It’s all part of Sweden's parental leave plan

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated April 05, 2018
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Credit: Photo by JGI/Tom Grill via Getty Images

On any weekday afternoon, Swedish cafes are packed with young men and their children. Known as “latte dads,” these men are real examples of the success of Sweden's parental leave plan. Latte dads or “latte papas,” as they's also been called, are actively engaging in Sweden’s paternity leave program, which requires that fathers take at least three months of leave after the birth of a new child.

A recent NBC News story characterized latte dads as “typically youngish, bearded men carrying their babies in slings or hanging out with their toddlers.” Latte dads with hipster sensibilities may be generating excitement today, but Swedish paternity leave is far from new. The Swedish policy, which requires that parents split 480 days of leave (they can receive 80 percent of their income for 390 days, and about $20 a day for the remaining days), was enacted in the 1970s, and it’s only improving. Currently, groups are working to make the law represent more equal leave requirements for both parents, especially when it comes to same-sex and other LGBTQ parents.

On the other hand, the United States abides by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which is one of the most minimal parental leave plans offered in industrialized countries. It requires that mothers (and only mothers) of newborns or newly adopted children be offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. Many companies tend to have their own plans, some of which are more beneficial to new parents, but most are worse—especially for dads.

While stay-at-home dads are becoming more common every day in Sweden, young fathers hanging out with their kids in the middle of the day apparently causes quite the commotion in cafes. Fatherly called them “Scandinavian DILFs” in a story published last June. I’ll be honest: If I walked into a cafe that was hopping with cute dads and their babies, I might start to melt a little. But there’s definitely a double standard at play: stay-at-home moms are often the butt of jokes, while latte dads get attention and praise.

Hopefully, other countries someday see the benefits of a parental leave plan comparable to Sweden’s, and soon it will be completely normal for any baby-holding parent (regardless of gender) to sip a latte in the middle of the day.