Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Barn" and Strollers




In preparation for my experience here, one of my cultural guidebooks stated plainly that in Sweden "children are sacred." Believing that children are sacred everywhere, I was unsure what to make of this declaration. I soon discovered what this meant.

Whether you're in Linköping, Stockholm, Uppsala, Tranås or any other place in Sweden, children ("barn" in Swedish) are more present and involved publicly than in the States. There are two reasons for this and they are inter-related. First, as a society, Sweden is prepared for the presence of children in more places. Almost all public places are accessible to strollers and welcome the excitement that children bring. Second, and this will make all American mothers wince with "what ifs," the new Swedish mother receives 18 paid months off to care for her newborn and infant child (compared to just four months in the States). This eliminates the need for newborn day care and brings me to the other part of this week's observation of Swedish culture...

...strollers. The phenomenon of strollers in Sweden cannot be understated. To a Swede, "strollers" will seem like a mundane and matter-of-fact topic for a blog entry, but that's just the point. Public places filled with strollers during every season of the year is like air, food, water and "fika" to a Swede. It's always been and always will be, so normal it goes unnoticed. Someone in Södermalm (south Stockholm) even created an icon to this phenonmenon as seen above. When I saw this statue of mother and stroller, I knew a blog entry was not far off. And these strollers come in all shapes and sizes, often including luxuries that cause strollers to be locked up when not in use. When you come to Sweden and walk around her beautiful cities, make sure to look both ways when you cross the street. If not, you may very well be run over by a bike or a stroller (cars are the least of your worries!).

Because the Swedish mother is off for 18 months, mother and child are together all day long, in private, in public and everywhere. The 18 months law gives mothers freedom from work, which leads to children-in-strollers-with-mothers everywhere you go, which only reinforces the "children are sacred" Swedish cultural truism. Not a bad way to run a society, quite frankly. I just can't figure out how the birthrate in Sweden remains similar to other developed countries--from walking around this place, it seems the population would be skyrocketing every year.

This Wednesday, Sweden pauses to honor Santa Lucia, Patron Saint of Light. With the daylight being just six hours this time of year (sun rises at 8:30am and sets at around 3pm), Lucia precedes Santa Claus. So next week, we will enter the world of Julbords, Julmarknads, Glögg, Pepparkakor and say "God Jul till alla."

12 comments:

Linnea said...

You should really go to Domkrykan on Wednesday morning. There's a Luciatåg there every year, with children from Folkungaskolan, my school (:

Anonymous said...

Hallå,
Jag vill bara säga att jag tycker att dina betraktelser är riktigt underhållande! Hoppas du tycker att din tid i Sverige är så givande som det låter. :)

I hope you understand that..? :)

Stephanie V. said...

Do they give parents the option of letting the dad stay home with the newborn for 18 months?

Caroline said...

Stephanie: yes, but that much is rare. (The time can be split almost however you want). Most dads still don't stay home at all, although there have been multiple campaigns to encourage it.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact the loss of income is greater if the dad stays at home, as men often still make more money. :(

Oh, and the comment about cars being the least worry made me laugh out loud. So true! (And if you go to Gothenburg, trams are almost as bad as the cyclists. ;)

Malin said...

It's 16 months right for staying home with nwewborn.

Stephanie: 16 months is for det mother and the father together.
One of them can't take it all, they have to split. I think it's 2 month the father have, and he can't give it to the mother. And the same for the mother.

http://www.fk.se/sprak/eng/foralder/

Anonymous said...

LOL what a cute blog entry! :)

/Anna from Åtvidaberg

Anonymous said...

Hmmm ... like a site you would see at Disneyland! And Disneyland is the world of imagniation, what a wonderful place to be. I would have loved to be home with my kids for 18 months, not like the 3 months of unpaid leave I was able to take, and then asked to come back early!

Todd said...

Picture this...you, a Swedish parent, sees a strange, tall foreigner with a camera taking pictures of your family, your stroller(s) and a statue of a mother and child.

Yup, sure is creepy.

Get back to the cafe, Sean.

Andreas said...

Hehe, your brother seems to share my sense of humor. Was laughing out loud when reading his comment about Sean as the creepy photographer...

Anonymous said...

Hi Sean! You have a most enjoyable blog which generates the most enjoyable comments! I've never actually thought of strollers as a phenomenon... =D

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures...

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