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Have A Very Bloggy 2008

December 31, 2007 | Blogging,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

Adam TinworthHello and a Happy Hogmanay to all readers of Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m Adam Tinworth of One Man & His Blog, and I’m another one of those blogging journalists that’s doing the rounds right now. And you’re stuck with me for your final post here of 2007. And I’m stuck with writing a post that no-one will read, because they’re too busy getting drunk, or recovering from a hangover, to be bothered with the interwebs. Ah, well. Never mind. Writing stuff nobody reads is what journalists are used to, goddamit! It’s a tradition!

So, let’s be traditional about this. Let’s do a “look back at the year” post. It’s what most publications do at this time of the year, after all. Why? Well, they’re easy, and you can knock them off in a morning before heading off to a boozy pre-Christmas lunch and an extended Christmas holiday while the sub-editors try and turn it into something readable during your holidays.

And what a year 2007’s been. I’ve been blogging since 2001, and blogging seriously since 2003. In those early days, a blogging journalist was a pretty rare creature. In the year just gone, they’re everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You can barely go to a magazine or newspaper website these days without being invited to read some hack or other’s latest musings on the day’s events.

Now, let’s be honest. Not all of these blogs are created equal. Some of them are pretty clearly done under duress. (“Write a blog post this morning, or we’ll take your whisky away from you.” “Noooooo! Anything but that!”) And some of them are just plain crap. No two ways about it, some hacks just can’t write without subs to pick up their backs. But it’s a start. And the more the journos blog, the more they get the hang of a conversation, rather than just talking at people. Hey, the sheer fact that there are various of us here writing guest posts on Becky’s blog shows that some of us have learned to do the conversation thing.

And it’s not before time.


Posted by Adam @ 2:23 pm | 7 Comments  

A Little Talk About Guns

December 30, 2007 | Guest post

Gunfighter & his ElfHi… My name is Gunfighter, and I’l be your guest-blogger for the day.

Alright, my name ISN’T really Gunfighter… my parents call me something else, but you get the idea.

Anyway, Becky has asked me to be one of her guest bloggers while she is away, and since I think Becky is pretty cool, what could I say other than yes?

I’m not a journalist, or any sort of professional writer.  As a matter of fact, my field requires very little writing… except for the odd well-crafted memo for when I am trying to ply more money for my programs from the bosses… many of whom can only be called literate if you are very generous with the term.  I make my living as a tactical firearms instructor for one of Uncle Sam’s three-lettered law enforcement agencies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. What that means, in plain English, is that I teach Uncle Sam’s agents how to fight with a  guns. 

Normally, I don’t blog much about guns… my blog, The View From Here, is mostly about the random stuff that goes through my mind on a given day. Whether the subject is politics, race, music, books, fatherhood, history, food, or The Church, is subject to my whim. Please feel free to visit sometime.

Ok… Becky asked me to give some biographical data, so here goes:  I’m 44, married, with two children, both girls, ages 18 & 9.  I like to read, I have tattoos, and I teach Sunday School.  I’m also very social. 

Anyway, I want to give you a little talking to about guns.

If you are thinking about gun ownership, think about it long and hard. The first thing that you need to consider is your reason(s) for wanting to have a gun or guns. If you have decided to become a hunter and to keep guns for that purpose, you have some things to consider.

 If you want to own a gun for self-protection, you have some very different things to consider. In either event, get some advice… feel free to email me… I’ll give you said advice for free.

If you are in the market for a firearm, I would be happy to advise you… but honestly, I may just tell you to get a dog that barks instead of a gun.

Having made the decision to own firearms, get some professional advice, and that DOESN’T mean from the people that work at gun stores… those guys, most of whom are really good people. are trying to make a buck. They, like car salespeople will usually sell you all sorts of crap you don’t need.

