For most of my life I’ve known that there are 52 weeks in the year. It wasn’t until we moved to Norway though that I discovered that some people – Scandinavians anyway – refer to dates in the context of the week number they fall in. For example, Erin is starting swimming classes in week 44, and they will run every Tuesday until week 51. As every calendar and diary here shows the week number, it’s actually a very sensible system. Of course it is, they’re Scandinavians. In the Norwegian school calendar for this part of the country, two weeks stand out every year, irrespective of whether that year starts on a Monday, Wednesday, or any of the other ones. Week 8 is winterferie (winter holiday) and Week 40 is høstferie (autumn holiday). We are now in week 39. So next week is holiday-time. Yippee! Well you’d think.
A little item in today’s Aftenposten.com caught my eye. The headline ran: Autumn Holiday Creates Stress. Further examination of the piece revealed that according to Loveleen Brenna – yes LOVELEEN - the leader of FUG, which is some sort of committee of parents attached to primary schools, next week’s holiday is a great source of stress to parents (and their kids) because many of the parents cannot take holidays during this fixed period. She is calling for the system to be modernised so that the holidays are flexible, allowing parents to take their children out of school for any week of their choosing, when it might be less stressful.
Right, so despite the fact that week 40 is sacrosanct in the school calendar, Loveleen thinks that parents can conjure up holidays on other weeks, rather than the one week that all employers and their employees are aware of and can plan around. Not only that but she expects teachers to deal with the confusion of a flexible system while their pupils stagger their holidays, and presumably to surrender their own time off in the name of parental stress, as if the school doesn’t close on week 40, well they have to work. Right?
Ah but I see where this is going. Loveleen admits to not being convinced that children really need a mid-term break anyway, and presumably feels the same way about teachers. Now, I get that it is difficult to combine work and parenting; I think about my pathetic excuse for a career in this context every single day. I simply couldn’t work full-time and still give my children the attention I am certain that they need from me however much I might fantasise about being ‘somebody’ with professional peers to stroke my ego, and a salary to fund independence from my husband’s employer (as opposed to my husband).
Loveleen, I doubt you’re reading, but in case you some day Google yourself, might I suggest that in a world where there are many children without basic human rights, where families are coping with insurmountable problems, and where the climate is going haywire with deadly consequences, you find a genuine cause to fight for, a real societal problem that deserves attention.
The thing is, in Norway, you get a lot of this hand-wringing and whinging about how difficult life is for parents, and generally people want the government to fix their lifestyle gripes while they are too busy making money to take on the responsibility for their own lives themselves. Calling weeks by their number is a sensible idea; banning mid-term breaks, or introducing flexible school holidays, certainly isn’t. Get over it.