Saturday, June 28, 2008

Childcare in Sweden

I have a habit of reading magazines cover to cover. Which is fine. Except it usually leads to a bit of a backlog. Especially with magazines that come every week. Like BusinessWeek. Or Newsweek.

So the other day I was reading through an old Newsweek from a couple of months ago (I told you there was a backlog). I stumbled upon a really short little blurb about an uproar in New York over a mom who let her elementary school-aged child ride public transportation alone. This brought up questions about parental responsibility and all of that good stuff. And all I could think about was the way child care in Sweden is looked upon.

There are little kids everywhere on public transportation. Riding the trains, the subways, the buses. And I don’t blink an eye. Aside from the random really young kid it doesn’t seem that strange to me. If anything I appreciate it. Shows a little faith in the community. Shows a little faith in the kid. Shows a little faith in public transportation (which might be ill placed considering my experience with SL).

But in the US it seems that if the kid isn’t with the parent at all times it is paramount to neglect. Which is ridiculous. In Sweden it seems that people are a bit more trusting when it comes to kids. Which makes sense. Because when it comes down to it, the chances of your kid being abused, assaulted, kidnapped, or anything else just really aren’t that good. Sure it would be hell if it happened, but just looking at the numbers… it probably won’t happen. And plus, it must be exhausting to live that way. Constantly worried. Constantly in fear of what the worst case scenario might be.

Hell, in Stockholm during the summer months you can walk by restaurants and see strollers outside of the restaurant with little kids in them just sleeping away. And no one is stealing these kids away. It’s a very different attitude. And one which I think the Swedes have going for them. In fact, it seems like Scandinavia is big on this thing.

I seem to remember quite a while ago a woman was arrested for child abuse for leaving her baby outside a restaurant in New York. The woman was Danish. Now granted, when you’re in a different country you should probably pay some attention to the local customs. When in Rome and all that good stuff. But regardless, I think it demonstrates just how different the attitudes to what constitutes good childcare can be.

I’m all for leaving the kids outside. Or letting them ride the train on their own. It builds character. Plus, if the kid is a little shit you can get some peace and quiet. The Swedes figured that out.


  1. Sweden is a small country, especially compared to North America. So it's easier to manage a simpler lifestyle, as a whole. It's the same way in our islands. I like it, too.

  2. mm, there is alot of people who live in "villor" who doesnt even lock their doors aswell, that's another example of the attitude.

  3. @isle dance - agreed. I think the size does play a big roll.

    @braus - it's true. but that happens in a lot of places. even in the US, despite Michaels Moore's assertations in Bowling for Columbine. In college I never locked the door really. Well, until some creep decided to stare in through our winows while smoking cigarettes.

  4. i wonder what the connection is between the social acceptance and the fact that Sweden (and other Nordic Countries) have always had pro-family and work policies. Sweden has what, an 18 mo family leave policy for new borns/adoptions? They have financial support for families to actually have their child in QUALITY care settings...they seem to view the child differently from the get go. They value them as they seem to meet their needs.
    the U.S. spends approximately .5% of GDP on child care/education where Sweden spends closer to 1.5% (don't exactly quote me on the numbers)... you get what you pay for. Swedes do pay, but their kids seem to do better in the long run. What's the drop out rate in Sweden? How many kids are kept back a grade for "failure"? Interesting topic in deed....

  5. I agree with your point here. However, I think that a lot of this has to do with Sweden generally being a lot more safe than USA (by which I mean, that there is less crime etc.) and not only with the attitude being more relaxed in Scandinavia. If there's less crime it's easier to be more relaxed and not worry about your kid all the time. With that being said, I think that being arrested for leaving your baby outside a restaurant is just ridiculous, even in an country with a higer crime rate (just assuming so don't kill me if it isn't true) than many other countries. I mean, even if the crime rate in USA is higher than in, for example, Sweden it doesn't mean your kid will get killed every time you leave them alone outside of a restaurant a couple of minutes. Hopefully, both the American crime rate and the American parents' worrying will go down.

  6. ...interesting, but I wonder how much of it is due to crime numbers or the culture? Sweden, since were on the Swedish American website, is has far more homogeneity and social solidarity...maybe hence the lower crime and relaxed lifestyle...but that probably does lead to feeling that your neighbor or complete stranger will not harm you or your unattended child. In the US...I watched a video where an elderly man crossing the street got hit (and run) by a car and NO ONE on the street went to his aid. If my child is outside the store...who is going to help me or them? US culture is getting a little scary because it seems that there is a hunker down and protect me, me, me and we aren't too into helping our neighbor. Being a social worker, I see too much to leave my child alone in the would be nice to feel safer.

  7. Hmm, scary... I heard something similar to that happened in Stcokholm some years ago (in the 80s, or something...). There was a drunk (homeless alcoholic I think) who was lying unconcious on the ground in a park for hours and nobody came to his aid either. So he died of suffication or something, I think. It's very tragic and makes you pissed off and scared at the same time. I think something like that could happen in pretty much any country but I don't think it's very usual.

  8. a good discussion here that I totally neglected. sorry about that. I think good points were raised. the us does have an attitude of fear which really adds to this sort of thing where leaving a kid outside for a second is a crime.

    the thing with people walking by, unfortunately I believe that happens everywhere. and it has most definitely happened here more than a few times.

  9. regarding the article about the woman in New York leaving her baby outside, I heard that it was the custom in the couples culture to leave the baby outside of restaurants on sunny days so they can soak up the sun rays which activate? the vitamin D in their bodies. I heard it was practiced because during some months the sun didn't appear often enough. Have I heard correctly?

  10. @anonymous - not just the custom during summer months, you'll find strollers outside in the middle of the winter. people say it is for the vitamin d, that children sleep better in colder weather, that they didnt want to wake the child, all kinds of reasons are given.

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