Intercultural motherhood in Finland: the paradox of the “baby box” and neuvola services.
For Mother's Day in Finland, I would like to share reflections and experiences about the maternity package and neuvola services in Finland. If you make a quick browse online, you will read that ” The maternity package (in Finnish: äitiyspakkaus,) known internationally as the Finnish "baby box," is a kit granted by the Finnish social security institution Kela, to all expectant or adoptive parents who live in Finland or are covered by the Finnish social security system. By neuvola services I refer in this blog to the prenatal care offered by public clinics of the Finnish healthcare system.
What is the paradox that I want to tell?
Expectant parents (yes, in plural or singular) are denied the maternity package and neuvola services when the mother, who is physically in Finland, is not covered by the Finnish social security system. The Executive Director of Familiary, Elina Helmanen, described this situation accurately in an opinion publication:
“The real problem with the maternity kit is not the name but the fact that only the mother can have it. If the mother is not covered by Finnish social security, the package is not issued and the father cannot apply for it. Not even if the father of the child is covered by social security or is Finnish. Even if the parents of the family live in Finland and the child is born as Finnish, the future parents are not entitled to it if the mother is not covered by Finnish social security.
The question of equality directs us also to fatherhood and other family typologies. Expectant fathers and tutors covered by Finnish social security, shall be equally able to apply for the maternity package and neuvola services, regardless of their gender.
The maternity box has become an international brand Finland takes pride in as a symbol of equality. Nevertheless, are all babies born in Finland welcomed on the same grounds? My situation was not unique. Read the stories of two mothers like me, who had a bumped start into the waters of intercultural motherhood in Finland.
I was living and working in Finland with an au pair residence permit, which is a contract that delivers me the obligation to work with a host family, receive a monthly pocket money worth of 280 euros subject to taxation, and study Finnish language.
When I got pregnant in the year 2020, Covid spread all over the world. I had no option but to stay in Finland, so it was natural for me to apply for neuvola services. Kela rejected my application many times. First, Kela claimed it was because of my au pair residence permit and that I did not have a permanent address registered in Finland.
I permanently moved to Finland in the autumn of 2020, almost 7 months pregnant. My husband is a Finnish citizen, born and bread in Espoo, and even before seriously considering having a child or living in Finland (we were based in the UK) I did know about the famous Finnish baby box.
It has been such a staple for me, representing something truly Finnish - with the new design every year and with the content really being tailored to the local conditions. Hello, super warm winter overalls! I always thought the idea of the box was an old school tradition worth keeping.
Luckily for us, there was a silver lining in the whole story. A good friend here in Finland made me my own personal mother's package, gathering unused and secondhand items from the original contents from her other friends who had received the package. It even included the condoms and baby nail scissors.
Blog writer and Editor: Martha Cecilia
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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