Negotiating the luxuries of Swedish child care

Daddyland is luxury.  Daddyland is choices.  Daddyland is freedom, so much so that an American immigrant can lose his bearings.

Take the issue of daycare and siblings.  In Solna, when I am on paternity leave, I “get” 30 hours of daycare a week for my older child – at the same old price, which is so cheap you don’t even think about it.  Other cities give you 15 hours a week but both Solna and surrounding Stockholm are at 30 – that is six hours a day at almost no cost while I am home with the baby and getting paid for it.

There are three main justifications I have heard for this luxury.  It is for the older child so they don’t get stuck at home and can continue to socialize and develop.  Or, it is for the younger child who deserves the full attention of mommy or daddy, undiluted by the older sibling.  Or, it is for the sleepless, overwhelmed parents who need the daily break in order to provide the best home possible for their kids.

Solna tried to go to 15 hours a week a few years ago.  People went nuts.  The city dropped it.

So this is cool.  It is not my battle to fight one way or another.  I am too new to Daddyland.  But that is the problem:  I am not Swedish.  On some level, I do not understand getting 30 hours of subsidized child care when one parent is at home.

I can adjust my mind to paternity leave.  I can imagine preschool – in the US, NK at three and a half years old would go to preschool.  But 30 hours?  What do I do with that?

For I feel guilty that NK does not get as much time with me.  But then if I do keep her at home, I feel guilty towards Baby B – who really does like the quieter time with Daddy and will have no parents on leave at all when he is three and a half.

I am also tired.  I also want to write.

So I am left to find my own balance, which is NK stays at home on Fridays and will likely stay home another half day a week.  At that point I begin to feel we approach American preschool levels, and she is three and a half and not nearly so tired in the evenings anymore, and with E studying, we will be spending huge chunks of time up at our country cottage.

And she will probably catch three colds in March and be home the whole time, and I will pull my hair out and dream of those 30 hours.

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