From breastfeeding bikinis and baby blues remedies to ten things you never knew about poo; all this and more can be found amid the glossy pages of the many magazines aimed at new mums who are open to advice and succumb to advertising, all nicely packaged in a fashionable format.
Being a mum is indeed is a lifestyle in itself, wrapped up in consumerism with a slice of celebrity thrown in. While flicking through the pages of a recent Swedish edition, I found its new sister supplement (or should that be brother) – a magazine called Pappa – the more interesting read. The format is similar – real life dads re-living labour ward tales alongside guidance and must-have gadgets. Albeit with a masculine slant: “Buying a stroller is like buying a car,” it quipped.
Whether men will trade in the titillating pages of lads’ mags for articles on breast pumps remains to be seen. But Sweden has long been promoting the pappa lifestyle. In 1974, it became the first country to offer dads paid leave from work with their newborn, changing the existing maternity leave system into all-round parental leave.
But it wasn’t met with the wanted response. Even by the early 1990s around 50 percent of new dads didn’t use up a single day. So a 1995 reform introduced the first pappamånad – the so-called father month was an incentive for change. It forced the “other” parent to take a minimum of 30 days leave or otherwise it would be lost. The second pappamånad was introduced in 2002 and today a minimum of 60 days is reserved for the “other” parent. Calls have been made since to make it a hat-trick and even extend it to 90 days.
A new initiative in the shape of financial reward came in 2008 with the jämställdhetsbonus (equality bonus). The more you claim the more you gain and parents who take an equal share can cash in on a lump sum of up to SEK 13,500.
Alas, despite attempts, Sweden apparently still has a way to go in reaching the ultimate 50-50. Around 31 years it seems. This year’s Pappaindex report, published by The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) reveals it will be around 2042 when fathers take the same amount of parental leave as mothers. On average, men today take around 22 percent, which equates to around four months and that figure has stagnated over the past three years.
For the rest of the world, the Swedish parental leave system is portrayed as a textbook example and many are left astonished that fathers don’t take better advantage of the opportunity. But even if families can afford to live after dad’s salary is reduced to 80 percent, taking an eight-month career break is probably too big a price to pay.
In a bid to get things moving again, the independent campaign Klart Jag Ska Vara Hemma (Of Course I’m Going To Be At Home) was initatied by Stockholm dad Carlos Rojas. He wants everyone to spread the word on the benefits of sharing the parental leave load while giving dads-to-be some pause for thought. The site also includes tips on everything from how to broach your boss to making money stretch.
And for guys that really want to fit the mould, they can try out the Gravidolizer – an instant pregnant makeover for men. Simply upload a photo and with a quick click develop a bump worthy of being six months pregnant. Or depending how you look at it a bad case of the beer belly. It seems some things between the sexes won’t change over the next 31 years and beyond.