What to expect when expecting a Finn
May it be because of careful contemplating and planning, the magic of Juhannus, the help of modern medicine or even just one fun drunken night, a baby is being grown. Inside another human. The same way that is done on the other side of the globe, biologically we are not that different, we Finns.
But because we Finns are a few and far apart, we like getting new Finns, and we like to help people make new Finns. Yay Baby Finlanders!
First, since 1938, Finland has given out presents for expecting mothers. All expectant mothers, regardless of background or income, who visited a doctor before the fourth month of pregnancy will get a baby box, a Maternity Package, from the Finnish social security institution Kela. This baby box is a huge cardboard box, containing very many things useful for the new baby, such as clothes, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products, nappies, bedding and a small mattress, because the package itself transforms into a crib in which many newborns have their first naps. Among other things it also contains condoms so we don’t try to make too many Finns too soon! Don’t get all crazy with the baby making.
Picture of the 2018 Maternity Package, photo by Annika Söderblom / Kela
Second, we in Finland are aware that it takes money to raise a child, and to get money, you would usually work. But you can not take a teeny tiny newborn in to the office with you, or to the warehouse of a big national corporation to drive a forklift (they are too small to see anything from behind the wheel), or where ever your place of work might be. Also in Finland we believe that a child needs parental care for at least the first nine months of his or her life. And so the Finnish government will help the families financially during this time period.
In Finland, you can step out of the working life to focus on parenting, for three years, and after that you will still be able to return to your old job. For the first nine months or so, you will receive a maternity and parental allowance, which is usually about 70% of your salary, if you would be working instead. And after that, until the child turns 3 years old, you will be able to legally stay home with the child, and not lose your job. You won’t be paid salary, but you will receive a small amount of money each month, called child home care allowance (around 340 euros).
You will get maternity and parental allowance even if you for some reason have not been working before the baby was born. If you have studied or been ill or without a job. The amount the the allowance is usually calculated on the basis of earned income for the previous year, be it paid salary, study grant, or unemployment benefit or something else. The smallest allowance is about 600 euros per month.
So first there is the maternity leave, and then after about four months it turns into parental leave, which actually can be used by both parents of the new Finn, but not at the same time.
Also for the new daddies, there’s paternity leave to go with the maternity leave! Fathers can choose to stay at home with the family at the same time as the mother is at home for 1 to 18 days. And we’ve heard there’s even more, totaling up to about 9 weeks, if the rest of the leave is taken after the parental allowance has ended.
Paternity leave is not tied to the sex of the mothers spouse, even if it is called paternity leave. Finland supports the rights of LGBT families and the biological mother’s married spouse or cohabiting or registered partner can take parental and paternity leave.
But what if we adopt? Finnish government supports the adoptive parents in almost the same ways as biological parents. Adoptive parents can’t get maternity allowance, but they will get and extended period of parental allowance.
And lastly, for now, all children are entitled a monthly child benefit, to cover some costs of raising the little Finn. Starting from the next calendar month after they are born, the benefit lasts until the end of the calendar month in which the young Finn turns 17.
Cover photo by rawpixel.
The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.
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