I recently interviewed Stefan, a father on paternity leave in Malmö, a city in the south of Sweden. He’ll be off from work for an incredible 9 months!
How many children do you have?
“One daughter, she’s 16 months old.”
How long have you been on paternity leave?
“I’ve been on daddy leave for six months, got three more months before I go back to work.”
What do you do for work?
“I work as a concept artist in the games industry.”
What did your boss say when you said you were taken time off?
“Nothing really, there’s three or four people at work that gets to boss me around and they were all cool with it. Just some minor tounge in cheek whining from one of them as I was taking 9 months off while he had just come back from a much shorter leave with his kid.”
What’s the best part of paternity leave?
“That I get to spend time with my daughter, of course. Not being in an office is nice for a change too. I’m going to miss being outside every day when I get back to work.”
What’s the worst part?
“The lack of sleep is horrible, to get up at five or six in the morning is just wrong.”
What’s the hardest?
“Playing cute pretend games with dolls, plastic horses, teddy bears and so on. I don’t mind doing it as my daughter loves it, but I find it utterly boring. I do my best though.”
What have you learned about your child?
“Many things. That she likes to watch tennis on TV is one of them.”
What have you learned about yourself?
“That I’m actually pretty good at taking care of a kid.”
Has your view of motherhood change now that you’ve been on pappa leave?
“I guess it has changed a little as I’m now doing classical mother things. There’s a lot of work and small sacrifices involved in keeping a kid well fed and happy, but it’s also very rewarding.”
What about fatherhood?
“I’m not sure, perhaps that it’s actually so much fun to be a dad. It’s like having a tiny, cuddly clown at home. Today she tried to force a pacifier up my nose while laughing like a maniac. Stuff like that makes all the early mornings, diapers, and new responsibilities worth it.”
Here’s another story of a modern father on paternity leave in Sweden. Peter, a high school teacher, is home with his daughter for 4.5 months. He talks about the hard, rainy and dark days and the things he has learned.
Any Swedish fathers out there who want to tell their stories, please feel free to do so in the comments. Maybe it could become a post.
When Magnus, an IT consultant from Stockholm, told his boss he was taking off for 7 months to be on paternity leave, he told him it was no problem at all. “They encourage you to leave work to spend time with your children,” he told me.
How’s that for progressive?
I spoke to Magnus at a local Open Daycare. He talks about the ups and downs of paternity leave with his son.
As part of the Swedish daddy project I’m undertaking, I talked to Niklas Löfgren, an insurance analyst at the Family Affairs department of Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency, or Försäkringkassan, to learn more about the system.
How are parental benefits funded in Sweden?
“Employers in Sweden pay a fee to the government that corresponds to 25% of each employees’ salary. The fee covers costs for pension, unemployment, sick leave, widow survival, work injury, and parental benefits. Out of these individual fees, parental benefits account for 2.2% of the 25% fee employers pay to the government.”
How can Sweden afford to pay parents so generously?
“As long as the market is healthy and unemployment is low then we will be able to afford this. We have a high level of transfers in Sweden with high taxes and high insurances and benefits. This in order to redistribute money to individuals in different stages of life or in different situations. If we need to increase or decrease this employers’ fee is more a political discussion, but today it’s financed this way. You can see a rough pattern in Europe where countries with somewhat more generous benefits for families with children also tend to have high fertility rates.
“In order to have a full reproduction rate in a country you have to have a fertility rate of 2.1% and in Sweden today we have approximately 1.9%. That means that we have to rely on immigration in order to have the same or more people living in the country. In order to pay for these insurances, it’s important to have many people out in the labor force, otherwise the financing will be tough to handle.”
Stay tuned for more posts on the daddy project.