A few weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts about being a mum and it got me started thinking again about how living in Denmark has helped my husband in being the kind of dad he enjoys being.It is really acceptable here for dads to take their considerable share of barsel (paternity leave). In fact the summer after our son was born my husband took almost three months off work. He worked for a huge multinational company who had no problem with this situation. He handed over his responsibilities and was, in the main, left alone by work to enjoy an amazing bonding experience with his son. I very much doubt that, even if this time was available with almost full pay as it is here, that many dads in the UK would find it as easy and acceptable to take this time. Every time you read about this idea being introduced in the UK, people start foaming at the mouth about the impact on small businesses and the economy rather than looking at the amazing benefits this opportunity give families.
Mums are very important to babies and children but so are dads. Society here recognises this and it is more than acceptable to see dads pushing prams, playing with kids at playgrounds, walking hand in hand with older children and really enjoying time with their children, often with out the mum. Swimming on a Sunday morning seems to be a real dad and kids time and I love to see happy children with really engaged dads. There is no shame in cycling around with the kids’ seat still attached to the back of their bikes. I would say that more dads do the morning drop off at my son’s school than mums.
I don’t doubt that there are millions of dads in the UK carving out time with the children but to me it seems so much easier here. Shorter commutes, shorter working days, paid paternity leave and family friendly workplaces help a lot. In the two visits to the UK over the last six months I couldn’t help but cast a critical eye over the examples of parenting I saw around me. There was a lot more shouting at children, a lot more wailing, unhappy children being dragged around shopping malls and I was amazed to see quite a few examples of children on reins (which I thought went out of fashion sometime around 1977).
Denmark consistently tops the list of the happiest nation in the world and the UK is around 18 on the list. As a parent I can see why it is a happy place for families.
Some other thoughts on Scandi parenting.