I am often the only man dancing around the Midsummer Pole in our little village. This year we were three, though two of us looked like immigrants. But we’ve always got the same accordion player, and he is perfect.
June is crazy in Sweden because everyone is in a mad rush to finish all their work before Midsummer (though this is shifting for some to mid-July). This makes it hard to stay inside during the most glorious June I’ve seen here.
But then you think that you’re headed for this for 8 weeks (I’ve got paternity leave days left).
I am insisting that if we women truly want equal partners in the home, then we can’t ask our husbands to be “equal” on our terms. They get equal say, even if we disagree. And indeed, if we can discover the joys and satisfactions of professional success, why shouldn’t men be able to enjoy the rewards and satisfactions of parenting and homemaking? For years, mothers have gotten that special rush when a child reaches for his mommy and says no one else will do; do we really think a father doesn’t get the same wonderful sense of being needed and valued when a child insists on his daddy?
This article focused on a now widely discredited New York Magazine story on feminists giving up on work to enjoy the bliss of being a housewife. I won’t get into that, but the story led to some nice articles surrounding it, with this included. Things have definitely changed just since I started this blog three years ago. Men get included in the conversation, even if near the bottom and still not totally in the mainstream.
Needless to say, after all my paternity leave, and my shorter working hours, I do get that rush from being equally bonded with my kids. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even if it comes with all the grind as well.
This story is a year old but I’m going through my backlog of saved links, and it’s a nice look at the screen problem and the commercialization problem and the violence problem with kids media.
I love that Sweden does not allow commercials aimed at children. We only watch the public kids channel anyway – and shows streamed from the US without commercials – but I only appreciated the quiet we live in when we visited Turkey earlier this year and the kids saw all these commercials for toys, and they were both fascinated then bored and kind of horrified.
“Oh, no! Not commercials again!”
They’re still plenty affected by consumerism, but it comes through friends and merchandising, which seems less harmful to me. So my son loves Star Wars because that’s what his friends play. So my daughter wants to watch Winx Club (she doesn’t get to) because that’s what her friends play at school. I can deal with that. It’s better than getting the messages mainlined from the amoral heart of the advertising industry and the timeless world of international toy conglomerates. Instead, they get the characters and stories filtered through play, transformed into a mythic shape, and I don’t care what the mask of the heroine looks like at that point.
I have not had the time I would like to take pictures lately but here is a taste of the drawn out end of winter here …
The coolest part of this? I ride past this water on my way to work. And getting on the bike again was a dream.
This is misleading because it was the only day so far where the kids did not wear snowsuits out. Maybe tomorrow again, as it was over 10 degrees Celsius today. But last year it took until mid-April.
I love taking pictures of sand and bikes. I have no idea why. But early spring sand cakes give me hope for summer.
I turned to close the preschool gate the other day and looked back to see what my three-year-old son was up to.
And this is what I saw: his teacher in a laughing jog, leading a pack of toddlers in a full sprint. A few weeks ago I saw this teacher sliding on the ice (safely) with the kids. And somewhere in there, I came to pick up my son to find the same teacher lost in a mountain of pillows, laughing kids all around piling on.
Good teacher, huh? Oh, yeah, one other thing. The teacher’s name is Sven (not really, but he is a guy).
There have been three male teachers at the preschool in the past 18 months, and all three were great, even if not so energetic as Sven.
The last thing I want to do is say that my son needs Sven because he is a man, because only men would skate on the ice or race through the yard or wrestle in a mountain of pillows. That’s ridiculous. It’s probably a function of youth as much as anything else.
However, most of the other teachers – even the young ones – do not slide on the ice or race through the yard or wrestle in a mountain of pillows. Sven does.
We live in Sweden, and before you think this is some paean to socialism and progressive Scandinavian values, it’s not. Sweden is pretty bad at recruiting male preschool teachers, at least compared to neighbors Norway and Denmark.
And this isn’t about male role models either. Well, it is, though not so much. See, I was home with my son paternity leave for more than half of his life before he started preschool. He knows lots of dads. His grandpa baby sits him when we are home in California. He doesn’t need guys.
But it’s nice.
And it’s good for society. I push paternity leave pretty hard because I think it’s important for mom, dad and baby. But challenging gender roles should not stop at the preschool door, and it should not just be about getting my daughter to see princesses in a different way or letting my son wear pink mittens.
This is from a Gloria Steinham interview in 1995:
The way we get divided into our false notions of masculine and feminine is what we see as children. And, if, as children, whether we’re boys or girls, we’re raised mainly by women, then we deeply believe that only women can be loving, nurturing, flexible, patient, compassionate, all those things one needs to be to raise little children, and that men cannot do that, which is a libel on men. Of course men can do that. On the other end of it, they mainly see men in the world outside the home, or being assertive, aggressive, so they come to believe that women can’t be assertive, achieving, aggressive, intellectual. And that’s how we get our humanity? We’re deprived of our full humanity
This won’t change easily, I know, but it should change (and here is an excellent report for deep reading on how to make it change. The report includes the best ever description I’ve read of why boys and girls and not driven by their sex, but by their gender roles:
Gender and sex are closely linked, in so far as one’s biological sex will determine which gender role (male or female) society will expect one to play (Dejonckheere, 2001).
Oh, and about the whole sexual predator thing, that overarching fear seems to be missing here in Sweden when it comes to guy teachers. I couldn’t tell you if the crime rates are lower here, or whether Swedes have more or less missed the crazy, anxious panic that American parents have been whipped into the past couple decades.
Nope, here men don’t become preschool teachers just because men don’t become preschool teachers. But I’m sure glad the dude running my son’s class chose differently.