grandparents picking toddlers up early from daycare in sweden

I work part-time, and I work through lunch, all so I can cut my kids’ day at preschool short. I would not say I’m killing myself to do it, as I really like the work-kid balance to my day, but, still, we are making sacrifices.

So, feeling a bit self-satisfied, I show up at my son’s daycare … and find that he is one of only three or four kids left at 3:30 in the afternoon.

I casually ask the teachers about it. And they are surprised too by the answer.

Grandparents. Apparently, waves of grandparents show up to pick up kids in this group. And this makes me sigh. Because now that my paternity leave is over, the welfare state is not completely covering up for our lack of family network anymore.

We don’t have grandparents or any other relatives close by. Sweden is a smaller community, with less mobility than the US, so it is more likely that grandparents live in the neighborhood, and I’m really happy they do, because it means a more vibrant kid community.

I was talking to someone about this in the US, and she said she had a sense it was changing there, becoming more Swedish, that grandparents there are more and more involved, as the pressures of modern life almost force them into a child care role.

Maybe it is changing here too, because I never saw anything like this with my older child, just two years ago. I could pick her up at 4 or even 4:30 and still walk into a huge crowd of little toddlers waiting for their parents.

So even in the warm embrace of the welfare state, we daydream of living around the corner from my sister and my parents, with a friendlier safety net, one without all these bureaucratic forms and with good company at a Sunday afternoon barbecue.

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