If you do decide to get a gun. Get the gun that is right for you. YOU. Not your-friend-the-local-cop who will try and tell you all sorts of things… that he usually doesn’t know much about. Once you find the gun for you, make the investment in training. Seek and find PROFESSIONAL training.If you decide to carry concealed, do so correctly. If other people can see that you are armed, you will lose a lot of the advantage that concealed carry can afford.

I was at our local Border’s books store recently, when some idiot, clearly carrying a gun in one of those fanny pack holsters, got upset when I asked him what he would do if someone grabbed his gun from behind. He told me with what little dignity he could muster, that it was none of my business. He was right, of course… it isn’t my business… unless the person who could easily steal his gun decided he was going to go on a shooting spree with it. What’s my point? Don’t be stupid when carrying a gun. It’s not a cross or talisman to ward off evil. To bad guys it says: “Shoot me first!”

If you ever have to shoot someone, don’t shoot once and wait to see what happens. Shoot him/her, and keep shooting until such time as you can tell that your subject has been shot effectively.

If your intended target is more than six feet away from you, and you are using a handgun, use both hands when you shoot. If you use both hands. your odds of an incapacitating hit or hits will increase by an order of magnitude. That one-handed crap is just that. Crap. Unless you are using the other hand to attempt a reload or starring in an action film, use both hands.

Effectively shooting someone means hitting them enough times or deeply enough to incapacitate… in other words, if you shoot someone and they are still in the fight, capable of hurting or killing you, you haven’t shot them effectively.

Lastly, if you decide to buy a gun, please, learn the applicable laws about using them, even in self-defense.



PS:  Becky, thanks for letting me talk to your readers, I really appreciate it.  I’m sorry I missed the party last time you were in town, I heard that it was a good time, but you know how that goes… I had to take my youngest to Brownies.

Posted by Gunfighter @ 1:59 am | 10 Comments  

Believe it or not, I wasn’t late to my own wedding

Blogging,Guest blogger

Hi.  I’m Amie from Mamma Loves.  I was so flattered when Becky invited me to guest post in her absence.  And then what do I do?  (And trust me this will come as no surprise to my husband, mother or friends.)  I show up late! 

How rude.

I hate being late.  It’s one of my worst bad habits.  In my defense in this circumstance, the holidays have me all screwed up and I thought today was the 28th.  But isn’t that the way with folks like us who are always late?  We always have an excuse.  And really, there isn’t ever a good one.  I recognize that others feel tardiness is rude.  I don’t particularly.  I don’t get frustrated when others are a little late.  I know life gets in the way.  That’s what happens to me.  I think I can get way more done in an allotted period of time.  Or I just really want a few more minutes of sleep in the morning.  The thing is, it’s a bad habit.  One I’d like to change.

Think I have any hope if I set it as my New Year’s resolution?  Cripes, I have so many already.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kind of gal.  It seems so contrived.  Either I’m going to try to do something or I’m not.  It’s sort of like starting a diet on a Monday.  Isn’t there some study out there that suggests that’s the worst day of the week to start? 

The reason I’m even tempted this year is that I have eaten so poorly for the last few weeks and I could really use the excuse of the holidays being over to start anew. 

Man I sound like I have a lot of issues.  I probably do.  I’m a blogger right?  I mean I write about my life and put it out there for the rest of the world to read.  I wonder what Freud would have had to say about blogging.  Whatever.  I say screw Freud.  Sometimes words are just words…and sometimes they aren’t.

Well as you can tell my blogging skills are a bit rusty.  I haven’t posted at all over at my place since the before the holidays.  I really to appreciate the opportunity to exercise my muscles over here–can you say atrophy?  I’m going to owe Becky some major links or something after this.  Or she can just refer back to this post (or this one)every once in a while to feel better about herself.  I mean really.  It’s the least I could do.

Posted by Mamma Loves @ 12:37 am | Comments  

Accepting the quiet, by Wendy Hoke

December 29, 2007 | Books,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

What an honor and a thrill to be asked to guest blog here at Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m a freelance journalist who also writes at Creative Ink and I’m happy to count Becky among my regular readers. I’ve not written there lately because I’m attempting a vacation.

