Swedish parents most stressed in Europe

"It's like a puzzle."
2:21 min

Juggling work and family life can be tricky and a new, EU-funded study shows that Swedish parents find it harder than other European parents to achieve a good work-life balance.

Swedish parents are apparently the most stressed out in Europe - despite having access to generous parental leave schemes. And for single mums and dads life can be particularly hectic.

"It's like a puzzle. You have to work and then come home and cook. Then the boy has his activities and his friends. You always want to be a step ahead…," says Hanns Boris. He has an eight-year-old son and has been a single parent for five years.

Hanns often feels stressed - and he's not alone. A study conducted in eight European countries for a period of 10 years shows that Swedish parents find it harder than any other to balance work and childcare. And this despite Sweden having a relatively generous parental leave scheme and wide access to daycare.

One of the reasons why Swedish parents feel so stressed, the study suggest, is that they face higher expectations. Parents here say they are expected to have a successful career and to perform well at work while also maintaining a well-kept home, doing chores and spending time helping their children with their homework.

For single parents, this can be particularly challenging and an understanding employer can make all the difference, says Sophia Lövgren. She's president of the organisation Makalösa föräldrar which supports single parents in Sweden.

But few parents get the support they need from work, Lövgren tells Radio Sweden, recalling one particularly negative incident.

"The employer said if you take out parental leave now that we are this busy you can forget about getting that new, better position," Lövgren tells Radio Sweden.

She and her colleagues want employers to encourage parents, and especially fathers, to take greater responsibility for their children. She is also lobbying for a change to Sweden's parental leave system so that mothers and fathers can split the allowance.

"That would mean that regardless of whether you've separated or not you take responsibility for your child and we know that has to start from when the child is small. In that way, the amount of responsibility you take grows naturally as the child gets older," says Lövgren.

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