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Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Sara Eldén

Associate Professor | Director of Research Studies | Senior Lecturer

Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Doing 'Good' and Gender Equal Family : Employing Nannies and Au Pairs in Sweden


  • Sara Eldén
  • Terese Anving

Summary, in English

Delegated, but still intensive: Quality time and parenting in upper-middle class families in Sweden

During the last decade, Swedish families have started to employ nannies and au pairs to an extent previously never experienced. Political initiatives such as tax deductions for household services, together with global trends of ‘care chains’, have created a private market for care services, which have made possible for families, who can afford it, to hire cheap female, and often migrant, care labour. This indicates a new trend in politics of care and family in Sweden; a move away from a social democratic welfare regime, stressing social equality and public provision of good care institutions for all, towards privatized and marketized care/family solutions available for some, that is, well-off upper-middle class families.

In our research project we have studied families hiring nannies and au pairs in Sweden. Our focus has been on family practices, and how the ‘doing of family’ is affected by the possibility of hiring nannies and au pairs. We have interviewed the three key actors involved in this practice – nannies/au pairs, parents and children – and we present all of their narratives in our up-coming book Nanny families (will be published Spring 2019).

In this presentation, we have chosen to focus on one of the aspects of our data, and that is how practices and discourses on parenting and parent care has changed with the hiring of nannies and au pairs. Given this, it is primarily the parent data that is in focus, and we will show you how, in the parent narratives, the presence of domestic care workers is narrated in relation to both ideas of delegation of care, but also, somewhat paradoxically, as a possibility of intensive presence in the lives of their children. Central to both these ideas is the overarching ideal of quality time: that one’s actions should maximize the possibilities of ‘happy and stress-free’ times for one’s children. This, in turn, relies on assumptions of care as an activity that can be divided up, into ‘menial’ and ‘spiritual’ parts. At the same time, the parent’s perspectives and ideals of ‘quality time’ and care can be questioned when looking at the narratives told to us by children being cared for by nannies and au pairs, wherein which ‘quality’ gets a slightly different meaning, not always detrimental to mundane, everyday activities.


  • Sociology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Conference name

Congress of the European Society on Family Relations

Conference date

2018-09-05 - 2018-09-08

Conference place

Porto, Portugal




  • Care for children in an era of private market services: A study of nannies, children and parents