A woman in a hard hat and I am changing diapers.
Every now and then I get a reminder that I live in Sweden. Usually, it is something that happens, a series of events or something I see, that feels super Swedish. Something you can’t experience anywhere else.
I had a you’re-not-in-New-Jersey-anymore moment today.
I dropped off Olivia at daycare and then went to open daycare with Herman, my 7-month-old. Open daycare is a place where parents on parental leave in Sweden take their children to play and sing songs. Many parents feel isolated while at home with their children. For them, open daycare is an oasis of interaction and often acts like a community center. Best of all, it’s free.
At open daycare, Herman played with an orange stuffed dinosaur hanging from the ceiling. I talked to a mom I had just met about her 6-month-old son and we had the typical compare your baby conversation.
Then Herman got hungry. Then he pooped. Then he got tired. So I left open daycare and put him in the bicycle carriage and headed for home.
On the way, I saw a woman in a hard hat, jackhammer in hand, working on a construction site.
Now I know it’s the 21st century, and women construction workers are not as uncommon as they used to be. In Sweden, more so than in America, many women work in traditionally men-only professions — construction, politics, law enforcement.
I’m used to it after five years in Sweden.
What made today a you’re-not-in-New-Jersey-anymore moment was that I had just come from open daycare, from giving the bottle, changing diapers and baby conversations — all traditionally motherly and womanly activities. And now, me the man, the father home for five months with his 7-month-old, had just passed a woman whose current task it was to make a big hole in the ground.
It felt cool. I felt cool. What an opportunity I have, I thought.
But then I started to wonder, “Is it unnatural — does it go against biology- that I’m doing what I’m doing and she’s doing what she’s doing?” After some thought, the conclusion I came to was no. It wasn’t unnatural and I am comfortable in my roll as a stay-at-home dad. Actually, I take pride in it.
I think most men in Sweden would agree, but what about men in other countries? What’s your take? Does staying home with the kids and doing a job traditionally done by woman fly in the face of nature?
Share your opinions.