Finland names three 'top dads'

Three recipients of Dad of the Year award Image copyright MTV
Image caption In Finland, fathers spend more time with their school-age children than mothers

Finland's ministry of social affairs has selected three fathers for its annual Dad of the Year award.

This year the prize, which has been handed out every year since 2006, has focused on efforts to combine work and fatherhood, as well as raising children in difficult circumstances.

Single dads

Hermanni Hyytiälä was given the award for being the sole carer for his four children since his wife died in 2014.

One dinner time when he was spoon-feeding his youngest three children at once, it dawned on him what life was going to be like, once his wife was no longer around.

"I realised that from now on, it was I alone who would handle everyday life and the basic needs of the children," he told Finnish Public Broadcaster Yle.

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He went on to take a sabbatical and worked from home. He also received help from the local council, the church, various organisations and relatives.

"I hope my children remember their childhood in a way that even though there was great sadness over the death of their mother, their dad tried his best," he said.

The prize was also handed to Jukka Lagerblom for setting an example as an "ordinary dad" for fathers using the services of the men's mental health association Miessakit.

The third recipient of the award is Petri Jaakola, who was raised by alcoholic parents, the ministry said, but still managed to build a good parenting model himself.

Petri Jaakola is the sole carer for his five children and he's also been praised for finding the time to support other families in similar situations.

Scandi dads

Finland is the only country in the developed world where fathers spend more time with their school-age children than mothers, according to an OECD report.

Just like its Scandinavian neighbours, the country has parental leave legislation allowing time off for both parents, with a few weeks reserved for dads only. The Finnish state also famously gives new parents a "baby box" filled with necessities for their new-born.

Image copyright Finland's ministry of social affairs
Image caption A campaign from 2017 encouraged fathers to make best use of their parental leave

But Finland is said to lag behind other Scandinavian countries in some respects. Stress over employment and finances has been cited as a reason why so few children are born here - a cause for concern for the authorities.

In March, Father's Day on November 10 was made an official day, just like Mother's Day. As the then interior minister Kai Mykkänen put it, it's a "signal from the state that mothers and fathers are equal, both in terms of life's joys and responsibilities."

And in June, the new coalition government led by social democrat prime minister Antti Rinne launched a reform of the parental leave legislation which will ensure even more time off.

But there's more to keeping a family together than sabbaticals and free time, says Hermanni Hyytiälä. The three most important things in his view are love, boundaries and food.

He says he has taught his children to settle dispute themselves. "Apologise and forgive. If dad gets stressed and flustered, he explains what the reason is and apologises. It's human nature to have a few conflicts."

Reporting by Matilda Welin

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