Canadians are nicer about paternity leave in Sweden

And yet another take on Swedish parental leave, with a focus on Dads on paternity leave.  This one comes from the Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada:

Leave time can be diced in just about any permutation imaginable – as days, half-days and even quarter-days. What can’t be finessed is the gender dictum: Fathers must use the two months or they’re lost.

As a result, “the working culture is changing,” says Fredrik Rydahl, an engineer at truck manufacturer Scania who took more than six months off with both of his daughters, now 4 and 7. “When we hire a young guy, we count it as a given that this guy is going to be home with small children at some point.”

According to his wife Maria, also an engineer, “You change so much when you’re home and you’re a parent. If only one of you does this journey, you risk going in different directions.”

It is a fine story that hits the right marks.  I was particularly taken by this figure:  only 18 percent of Swedes feel they have trouble balancing work and family.

That is a sign of a system that works on some level.

However, what most caught my attention was the contrast of Canada and the US.  Here you have a straight down the middle story that could be in any American paper.  And there are 368 comments and … most of them are nice.

Yep, most of them laud the Swedes.  Very little bashing of socialism, of high taxes.  Of course, Canada has a healthy safety net.  It has parental leave, if not as generous as Sweden’s.  And maybe the stereotype is true – Canadians are just nicer.

I was also struck by the story’s placement.  It came as part 5 in a six-part series on the work/life balance.  This is one of Canada’s premier papers.  This kind of focus means something.  I can’t remember any type of commitment on this from any big American outlet in recent memory, even with work/life balance the major focus of Michelle Obama in the White House.

Just imagine that, a debate about the place of work in American society.  Oh, wait, work is American society.  Sorry, I forgot.

One thought on “Canadians are nicer about paternity leave in Sweden

  1. I’m a Canadian living in the US and was appalled at the lack of work/life balance when I first moved here. Before I had children, I was a big advocate of parental leave and couldn’t understand the backlash that I heard from Americans — with or without children. I was lucky with my first child. My employer was flexible and allowed me to work part-time after I took FMLA. And I was lucky that I could afford to live on a smaller income for a year.

    About a year later, I got offered a job working for the US government. I took it, but soon realized how unfriendly it was to parents. Although the work itself was fulfilling and my boss was a flexible person, the policies just weren’t friendly at all. Left after only a week and returned to my old job, which wasn’t as fulfilling, but much more family friendly. So, essentially, I sacrificed part of my career to be able to enjoy my family more. Would I see things this way if I were American? I’m lucky enough to have a supportive spouse (who’s American) who also understands the importance of family and we are one of the few to choose a better and balanced family life over high-paced careers. I think a lot of my fellow colleagues in my field suffer a great deal with this lifestyle and it still appalls me that they just don’t “get” socialism. It’s just like the health care reform debate in the US. I have heard close friends complain, “How does it affect ME?”, which absolutely shames me.

    No one’s willing to contribute to the pot for the sake of others. I think it’s a mentality that will take years to transform — if ever.

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