Like every boy raised on the fine 80s films of Skinemax, I grew up thinking Swedish girls (exchange students, preferably) were the ultimate dream.
Now it's the Swedish dads who bring out the longing in me.
Over at Slate, Nathan Hegedus, who married a Swedish woman, describes making breakfast for his wife, sending his 4-year-old to a state-sponsored pre-school then spending the day at the park with his toddler.
And he gets paid for doing it. It's a result of the nation's freakishly generous -- and freakishly unbiased -- parental leave.
"I am not unemployed, and I am not a stay-at-home dad. I've got a 'real' job; I just haven't gone to the office since last December. In total, I've spent 18 of the past 36 months on paternity leave here in Sweden, my adopted country, 'off' work to care for my two kids. And, yes, I still get paid."
(Hegedus goes deeper into fatherhood Swedish-style at his blog, Dispatches from Daddyland.)
Seems the Swedish state sets aside 60 days of required leave strictly for dads. And the 480 (480!) days of leave-per-child can be split between the parents, with bonuses if the dads take more of them.
Of course, with these kind of incentives, there are remarkable numbers of dads taking up a a huge share of the childcare, with legions of dad-powered strollers filling the streets in the middle of weekdays.
And the conversations groups of men get into are remarkably child-dominated:
"No sports. No politics. No cars. And no questions about your job. Think about that. When in America -- outside of maybe a sports bar during a really huge game -- will any group of men gather and never ask the question, 'So, what do you do.'"
And there is none of the bumbling our culture has come to expect.
"Swedish dads of my generation and younger," Hegedus says, "have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing."
I've got a friend who is in a relationship with a Swedish woman -- they're not married just living together -- but gets full residential and spousal privileges. It's a byproduct of the country's attempt to protect gay rights.
I'm starting to think maybe the horny 13-year-old me was right about digging on the Swedish ladies. It's got quite the payoff.
Of course someone is paying for all this, so it's not something that can just be done blindly. And it's unthinkable here in our age of austerity. But it's remarkable what a nation can afford when it puts its priorities with families.
What do you think of Sweden's maternity and paternity leave?
Image via dariuszka/Flickr