Coming to grips with the vast parental leave package here in Sweden was a multi-phased process, with amazement and delight over the number of days on offer replaced by unease over the number of days on offer.
The initial phase was something like awe. It’s a whopping 480 days new parents are allotted to slice up between them mostly as they choose.
Though I knew benefits were served in generous portions in Sweden, I was still impressively surprised when I saw the exact figure.
But a suspicion phase came soon after. Ahead of studying up on the issue, I was aware that not all parental days are created equal. Some are compensated with income approaching work salary levels, while others are paid a sum nearer to nothing.
So just how many days were of the higher-income variety? More than four-fifths, or 390 days, it turns out. That looks high too, I decided.
A number-crunching period came next. How many weeks and months does it all work out to? How much income can you expect?
To hit the highest intake level – around 80 percent of salaries up to a certain cut-off point – you need to claim seven days of leave per week.
Unlike, say, vacation days at work, where five days gets you a whole week away at full pay.
But there’s no requirement to go for the highest income possible. If you’re OK with sacrificing some remuneration, you can use only five days per week, as at work, and extend your at-home period.
More number games. How long do you get if you use five top-pay days week? Answer: 1.5 years.
A grateful phase set in. Almost no matter how you figured, the result always looked gracious.
Additional details only strengthened a sense of fortune. The days are dissectible and have long expiration dates. You can split them into halves, quarters or eighths, and save them for years.
To top it off, you earn vacation days while on leave. Quite a model.
But it soon set in that big numbers can be daunting, and a mood of giddiness over the available time off gave way to anxiety over what lies ahead.
It’s not time off, after all, is it? Doesn’t parenthood wear me out almost as much as it thrills me? Splitting the leave pretty evenly, as we plan to do, means I’ll have a bunch of months of constant and often solo baby duty.
The final phase, where I currently hover as my tour of duty approaches, is uncertainty.
Can I really do this? What’s it going to be like? Am I going to make it through? Isn’t it an awful lot of parental leave days they give you here?