The last two decades have witnessed the restructuring and rescaling of the welfare regimes consolidated in the postwar era. More is involved, however, than rollbacks justified by neoliberal globalization and engineered via downloading to subnational scales. States are also being pushed to assume new responsibilities for social reproduction as a result of the ‘care crisis’ stemming from the death of the male breadwinner/female caregiver family form. This article focuses on the interaction between national welfare regimes and subnational sites — namely two important urban nodes in Canada (Toronto) and Sweden (Stockholm) where changing gender relations began to disrupt post‐war patterns of social reproduction earlier than in the rest of their respective countries. Both cities experimented with childcare programs that posed a challenge to their respective national policy regimes. In one case, local mobilization contributed to a significant policy shift at the national scale whereas the other experiment, having failed to induce change in the national regime, found its very viability increasingly imperilled.