Friday, July 18, 2008

Hanging with the Swedes

Liz, a friend of mine from elementary school who moved to Sweden a few years ago has been in town with her husband and new baby August. They are here in part for a few conferences her husband was attending and to spend time with her parents at their vacation home in Maine.

On Wednesday I took yet another day off work (starting to wonder why I can't just get work projects wrapped up to take medical leave) and picked her and August up in Cambridge while her husband finished up his last convention day.

Liz was dying to go to Babies R Us and I wasn't about to say no to that! First we drove back to my house to drop off their luggage and to let me do a couple of quick work items. Then it was lunch at Panera with a stop thereafter at Babies R Us. It is a lot of work running "errands" with a baby in tow! It takes so much time getting in and out of the car and August wasn't very happy about the heat (after all, it doesn't get that hot in Sweden). After about 30 mins in Babies R Us my back was killing me (shopping has been tough lately) so I hustled Liz out of the store back to my house.

After I got her settled I ran back into Boston (you really don't want to know how much gas I used on Wednesday) to meet with the nurse about my GD and then to pick Liz's husband Kalle up at the hotel. Meanwhile other friends were gathering for an impromptu barbecue, including a couple with their 2.5 year old daughter who are moving to Germany in a couple of weeks. As I mentioned yesterday I gave up the battle with the house and had fun hanging out and catching up with everyone.

Having a baby in Sweden sound very different that in America. For childbirth they don't do epidurals - they use laughing gas and "natural" births are highly recommended - including twin births. Invitro fertilization is paid for, but they will only transplant one embryo so as not to cause multiples pregnancies. The government hooks you up with other pregnant moms in your neighborhood for prenatal support and the same after birth for new mom support. She and her husband certainly have less "stuff" than we do - part of that is of course because they live in an apartment in Stockholm so there is less room. Baby August loved our playmat. And we gave him a bath in our tub.

Liz and Kalle get a total about 18 months leave time - she is taking the first 9 months and Kalle the second 9 months. They don't receive their full salary but are paid by the government. I'm sure you can imagine the large amount of taxes they pay. But unlike the US where the only tax money I see in use for my benefits is roads, she and Kalle receive quite a few benefits - even pre-kids (I can see how this system encourages children). Interesting that the US birthrate (per person) is still higher than in Sweden.

Liz says that since "everyone" has kids/babies in Sweden people tend to ignore you and not offer up help (like when she dumped a bag of groceries under her baby carriage). In the US she is stopped all the time while people remark how beautiful August is.

If I have any other international readers who want to weigh in on how babies are perceived and moms are treated in other countries please do!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will just throw in my experience of traveling with a little one in Costa Rica- Josh was 19 mos at the time. I chose Costa Rica for my master's independent study because I heard it is a very "family friendly" country. Turns out that's an absolute understatement!

Costa Ricans (Ticos) love children. Adore them! And when the child in question has blond curly hair as Josh does, it attracts a lot of attention. It didn't matter where we were, people made a big fuss over how cute he was. They were always ready with a smile and an offer of cookies or chocolates. Even at restaurants, they offered to make smaller plates of food or special non-menu items for him. (There is no "kids' menu" except in American style chain restaurants.) They chuckled at his tantrums and fawned over his rudimentary Spanish vocabulary. One woman literally stopped her car in the middle of the street while I was pushing the stroller to tell me what an "angelito" I had. I was one proud mama bear.

Anyway, as a result of our overwhelmingly positive experience, I am compelled to recommend Costa Rica as a destination for anyone with kids. The Ticos were so friendly and really went out of their way to make us feel welcome.