Problem is, I’m a needy writer and so when things get quiet, I get nervous. Makes no sense, you see, because I’m working on several ongoing projects and have another story due next Friday and got an e-mail this morning about doing some editing on another book project. So I should really just learn to accept and enjoy the quiet.

This may not be true for every writer, but I need to unplug from time to time to recharge the creative batteries. For inspiration, I’ve turned this week to “The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits & Encounters.” Last March, I had the privilege of meeting him at a storytelling workshop in Anniston, Ala.

With the exception of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” I hadn’t really read any of his work. I mean, I was familiar with all the titles, “The Kingdom and the Power,” “Honor Thy Father,” and his notable profiles of boxers and baseball players. But I hadn’t really read his work.

I still believe that the Frank Sinatra/Esquire piece has tremendous resonance and stands as a model for reporting. Not all of his pieces in this book struck me the same way. However, the piece about Floyd Patterson (“The Loser”) was heartrending in its simplicity.

As a nonfiction writer, I find his reporting astounding, asking myself what questions he asked to get certain information, or wondering where he was standing in a room when he observed certain things, or what he’s looking for when he scans a room or a place and what particular details of a person fill his notebooks.

He reveals some of his trade secrets in a piece called, “Origins of a Nonfiction Writer,” and some of the details written here about being a boy in his mother’s dress shop in New Jersey, he shared with journalists in Anniston last March.

“The shop was a kind of talk show that flowed around the engaging manner and well-timed questions of my mother; and as a boy not much taller than the counters behind which I used to pause and eavesdrop. I learned much that would be useful to me years later when I began interviewing people for articles and books.

“I learned to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments (as the listening skills of my patient mother taught me) people often are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time. However, I also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide. My mother’s best customers were women less in need of new dresses than the need to communicate.”

Too often, Talese is credited with founding, “The New Journalism,” so labeled by Tom Wolfe. But Talese steadfastly rejects such labels, maintaining now—and then–that what he was doing didn’t involved any new style. It was simply storytelling as we all know it (using scenes, dialogue, description, etc.) in a nonfiction format.

What interests me most about Talese, and frankly when I find his work most moving, is not those celebrated profiles of notable personalities, but his portraits of the ordinary people. His “unnoticed things” of New York City, his decision to talk about the Selma riots with white members of a local country club, his decision to write about losers more often than winners.

I turned to Talese for quiet inspiration this week and did not fail to deliver.

Posted by Wendy @ 12:37 pm | 2 Comments  

Writing From The Heart – Guest Post by Rebecca Laffar-Smith

December 27, 2007 | Guest blogger,Guest post,Words

Wow! It sure is a trip to be connecting with readers across the web in realms I tread with caution. I’m Rebecca Laffar-Smith from over at The Writer’s Round-About and when Becky asked if I’d help out by writing a guest post I thought it was a great idea. She’s off exploring the world and all her readers have an opportunity to hear from so many different voices while she’s away.

You should read the email she left us all with. A lengthy list of topics we could wander into along with free reign to do whatever we wanted instead. Becky, you’re a very brave person. I’m not particularly brave so I’m going to stick with a topic I know well.

Writing From The Heart

You don’t have to be a professional writer to experience the joy and wonder of written expression. Writing often feels like an enforced part of our daily lives. We rarely make time to write for ourselves. Do you keep a journal? Write about your dreams? List your ideas? Or is your writing limited to shopping lists, work reports and financial statements?

Taking up a pen and notebook is a simple way to create inspiration in your life. Write down what you are thankful for or what you’ve accomplished today. Reignite your life by exploring who you really are. By committing your thoughts to paper you create a record you can reflect on in years to come.

