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Men Are Idiots to Not Fight for Paternity Leave

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The chance to nap. The chance to ponder NBA playoff match-ups or your favorite baseball team's pitching rotation. The chance to hang out on a bench in the sun with a friend.

Men. You are missing this.

Thanks to the Swedish welfare state, I spent six months on paternity leave with my daughter last year. And I will be home with my son for nine or ten months next year.

These are not times to be missed. Yeah, for all that bonding time with your kid. Yeah, because your family does mean that much more than your career (You know all the deathbed cliches? I suspect they are true). Yeah, for equality in the marriage and family and society. Yeah, to set a good example.

I could do some research and cite studies that show the benefits of involved fathers for small children but who has time for research with a toddler and baby in the house?

No, it is really about the lifestyle, the pace.

It is all about naps.

When, as a father of small children, do you get to nap anymore?

Now before stay at home parents get all worked up, yes, parental leave is hard, often grindingly hard. It is harder than any job I have ever had. It is likely harder than Barack Obama's job.

All the diaper changes, all the food planning and cleaning and crying. You never get a moment to yourself. Your work day lasts all day.

But this is beside the point. I was home for only six months. And I got to nap almost every day.

I pondered all this the other day, off for a few weeks on a short term paternity leave, as my daughter wandered around our local park, and I reviewed the Buffalo Bills 2009 schedule (impossible) and the San Francisco Giants' starting rotation (good).

Maybe I am more Type B than I previously suspected but would you not like to have a stretch of naps and sports and the like?

It is only for a couple months. Go back to work after with a vengeance. You are not killing your career. Or it should not mean that.

But of course, in America, it does mean wounding your career.

Still, dude, it is your own fault. You are not trying to change the culture, you are not making noise about your wife getting maternity leave, and you certainly are not fighting for your own time with your kid.

It is a cultural paradigm reinforced by jerks.

A while back, we came upon the new Dr. Phil-developed show The Doctors on Swedish TV. The episode likely aired in the US months ago.

These four doctors in all their various costumes happened to be talking about parental leave. And the OB/GYN, the only woman, was saying that women should have at least 2-3 months off after they have a baby. And the three men agreed but not too strongly.

It was like watching TV from an alternate universe. Has it slid that far in America, that if you are not a stay at home mom, you are likely back at work in a month, six weeks?

But then the OB/GYN said that fathers should get some time off too. She said this defensively and quietly.

And the ER doctor, Dr. Travis Stork, laughed.

"Someone has to work," he said with a smug smile.

I know I am lucky to live in Sweden, where I get all this time off with my kids (and happily pay the taxes to do so).

But this faux macho, men are doing real work crap. Aren't we past this?

We need to change the metaphor here. So let me belatedly call out Dr. Stork.

I consider him less masculine for his comment. I think the guy is a p ... aternalistic schmuck.

I smell fear.

So conquer your fear Travis. Naps are worth fighting for.

Oh, plus all that bond with your kid, equality, society stuff. That works too.

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