Bands of milk splattered “latte dads” are menacing European cities, armed with slings, strollers and spare babygrows. Is the UK ready for the invasion…?
Latte dads push prams, carry babies in slings or hang out with toddlers. They meet up to chat about football, the weather, and the joys of truly equal parenting. They may be coming to a coffee shop near you – eventually.
As we discussed recently on DaddiLife, this isn’t something you often see in the UK. Take up of shared parental leave (SPL) over here is, at present, pitifully low. But in Sweden, it’s actually frowned upon if dads DON’T take parental leave.
Shared parental leave was introduced in Sweden in 1974, more than four decades before similar legislation came into force here. In the intervening years, the sight of groups of dads enjoying coffee while their babies sleep or their children play has become commonplace. Dads sometimes outnumber mums at parent and baby classes.
Dads sometimes outnumber mums at parent and baby classes
Forcing the issue
So will that become the norm in the UK, now that we have finally accepted the need for SPL?
Probably not for a while, if ever. The difference in Sweden is that the idea of gender equality in raising children is accepted, ingrained and properly funded. Swedish parents are:
- Legally entitled to share 480 days off work. For the first 390 days – well over a year – they are paid 80% of their salaries.
- Three months of those 480 days have to be taken by fathers. That’s right, dads are obliged to spend at least three months immersing themselves in new parenthood – and bonding with their babies at the same time.
- The Swedish government is currently pushing to to oblige dads to take 50% of a couple’s shared parental leave, and spend as much time with new babies as mums do.
The Swedish government is currently pushing to to oblige dads to take 50% of a couple’s shared parental leave
All this is in stark contrast to the situation here, where 50 weeks of leave – 37 paid – can be shared by parents.
A spokesman for the Swedish health ministry told America’s NBC News: “We are in firm belief that children have the right to spend time with both their parents, and we have to ensure that the system also covers that and pushes society toward that direction.”
Needless to say, there is a price to be paid for these armies of latte dads, and its paid in tax. Sweden has a top tax rate of 61%, one of the highest in the world, and you only have to be earning the equivalent of around £55,000 to hit it.
Nevertheless, parents seem to approve of the Swedish system, even if they weren’t brought up with it. One American dad living in the Scandinavian country told NBC: “I get a lot from my taxes. I see what they provide. And as soon as you start having kids, you see all these other benefits that you get out of your taxes that I know I would have to pay for out of my own pocket in the U.S. That’s a huge burden off my shoulders.”
At the moment only a small handful of dads in the UK are taking their full entitlement of SPL, so is the Swedish model one to follow? It would certainly lead to a sharp rise in the number of latte dads around, taking a full part in the parenting of their young children.
But the crucial question is, do we want to pay for it? Are higher taxes a price worth paying? That’s something for society as a whole to answer, and so far no major UK political party has dared advocate the Swedish model of SPL.
What do you think? Are latte dads the future over here too, or a crazy European idea we’re glad to be getting away from?