Parents in Scandinavia can rest easy tonight. Save the Children’s snappily-titled State of the World’s Mothers Report (I’m glad they didn’t come round here, cos this mother is a right state) listed Norway as the best place to be Mum. Niger, where most mothers lose a baby at some time in their lives and have a life expectancy of 56, is the worst.
The US is 25th on the list: one of the worst-performing developed countries. Observers might put it down to poor people not being able to get healthcare... oh wait, sorry, that word triggered an alarm that goes off when I touch on arguments I can’t be bothered to have because I don’t live there and probably never will so I’ll just stay out of it.
Moving on, I was of course scanning the Save the Children list for Switzerland, the rich and highly-developed country where I reside, which lurked below many of its European neighbours in 18th spot. Why so low? Let me see now...
Healthcare (let me stop that alarm, it’s terribly sensitive) in Switzerland is brilliant, amazing. My experience in hospital as a patient (two C-sections) and mother of a sick baby (intestinal stenosis) was entirely positive.
But you do pay for it. Apparently, the roughly one-third of the population who can’t afford it, get subsidized though. So big tick for healthcare - Mummy approves.
Nutrition. New Swiss Mums are encouraged to breastfeed. After that, it’s a free-for-all of sausages and pommes and gipfeli (croissants) and bread with sugar on top.
Whatever - the Swiss look healthy enough. Big tick.
Education. Good, good, good - no problems there.
Well, when I say it’s good... it’s good for the child - deeply unhelpful for the mother. And this is where Switzerland starts to bite mum on the bum - it's decades behind the rest of the continent, even, gasp, the UK (which came 10th).
Motherhood in Switzerland is fine, so long as mothering is all you want to do. Need to earn money? Want to maintain your career? Choose to do anything other than 100% parenting? Sorry, but you’re gonna pay - literally.
A day at a local crèche (taking an average of the four I checked out) is 110 francs per child per day. So for my two, $230 or £150 each day. If I were to work full-time, that’s $4,600 a month before I start - £3,000 each month out of my post-tax income. I’ve never earned that much in a month in my life. I literally can’t afford to go to work.
Will it be better once they go to school? My daughter starts kindergarten in August, when she’ll go every morning from 8.10-11.40. Not much chance of squeezing an office job in there. Even when ‘big school’ starts, she’ll come home every lunchtime from 11.40-13.45. I’ll just pop those two hours at home every lunchtime into the office agenda, shall I?
And fathers? No paternity leave. None at all. My husband got one day paid leave, but that was a gift from the company. Even Swiss women only got paid maternity leave in 2005. But as some of them got the vote for the first time in 1971, I don’t know why I’m even surprised.