At 30, my biological clock is clicking in a way that it didn’t when I had my baby at 25. My thoughts are consumed with babies, but also tinged with anxieties about balance. Scores of studies and opinion-makers say that after two kids women begin falling out of the workforce in droves. Two is the tipping point.
I want to be a role model for my daughter and know I’m a better mother when I’m intellectually stimulated and professionally fulfilled. So what’s a woman who wants to have it all to do?
I’ve spent a great deal of my time both in Washington, DC but especially here in Sweden exploring and learning about the infrastructure that parents— not just mothers but fathers— need to succeed. Today, both men and women want work-life balance and the young generation Millennials are calling for new ways of working and new definitions of success.
And it’s not just about being a mother either. For women choosing to have a family or not – a choice all women should be able to make freely without social pressure – getting ahead in the corporate world is about so much more than just balancing babies and house duties. There are unconscious biases that begin at birth outlining what women are supposed to be and not be, and how we should behave and not behave.
In Sweden, generous parental leave policies for mothers and fathers, and a quality daycare system for all have been successful tools for inclusion. Sweden has one of the highest per capita percentages of females in the workforce.
Participation, however, is not leadership. The Nordic region still struggles in propelling women to the rank of CEO and low female representation on corporate boards, areas where the US and every country in the world lags behind too.
MEET NATALIA: Women could use a bit more bravado
When I first moved to Sweden, I thought that this was a mother’s paradise. I was dealing with a colicky toddler and a gnawing desire to express myself professionally, and Swedish “dagis” seemed like the panacea. Two and a half years later, I’ve realized there is no mother’s paradise. Not yet.
Challenges persist in Sweden as in San Francisco, or any U.S. city. The best way forward is to share and learn from each other. That’s why I decided to ask some successful Swedish and American women what their favourite thing about being a mother in their home country is, and what more needs to change.
Ebba von Sydow, Swedish journalist, editor, and author
Having my sister, and cookbook partner, Amy living in the US with three small kids, we talk a lot about the differences between Philadelphia and Stockholm – services and things we sometimes over here take for granted.
Of course our parental leave system, that allows me to pursue my career while having two kids aged three and one, but also our fantastic nursery schools, nice green public playgrounds in the city, free health care for all kids and free dental care.
Anna Serner, Swedish Film Institute CEO
Best: cheap childcare and paternity leave. Worst: The long and dark period with wet and vile weather. Always too much planning and laundry!
Lisa Lindstrom, Doberman founder and CEO
The best thing about being a mom in Sweden is that it is expected of me that my job is important. I’m so thankful to all the generations before me who has been fighting for equality and forced our society to form structures that allows woman to work on equal terms.
And it is my duty to continue this fight to our future generations, not only regarding equality but also diversity.
The worst thing of being a mom in Sweden is not that bad. But to mention one thing, it is that our successful mothers, the ones who made it possible for my generation to have a career while being a mom, still are super attractive to the market. I miss having more time with the kids’ grandmothers!
Andrea Engsall, interior designer, Swedish TV personality, author and blogger
Best – All the opportunities we have. From parental leave, maternity care to kindergarten and health care for the children. It is really when you become a parent you realize how great the social security system is.
Worst – the pressure of doing everything at the same time. Being a mother and trying to create a career at the same time can sometimes be challenging. But I think it’s not specifically a Swedish problem.”
READ BLOG ENTRY IN FULL: A woman's paradise