Three years ago, my wife and I fled what we had hoped would be the idealistic suburban life. The idyll, however, was far from what we had hoped for. How did we fall into the trap?
Four months after getting married, we fell in love with a town outside of New York City. My wife wanted to fix up an old house, and real estate was cheap. The commute into the city was 20 minutes, and we romanticized the train ride. Mostly, however, we convinced ourselves that this little town was just the perfect amount of urban, gentrified and European, all after sitting in a square by a fountain downtown on a particularly sunny day.
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In actuality, it was a rusty river town at the end of the train line at the edge of a forest. The drafty Victorian we purchased came with lead paint, dead rats in the ceiling and a bat infestation. And, because my Swedish wife had not had the time to find a job in the U.S., and did not have a driver's license, she fell somewhat reluctantly into the role of stay-at-home mom.
More than our real estate issues, it was the traditional husband-wife dynamic that almost destroyed us. My wife felt isolated and out of control (a feeling only heightened by her immigrant status), and I felt shoved into a box of my own, one filled with work deadlines, limited time with my daughter and the pressure of making the only paycheck. How to Deal with No Longer Being the Breadwinner
We fled. To Sweden.
In Sweden, instead of a limited maternity leave, you get 480 days of parental leave for each child, which can be used until the kid is 7. The key word here is "parental." Essentially, each parent gets 60 days for themselves. They can then split the rest of the 480 days however they want. In contrast, the United States is one of four (soon to be three) countries with no paid parental leave, along with Swaziland and Papua New Guineau. If you work for a big company, federal law guarantees you only 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Tips for Being the Best Dad You Can Be
Now, I'm on nine months of paid parental leave with our 15-month-old son. My wife—who already took her parental leave—has recently started grad school, and is also maintaining a job. She has the right to take a study leave as well, if she wishes. And in stark contrast to our previous life, we now live with our two kids in a 500-square-foot apartment, just outside central Stockholm. Instead of a car, we own two big, road-hogging strollers.
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I wouldn't call our arrangement a role reversal, exactly. I'm not Mr. Mom, and I didn't have to quit my job. Rather, we're co-parenting. My wife does the cooking, but she also does the fishing and the fixing. I love sports, and I carry the heavy things and open the tough glass jars, but I also prefer feeding the baby and playing with dolls to the fishing and the fixing. Equally Shared Parenting
Come join us as we figure it out.