One advantage of writing only for yourself is that you don’t have to write well. The most important key to developing writing skills is to dig deep into your heart. We all begin with the basic understanding of sentence structure and composition. Developing the skills of a professional writer is not something those who write for themselves have to do. So long as you can read your own writing you can write in any way you like, about anything you like. Explore the topics that interest you and weave yourself with the language and words that fire your emotions.

You do not have to fear censorship or ridicule. What you write in your personal journal is for your eyes only. There is an amazing freedom when we permit ourselves to commit the significance of our thoughts to paper and the privacy to hold these words close to our hearts.

Explore your mind and emotions. Discover your inner being and the wealth of your subconscious intelligence. All it takes is a few minutes a day to open yourself to new ideas and a form of relaxation that gives your creative voice the freedom to sing its own song.

Write from your heart today and visit The Writer’s Round-About if you’d like to read more about writing.

Posted by Rebecca Laffar-Smith @ 2:06 am | 7 Comments  

Where should I begin…

December 26, 2007 | Blogging,Dad2twins,Daddy bloggers,Guest blogger,Guest post,Norway

Hello to the world through Becky’s blog. I’m Lance from Dad2twins.com. As with many of the guest bloggers that Becky bestowed with the high honor and privilege to be a stand in blogger, I have never actually met Becky in person. If, and when I meet her someday, I will make sure I bring a nice bottle of good Irish Whiskey or maybe even a few pints of Guinness with me so we can have long discussions about almost anything. I have been an admirer of Becky and her blog for sometime. Becky and I have had great conversations through email and blog entries and mutual comments on each other’s blogs for over a year. I do hope, before I finish my blog life, I know I will stay in touch with Becky because I have already decided she will be my editor when I finish writing a couple of the books I have started and threaten to finish in my lifetime.

Becky and I have something else in common. Norway. The Norwegian blood runs strong through my my family. I am of Norwegian decent. My people come from near the Arctic Circle. We are from Lesjaskog Norway. We even have some Sami in our family. As Becky spends Christmas among my people I am reminded of our heritage and how we still have a Norwegian breakfast every Christmas morning in our household. We have Rulepulse for breakfast along with Lefse. I won’t link to those, you have to discover those treats on your own. After that longwinded introduction, I don’t even think I will write about the actual topic I was going to write about. The Christmas meals sit heavy in my stomach and I am ready to sleep the next few days away. Our twins will not let that happen so I continue to dream of the lazy days after Christmas.

As I leave you, I invite you to discover this speech for yourself and the history behind it. It will give you some history into the name of Becky’s blog and how the term came about.I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I thank the two Jews for giving the Christians a break on Christmas day. I hope you all have a wonderful boxing day? Oh, and I wish Becky safe travels and I thanks for letting me sit in.

Come visit me if you get a chance.

Posted by Lance @ 12:48 am | 2 Comments  

Oy To The World, the Chinese Is Come, Let Jews Receive Their Food!

December 25, 2007 | Books,Family,Friends,Guest blogger,Guest post,Middle East,Movies,My neighborhood,Opinion,Research,Stuff,Weird things,Working Mother

Aviva and Devra are in da house!  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!   Maybe you aren’t expecting a holiday greeting from the Two Jew Crew, but when Becky asked if we would guest blog, we requested Christmas. Why? Because we know You People our Christian mishpuka should be able to spend time with their families, so we shall work today so you don’t have to!  (So when Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur roll around return the fave. K?)

Jews and Chinese Food.  Add Christmas to the mix and you get a Holy Trinity  representing a Trifecta of Treyf. Why is this night different from any other night? Why on this night do Jews eat at Shun Lee instead of at home?  From Christmas Eve to Christmas Day Jews are making their Kung Pao pilgrimages.  Even Working Mother Magazine  Jews can’t tell you where this longstanding holiday observance originated, we only know it’s tradition. It’s how we roll.   Everyone should  know more about Jewish holiday observances beyond, “They tried to annihilate us. We survived. Let’s Eat!”  If Becky where here, she would no doubt be calling out the people striving to be our nation’s leader to tell us why Jews eat Chinese food On Christmas. 

