I can’t promise that I’m back for good. I can’t promise that this post will be coherent. But I’m back today and I’m making a post.
I’m sure I’ve noted before that I loathe being pregnant, and in addition to being in constant pain and not being able to think straight, my laptop also died. One thing that pisses me off even more about this is that I’m an intelligent, technical person, with all the training and knowledge required to fully recover from a dead laptop experience, but I just can’t hold a thought process long enough to accomplish that right now. So I know there is absolutely a way for me to access my typical ways of writing and posting to my blog, but I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, right from the website today, because I just can’t think about it. Grrr. I’m probably supposed to be happy that I’m “almost there,” but all I can think is that I still have three effing months left of this hell, and I don’t know if I can make it.
If any of you are my friends on Facebook, this is why I’ve been playing FarmVille. I can think about it. I know, it’s not exactly the most productive way to spend my time, but my brain can handle it right now.
Anyway, despite having issues with thinking, the thing that is getting me back on the blog today, is…
Yeah, I know. I have to think for this. But here we go anyway.
To keep this simple enough for me to work with, I’m going to concentrate on one little part of the article we’re all discussing this week.
One hates to invoke Scandinavia in stories about child-rearing, but it can’t be an accident that the one superbly designed study that said, unambiguously, that having kids makes you happier was done with Danish subjects. The researcher, Hans-Peter Kohler, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says he originally studied this question because he was intrigued by the declining fertility rates in Europe. One of the things he noticed is that countries with stronger welfare systems produce more children—and happier parents.
There is no argument against the plain fact that Denmark has a stronger welfare system than the United States. It just does. Absolutely. I will happily admit that there are aspects of this that make me happier. I’m totally thrilled that my daughters will have the option of going to university in Denmark without me paying any tuition for them, and in fact, they will get a stipend to live off of while they’re studying. I think that’s awesome, and how it should be. I love that I’m not already stressing, before Dagmar is even two years old, about how we can possible afford to get her an education that I don’t even know if she’ll be interested in taking. We can think about these things when it’s appropriate to think about them.
There are also aspects that, on a personal level, are actually a bit inconvenient. It’s not just possible or easy to be a working mom; it’s expected to be a working mom. Danes really can’t seem to grasp the concept of actually wanting to stay home once maternity leave is up. “But what do you do all day?” Honestly, if there were nothing to do all day, you wouldn’t have to take your kid to a daycare, right? I mean, I assume you realize the people at the daycare have things to do all day. Whatever. I’ve not had a child in the United States, but at least from reading online, it would seem that there is more of a network for SAHMs. At least, the chances are decent you aren’t the only SAHM you know. Here, once the kid is a year old, all the moms go back to work, and suddenly there are no playgroups to go to anymore, and everyone is asking why you haven’t enrolled your kid in daycare yet.
But anyway, the point I really want to make is that this article focuses on the welfare system as being the key to why Danish parents are happier. And then it says this (emphasis mine):
More generous government policies, a sounder economy, a less pressured culture that values good rather than perfect kids—all of these would certainly make parents happier.
This is the only mention of what I think the key really is. Maybe they’re related. Maybe the culture is this way because of the welfare system. I don’t know. But I do know that the article talked about maternity leave and daycare and subsidies and not about this. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Danes are way, way, way more laid back than Americans. This is something that hardly ever gets communicated in articles that talk about Denmark or Scandinavia, and I think it’s missing a huge point. I see it all the time when people talk about how Scandinavia is full of atheists. I can’t speak for Sweden or Norway, but Denmark is full of people who don’t think about religion very much at all. I don’t have a big problem calling them atheists, but if you’re picturing a bunch of Richard Dawkins-types, you’re way off the mark. One thing Danes tend not to do is worry about other people. They don’t think about religion, because they aren’t religious, and that’s all that matters. Similarly, they aren’t stressing about parenting because there is no cultural competitiveness about it. Oh, your kid sleeps 15 hours a night? Cool. The end. There’s no, “oh crap, mine only sleeps 8” involved. What you do is what you do and what I do is what I do.
I don’t see an obvious connection between that attitude and the welfare system. I see it as an extension of janteloven. Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of janteloven, but it does seem to be a successful antidote to the overly competitive nature so rampant amongst Americans. When I say how long my kid sleeps to a Dane, it isn’t taken as a comment on them. It’s just a statement about my reality. And that’s the way it should be. Dagmar started walking at 10 months. When I say that, I’m not saying she’s better than another kid who didn’t walk until 2. It’s just what happened. I think being able to hear and process that the way it’s intended goes a long way to making parenting less stressful for everyone. I don’t have to stress about how you’ll take the news of my kid’s milestone, and you don’t have to stress over your kid’s age at reaching the same milestone.
I had other thoughts while reading the article, but I’m not sure I can communicate them all, so I’m just going to end there, having talked about the Denmark part, as The One Who Lives in Denmark. I’ll also add that there has never been a single moment of parenting that I have hated nearly so much as being pregnant. 😛