Meet Kasper Thorsvang, Sam Shepherd, and Mads Petersen from Denmark. Year-long friends and now baby-dads on paternity duty. For them, a longer leave is a natural choice and has always been in their interest even before the Danish reform from August 2022 came into force, earmarking 11 weeks of the total leave for the other parent. The desired effect is to boost equality and foster a closer relationship between the child and the other parent from an early age.
Both Kasper, Sam and Mads confirm that a longer period of paternity has fostered a closer bond to their children and has contributed to a better work-life balance for both parents. We sat down with all three dads to learn more about their choice and experience from “life on leave”.

Tell us a bit about you and your family
My name is Kasper, I’m 40 years old and live with my wife Petra and our two children Haakon, 3 years old, and Orchila, 1 year old.
Sam: My name is Sam, and I work at Coop Bank as a Credit Analyst. I live in Frederiksberg with my girlfriend Kathrine and our almost 1-year-old daughter, Ava.
Mads: We are a family of four. Simone, Mads, Chloe aged 3 and Carlo aged 1. We live in Rødovre and enjoy our chaotic everyday life with children.

How long did you take paternity leave?
Including a week’s holiday after the end of leave, it came to just under four months.
Sam: I took the two weeks at the beginning, and 12 weeks at the end of maternity leave.
Mads: Two weeks at the beginning and 8 weeks at the end of maternity leave.

What was your turning point of taking paternity leave?
I never had any doubts that I would take a part of the leave. It’s a time that I have been looking forward to from day one.
Sam: There has never been a turning point. I’ve always wanted to take as much leave as possible. It's amazing that it's been possible!
Mads: I wanted to spend more time with my children at their very young age. I also feel like we have formed a closer bond with each other.

How was the reaction from the surroundings?
There has been great support and understanding all around. I think that's the general opinion I've come across. I think this is a healthy development from a previous stereotypical understanding of fatherhood.
Sam: I have only met support from both my girlfriend and work regarding my paternity leave.
Mads: From a work perspective, I could tell that there was not quite enthusiasm for it. But privately I’ve been met with a great understanding.

The best memories from your paternity leave?
It's undoubtedly the close bond you achieve. The child almost becomes a part of you. The time you have with your little one is simply unique.
Sam: The ongoing development of Ava, which I have been able to follow very closely. At the same time, you create a completely unique bond. All our smiles and laughs together.
Mads: In the morning, when there was no stress, and the little one, who had just woken up, was snuggling up to you. It's an indescribable feeling!

Experienced benefits from taking paternity leave?
I think there are many. In addition to the unique bond, you create with the child, I also think it was important for the relationship and the common understanding we each had with the feeling of what was happening at home.
Sam: A time with your child that you probably won't get again. Happy and good days.
Mads: More time with the children.

Would you recommend other fathers to take paternity leave?
I can send my greatest recommendations to all fathers on taking paternity leave. The many hours you get with your child will not come again. I also believe that you form an important foundation for your relationship in the long run.
Sam: If you are up for it, I can definitely recommend it! I think it’s been absolutely amazing! As mentioned, you form a whole relationship with your child when you are so close through the paternity leave.
Mads: YES! You get a very special bond and a closer relationship with your child.

Any advice to coming fathers on paternity leave?
Do it and enjoy it! There are many opportunities for experiences and activities. Find your common routines and find out what you can manage so you don’t end up wanting to do too much.
Sam: Take it at an appropriate pace. Enjoy the days and don't stress about things that have not been achieved during the day. In addition, I can recommend going out and doing a lot of things together. I was on a baby swimming team with Ava once a week for 2 months. Truly a good experience.
Mads: Enjoy it! Time passes by quickly. So instead of spending negative energy on the fact that it can be difficult to be alone with your child, try to think positively and enjoy the moments. It doesn't last forever.

The idea of taking paternity leave seems to be increasingly discussed but rarely used by fathers. What do you think can help make paternity leave more mainstream?
Kasper: I think that many people will choose to take paternity leave if they can. My experience is that it's something that fathers wish to do. But as with so much else, it's the good story that can shake up the prejudices.
Sam: Personally, I cannot understand why one wouldn’t want to experience such time with one’s child. Conversely, I know that for many there may be practical things, such as jobs, economy, or other things, to influence the decision. Forcing people on paternity leave with legislation is completely wrong in my eyes. There’s a difference in having the desire and the ability.
Mads: More media attention. They do have a great power when it comes to embracing widely.