When Dads and Moms Share Parental Leave

A father and photographer captured the lives of men like him, who split parental leave duties with their wives under Sweden’s generous policy.

When Johan Bävman’s son Viggo was born, so was a deeply personal photography project: a look at fathers using Sweden’s expansive parental-leave policy to stay home with their children.

Paid maternal leave around childbirth is commonplace throughout the world: It’s federal policy in 34 of the 35 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (all but the United States). About two-thirds of those nations also fund at least brief parental leaves for fathers—a benefit first extended by Sweden, in 1974.

Sweden’s program has allowed parents to split 480 days of subsidized leave to care for children and earn bonuses according to how evenly they split the leave. But despite those incentives, only about 14 percent of Sweden’s fathers “share the days equally with their partner,” Bävman says.

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