Glad to be born in 2013
Today we got a letter informing us that Sterling is officially part of Turku’s Early Childhood Education and Care trial for 5-year-olds (children born during 2013). This means that Turku will pay for 20 hours of päiväkoti per week this academic year! The city-wide trial is meant to encourage people to send their 5-year-olds to päiväkoti and help prepare them for school (which doesn’t start in Finland until age 7). I believe something similar was done a few years ago for the 6-year-olds, for the same reason, and 6-year-olds can now effectively attend preschool for free.
In practice, for us, this gift of 20 hours of care per week for Sterling will not make a difference in our actions since we already send him to päiväkoti. But it will certainly make a difference to our pocketbooks! From what I understand, there was discussion of only including those children in the trial who did not already attend päiväkoti…but then in true Finnish fashion, they decided that wasn’t fair and decided to include all of the 2013 children instead. So instead of paying 290 euros per month, we will now be paying roughly half of that!
That’s how much päiväkoti costs, by the way: 290 euros per month, for care during work hours, including breakfast, lunch, and a snack. It depends on your income, though – when we first moved here and Jeremy didn’t have a job, we paid much, much less than that.
Even though I’m excited that Turku will be paying half of our childcare bill this academic year, the truth is that päiväkoti is worth every penny of its full price. I have felt so supported as a working parent here, and I have acquired the opposite of mom guilt when it comes to daycare. Sterling is taught and loved and fed and Finnishicized at päiväkoti, and he gets to play outside in all weather for hours every day there. I am happy to drop him off there each morning and he is happy to go!
And the best part is that Finland will support other parenting choices, too. There are of course generous parental leave policies up to at least nine months, and other options up to three years. For example, if you stay at home to take care of a child under three years of age, you can get paid to do so. Then if you do decide to send your kid to päiväkoti, it doesn't have to be at a traditional daycare - it could also be in a small group with a neighborhood mom or dad. For us, päiväkoti works best - and this year, it's a little bit cheaper!