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wwOk, so that was a lie, but reading that “the average American used 16.8 days of vacation — even though they earned 22.6 days” it means that the average American is leaving 6 days per year unused, which COULD be used to instead stay home with their child -with pay! Six days per year over the child’s first fifteen years is 90 days.

The idea that people “do not have time” to stay home with their kids, or that they “can not afford” it falls flat when you realise that the average person (in America) is leaving paid vacation days unused.

And if you choose to work over using – paid! – vacation days to spend time raising and connecting with your own kin you are telling yourself, and your child, that your job is more important than your child.

This not not about “work-life balance”, this is about “job-parent balance”.

Ask yourself: When the intensive parenting period (0-15 years old) is over which one would you hate to have failed in:

Your role as a professional?
Or your role as a parent?

And no, I do not think 90 extra days spent with your child is the difference between “failing as parent” and “succeeding as a parent”.

(But a lot of messed up people seem to have one thing in common: lack of a caring parent being present during childhood.)

What I do think is that taking 90 days off (of vacation days you already have!) over a 15 year period – to be with your child is in no shape or form going to have any effect on your success as a professional.

And your child is absolutely going to love you for it.
And your quality of life will go through the roof.

Take your 6 year old and teach her how to fish for a week.

Take your 12 year old to Paris to get her to fall in love with French.

Take your 3 year old to the zoo 5 days in a row to show him what all his favourite animals look like in real life and let him set the pace for when he is “done” looking at each animal.

If you think your life is better spent throwing away vacation days than getting to know your children a bit better while you bond and teach them about life and pass on your values, then you might want to reconsider your values.

Do your child, and yourself a favour.

Take out those unused vacation days and spend them being a parent.

If not for you, then for your child.

 

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As the saying goes – or at least as the saying SHOULD go: “Time flies when you are having kids.”

Today I took my second child to her Montessori Kindergarten for the very last time. Soon she will start in “the big school”. It feels like yesterday that we signed up her older brother for kindergarten.

That older brother who is now going by public bus to his school.

Just a couple of months ago he would want me to walk all the way into the classroom with him.
Then he told me that it was ok to be dropped off by the main door. “It’s ok, pappa.” (shy to be seen led into school by his parent.)
Then he started to say that I only had to go with him to the school gate, and before I knew it he wanted me to let him go by himself from the bottom of the hill that leds to the school.
Then a few weeks ago he started to go by himself already at the overpass that leads to the hill.
Earlier this week he told me that he was ok to walk by himself 100 meter before the overpass.

And yesterday he left me behind at 200 meters before the over pass.

I know that in a couple of months he will go to school by school bus all by himself…

I am losing him step by step.

And it goes so fast.

It makes me so proud to see him grow up to be an independent boy, but let’s be honest, it stings in the heart…

It stings that these years of walking to school with my children ended – seemingly – just as it got started.

I have taken a conscious decision to spend a lot of time with my children when they are young.

I want to suck in as much of that innocent, unconditional, pure life energy I can before it is gone.

When I hear men talk about how they are looking forward to retirement I get confused.

Who cares about quitting work to go playing golf or ride a Harley when you are in your 60’s when you can choose to work a few years longer in your 60’s and instead spend time with your children when they are young?

In most countries in the world it is not common practice that men take time off to be with their children.

That is an absolute mystery to me.

The only way I can explain it is that if you do not take time off to be with your children when they are young you do not understand the magical magic (that is the only way I can describe it) that is living under your roof. You just do not see the kids enough to fully understand that magic.

And before you get a chance to understand it the moment is gone.

They have grown up and you never got to experience them.

If you are a man I urge you to look at your life and your “life-earnings” (i.e. how much money you are going to make from the day you were born to the day you will die) and at least consider the possibility of going down in time when your kids are young (= reduced income) and instead plan to work a few more years before you retire (= increased income). Your total “life-earnings” will be the same. Your life will not be the same.

When you die I am willing to bet that when you summarise the days of your life that were the best many of those days will be days when you took off to be with your children. And very likely they will score much higher than playing golf with your senior citizen buddies.

