During my stay in Norway, I saw something every day on the streets of Bergen (Norway) that made me wonder. At the beginning, I could not explain what it was because I did not know it myself.
The only thing I knew was that something irritated me when I strolled through the streets of that town. But there! One day a father caught my attention: He was walking comfortably and lost in thought, while pushing an empty baby buggy and carrying a newborn in his belly baby carrier. “Where is his or her mother?”, was my first thought, but this father was all on his own. Days later I was jogging in the park and look there: A father was playing with his daughter in the sandbox. Even then, I automatically looked out for her mother, but she was not there.
Weeks later I was on my way to the cinema and discovered a very nice looking family consisting of a grandmother, a grandfather and their son (I guess), who was pushing a baby buggy. The mother was nowhere either. Seeing such a situation happened to me almost every second day and I slowly started to wonder if I happened to meet all the separated or divorced fathers or if there was anything else behind it.
I started to ask around and my roommate explained to me the rules of parental leave in Norway. Apparently, parental leave consists of up to 12 months and a half and father leave is a month and a half during parental leave. In addition, father holiday is 10 days within the first 60 days. I did not know the law in Switzerland, so I did a little research and found the following: Parental leave consists of up to 14 weeks paid maternity leave and there is no entitlement to father leave. Moreover, there is no legal claim to paternity holiday (one must say in addition, that paternity leave partly depends on the canton in Switzerland).
I liked Norway very much from day one, but after having this knowledge about parental leave, I loved the country even more. I did not always meet single or divorced fathers, but fathers who benefited from a good paternity leave law. Even if I have to be honest and admit that I perceived this cultural practice – of fathers caring for their children – as very unfamiliar at the beginning. There are benefits of shared parental leave for fathers, as they can be seen in countries that have been pursuing a father-friendly family law for some time now. The number one here is Scandinavia, especially Sweden. Especially, positive effects of a stronger integration of the father into everyday family life exist, since incentives for fathers to care for their children ensure a more intensive father-child relationship and an equal partnership.
The question of how the “unknown” came to be ” familiar” is difficult to answer. I think the unknown simply became the familiar through confrontation. When you see men walking, swimming, shopping or playing in the park with their children for six months, it just becomes normal, I guess. I almost dare to say that the current situation in Switzerland has now become “unfamiliar” to me and I do not understand why fathers have to do their jobs and do not get to spend some time with their newborns. And I also really enjoyed seeing these happy fathers with their children. So I do not rule out supporting such a law in Switzerland, because I see the good in and the use of paternal leave. When I think about myself in terms of gender, the feelings that come up are that I now have learnt how to manage or think about maternity and paternity leave differently than I do in Switzerland. This means that I no longer have only the one image in mind that prevails in Switzerland, but that I can also see and accept that it can be carried out or handled differently.