Friday, January 22, 2010

There can never be too many choices if we are to raise the next generation

45% of women in Sweden would like to be a "stay at home mom" according to the trendy Swedish parenting magazine Mama. Only 20% said No, while 34% would like to find a balance between staying at home more working fewer hours.

This is very interesting figures. Our Swedish sisters have come a long way compared to those in America, and other European countries, for that matter. Affordable child-care, flexible working hours, job-share schemes and long, paid parental leave divided between both parents mean that Swedish women comes as close to "having at all" as it possibly gets. Or do they?

The Swedish model has so many things that other countries can - and should - learn from. By subsidizing child care and encouraging shorter working days, the government is respecting and supporting young, hard-working families while they are raising their children. The government is also trying to not alienating women from the work force by allowing them to maintaining a career, which is virtually impossible in some other Western countries.

But more and more women are starting to complain. Studies show that not all fathers choose to take the parental leave that they are allowed by the government, and although it seems luxurious with a nearly 18 month long maternal leave - it is making women feel out of touch with their work, which puts them in a disadvantage as they have to compete for, and often loose out on, job promotions within their company.
As Sweden is relying on high taxes for free health care, care for the elderly and subsidized nurseries, it is necessary for both partners to work. There is very little leverage for families who want to structure their family in any other way. Some would even say that women has gained equality at the cost of individual choice.
I still argue very favorably for the Swedish model. I have yet to see one that would work better. But the figures in the study seem to be a sign that things are changing, and maybe not for the better. A "stay at home mother" shouldn't be the only choice we have. Women should have a number of different choices that should suite every individual family. But thinking that you have a choice, when, maybe, it is just a disguise for another type of "no choice", is maybe why so many Swedish women think that the grass is greener on the other side.
Believe me, it's not - we all have a long way to go yet, before we reach perfection.

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