 Hillary should know.  Fred Thompson may have the secret.  Is Barack is just one consonant away from unlocking the mystery?  Oh hell. Move over politics! Let’s dish…

Believe it or not, the combination of Jews and Chinese food is an ancient custom – OK, not biblical ancient nor is it an Ancient Chinese Secret, but it does appear to go back to the late 1800’s – no putzing around!

In lower Manhattan, immigrant Jews opened delicatessens for other Jews,Italians ran restaurants for other Italians, and Germans had many places serving primarily Germans. But Chinese restaurants welcomed everyone. As a result, even in the 1890s both Jews and Italians usually felt more at home in Chinese restaurants than they did in each other’s eateries.” (Originally published; “New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern” by Gaye Tuchman and Harry G. Levine) 

Fast forward a few hundred years and it is still generally true.  Chinese food does not include dairy products. The fear of mixing a little dairy with your meat isn’t an issue. (You say, “Pork!” We say, “Kosher house, not Kosher stomach.”)  Look, Chinese food  became a status symbol for our people during The Depression – immigrant Jews who ate out at Chinese restaurants identified themselves and others as being chic and sophisticated-why should we want to change that practice?  Is it so terrible? Who does it hurt? Don’t you want your mother to be happy? 

Nowadays, you can find many eateries willing to open their doors to make a buck on Christmas, and you can find quite a few folks  who would rather buy a meal instead of cook one.  However, it wasn’t so long ago, Chinese restaurants were about the only option for eating out on Christmas day.  Another bonus to Chinese food on Christmas is the holiday repast is available before or after the matinee. Just because Christmas is not a Jewish holiday, does this mean no Jewish observance? Feh. Whatever your observance, we wish you Good Fortune and a very Merry Christmas!

Posted by Devra and Aviva @ 8:43 pm | 1 Comment  

I may not be Norwegian But I’ve Tasted Lutefisk

December 24, 2007 | Uncategorized

Hello! I’m Elana Centor from FunnyBusiness and Blogher where I am a contributing editor on business. Like many of the guest bloggers, Becky and I had not formally met before her request came to do a guest blog. As she explained to me she’s a lurker and has been reading my blog for quite some time.

Being a lurker myself, I immediately said YES to Becky’s request. While I am not of Norwegian ancestry, I do live in Minnesota where there are lots of people of Norwegian ancestry. As it were, one Christmas Eve I was invited to a Norwegian Family party.

Now there was one caveat. You had to agree to taste to Lutefisk. At that point I had lived in Minnesota for 10 years and had heard enough stories about this delicacy soaked in lye that I really felt I could go through the rest of my life without the need to taste it.

But I did. Like the Lutefisk that Tanya Huang writes about, my friends smothered it in butter. While it was not horrible– if texture is an important part of your eating experience, Lutefisk, like Gefilte Fish, may be one of those ethnic foods that require some getting used to.

From Tanya Huang’s blog post about lutefisk.

Mom, Norm, and I had never had Lutefisk before. We kept calling it “soap fish”, because it’s made from stockfish and lye. I imagined a somewhat foamy sudsy dish that tasted like Thai curry.

As it turned out, Lutefisk was quite delicious. Probably because of having been soaked in lye, the fish was translucent and jellyfish-like. Butter and white sauce were poured over top.

After dinner, the chefs of the night gathered and sang “O Lutefisk”. I love the spelling of the lyrics :)

“Oh Lutefisk”
Sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”

Oh Lutefisk, Oh Lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,
Oh Lutefisk, Oh Lutefisk, you put me in a coma.
You smell so strong, you look like glue,
You taste yust like an overshoe,
But Lutefisk, come Saturday,
I tink I’ll eat you anyway.

Oh Lutefisk, Oh Lutefisk, I put you by the doorway
I vanted you to ripen up, yust like dey do in Norway
A dog came by and sprinkled you, I hit him vit an army shoe
Oh Lutefisk, now I suppose
I’ll eat you as I hold my nose.

