What if a single piece of legislation could encourage couples to have more children while simultaneously increasing the number of women in the workplace and lowering the divorce rate? It looks like Sweden has done it. It’s called “daddy leave” and it may be the best thing any government has done for parents in the last 15 years.
“Daddy leave,” is a parental leave structure that came into effect in Sweden in 1995. It entitles new moms and dads to a combined parental leave of 14 months at 80% of their wages. Fathers are required to be the principal caregiver for two of those months, or they lose their eligibility to participate in the program. As a result, 85% of new fathers, in Sweden, take advantage of their “daddy leave”. It has become such a norm in Swedish society that it is almost taboo for a father to turn down his opportunity to stay home with his baby.
“Daddy leave” has some high-profile advocates in Sweden, one being Martin Melin. He is Stockholm’s chief of police and was also the first winner of the Swedish equivalent of Survivor. He’s a real ‘man’s man’ but didn’t hesitate to take his parental leave when his third child arrived. Walking a mile in the shoes of a stay-at-home parent was an eye-opener for him, however.
“Before I thought, hey, you’re at home with the kids, how hard can it be? But, now I know, you never rest. There is always something to do and you always have to be on your feet. You can’t leave him for ten seconds because he will climb on the furniture and stairs, open ovens and find knives.”
Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s Minister of European Affairs said, “I always say I am married to a modern man, not a dinosaur.”
Ohlsson returned to her post just three short weeks after delivering baby Stella, leaving her daughter in the capable hands of her husband, Mark Klamberg. Klamberg cares for the baby in a room very near the Minister’s workspace so she can continue to nurse throughout the work day. It’s an ideal situation that is working out well for the family.
Sweden’s parental leave policy has created a framework around which couples can foster a more egalitarian partnership. Parenting responsibilities are shared, fathers have s a greater appreciation for the roll of stay-at-home parent, women have more freedom to stay engaged in their careers and, on the whole, people seem happy. It’s something we might want to consider in North America. – Jen R, Staff Writer.
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