Stay at home mum. Privilege or laziness?

Well, obviously not laziness. Not where I come from, any way. But anyone else get the impression that if you want to stay at home with your kids in Sweden, that you are perceived as bone idle?

Now, don’t get me wrong, if given the choice I would choose to work. I like leaving the house to go out and do a hard day’s graft and I like the feeling of independence it gives me. I have earned my own money since I was 17 and one of the main reasons we left Sweden last time was because I just could not find a job. Accepting money from someone else (and having to ask for it) however freely it was offered, was pretty much soul-destroying for me. And, if you don’t work, I feel that you miss out on that sense of purpose, of achieving something. I always enjoy my free time so much more when I feel that it has been earned, if that makes sense?

But, I have always got the impression from Swedes that, unless there is some absolutely life threatening reason why you can’t work, you should. I remember telling my mother in law once that I had reduced my full-time hours to part-time so that I could be at school to pick the kids up. The horror registered on her face would have not been any less had I informed her that I drank blood in the middle of the night. But, why? No, nobody likes a scrounger. But if a mother chooses to cut her hours so that she can have the interaction with other mums and teachers at school (which she wouldn’t have otherwise), is that so very wrong?

Talking of meeting kids from school, apparently, that doesn’t happen here. They find their own way to and from school. Fair enough, we live in a quiet little village and are not exactly fighting off muggers around every corner, but even so. I used to love to see their little faces light up when they caught sight of me and I am going to miss that. I guess I will just have to see their little faces through my kitchen window, instead!

So, back to my original topic – why should parents (remembering not to be sexist here, pappaledig and all that) feel that they ought to be at work and not only that, but full-time? I am wondering if it is more of a cultural thing. In the UK and USA I think that the way we do things hangs over from previous generations where the man went out to work (beating their chest as they went) while the little woman kept house. To my knowledge, the mother in law has always worked and she commented to me the other day that she lived alone when she met he future husband. So, that must have been early 1970’s. We know that Swedes are far more advanced in many areas (how paternity leave is set out, for example) so possibly Swedes are just more forward thinking than us?

Another possibility is that they do it out of necessity. Swedes often seem to me to live above their means. It’s often all about what they have, how much they earn, what car they drive, how many holidays they have a year. All that takes money. I remember feeling very disgruntled and envious at some of the houses H’s friends had. I couldn’t quite equate their normal admin jobs to having the money to pay the mortgage on such a nice house. H informed me that many of his friends didn’t actually pay off any of their mortgage, instead electing to pay only the interest. That surprised me. As I said, it seems that what someone appears to have (to the outside world) is far more important than what they do have.

So, the past 5 years has taught me a lot and one of those things is that I am who I am. I am also not Swedish. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect me to behave as a Swede would. If I want to stay at home, work a few hours or even full-time, then that choice is mine. I should not (and will not) be bowed down to pressure by anyone. So, it follows that at this present time (one week in) that I am thoroughly enjoying being a stay at home mum. And even better is the fact that the in-laws seem respectful of that, even mentioning that it would be good to get the kids settled in school before thinking of work for myself.

Sadly, they didn’t come to this conclusion all on their lonesome. Nope. Before we agreed (okay, let’s be straight, H would have moved back in a heartbeat, it was me that needed to agree) to return to Sweden, I compiled a list of all the things I wanted to say to the in-laws. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t blame them for every last little bit of unhappiness I’d had previously (I am a big girl with an even bigger voice), but they did contribute to it. So desperate were they for us to return, they took everything on board and promised things would be different. Hence their reaction to my imminent plans when first arriving.

So, this stay at home mum is going to enjoy not working (mind you, I say not working, but looking after two boys is hardly the same as laying on a chaise lounge, martini in hand, is it?) until I feel the time is right to start looking for work. Let’s hope the in-laws stay on board, too 🙂

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