There are no stay at home moms in Sweden. For me, this means raising kids here has been a surprisingly lonely prospect. 92% of children are in daycare after age 18 months, and according to Jonas Himmelstrand, the advocate for parents at home with children and leader of the group Haro, "Home care is discouraged, and in a sense socially marginalized. Parents will be persuaded, during medical checkups of children, on government institution home pages and through media, that children above one year of age need day care for their development, and that parents need work for their well-being." This contradicts my cultural givens, personal experience, as well as developmental psychology that children under three do best with their parents. That being home with your parent is best if at all possible certainly until age three, and best if at least until school age. A parents nurturing makes the brain grow more. Children can also thrive with a care giver who really knows and loves the child. We had a wonderful nanny when my first was young, she no doubt loved my daughter and their relationship enhanced my daughters life and development. But our school here does meet that criteria for my youngest. Even with a 4:1 ratio of kids to teachers at our Waldorf school, it is not warm and nurturing enough for my three year old who clearly prefers home. I get it, I see the teachers do not understand her context, at the end of last year they did not recognize the word she calls her big sister who she plays with at that school everyday. In other words, they do not really know her, and could not be the caring personal assistant a young child needs to navigate the world. We benefit from the Swedish preschool by using the Waldorf school as a drop off play group for my girls, especially valuable in the absence of relatives that could watch the kids a few hours or friends we would play with if parenting in the more social world we had in Florida. And my 6-7 year old really does do great with a group of kids she can play hard with often. I am mostly home with my kids, but very few others are. I often find myself longing for the community of mothers and families I had in the USA that made this work of raising kids light and fun.
The one good friend I have here who has kids is a german literature professor. Education and language are her natural skills, and she spends lots of one on one time with her kids, so it did not surprise me that her kids had learned to read and write german, english, and swedish by age 4. Her oldest will reach school age this year and is not a fit for the swedish school system, since she is far advanced of the typical swedish child. So her family wishes to continue to teach the child at home, but since Swedes do not value being at home with young children, they are down right suspicious if you wish to be at home with an older one. My friend and her family will relocate to USA, shall I say flee, as if they stay and do not enroll the girl in school they will face fines and even the threat of imprisonment. I was rather hoping that the education law that passed in June 2010 and banned home schooling would not be strongly enforced, but Jonas Himmelstrand the voice of the Swedish home school movement and attachment parenting movement just fled the country under threats and fines of $26,000 a year for not enrolling his children in school.
This place is pretty, oh the red barns and canola fields and children skipping to school through the woods!!...but today I feel rather condemning. People do not socialize. Having barbeques here to extend my social circle results in quiet stares, and comments like "wow, this was such an interesting thing to do, why thank you!". I miss my friends, my people, and no matter how crazy the US is, at least you can be yourself and find someone to go along with it! I have a baby about to turn one, I am going to be doing this taking care of young kids thing a few more years and I can not stand to do it in isolation like this. Back home in the Florida sun there are people who love me who could meet me at the beach, or hang out and have a cup of coffee with me while our kids play, and provide the simple connections that sustain me.
I was admiring someone else's bloggy life from afar, dreaming of her town of Nederland, CO thinking maybe with more sun, English language, and friendly Americans this gig of being at home in the forest with kids would be more fun. But then she picked up and moved from loneliness. Funny how the pictures can convey the dream with out the emotion. I want to catch this blog up with all the pictures of the living the dream in Sweden, it has been good, I will fill in the blog so it is a record of our time here... but I think the clock is ticking, a count down towards our next phase of life....
We came here to get to know family, immerse myself and the kids in Swedish language and culture, and help out family. We have done what we came to do.
Sorry, got a three year old who wants me to drive her pretend train to IKEA. Not much time for blogging these days, so the story is not told in full!