A recent Careerbuilder.com survey reveals that 25 percent of working moms in America spend two hours or fewer with their children each work day, a figure that is up from 17 percent in the past year alone. Working moms are no strangers to the stress, guilt and exhaustion that comes with trying to "have it all," but what's the solution to a better work-life balance? Countries like Sweden seem to have found a better way: Redefine the role of working dads.
In 1974, Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave. Over time, the idea has expanded, resulting in a cultural shift as to what defines masculinity in Sweden. In America, dads lucky enough to have paternity leave at all generally have little time off from work, leaving Mom to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to raising a newborn baby. By contrast, Swedish working dads are expected to be just as involved in raising the new baby as working moms. In 1995, the country even implemented the loss of one month of subsidies for dads who did not take their leave.
According to the New York Times, a growing number of couples with university degrees in Sweden have chosen to split the paternal leave evenly. The objective is that neither parent spends an unequal amount of time child-rearing, or misses too much time at work, which can lead to missed career opportunities and stalled growth. Perhaps most interesting is that since shared parenting and leaves became a norm of the culture in 1995, divorce and separation rates in Sweden have dropped. By contrast, divorce rates in almost all other parts of the world, where shared parenting is not the norm, have risen since then. The data suggets that when one parent is not left to shoulder the burden of either work or child-rearing, both are more personally satisfied and fulfilled with the balanced arrangement.
Sweden's policies are a valuable lesson in co-parenting tactics (which are not reserved for separated or divorced parents) that can be implemented at home, provided that both spouses are willing to make some adjustments. Co-parenting experts suggest that parents ask themselves these questions:
Your answers to these simple questions can serve as a reminder of parents' shared visions for family and the importance of working toward those goals. If your current lifestyle doesn't contribute to making these long-term goals a reality, identify potential opportunities to "course-correct" and adjust the parts of your arrangement that aren't positively contributing to the big picture.
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