We published a qualitative article in Acta Paediatrica on how Swedish child health nurses felt about fathers coming into the child health centers. While child health nurses accepted and welcomed fathers, they did little to invite, include, or further support fathers (click here to read the full article).
I interviewed 17 child health nurses from various places in Sweden: north, south, east, west; urban and rural; experienced and inexperienced; young and old. All child health nurses were women–Not uncommon since there are only a handful of men that are child health nurses in the whole country.
Four themes were discussed in this article.
While child health nurses are experts on children’s health and believe that fathers are attending the child health centers more than ever; they seem to be attending in spite of rather than because of support they receive from the child health nurses.
Child health nurses say that they value mothers to a much greater extent than fathers and provide more support to mothers.
However, child health nurses are in various stages of providing more support to fathers: while some have never thought about actively involving fathers, others have tried to, but feel their hands are tied when it comes to making changes, while others have even tried to make changes (e.g. discuss with their boss about having evening and weekend hours, magazines for fathers, pictures emphasizing fathers). However, no child health nurses that were interviewed had yet made any real changes.
Conclusion: If we want mothers and fathers to be equal parents, fathers will need to be accepted and encouraged to participate, just like mothers.
The Swedish child health centers provide great child development advice, host parenting groups, are seen as parenting experts, and are appreciated throughout Sweden.
For example, their services benefit parents…mothers.
The extra support mothers receive aides mothers in continuing to raise their child, at least as far as their child’s health in concerned, since she is the parenting expert because she receives the most support and is the most welcome at the child health centers.
Changing routine practices at the child health centers to further promote and support fathers will aid Sweden’s goal of becoming a gender equal country.