After eight years, I’ve pretty much forgotten that I live in Sweden. But every once in a while something happens that reminds me that, yes, no doubt about it, I live in Sweden. Here’s a list.
1. The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces takes sick leave because he’s stressed out.
2. You just went to the bar, split the bill three ways with your friends and you each paid with a credit card.
3. Both leaders of the Green Party went on parental leave at the same time.
4. You don’t have health insurance.
5. Your 3-year-old is having a temper tantrum at breakfast because you ran out of caviar.
6. You just paid $145 dollars to fill your tank with gas.
7. You know what this (below) is and you like it.
8. It’s almost April and your winter parka is still hanging up in the hallway.
9. You haven’t filled out a form at the doctor’s office in the past 8 years.
10. You take an utfart and anÂ infart and it doesn’t even smell.
This list willÂ definitelyÂ have new versions in the future.
Do you have your own list of things that remind you that you live in Sweden? I’d love to see it!
One of the first things you’ll notice if you visit Sweden are the mothers with their babies. Then you’ll notice the fathers with the babies. Finally, you’ll start to see babies everywhere.
You wouldn’t be imagining it. Sweden is in the midst of a baby boom. The country has one of the highest fertility rates in the European Union. There are many reasons for it, but one that has been cited many times is Sweden’s generous paid parental leave benefits to parents.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Sweden’s progressive paid parental leave is a key reason for rapid procreation in this country. I think parents have less stress in Sweden. They don’t have to put their kids in daycare when they’re 6-weeks-old. They don’t have to stress out about missing work if their kids get sick or spending thousands of dollars on daycare every month.
Less stress equals more sex. There’s nothing more to say on the matter.
If you weren’t convinced that Swedish parental leave rocks, this Save the Children report is more proof. Sweden was ranked fourth in 2010 on a list of the best places to be a mother, behind Norway, Australia, and Iceland.
I recently interviewed Stefan, a father on paternity leave in MalmÃ¶, a city in the south of Sweden. Â He’ll be off from work for an incredible 9 months!
How many children do you have?
â€œOne daughter, she’s 16 months old.â€
How long have you been on paternity leave?
â€œI’ve been on daddy leave for six months, got three more months before I go back to work.â€
What do you do for work?
â€œI work as a concept artist in the games industry.â€
What did your boss say when you said you were taken time off?
â€œNothing 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.â€
What’s the best part of paternity leave?
â€œThat 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.â€
What’s the worst part?
â€œThe lack of sleep is horrible, to get up at five or six in the morning is just wrong.â€
What’s the hardest?
â€œPlaying 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.â€
What have you learned about your child?
â€œMany things. That she likes to watch tennis on TV is one of them.â€
What have you learned about yourself?
â€œThat I’m actually pretty good at taking care of a kid.â€
Has your view of motherhood change now that you’ve been on pappa leave?
â€œI 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.â€
What about fatherhood?
â€œI’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.â€