Baby steps

Nikolay Nikolov
Jun 19, 2015 · 4 min read

One story about adjusting to life as a new father.

Meet Rossen Nedelchev, left, and Eivind Mørk, at right.

Rossen Nedelchev (left) lives in New York City and Eivind Mørk (right) lives in Oslo, Norway.

Both are new fathers to baby girls and both stayed at home to help take care of their newborns.

But that’s just about where the similarities end.

Nedelchev and Mørk are worlds apart when it comes to paternity leave offered by the countries in which they live.

Norway, where Mørk lives, offers one of the most generous parental leave plans for those who meet certain criteria— 49 weeks with 100 percent salary reimbursement and 10 weeks specifically reserved for each parent.

The U.S., where Nedelchev lives, offers no mandate for paid paternity leave at all, leaving that decision up to each employer.

AJ+ spoke to these new dads ahead of Father’s Day about everything from diapers to paternity leave. Here’s what they’ve learned during their first few months as fathers.

1. You will get advice from everyone and their mother (literally)

Nedelchev, Mørk and their wives have been getting a ton of unwanted advice about how to take care of their daughters

“I remember someone telling us about insane strategies aimed at helping the baby pass gas,” says Nedelchev.

Mørk was also warned never to dress his daughter in blue.

“..because someone might mistake her for a boy,” he says.

2. The U.S. isn’t so great at the whole paid paternity leave thing

Nedelchev teaches music in New York City and is part of Alter View and The Queen’s Cartoonists bands. He doesn’t get any paid paternity leave. He stayed at home the first three weeks after his daughter was born, and now works a flexible schedule at the music school.

He faces some tough choices as soon as his wife’s maternity leave is up. His wife has three months off on full paid salary and another three months off where her job is protected.

Nedelchev, as a musician, has no such job security. So when their daughter is roughly six months old, he will have to adjust his work schedule and dedicate himself to being a dad as his wife returns to work.

“The options are limited because I don’t really want to give Maya into daycare or have a babysitter, when she’s so young,” he says.

Some urgent help from a grandparent or two might be required.

3. Dads in Norway have it pretty good compared to dads in other countries

Mørk, a high school teacher, will take over parenting duties from his partner when their daughter is about eight or nine months old thanks to Norway’s parental leave laws.

Nedelchev in New York City says many of his friends, also musicians and new parents, are having a really tough time as their babies grow older. They just can’t afford to stay at home. And that’s where the difference in the kind of parental leave offered by each country can make a huge difference, both for the baby and for the parents.

Where Mørk and his friends are deciding how to divide up the compulsory leave, Nedelchev and his friends are deciding how to balance their professional lives with their personal lives as new parents.

4. Worrying becomes a way of life — along with your newest bundle of joy

Nedelchev and Mørk agree that parenting is about more than just paternity leave.

“The moment I set foot outside, I start thinking and worrying about her,” says Nedelchev.

It’s also about learning how to balance the personal and professional aspects of daily life.

“It kind of feels like your personal life has now come to an end because you realize that this baby and this family will be my life’s project,” Mørk says.

When asked if that’s his biggest worry, Mørk shook his head and said, “I don’t really have any worries — I’m a pretty chilled guy!”

5. What’s “Me time”?

Nedelchev and Mørk both know having kids means the time they had for themselves is officially over.

But, both men say fatherhood is worth every moment.

As our interview began to wind down, a distant cry alerted Nedelchev that his daughter was awake.

Daddy duty called — and he answered.

Are you a #NewDad? What’s the parental leave system like where you live?

We would love to hear your stories. Write to us @AJPlus on Twitter or leave a comment below.

    Nikolay Nikolov

    Written by

    @AJPlus Global Engager, Europe, PhD in Politics @UCLSSEES, and Editor-in-chief @bebanitzabe. Formerly @TheTakeaway and @OpenDemocracy.

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