We moved here 6 months ago. At first we knew nothing of this venerable city. It existed in our minds as a vague association with Vikings and the Nobel Prize. We came seeking a better balance of family and work life, itinerant technology pilgrims. Gradually we began to extend ourselves into our new world that is …the Old World.
Pushing past the initial paperwork and visits to government offices that fostered the rebirth of our national identities we found Stockholm ready to receive us. Waiting beyond was a system no less than miraculous that accommodated rather than subverted family needs. Work life was intentionally very separate from family life. Parents were given generous leave for each child followed by free dagis, daycare, up until the age of 6. Though the results of this Swedish run institution remain mixed in my mind it is a boon to be able to return to work without the loss of one’s job and or savings to pay for day care, and the time spent with each child is beyond precious.
To our surprise we found we were not only entitled to the Swedish parental leave because of our 4 year old daughter but we were also entitled to the monthly windfall of a barnbidrag, a government child allowance check. In total Swedish parents are given 480 days of leave per child, and 420 of these days are paid at a rate of 80% of your salary up to a capped limited of 910 SEK a day. In stark contrast parents in the USA receive between 14 and 90 days. Swedish parents divide the days between partners so each are spending their fair share of time with each child. I cannot suppress my inner glee of seeing so many Swedish fathers alone with their tiny children, pushing the strollers, mending playground injuries and socializing with other fathers. There was no doubt in my mind the Swedish system was far superior to the crippled system back home which depended on aging grandparents, immigrant nannies and emptying of bank accounts to pay for child care.
How perfectly right, how lagom everything is here. That word permeates Swedish thinking and culture and becomes one’s own modus operandi when one starts to understand that indeed “enough is as good as a feast”. Sweden exudes quiet confidence and daring. Beyond the pages of its medieval and classical roots it can author a wildly a stylish and inventive future based on keen understanding and implementation of “just enough”. Here is innovation coupled with the sustainable.