BookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxFilledCheckBoxCircleBumpCheckedFilledMedical

Photo Series of Swedish Dads Captures the Beauty of Paternity Leave

“They’re doing the work women have done for decades,” the photographer says.
save article
profile picture of Laurie Ulster
By Laurie Ulster, Contributing Writer
Published September 12, 2019

American dads who manage to get paternity leave often find that it’s outrageously short, spanning a mere week or two. So what would an extended parental leave look like? In a new photo series, photographer Johan Bävman captured the daily life of Swedish fathers who chose to take at least six months off to be with their babies.

When Bävman was on parental leave with his oldest son, he was, like every new parent, afraid of making mistakes and not living up to his own ideas of what a good parent should be. So he did what a lot of moms do and looked to Instagram for role models. What he found was “glamorous pictures of dads on playgrounds,” he told the Washington Post. What he didn’t find was the reality of parenting—the failures, frustrations, exhaustion and wry humor—that’s common in photos of and captions by moms but almost nonexistent when it came to dads.

To change that, he started taking selfies with his young son, then expanded the idea and started following the lives of other Swedish men looking after their children. He documented 45 men not only tackling parenting chores traditionally done by women—from cleaning and grocery shopping to bathing their kids, brushing their teeth, feeding them meals and toilet training—but also enjoying raw, emotionally vulnerable moments with their children.

The portraits, which are currently on display at the Swedish Embassy in DC in an exhibit called “Swedish Dads,” share a powerful message about gender equality and division of labor at home.

“I wouldn’t be here if there were women in the pictures,” Bävman told the Washington Post. “These dads aren’t super dads. This is just a discussion about why we see these men as special, not because they are special. They’re doing the work women have done for decades.”

Every dad in the photos took advantage of Sweden’s paid parental leave policy and stayed home with their kids for at least six months. Sweden was the first country to introduce leave for parents, regardless of gender, back in 1974, and has one of the most generous paid family leave policies in the world. The United States, woefully behind, is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave.

But even in Sweden, not all men take the paternity leave they’re entitled to.

“The main reason is masculinity, the way men see themselves, and the way society sees men,” Bävman said. “That’s the biggest issue we have to change. That men believe in themselves in the caregiving role, that it can also be masculine.”

Head to Bävman’s website to see more stunning photos in the series and buy a copy of his book.

save article
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

mother smiling while holding baby on a sunny day outside
Maine Joins 13 States in Offering Paid Family and Medical Leave
By Wyndi Kappes
parents cuddling newborn baby at home
These States Have the Best Paid Family Leave Policies, Report Says
By Wyndi Kappes
mother and father holding newborn baby
Paid Parental Leave Could Save Nearly 1,000 Babies’ Lives, Study Says
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
mother cuddling and kissing baby
How to Emotionally Prepare to Go Back to Work After Parental Leave
By Marygrace Taylor
Two parents holding newborn's feet
Why Companies Are Cutting Paid Parental Leave Policies Post Pandemic
By Wyndi Kappes
mother working on computer at desk while holding baby in arms
74% of Women Would Have to Drain Their Savings to Take Unpaid Maternity Leave
By Wyndi Kappes
premature baby feet in nicu at hospital
This New Mom's Viral TikTok Shows Importance of Paid Parental Leave
By Nehal Aggarwal
ADVERTISEMENT
mother and father snuggling in bed with their newborn baby
One Mom Shares Why Paid Parental Leave Is So Important
By Ericka Sóuter
Maternity Leave 101: What to Know Before Baby Arrives
Maternity Leave 101: What to Know Before Baby Arrives
By Ashley Zielger
Meghan Markle speaks at global citizen
Meghan Markle Wrote an Open Letter to Congress About Paid Family Leave
By Nehal Aggarwal
ADVERTISEMENT
new dad with wife holding newborn baby at home on their bed
Paternity Leave 101: What to Know About Taking Time Off
By Maggie Overfelt
dad holding and bonding with his newborn baby daughter in bed
Relationships Can Really Benefit From Paternity Leave, Study Says
By Nehal Aggarwal
chance the rapper with his daughter and wife
Chance the Rapper Delays Tour to Support His Wife After Birth
By Laurie Ulster
ADVERTISEMENT
good morning america host, hoda kotb
Hoda Kotb Tears Up as She Shares Moments From Her Maternity Leave
By Laurie Ulster
alex ohanian holding toddler daughter
Serena Williams’ Husband Pens Powerful Letter on Why Paternity Leave Matters
By Stephanie Grassullo
dad cuddling with new baby
The Number of Men Who Take Paternity Leave in the UK Has Fallen for the Fourth Year in a Row
By Stephanie Grassullo
happy baby sitting in mom's lap
Oregon Passes the Most Generous Paid Family Leave Law in the US
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
new dad holding his newborn baby
New Moms’ Health Thrives When Their Partners Are Home Too, Study Shows
By Stephanie Grassullo
new mom holding her newborn baby in their nursery
Connecticut Passes Most Generous Paid Family Leave Law in the Nation
By Stephanie Grassullo
Serena William's husband, Alexis Ohanian speaks out about paid paternity leave
Serena Williams' Husband Is Fighting for Paid Leave for New Dads
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.