Discover more from SCANDI CLASS by Annabella Daily
#DailyDiary 005: Our flights back to the US are in 4 weeks. But I'm not ready to go back.
Why? Is Scandinavia really the Shangri-La for Moms?
Why did we leave a “dreamy” life in America, and move to Scandinavia for fall?
Hi Friends! If you are new here, here’s my story. [If you are not new, skip to the next paragraph!] My name is Annabella Daily, and I’m a Nordic entrepreneur and a boy mom x 3 who moved from Finland to the US at the age of 19 - on my own, with a suitcase, with no visa or specific plan, chasing dreams.
I ended up building an exciting life and a thriving career, and eventually a big family with my American husband; and just as it seemed like our life was settled down, I suggested we move to Helsinki for nine weeks, to immerse our boys in the Finnish culture, and to experience the Scandinavian lifestyle.
In the US, I fully leaned in, fulfilled my American dream of having it all (=successful career which means 24-7 career, husband, kids, apartment in New York City), but crashed and burnt out so hard I no longer even knew who I was. Was the other option just to fully lean out?
As I started to rethink how to better live our lives, all roads kept leading back to the Nordic way of life. I knew I needed to taste—and bottle—the Scandinavian secret sauce to balance and bliss, and bring it back for all moms to share.
Ready for more balance & bliss? To join me on this journey, drop your email below: I’ll send you an update every Tuesday during this adventure.
The Secret to “Having it All”
I’m not sure when it dawned on me exactly that I wasn’t ready to leave Finland after the planned nine weeks: maybe it was biking down Helsinki’s bicycle lanes lined with fall-colored trees with my three boys in tow.
Or seeing my toddler scream of joy when I dropped him off at his daycare playground covered in muddy puddles that he could splash in (the favorite, and much encouraged, seasonal activity for kids here).
Or, when I asked my local mom friends how they managed to have such balance without choosing to “lean in” or “lean out” of work life, and they looked at me confused: as one award-nominated TV producer with three kids put it: “It’s pretty obvious that this is just how life is supposed to be”.
How could I leave without figuring out how they were “having it all” including balance and bliss, so the rest of us moms could have it too?
The Secret to Relaxed Parenting
I might have also realized I wasn’t ready to leave Finland, when I experienced firsthand that “mommying so hard” also wasn’t a thing here.
It might have been the “no-reaction” reaction I got every time my kids were being kids - moments that tended to be stressful in the States, because according to the etiquette there, I, as the mom, had to somehow fix, correct, or intensely supervise - without being able to give my kids a chance to learn through natural consequences or without just letting it be.
The Nordic parenting philosophy, shared by the majority, if not all, is that of relaxed guidance:
“Your job is to be the grownup, and your child’s job is to be the child. Let your child play uninterrupted, and let him play in peace. Let your child learn life on their own. Let them see who they are and and who they can be. And stuff happens, and when you don’t let it become a big deal, it doesn’t become a big deal.”
Practicing this type of relaxed parenting in real life also requires time. I mean how relaxed is too relaxed?
The Story of “Kuraleikki” and Why It’s OK to Let the Mud Fly
Recently, at the playground, my toddler accidentally shoveled muddy water all over a little girl who was playing in the same puddle.
Should I react, or not react?
I had never had this situation before.
I had never not once in the US had my child play in a muddy water puddle with another child. Because it’s just not a thing. In the English language, the word “kuraleikki” doesn’t even exist. It’s roughly translated to “play in muddy, sandy water puddles” and it’s a joyful word, because kids love it. There are even specific clothes for it—“kuravaatteet”—and parents and teachers unanimously support it.
However, this looked pretty bad: some of the muddy water landed on her face, and even more on her jacket. She was basically covered in it.
I was thinking through my options:
Should I hide (“not my child!”)?
Should I just ignore it happened?
Should I grab a napkin and try to clean up the other girl?
Should I say something? If so, what should I say?
The other mom kept chatting with her friends. I didn’t want to get a bad reputation at our regular playground (I also now know that is not a thing!), so I decided to say something:
“Hey, excuse me, I think my son threw quite a bit of muddy water on your daughter…”
I held my breath and waited to see what she would say, so I could figure out my next move.
Because, I mean, what are you supposed to do in this situation?!
She glanced at her child. “Oh yes, so it seems,” and with that, walked away to attend to another child of hers.
So, what you are supposed to do really is nothing.
Jonas, my toddler, had heard me though and had understood he had done something wrong, and got very upset.
“It’s fine! It’s OK! Look, I’m just learning how this works too!”
How could I leave yet? We are just getting started in letting the mud fly.
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The Secret to Weekly Wellness
I might have also realized I couldn’t leave yet, when I saw how wellness is ingrained into every corner of everyday life here, and how I knew I had to find a way to bring that philosophy back home too. No one here things they are that into wellness, because it’s just something you do.
Here, we are embracing the weekly moments in wood-burning saunas, where you throw so much water on the stones, that as the heat rises, it’s almost hard to take a breath. In these moments that most everyone here takes for granted, you sweat out your stresses, and then reinvigorate your body & brain by jumping into cold lakes or the Baltic Sea.
We are also embracing spending as much time outside as possible, no matter the weather, which is easy to do. We bike everywhere, the daycare and the after-school club both spend hours outside with the kids, after which the kids do soccer or more playground time outside, and in the countryside, you also just run outside.
With grownups, instead of just grabbing a drink, friends tend to suggest meeting up for a walk, or for berry-picking, or a workout class, or a sauna, and when you sit down for dinners, small-talk is sidelined, and the conversations tend to go deep.
It’s a nice way to live life: and maybe we can get closer to this back Stateside too.
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The Secret to Gaining & Regaining Your Sense of Self
Ultimately, I also knew I wasn’t ready to leave yet, because when it comes to learning Finnish and the Nordic culture, I saw that my kids (like me) were just getting started.
I have American-Finnish kids, with both citizenships. They have lived their entire lives in the US, so it would be easy for them to identify as American. But inside, they would never just be American. If I didn’t introduce them to the Nordic way of life, how could they know half of who they are and grow up to be a whole you?
I don’t want them to feel like outsiders in a country that also belongs to them: I want them to be able to stand inside of it all and figure out what being Finnish means for themselves.
I really can’t leave until I figure out how to nurture their multilingual, multi-cultural sense of self back in the US too, and my rediscovered Nordic self!
But what does that have to do with you? We all have more sides to us than just one. And I think that’s the mission: how do we nurture all of who we are, especially as moms? Isn’t that the ultimate Scandinavian secret.