Norway's stroller mafia empowered by generous parental leave(Read article summary)
Parent power: Norway's generous parental leave creates a social space for the stroller mafia that clogs cafes and stops traffic. It's a perfect place to be as a new parent.
There is a mafia in Oslo.
Members of the clan are fearless and prefer to do their work in broad daylight. Theyâ€™re easy to spot, often travel in packs and can be aggressive when on the streets, yet no one dare respond to an â€śinadvertentâ€ť bump with anything but an apology. These mafia operatives donâ€™t use traditional weapons but are harshly trained through methods of sleep deprivation and are not to be crossed.
Theyâ€™re called theÂ barnevognmafia.
Translated literally: child wagon mafia. The â€śoperativesâ€ť Iâ€™m referring to are parents, mostly mothers enjoying their nearly year-long, fully paid maternity leave. I am a proud member of this clan.
BarnevognÂ is Norwegian for stroller and the ones here need a big name like that because they areÂ enormous. Hefty tires for the snow, big seats with bulky canopies to keep kids warm in sub-zero temperatures, and they morph into mini-beds for their sleeping cargo. Mothers walk with an assumed ownership of the footpaths in Oslo because itâ€™s the only way anyone will let you through with a hulking stroller that takes up half the sidewalk.
And yes, these super-colossal kid carriers work as weapons too â€“ one quick turn and weâ€™ll skin your shins with the front spoke of the stroller.
Our fashion of organized crime is to clog cafes with our baby bags and â€śchild wagons.â€ť Our kids whimper, whine and scream while we gab on with our fellow operatives because, like Sicilian mafiosiÂ desensitized to violence, we can tune out our crying children. Thereâ€™s always something wrong and we might as well talk a little louder and find out who is up to what.
We also part-take in another activity that makes onlookers, particularly of the male variety, uncomfortable. But hey, when a baby is hungry heâ€™s hungry so nursing while sipping a latte at United Bakeries is part of the deal. Itâ€™s a useful method of (comical) intimidation that comes in handy if someone rolls their eyes when they see a mother stroll into a public space with a noise-polluting baby.
TheÂ barnevognmafiaÂ isnâ€™t a real organization in Oslo but the existence of the term in the zeitgeist reflects the camaraderie that forms among parents. There is an inherent understanding of the trials of early parenthood: sleepless nights, tantrums, potty trainingâ€¦
The power parents have in Norway is what makes this place perfect for me at this time in my life. The amount of help the government provides young families has effectively set high social expectations for the community to do their part.
If a driver sees someone with a pram about to cross the street they come to a halting stop as if royalty is being carried through. Public transportation was built with oversized strollersÂ in mind and locals are always on standby to help, whether itâ€™s lifting it onto the tram or holding open a door. Iâ€™ve never been able to thank anyone because they run off before you even realize that youâ€™ve been helped.
You can take your kids anywhere here and not only are they welcomed, but restaurants and museums have thought about how best to adapt to what kids need. I think this star treatment of young families is well deserved. Parenthood, while rewarding, is challenging and if society can do anything to help, it should.
And if you donâ€™t agree: watch out. TheÂ barnevognmafiaÂ is everywhere and a clan member could unleash a screaming toddler during your romantic dinner just for the fun of it.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.Â Saleha Mohsin blogs atÂ Edge of the Arctic.