If you happen to take a stroll in any Swedish city, you might notice how many men are outdoors pushing prams and taking care of their kids. And it’s not surprising. Sweden has got one of the most generous parental leave policies in Europe, allowing men and women equally share the parental leave. Back in 1995, they introduced the paternity leave, allowing men to take subsidized leave and relieve working mothers. As studies have shown, equally shared leave helps to address the gender pay gap, shift perceptions about caregiving, and eventually improve relationships between parents and children.
Paternity leave used to be commonplace in Scandinavia, but recently it is gaining momentum outside of Scandinavia as well. And this is happening despite the common perception that raising a child is primarily a mother’s job.
Paternity leave is strongly encouraged in the United Nations as well, allowing eligible staff members to share the leave and take care of a newly-born child. At UNDP in Armenia, employees can take four weeks of full-day or eight weeks of half-day paternity leave. To see how it feels to challenge the traditional parenting scheme and form an emotional connection with children, we asked our colleagues Gevorg Margaryan and Hayk Tonoyan to share their experience. Both are first-time “dads on leave” following the birth of their second children.
Often, taking the bulk of parental leave means women find themselves disadvantaged as they take care of newborn kids and most of the workload at home. This situation gets even more complicated when the infant has older siblings at home, who are below five. Equally shared parental leave and duties are a more sustainable solution. According to Hayk, initially, he decided to take his fair share of parental leave to help his wife to take care of two children. This leave turned into an opportunity to enjoy his time with children and see them growing. What he cherishes the most, is that through leave, he gets to spend more time with his kids, bond with them, and create special memories.
As Gevorg mentions: “The most positive thing about the leave was that I could dedicate more time for the care of my children and create a nice and strong relationship. I’d describe this as wonderful. I am an excited dad, and this was a great opportunity to get closer to and warmer with my family.”
In the Armenian society, things like cooking porridge, bathing a child, and pushing prams outdoors, are still novel concepts for fathers. In our community, where the “head of the family” doesn’t get much involved in the process, cases like Hayk and Gevorg challenge the rigid scheme.
No unfinished task can compete with the joy people can experience by participating in the upbringing of their children. As Hayk mentioned: "I can only say that childcare was difficult, but at the same time a rewarding experience."
Paternity leave makes things easier and lets fathers to concentrate on their families without thinking about financial difficulties. As both fathers stated, having to leave home after this period was challenging, as they felt that they had not had enough time.