Friday, September 24, 2010

Man up?

While performing one of my favorite past times this morning (reading magazines for free at Barnes & Noble), I came across an article in Newsweek worth mentioning.  It reminded me of a few years back when Chris came home from dinner with the girls and said that he had been approached by several women complimenting him on his fathering skills. "What a great dad you are being out alone with your daughters", etc etc. I couldn't help but be shocked that all it takes for people to assume men are great fathers is to see them out with their kids, doing things that mothers do daily, without as much as an "atta' girl". I have yet to be approached by strangers telling me how great it is that I'm going all by myself to noodles with my twin daughters, or patted on the back for simply own kids.
Why are the expectations of fathering so low that the mere sight of a man with his children make some people swoon?

The article: "Why we need to reimagine masculinity", states:
"Consider contemporary family life in Sweden. In the past, new parents split 390 days of paid leave however they liked—monthly, weekly, daily, and even hourly. Women used far more of it than men. But today, new fathers no longer rush back to work, leaving the mother to raise little Sven all by herself. The reason for the change? Smart public policy...

In 1995, Sweden passed a simple but revolutionary law: couples would lose one month of leave unless the father was the one who took it. A second use-it-or-lose-it month was added in 2002, and now more than 80 percent of Swedish fathers take four months off for the birth of a new child, up from 4 percent a decade ago. And a full 41 percent of companies now formally encourage fathers to go on parental leave, up from only 2 percent in 1993. Simply put, men are expected to work less and father more.

By altering the roles of the Swedish father and the Swedish worker, Sweden’s paternity-leave legislation has, in turn, rewritten the rules for Swedish men (and, by extension, women). “Swedish dads of my generation and younger have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing,” writes Slate’s Nathan Hegedus, an American who experienced the system firsthand. “They simply expect to do it, just as their wives and partners expect it of them.” If a man refuses time at home with the kids, he faces questions from friends, family, and, yes, other guys. Policy changes produced personal changes—and then, slowly but surely, society changed as well.

Around the world, similar shifts are already underway. In Germany, the percentage of new fathers who take a break has jumped sevenfold since the country passed its own Swedish-style law in 2007. In Japan, which recently offered dads more paid baby time, the government honors dedicated fathers by spotlighting “stars of ikumen,” or male child rearing. And with the passage of paid-leave laws in Britain (where Prime Minister David Cameron took several weeks off to care for his infant daughter) and Australia (which is hardly a dandified nation), the U.S. is now the only wealthy country that doesn’t bankroll a bonding period for either parent...

Of course, policy changes will be pointless unless attitudes change as well. In California, the first U.S. state to fund leave (six weeks of it) for both parents, only 26 percent of men seize the opportunity, compared with 73 percent of women. All told, most new fathers take off two weeks or less for a new child, no matter what. Baby time is simply not seen as masculine. The only way that perception will fade is if men who are already living double lives as dedicated professionals and parents “come out” and start writing their senators and petitioning their HR departments. 

...If men embraced parental leave, women would be spared the stigma of the “mommy track”—and the professional penalties (like lower pay) that come along with it. If men were involved fathers, more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. And if the country achieved gender parity in the workplace—an optimal balance of fully employed men and women—the gross domestic product would grow by as much as 9 percent, according to a recent study by the World Economic Forum."

Food for thought...
Here's a link to the full article :


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