The highs and lows of parental leave

10 min

Last month, the European Parliament backed legislation to extend maternity leave, whilst a generation of Swedish mums and dads have already grown up with the nation's generous system.

Swedish residents are entitled to 480 days on parental leave. Most of these are based on past income, while 90 are on a basic level.

Swedish mum Lisa Kullman says "I love it. I absolutely love it." She says that previously she had feared she would be bored, but being at home with a baby has turned out to be much more fulfilling than she expected.

It was in 1974 that 'maternity leave' became 'parental leave', extending the system to fathers as well.

Niklas Löfgren, family analyst at the state insurance agency says that there were many reasons involved. "We needed to get women to work more, also there was a big debate about gender equality. Before this fathers were not allowed to use parental benefit at all."

Ingrid Engdahl is a lecturer in child and youth studies at Stockholm University. She says that EU politicians should learn from Sweden's experience. "Step by step, by giving more benefits to fathers, we have father who are really enjoying their parenthood."

An American father who's enjoying his parental leave is Nathen Hegedus. He writes a blog on his experiences and says it creates a real buzz. "most of my friends are crazy jealous: they want to be on parental leave, they want to take time off."