Sweden, you are my hero! Sweden continues to demonstrate to the rest of the world (namely the U.S.) how things are done when it comes to paternity leave and having a more balanced life to be a responsible father. I knew Sweden had many things on the right track when it came to benefits for parents. I have never visited Sweden in my travels abroad, but after reading, In Sweden, the Men Can Have It All by Kattrin Benhold of the NY Times, I am ready to move there.
In perhaps the most striking example of social engineering, a new definition of masculinity is emerging. Companies have come to expect employees to take leave irrespective of gender, and not to penalize fathers at promotion time. Women’s paychecks are benefiting and the shift in fathers’ roles is perceived as playing a part in lower divorce rates and increasing joint custody of children.
“Many men no longer want to be identified just by their jobs,” said Bengt Westerberg, who long opposed quotas but as deputy prime minister phased in a first month of paternity leave in 1995. “Many women now expect their husbands to take at least some time off with the children.”
This article, forwarded to me by 3 other dads (thanks Jared, Matt S., & Josh), was one of the best parenting articles I have read in quite some time. Maybe, it’s just the jealousy or awe of what Sweden has. Maybe, it’s because for a country like the U.S. to be so advanced in so many industries, our policies regarding parental leave are so far behind.
Some other facts from the article regarding country comparisons:
- Parents in Sweden may use their 390 days of paid leave however they want up to the child’s eighth birthday — monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly — a schedule that leaves particularly small, private employers scrambling to adapt. In fact, Eight in 10 fathers now take a third of the total 13 months of leave — and 9 percent of fathers take 40 percent of the total or more — up from 4 percent a decade ago.
- Portugal is the only country where paternity leave is mandatory — but only for a week.
- Iceland reserves three months for father, three months for mother and allowing parents to share another three months.
- Germany, with nearly 82 million people, in 2007 tweaked Sweden’s model, reserving two out of 14 months of paid leave for fathers. Within two years, fathers taking parental leave surged from 3 percent to more than 20 percent.
The article concludes stating that more and more college graduates in Sweden seek work-life balance as their ideal version of utopia in lieu of the big pay check. As a college graduate, I never saw it that way. I wanted the money, the happiness, and the prestige of a sleek corporate position. It took me about 10 years after graduation to get my ducks in a row and realize that quality of life supersedes the cash.