Oh Lutefisk, Oh Lutefisk, how vell I do remember.
On Christmas Eve how we’d receive, our big treat of December
It vasn’t turkey or fried ham, it vasn’t even pickled spam
My mudder knew dere vas no risk,
In serving buttered Lutefisk.

Oh Lutefisk, Oh Lutefisk, now everyone discovers
Dat Lutefisk and Lefse makes, Norweigians better lovers.
Now all da vorld can have a ball, you’re better dan dat Yeritol
Oh Lutefisk, vit brennevin
You make me feel like Errol Flynn.

While I may not have adopted the Norwegian tradition of eating Lutefisk, I did fall in love with Norwegian names– so much so that I named my daughter Berit. Turns out she wasn’t the first Berit in my family.

Now in case you didn’t guessed from the Gefilte Fish reference, Christmas is not my holiday. While I knew that my dad had some cousins from Norway –yes there are even Jews in Norway — I didn’t know much about them except their last name was Century.

After my daughter was born, my Aunt Lilly called and asked if I had deliberately picked that name because of our cousin Berit. I didn’t know that there was a Berit Century but I’ve always loved that connection.

Becky, if you are reading your blog today and having some holiday lutefisk may it go down fast and please give a big Merry Christmas wish to all the Berits you see.

Safe Travels!

Posted by Elana @ 7:07 am | 2 Comments  

Are your friends Republicans?

December 23, 2007 | 2008 campaign,Friends,Guest blogger,Politics

Hi, everyone. I’m Margaret, and I’ve actually never met Becky. We are e-friends, known only by listserv, email, and blog. We share interests in having a family and having a life as well. I admire her from afar, particularly now that she’s in Norway.

I’ve just started dipping a toe into political activism, and I’m puzzled by some of the things I’m learning. I thought I’d bat them around here and see what you think.

A few months ago, John Edwards did something I liked, can’t remember what it was, but I donated an embarrassingly tiny amount of money to his campaign. Naturally I have been bombarded with e-mail ever since. Now, I like Edwards, but I’m not sure if he’d be a good president. It seems to me he has little experience in Washington and none as an administrator of a big organization. But I do like many of the positions he’s taken. Also, as a blue-collar kid, I’m a real sucker for that whole “my daddy was a mill worker” shtick. And I’ve noticed a pattern: he announces a plan or stakes out a position, and later Hillary and Obama announce theirs, which are slightly to the right of  Edwards’s. It looks to me like he’s providing cover to the frontrunners and pulling the whole field somewhat to the left, and for me that’s reason enough to be thankful that he’s in the race. (Note: Becky has not endorsed a candidate, and what I say here is my opinion only.)

So I responded to one of those e-mails and got on a conference call with Edwards  supporters in New Jersey and found myself volunteering to collect signatures to get Edwards on the ballot for the primary here in February. Now, I’m not shy, and as a student, I registered voters in housing projects in the Bronx (which would scare my mother half to death, so I’ve never told her about this, even now, after 30 years). So I know this isn’t hard to do. Problem is, I live in a comfortable suburb, in one of those towns people move to for the schools, and this area is overwhelmingly Republican. I needed to find registered Democrats to sign these petitions. But I figured that among my family and friends there are quite a few who share my politics, so it would be easy to find Democrats. Was I wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I was right about my family; the people I thought were Democrats actually were. But none of my friends, and I mean NONE, are Democrats. Most are independents, and a couple are Republicans so they can vote in the Republican primary in local races. Since around here the Republicans dominate, local elections are basically determined by who wins the primary. (In New Jersey, only party members can vote in primaries. I know it’s different in other states.)

