Paternity Leave Heaven
December 22, 2007 | Benefits,Family,Guest blogger,Guest post,Parenting
Hi there, I’m AdventureDad and you might know me from my site or The Blogfathers. Becky has graciously asked me to do a guest post and during her Norwegian adventure. Poor Becky, she’s over in Norway freezing her butt off and seeing absolutely no sunshine for a few weeks while people like me ruin her blog. I’m actually not far away from Becky since I live in Sweden, Norway’s neighbor, since a few years back.
The Scandinavian countries are known for many things but since I’ve travelled around the world quite a bit, and lived in U.S. for 15 years, I think priority on families and children really stand out. Something I’m very grateful for since I have two young children. The greatest example in Sweden is the very generous maternity/paternity leave that all parents have a right to. I’m just going back to work after six months of paid paternity leave which some people find completely normal while others can hardly believe it.
Reactions to a father staying home for six months with his children vary but can generally be divided into three groups. The Swedes think it’s great and simply ask how long I’m staying home. The Americans are shocked and impressed, especially that fathers have the same possibilities, at our long paid leave and ask lots of good questions. And finally the South Americans, especially fathers, who are too shocked or uninterested to ask anything at all. The Latin fathers simply can’t believe why any father would voluntarily stay at home with his children, a job clearly meant for women only.
If you’re a father and wonder if it’s a nice vacation to stay home with two kids I can quickly tell you it’s not. I have the most stressful Wall Street job imaginable but being at home with my children is twice as tough. It’s a real challenge.
How come so few countries pay parents so they can give their infants, and of course also the family, a good start in life? I don’t know but having seen the difference I’m convinced parental leave is one of the best investments ever for a society. I’m sure problems later in life, like disease, crime, finances, and family stuff, become far less of an issue since parents get a relaxed start and have time to build a very close relationship with their kids (and spouse). Not having to worry about finances, health care, or work does make an incredibly difference. While many say Sweden offers so many family benefits because of our social democratic system I’m sure it’s actually a clever plan which in the long run drastically decreases the expenses for the government. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
For every child the Swedes are allowed to stay home 480 working days. Mother and father can split the time any way they want. The compensation is roughly 90% of your salary up to a cap which is equal to an average salary. Some companies, like my employer, even make up the difference for higher salaries so the compensation will be 90% regardless if one is making $25k or $300k a year.
While it would be easy to rip other countries, like the U.S., for virtually nonexistent benefits I think a better idea would be for those countries to learn from other systems which work well. For many who have experienced the different approaches to parenthood it’s obvious that the extra expense paid early on yields an amazing payback down the line. The question is, how do we change the system to make it easier to combine children, family, and work?
For me personally, paternity leave has been fantastic and I really wish more fathers had this possibility. It’s great for the children and stepping into the “traditional motherhood role” is more educational than you can imagine. I stayed home 5 months with our now 4-year old son and 6 months with our now 16-month old daughter. I can clearly notice my relationship being very different from fathers who have not spend 24/7 with their kids for an extended amount of time. Although that is very nice now when my kids are young I expect to see the greatest benefits in 10-15 years. Those teenage years are apparently not always easy but a great bond with my kids will hopefully help.