A number of European countries have adopted paid child care leaves and allowances in the name of parental choice and valuing care. We examine the origins and consequences of these policies in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Norway. Care leave policies have been politically attractive to center‐right governments seeking to fight unemployment, contain spending on child care, and appeal to parents struggling to balance work and family. Yet given the low benefits provided by these programs, choices for parents remain deeply constrained by gender and class. These policies also are likely to reinforce the traditional division of care work in the home. Temporary homemaking is being institutionalized as the norm for many women, who face potentially negative consequences for their earnings and long‐term employment trajectories.