But do it today. Tomorrow the chance will ge gone.

You blink and your children have grown up.

Do not let that happen.

Do not let your best days of your life go un-experienced.

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Today I was confronted with the message that apparently fathers can be parents too.

At first it looked promising: A headline with the word “Celebrating Fathers” and a picture of a couple – father and mother – bonding with their child.

But then I took a closer look.

Under the picture of the family the copy reads: “Did you know that both dad and mum can share an intimate bond with their baby from birth?” 

Since this is an ad for “DADs for life” I am guessing that what they are trying to say is: “Did you know that also the father – not just the mother – can share an intimate bond with a child?”

And sure, I understand the good intentions with this campaign and their ambition to get fathers to be more involved with their children.

But at the same time the message makes me so sad.

Like it would be some huge revelation that fathers can have a connection with their children. That children have a connection to their fathers.

I feel that this attitude of trying to convince men be more present in the parenting of their children by revealing this “big secret” that “oh, surprise (!), we just found out that fathers matter too!” is counter productive.

True, a lot of men are not giving fatherhood the time, energy or prioritisation that it deserves. But I highly doubt that a campaign talking to fathers as if they were children is going to change that.

Just the other day I got a personal experience of this “treat fathers as children” attitude when me and my wife took two of our children to the dentist for the very firs time.

The dentist, a very lovely and competent woman, looked at the four of us and said to the children: “So how does mummy brush your teeth?”

A innocent question at first. But it shows that this expert dentist assumed that it was the mother who helped the children brush their teeth.

Well in our family the father (i.e. me) brushes the teeth of the children just as often as the mother.

What would have happened if the dentist had the habit of asking: “How does your mummy and daddy brush your teeth?”

Would it send the message to the parents, and the children, that both parents were expected to care about the teeth of their children?

The point is not that mothers tend to brush the teeth of the children more than fathers (that might very well be the case). The point is that if we want fathers to take a bigger responsibility in parenthood (and I think we should) – then we should not treat fathers as lesser parents – but instead encourage them to step up by treating them as equal parents.

By treating them as equal parents. Not like lesser parents who are spoken down to.

So instead of a campaign that says “Did you know fathers could share an intimate bond with their baby from birth?” – make a campaign that says: “Celebrating all parents (mothers and fathers) who take the time to create an intimate bond with their baby from birth.”

 

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Here is an interesting question: Did baby carriers look like they were designed for women (and not both men and woman) because women carry the babies? Or does women carry the babies because baby carriers looked like they were designed for women?

Well, today I met with Lisa Thorén, an energetic and inspiring women who told me the story of how Baby Björn (the world famous baby carrier company, with annual revenues of USD 60 million) changed who carries babies.

Lisa is the right person to tell this story. She has been on the board of Baby Björn for more than 20 years, she is the daughter of the founder and inventor of Baby Björn – and she is actually the reason the Baby Björn bib was invented. And her younger sister Josefin was the child her daddy invented the now world famous baby carrier for. She has also worked actively in the company with PR and marketing for many, many years. (Today she is the founder and CEO of innovative skating company Performance SK8  – thus the skateboard in the picture 🙂

She told me that one time, more than 20 years ago, she, her mother Lillemor and their team at Baby Björn brain stormed about creating a baby carrier in black. (before that almost all baby carriers were designed in pink, purple, flower pattern and other designed that was meant to appeal to women.)

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Many people were extremely hesitant to the idea of a baby carrier in black, and they did not think they would sell a lot.

But Lisa said: “Let’s make it anyway, if nothing else we can tell the journalists that we did it for the fathers and perhaps get some PR around it.”

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Today the black version of the Baby Björn Baby Carrier is the company’s best selling model (!) – in part because families buy it feeling that it will feel equally suitable for the father and the mother to put on.

One idea, from one creative person in one company that challenged the norm and the status quo that changed how children gets carried and by whom.

BabyBjörn was founded by a father who cared about his children. We need more of that.

The more involved fathers we get the more natural fathers caring for their children will become.