♥️ The Swedish Theory of Love: Independence, Autonomy, and Solo-Parenthood
Sweden has become a country known for its excellent social welfare system and its prioritization of family life, with paid parental leave, child allowance, and affordable childcare.
However, despite all of these resources, Sweden’s fertility rate has been steadily declining over the last decade. Now there is a growing trend of people waiting to have children or even venturing into parenthood alone.
Sweden’s falling birth rate
Sweden’s birth rate has fallen every year since 2009. Sweden did see a slight bump in the fertility rate among native-born Swedes in the first year of the pandemic, but this baby boom was short-lived.
Andres Salumets, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology at Karolinska Institutet, says that one of the main causes of infertility in Europe is age. Salumets explains that, in other countries, it is more common for people to have secondary infertility issues, whereas in Sweden it is more common to seek help for conceiving the first time.
IVF in Sweden
Since the first child was born in Sweden as the result of IVF in 1982 , thousands of families have gone on to have children through IVF. According to the quality register’s reporting, nearly 4.2 percent of all babies born in 2022 were conceived via IVF.
IVF is not only available for heterosexual couples with fertility issues, since 2005 lesbian couples have been able to access IVF, and in 2016 IVF became available to single women.
Single parenthood in Sweden
Single parenthood, especially single motherhood, is on the rise. Sweden has a uniquely high percentage of single people, with nearly 47 percent of households made up of single adults, and an increasing age at which people choose to marry , if at all .
With fewer people marrying or settling down, it seems only natural that more single people would pursue parenthood on their own. In 2015 Femmis lobbied for fertility treatments to be made available to single women. The network argued that single women should have equal access to fertility treatments as couples.
Swedish Theory of Love
The decision to grant single women access to fertility treatments in 2016 is not that surprising considering Sweden’s long-standing value of individualism. According to the 2015 documentary, The Swedish Theory of Love, the most Swedish value is independence .
In 1972 politicians came up with a manifesto: The family of the future (Familjen i framtiden). The idea was that individuals would no longer be dependent on one another and that the concept would, “free women from men, free the elderly from their children, and free teenagers from their parents.” The new social structure that the manifesto laid out meant that every person would be regarded as autonomous, and that only true meaningful relationships would keep people together.
So by that argument, there would be no reason to stay in a toxic or loveless relationship. There would be no reason to pursue a relationship at all if you’d rather just stay single. The documentary follows a few women who have chosen to pursue motherhood on their own. It’s clear that the desire and ability to pursue this path to motherhood is not solely based on accessible IVF, but also on the way in which Swedish society is structured.
One single mother, Maria Helena described her decision to have children on her own; “it was kids I wanted, not a relationship… being alone never scared me.” While Maria Helena did admit that she had originally dreamed of sharing parenthood with someone else, “it would be nice to have someone else make breakfast… to have someone to fold laundry with,” it was ultimately her independence, the resources she had access to, and Swedish society that enabled her to choose solo-parenthood.
by Julia Powanda/Riedia
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