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What parents in Norway need to know before going on parental leave

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
What parents in Norway need to know before going on parental leave
Parents have shared their thoughts on what took them by surprise when going on parental leave in Norway. Pictured is a baby in a pram. Photo by photo nic on Unsplash "

Starting a family in Norway will give you some of the best early years benefits in the world, but even the most prepared new parents are surprised by a few things they discover during their parental leave in the country.


The generous maternity/paternity leave 

About to be a new mother, father, or guardian? Your quality of sleep is about to take a nosedive. But luckily, some parts of the parenting game are easier. Norway is a digitalised society. And applying for parental leave is done fully online. The layout on the parental leave NAV website is a straightforward layout for new parents to follow. 

Parental benefits are discussed openly among colleagues and a popular topic in Norwegian media. However, it is important to not take the “more general” rules you hear about parental leave as completely factual until you’ve had a chance to look into your specific situation. 

“There are actually so many different possible configurations on how to do it. For example, a colleague of mine was working 10% and on parental leave 90%. I did not know that beforehand, and I might have considered it if I had known,” says one Oslo-based mother. 

The amount of money and time you’re allowed free from work depends on circumstances such as if you are a sole provider, are in a relationship where only one of the parents is entitled to paid leave, or in a same sex partnership. Splitting up your parental leave also needs to be discussed with your boss as well. 

However, there is some blanket information expecting parents should be aware of before heading off to live life in a baby bubble.

You have to live in Norway and be a member of the national insurance scheme in order to apply for parental leave. 

The mother can apply for parental leave at the 22nd week of pregnancy. And the father/partner should apply just after the baby is born. You are entitled. But if you don’t apply in time you can lose your rights to paid parental leave so stay on top of the updates.


Check these resources if you have any questions relating to your situation.

Checkups, checkups and more checkups

When asked what surprised her most about parental leave in Norway, Bridget-Michelle Price O’Connell says: “How different the medications and approach to pediatric care can be from your home country,” says Bridget-Michelle Price O’Connell when asked what surprised her most about parental leave in Norway. 

It’s true. New parents are often surprised by how closely monitored their newborns and toddlers are by the Norwegian health system. For many, there is great appreciation in the close follow-up. For others, it can feel intrusive. Parents are given appointments to check in to their helsestasjon – the health care center for children ages 0-5 very often throughout the first years of life. 

The health center acts as a hub of knowledge and resources for new parents to visit freely. In addition, many are often surprised by a home visit from a nurse to check up on the well-being of parents and children within a week of returning home from the hospital.


Don’t forget about your health

Price O’Connell also wants future parents to dodge the expected feelings of loneliness if they can, listing how crucial it is to find a mommy friend to take walks with. 

Having a new baby will likely have you experiencing a wave of many emotions on the daily. It’s important to look after your own well-being and the Norwegian parental  leave culture is set up so you can keep your health a top priority. 

After you give birth, you will receive notice that you have been placed in a barselgruppe or “maternity group”. It’s arranged according to the date you gave birth and you are joined with other new mothers who live in the same city or area as you. Meet-ups are by no means mandatory. But they are heavily encouraged before you leave the hospital for home with your new baby. 

Getting out of the house to meet strangers may be the last thing you feel like doing post- partum. But take the chance. Maternity  groups are a great way to stay social and  hear about parent-baby activities in your area such as: baby swimming, family hikes, baby song, and baby dancing. 


The school stress starts early

In fact, it starts before your baby has reached their milestone first birthday. Kristine Ursfjord warns new parents that it can be stressful when it comes to kindergarten placement if your child is born at the end of the calendar year. 

Your baby can start attending barnehage or “preschool” or “kindergarten” from the age of 10 months. The entitlement to a place in a kindergarten applies to children who turn one year old no later than the end of October in the year that they apply for a place.  

So if your baby is born in November or December, you need to calculate your parental leave under the assumption your child might have to wait until after their first birthday to get into preschool. 

Don't forget to register in time! Typically, parents need to apply for their top five preschool choices by the 2nd of March if their child will attend at the start of the school year in August. 

Even though every child is entitled to a place in preschool, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is space in your preschool(s) of choice. The quality of preschools in Norway is very high. Whether you choose a private or public institution, the systems and practices of the preschool are managed by the government to ensure a child's equal right to care and education.  

That being said, parents like to talk and share. Ask around and you’ll quickly find out which preschools in your area have the best and worst reputations in your area. 

You can apply for a spot in a preschool close to your home through the municipality’s own website such as this one.  

So much free stuff

When asked what surprised her most about parental leave, one Oslo mother shares “The free stuff you get from different shops (Rema, kiwi pharmacies...)”

When new parents look and ask around, many are truly surprised by the baby pakker or “baby packs” they can receive just by signing up. National companies such as Rema and Kiwi give new parents a baby pack filled with practical products just by registering for one on their website.

For a complete list of what new parents can receive completely free or at discount, look here .

Parents are generous in Norway! Recycling and second hand shops are in every city and many towns. Now is a very good time in Norway to be a budget-conscious or environmentally conscious parent in Norway. 

In addition to the free give-aways, guardians can look on, or your residences local marketplace group on Facebook for deeply discounted baby and toddler clothes and other necessary items.

Accept what is offered 

New parents in Norway are eligible for many generous benefits. And it may feel like a flex at the office if you don’t take all of your parental leave. Or if you don’t apply for a baby pack because you can afford to buy what you need. However, you’ll be surprised to find the looks of confusion from your Norwegian colleagues and friends if you choose to do this.

Norway is a society with strong family values. And the people take a lot of pride in work/family-life balance. Take the time off you are given. Accept the gifts. Trust us. No one will blink an eye if you choose to enjoy your parental leave to the max. 


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