Little did I know, as I zipped my down parka more snugly over my face, that almost all of those barnevogns contained sleeping children.
A few days after we arrived in Nuuk, I went to Ken’s office to have cake and coffee for one of his colleague’s birthdays. Morten (birthday boy) and his girlfriend had just had a baby 6 weeks ago, so they were also planning to show off the kid at this little shindig. When I showed up at the office, I saw Morten, I saw his girlfriend, but no baby. It was snowing outside. “Where’s the baby?” I asked. “Oh, she’s outside,” girlfriend answered. “Really????” Girlfriend proceeded to tell me that it is common practice for the babies to sleep outside once they're one week old. Not, however, in temperatures below -10°C (14°F)--although she sometimes cheats on that rule a bit. Thinks they can make it to -15. Other than that, it seems to be a go! Mothers place baby monitors in the strollers, zip closed a special insulated cover, and put on the parking brake so they can go about their business. The barnevogns are also handy places to stow groceries, diaper bags, and the like.
I was amazed. I’m still amazed. I guess the cold chills them into a state of near hypothermia so they lay there, sleeping, all day long. Genius. And in a place like Nuuk that has a strong walking culture, it really makes sense given the barenvogn's extra storage capabilities.
Later on that afternoon, Morten’s girlfriend and I started talking about differences between maternity leave practices in the U.S. and Greenland. Greenlandic mothers get 6 months of paid leave, whereas U.S. mothers generally get 6 weeks. Ken and I told Morten’s girlfriend that in the U.S., many mothers go back to work and place their babies in day care for 8 hours a day when their baby reaches 6 weeks.
“Really?!?!” she asked, incredulous. “But they’re so fragile at that age! I can’t imagine doing that.”
Below, some pics of baby-bearing barnevogns I saw on a walk to the grocery store yesterday. These also give you a feel for what central Nuuk is like.