Hafnarfjörður to Pay Childcare Stipends to Parents, Increase Wages for Childminders

A woman walking two young children through the snow

Parents of children a year and older in the town of Hafnarfjörður may now apply to receive a monthly childcare stipend from the local government, mbl.is reports. These payments are equal to those made to professional childminders, or “day parents,” and are intended to allow parents stay at home with their children longer, therefore bridging the gap between when their parental leave ends, and preschool begins. The town has also approved higher hourly rates for day parents, as well as the establishment of a special fund that will provide grants for day parents who have been municipally employed for at least a year. The Hafnarfjörður town council approved the measures, effective retroactive to January 1, at its recent meeting.

In Focus: The Preschool System

Day parents are self-employed professionals who are licensed by, and receive work permits from, municipal authorities. These individuals care for children who are either too young to enter preschool, children who are still on the waitlist for a place in the overcrowded pre-k system, and/or children who simply need a smaller, more personalized environment. Licensed day parents generally look after small groups of young children in at-home settings.

In its announcement about the new measures, the Hafnarfjörður town council said it believes that new parents need a wider variety of practical solutions for childcare and is looking into such options as extending parental leave and creating more choice within the pre-k and day parent systems. The town, which has a population of just over 29,700 people, currently has just 26 licensed day parents.

Day parents ‘an important pillar of childcare system’

Hafnarfjörður appreciates that “day parents are an important pillar of the daycare system,” and the town hopes to recruit more qualified individuals to the profession. Day parents who have worked for Hafnarfjörður for a minimum of 12 months can now apply for a grant of ISK 300,000 [$2,105; €1,944]. Hourly wages for day parents will also increase from ISK 8,433 [$59; €55] to ISK 12,800 [$90; €83] an hour.

The council also seeks to better support low-income families and families with multiple young children. Low-income parents can apply for additional subsidies, for one, and ‘sibling discounts’ are available for siblings who go to the same day parent, preschool, or after-school program. The second child receives a 75% discount on fees and the third 100%.

‘Mom Training’ Workout Groups in High Demand

A new exercise regimen and community is in high demand among new mothers in Reykjavík. Vísir reports that there has been a spike in the popularity of so-called mömmuþjálfun, or ‘Mom Training’ classes, in which new moms work out with each other and bring their kids along, too. Mom Training sessions focus on areas of the body that were directly impacted by childbirth and give new mothers a rejuvenating activity outside the house during their maternity leave.

Mom Training is the most popular offering at Afrek Functional Fitness, with three classes already sold out and a standing waitlist.

Screenshot, Stöð 2

“We just started with one class in January, but since then, in order to meet demand, we added classes in February and again in March,” said Hildur Karen Jóhannsdóttir, a trainer at Afrek who is also herself a new mother.

“It’s insanely fun,” said Andrea Björk Harðardóttir, a mom who takes part in the classes. “The exercises are varied and there’s something for everyone. Her fellow classmate Jónína Einarsdóttir agreed: “It’s necessary and so much fun. You get so much out of it.”

Screenshot, Stöð 2

Moms are able to ride exercise bikes, do step exercises, lift weights and more—and all while their babies watch from nearby carriers or loll about on the mats around them. A small playpen is also set up in one corner of the gym.

‘One of my goals is that they walk out sweaty’

Hildur Karen credits a recent boom in births with the course’s popularity, but not entirely. “I think women are looking for something more. One of my goals is that when they come in here, they walk out sweaty and having had a bit of an outlet.”

The participants enjoy opportunity to get out of the house during their maternity leave and to “get back into the shape you were in,” says Andrea Björk.

The fact that new moms can bring their children with them while they exercise is also key.

“I couldn’t come work out if I couldn’t bring her with me,” said Jónína, bouncing her new baby. “And she thinks it’s fun, too.”