I had another one of those encounters recently, you know, the ones I’ve told you about before where a stranger makes pleasant small talk on the basis of your baby. But this came with something of a twist.
Cue kind old granddad type who approached my son and I at an outdoor cafe. After the obligatory ooooohs, aaaahs and smiles came the line: “let’s hope there’s a job for him when he grows up.”
It’s a sign of the times, I suppose, made nonetheless more prevalent right now, as I type this final blog post from from my homeland in England, where we are on vacation.
The news of the riots involving disillusioned youth around the country has dominated the news and even prompted one commentator on a late night current affairs programme to ask the question: “why doesn’t this happen in Sweden?”
For the short while I’ve been back, I’ve been quizzed and questioned by friends and family about life in Sweden with a child – on topics I’ve discussed throughout the course of this blog – and their response draws a common consensus.
They marvel at the generous parental leave system, are amazed at the benefits given to fathers. Further down the line they sigh in wonder at the heavily subsidized daycare services and praise the way parents can take leave to look after their sick children, not to mention the free higher education.
Put simply, people are generally astonished how Swedish society supports the family unit in its various guises.
In Sweden, this is nothing new. The importance of social welfare for families first came to the forefront in the 1930s thanks to Gunnar and Alva Myrdal. Both husband and wife partnership and political allies, they co-authored the book Crisis in the Population Question (Kris i befolkningsfrågan) in 1934. What was written to propose solutions to the country’s declining birthrate at the time became an influential foundation for the Swedish welfare model to come.
No, it’s not perfect and there are many things still to bemoan but I feel quite priviledged to be parenting in Sweden. As the forefather and mother of this pro child-parent society, Gunnar and Alva would be no doubt proud to know that Sweden tops the rankings in the latest Children’s Index, published by Save the Children, which rates developed countries on well-being in childhood. I won’t dwell too much on the UK performance in comparison.
Similarly, Sweden is consistently named within the top countries when it comes to the best places in the world to be a mother. In this year’s Mother’s Index, also published by Save the Children, the country comes in fourth place.
One hopes that amid the global turmoil of late, Sweden will be able to sustain its family policies in order that our children will become heirs to this model At least, it all bodes well for the woman that Sweden is expecting to expect sometime soon. The media is currently on royal bump watch, closely guarding the waistline of Crown Princess Victoria.
More of an issue will surely be how Her Royal Highness and husband Prince Daniel will share their parental leave. I’m four months into mine with a way to go yet - so thank you Sweden and thank you too for following this far.