When I moved to Sweden, I thought it would be kind of like living in the U.S.
I was wrong.
If you asked me if life in the Netherlands is like life in Sweden, I would say, “Probably.” Northern Europe, good English, strong welfare state.
Apparently, I would be wrong.
I read two things recently about Dutch women. The first is a great personal American take from Slate on how most Dutch women do not work full-time:
Dutch women could be considered extremely progressive when compared with most other women in the world—they have enviable reproductive rights and rates of political participation. But they are often responsible for only a small portion of the family income—25 percent of Dutch women do not even make enough money to be considered financially independent. The gap in pay between genders is among the highest in Europe, but because women are working only part time, this is not fodder for gender wars. Instead, women are more concerned with protecting their right to part-time work. In 2000, a law was passed mandating that women have the right to cut back hours at their jobs without repercussions from employers.
“We look at the world of management—and it is a man’s world—and we think, oh I could do that if I wanted,” says Maaike van Lunberg, an editor at De Stentor newspaper. “But I’d rather enjoy my life.”
But then there is this from the New York Times in 2007: They apparently are very happy.
“It has to do with personal freedom,” said de Bruin, whose work, sure enough, is titled “Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed.” “Personal choice is key: in the Netherlands people are free to choose their life partners, their religion, their sexuality, we are free to use soft drugs here, we can pretty much say anything we like. The Netherlands is a very free country.”
This story also references the tendency of Dutch women to work part-time. I get confused trying to write about this, it is so different from Sweden, where women seem to work as much as men (they are much more likely to work part-time to pick up the kids from preschool, but that has a different vibe).
And what about Dutch men? Sounds like they are getting the short end of the stick – forced to work the long hours, not getting to be at home as much. No tennis, no coffee. Just work. It feels all wrong to a man in Daddyland, who is working part-time himself.
The Times does address the man issue in terms of happiness:
Modern Dutch men are expected to share the chores at home, “without being told, or when told,” de Bruin said. The Dutch woman “wants the man to do housework to help her feel equal, but he has to do it her way.”
Which perhaps raises the question, do Dutch men get depressed?
Not much, according to de Bruin, who says that the behavior of the sexes evolved simultaneously, that Dutch men like their women bossy while Dutch women are not keen on macho men. Still, she sympathizes with men who have to negotiate a jungle of rules that they never understand and that are always set by women.
I prefer co-parenting. I prefer an equal relationship with my wife. But I guess if they’re happy …