So, why are Icelanders so enthusiastic about having babies? Well, primarily, in a country with such a high standard of living, the state ensures that individuals who choose to have children are well provided for and protected. The state certified leave between a couple with a newborn baby totals 9 months – higher than any other neighbouring country. In Iceland, the mother gets 3 months, the father another 3 months and the couple can decide how they wish to share the remaining 3 months.
The Lioness´ Share
Sociologists believe this leads to increased equality between the sexes, regarding the nurture of their offspring. Both parents and children tend to view the housework and child rearing as not just assigned to one gender (namely the female) but to both. Though the lioness’ share is still done by the woman, shared responsibility for who burps the baby, who wakes up to feed the toddler in the morning, who drops the kids off at school, etc. Might tend to be more equal in a country like Iceland, than other European nations.
Another factor likely to boost (if not directly contribute) is the enormous number of facilities available to the parent. Almost every restaurant featured in this newspaper claims to have a baby seat. Many have diaper changing facilities. And few even distribute little (non-toxic) crayons and colouring sheets with pictures of dragons and rabbits to keep the kids entertained while parents have a meal. This isn’t the case even in a teeming metropolis like London, where my husband and I lived for a number of years.
Crying in peace
Carolina Pagli, who is from Italy and has been living here since the last three years, had her son in Reykjavik only 8 months ago. She says, “I like not having to worry whether I can take my son out somewhere in the city. No one here looks at me strangely if he screams or cries… no one feels insulted or disturbed by him.”
“I didn’t have to ever tell my kids, ‘Be careful with strangers… Don’t take food from anyone or go with anyone you don’t know…’ because I knew it wouldn’t happen…” says Chandrika, a mother of two living in Reykjavik.
Crime in Iceland is low – its one of the lowest in the world. This creates a perfectly safe haven to breed kids. If you see numerous young boys and girls cycling along the many busy city streets or wandering through the tiny woods along the salmon river running though Reykjavík, it’s because their parents know that they are safe.