I am spooked by this, by the fact that my friends are not Democrats. Maybe I am completely naïve (a distinct possibility), and not that the Democrats are perfect (Lord knows they are not!) but I despise and fear so many Republicans (Dick Cheney! Newt!) that I cannot imagine either being a Republican or remaining aloof and being an independent. There are a few Republicans among my family, but I just figure that Rush has infiltrated their brains, so I consider them the political equivalent of pod people.

So here are some questions I’d like to throw out to all of you. Do you belong to a political party? How did you decide? Do you know if your friends have made the same decision? Do you feel as strongly about this as I do? Is this making sense to you, or do you think I am a total wacko? (It’s okay, you can tell me, I can take it.)

Posted by Margaret @ 12:57 am | 5 Comments  

Paternity Leave Heaven

December 22, 2007 | Benefits,Family,Guest blogger,Guest post,Parenting

Hi there, I’m AdventureDad and you might know me from my site or The Blogfathers.  Becky has graciously asked me to do a guest post and during her Norwegian adventure.  Poor Becky, she’s over in Norway freezing her butt off  and seeing absolutely no sunshine for  a few weeks while people like me ruin her blog. I’m actually not  far away from Becky since I live in Sweden, Norway’s neighbor, since a few years back.

The Scandinavian countries are known for many things but since I’ve travelled around the world quite a bit, and lived in U.S. for 15 years,  I think priority on families and children really stand out.  Something I’m very grateful for since I have two young children. The greatest example in Sweden is the  very generous maternity/paternity leave that all parents have a right to.  I’m just going back to work after six months of paid paternity leave which some people find completely normal while others can hardly believe it.

Reactions to a father staying home for six months with his children vary but can generally be divided into three  groups.  The Swedes think it’s great and simply ask how long I’m staying home.  The Americans are shocked and impressed, especially that fathers have the same possibilities, at our long paid leave and ask lots of good questions.  And finally the South Americans, especially fathers, who are too shocked or uninterested to ask anything at all.  The Latin fathers simply can’t believe why any father would voluntarily stay at home with his children, a job clearly meant for women only.

If you’re a father and wonder if it’s a nice vacation to stay home with two kids I can quickly tell you it’s not.  I have the most stressful Wall Street job imaginable but being at home with my children is twice as tough. It’s a real challenge.

How come so few countries  pay parents so they can give their infants, and of course also the family, a good start in life?  I don’t know but having seen the difference I’m convinced parental leave is one of the best investments ever for a society.  I’m sure problems later in life, like disease, crime, finances, and family stuff, become far less of an issue since parents get a relaxed start and have time to build a very close relationship with their kids (and spouse).  Not having to worry about finances, health care, or work does make an incredibly difference.  While many say Sweden offers so many family benefits because of our social democratic system I’m sure it’s actually a clever plan which in the long run drastically decreases the expenses for the government.   It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

For every child the Swedes are allowed to stay home 480 working days. Mother and father can split the time any way they want. The compensation is roughly 90% of your salary up to a cap which is equal to an average salary.  Some companies, like my employer, even make up the difference for higher salaries so the compensation will be 90% regardless if one is making $25k or $300k a year.

While it would be easy to rip other countries, like the U.S., for  virtually nonexistent benefits I think a better idea would be for those  countries to learn from other systems which work well.  For many who have experienced the different approaches to parenthood it’s obvious that the extra expense paid early on yields an amazing payback down the line.  The question is, how do we change the system to make it easier to combine children, family, and work?

For me personally, paternity leave has been fantastic and I really wish more fathers had this possibility.  It’s great for the children and stepping into the “traditional motherhood role”  is more educational than you can imagine. I stayed home 5 months with our now 4-year old son and 6 months with our now 16-month old daughter.  I can clearly notice my relationship being very different from fathers who have not spend 24/7 with their kids for an extended amount of time.  Although that is very nice now when my kids are young I expect to see the greatest benefits in 10-15 years.  Those teenage years are apparently not always easy but a great bond with my kids will hopefully help.

Posted by AdventureDad @ 12:07 pm | 1 Comment  


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