I do not have stable mornings right now. I swing from complete routine – getting everyone dressed and out the door, just like always – to the horror of seeing my son fall apart when I shove him at a daycare teacher. I have a moment of peace on the train and then fall into a less visceral but more existential despair as the train approaches Kista – the Silicon Valley of Scandinavia, also known as a mall and a bunch of office buildings in the middle of nowhere. We pour out of the train – only the largely immigrant locals provide any color – a mass of tech workers funneling through one door and down one stair, just mingling and colliding.
Then I get to the office, and everything takes on a human scale again. I like my job, and I like my co-workers but it goes deeper, I think, especially in the first days outside Daddyland. The thing is – probably a majority of my co-workers are also parental leave exiles. They’ve been off for months, maybe multiple times. They’ve done the in schooling. They have worked part-time. And the ones that don’t have kids, well, they are influenced by the greater culture.
So it is a welcoming crowd outside Daddyland, one that is shockingly interested in my son’s adjustments, in my feelings about leaving the sand box. There is a uniformity to Swedish experience that just doesn’t exist in America – for better and for worse. Here in Sweden, especially in 2010 with more and more dads taking paternity leave, you don’t have stay at home moms. You don’t have kids in daycare at six weeks. You don’t have workaholic dads (OK, you got plenty but lots less than before).
It’s nice. My son, by the way, has attached to all sorts of things in the past week. He never showed any interest in blankets or bears or even pacifiers. Now he wears his rain pants all afternoon and evening. I know how he feels, and I feel quite certain that my co-workers would probably understand if I came to work clutching a large spoon that reminded me of Baby B, for some unknown reason.