Latte dads: a story of gender equality from Sweden

Tuesday afternoon in central Stockholm. If you take a stroll around and take a look at thecafes, you may notice something peculiar. Men of all ages and tribes hanging around with their toddlers. It is time for lunch and a stroll with the baby to get some fresh air and play. Earlier in the morning, dads form the majority in the baby clubs (child-care centres where babies can socialize and play, dads too). Say hello to the “latte dads”.

Whoa! In some places that might even sound discriminating. Are these caring fathers less of men because they take care of their children? On the contrary, in Sweden, this is now thesocial normShared parenting you may call it. Or dads and moms equally (or not) sharing their parental leaves to be with their kids. But what does that exactly mean? Has this become a trend or is it the result of state policy?

From velvet to latte dads

Back in 1974, Sweden was the first country in the world to replace “maternity leave” with the term “parental leave”. There was a 6-month leave that could be equally split between the two parents. But one of the parents could simply sign his or her own days off to the other parent. And that resulted in most of the parental leaves being taken by mothers. Moreover, the fathers that actually took their paternity leave were nicknamed “velvet dads“…

Then, the Swedes had an epiphany! “Ah ha! Let’s put a “daddy quota“! In 1995, the law said that one month of leave should be taken by the father or else get lost. It was the so-called “pappamånad” or “dad month”. This leave has been gradually extended and today it is 3 whole months. In total, the two parents can share 480 days of paid parental leave (at 80% of the salary). Dads are required to take at least 90 days. Guess what! Bonus days are given in case of twins!

Today, it is not a question if a father will take parental leave or not. It is the norm. The question is how much time off he will get to take care of the kids! And what happens if a dad does not take parental leave at all? Well, this is Sweden. All are equal and society has to move towards the same direction. So, others will not take it well. Even your own male boss. 
Photo credits: Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/