekengård, 38, product developer at Sandvik
Johan Ekengård and his partner both took nine months of parental leave with each of their children: Ebbe, 7, Tyra, 5, and Stina, 1.
“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
Bävman has so far photographed 30 dads, with his goal to photograph 60 in total, to represent the 60 days of leave that they are encouraged to take.
The Malmö native says, “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.”