We are ecstatic to reveal our next WiO Mom, our beloved former WiO instructor...
What does a typical day look like for you? We are certainly trying to find a "typical" day, but frankly we are still in transition. We moved to Stockholm, Sweden, three months ago, as my husband grew up there and always wanted to raise children in his home country. The kids are currently in a Swedish preschool where Linnea will continue in the fall and Filip will start kindergarten at a new school. Maybe I can make a return on this blog and let everyone know what "typical" ended up being!
What are the major differences having you have noticed so far being a mom in a new country and new culture?We have only been there three months, but my sense in that short time is that there is more free time for family bonding in Sweden. Most families take a month off together and spend it at their summer cottage. The workday often ends by 4:30 so that one parent can pick up the children from school. Also it is less common to go out to dinner and have a babysitter over there. More often, the whole family is invited to another family's home for dinner. Overall the culture seems to accommodate family needs.
Did you have to put your career on hold to be a mom or are you able to balance both? I was finishing my residency in internal medicine at Columbia when I had Filip and so the first year of his life was very hectic. I was on call every fourth night; only one weekend off a month, all in the setting of twelve hour days.....I remember trying to pump while being on call and being called overhead for a cardiac arrest at the same time! This was not how I envisioned motherhood.....when Linnea came along, I was completely done and board certified and decided after all the chaos in Filip's infancy, I didn't want to repeat that.....I worked only one day a week to be available for both children.
Is your hubby a good help? Andre is actually a tremendous help....In Sweden the culture is such that men and women share nearly everything equally; including child care. Each couple will have 16 months of paid maternity leave and the father must stay home with the children for at least two of those months; if not more.....The downside of this egalitarianism is that men and women split the bill on a date!
Did having kids make you more aware of your health and theirs? Absolutely. I would actually go so far as to say that having children fueled a true interest in nutrition and health; even more than medical school. Most medical students are in their twenties and it is hard to grasp your own mortality. In addition, studying 15 hours a day for years is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. You become so focused on the next exam, the next interview, that you can easily lose sight of why you are doing it all.
Do you have any healthy snack choices that your kids love? My philosophy with my children has always been that they will eat the same foods that we eat. This, of course, only applies to the age where table food is introduced. But from the age of 1 or so, I have fed my children the same exact meals I prepare for myself and my husband---typically baked fish, broiled squash and brown rice. We don't have any refined white carbohydrates in the house, or juice, etc. The kids drink only skim milk. It sounds hard to do, but it is all they have ever known and truthfully, it is so much simpler to have the entire family on one meal philosophy. Because we have such a healthy base at home, it makes eating out, or traveling so much easier----ie we can be flexible and indulge because our daily routine is so defined. I don't force the kids to finish their plates; they eat until they feel full. I believe it is important for them to develop their own sense of satiety. I have two days a week defined as "dessert days." This way the dessert is not tied to good behavior, or withdrawn for bad behavior, or used as a tool in any way. We try to stay under 10g of sugar for desserts or snacks. I also have no concerns if they don't want to eat at all---being a doctor, I am well aware that the human body can safely go a day or two without food! I have always told the kids that I will not make another dish if they don't care for Plan A and they have never challenged that! With childhood obesity rising at an alarming rate, I am hoping to instill healthy habits that they will use as a guide for a lifetime. Or least until college when I envision seeing them on Facebook with mounds of pizza all around them....
What is the biggest challenge/reward in being a mommy? The biggest challenge in being a mommy is the energy it takes to be consistent---it is often so much easier to say "yes" than to battle with a "no." But I have always found that consistency does make things easier in the long term; even if I am exhausted in the short term. The biggest reward is probably that universal "Mommy" feeling of knowing that you have created these small people who love you unconditionally.