The following is an excerpt from CAITLYN COLLINS | April 11, 2018 | Slate.com |
“Why do so many men work as nannies here in Sweden?”
Residents of Stockholm love to joke that tourists from the United States are easy to spot fresh off the airplane: As they look around the city’s cobblestone streets, they seem bewildered at the sight of so many men—alone in public, no female partners in sight—pushing children in strollers. They ask why nannying is such a popular job for men. Visitors are shocked to learn that these men aren’t paid babysitters but, in fact, fathers.
This reaction speaks volumes about family life in the U.S. Americans assume that mothers care for children, even though about 70 percent of moms also work outside the home today. U.S. visitors to Sweden assume that if men spend time alone with children, they must be getting paid for it.
Sweden is known today as one of the most gender-equal nations in the world, with a long history of intertwining family policy with gender equality and labor-market policy. Since the 1970s, Sweden has reinforced what policymakers call a dual “earner-carer model”—a vision of family life in which both parents work for pay outside the home and care for children. Sweden frames family support and the task of child rearing not as private issues but as collective responsibilities. As a result, they socialize the cost of child rearing across society with policies detailed alongside the photographs below. Through these policies, Sweden has enmeshed the goals of gender equality, the combination of work and family, and high employment levels.
I traveled to Sweden in 2013 as part of a five-year interview project that compares the daily lives of working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the U.S.—countries with very different work-family policies and cultural attitudes about parenting.
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