Father's Day may be five months away in Sweden, but dads there could have reason to celebrate early. If a proposal sails through Parliament, as expected, papas will have three months of paid paternity leave—up from their current two months off.
Though this extra time won't be tacked on to the country's generous 480 days of paid parental leave, it will carve out another 30 days for fathers to bond with their babies. This move comes as Sweden's Left Party works toward achieving more of a balance in the reserved time off for new moms and dads.
What's astounding, of course, is where the U.S. sits in comparison. While the Swedes are working to boost paid leave for dads, we're still struggling to secure unpaid maternity leave for all moms. (The Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks off with no pay and only covers about 60 percent of the workforce.) Those of us who can afford to take time off usually have to supplement with a mashup of short-term disability and vacation and sick days.
Meanwhile, fathers here have it even worse. They're practically expected to report back to work right after taking the delivery room selfies, and opportunities for paid time off are few and far between. According to recent estimates, only 10 to 15 percent of U.S. employers even offer it, and most of those are in white-collar, well-heeled offices. Even if a company does allow some time off, men often hesitate to use it all, for fear of backlash. (New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, for example, missed the first two games of the 2014 season after the birth of his first child, and was later famously raked over the coals for the decision.)
Myy own husband received—and took—a full week off of work after our son was born, though I know he would have loved even more time. The point is, paid maternity and paternity leave aren't perks, and shouldn't be treated as such. It's important time off that every family deserves—not just the lucky ones in Sweden.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
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Image of dad and baby courtesy of Shutterstock