‘How Sweden helps me combine parenthood and education’

SI Scholar Oluwatoyin Olatoye shares her experience of being a parent while studying in Sweden.

'How Sweden helps me combine parenthood and education'
Photo: Oluwatoyin Olatoye

One of the most daunting questions on my mind whenever I thought about continuing my education or pursuing a career, was how to combine being a parent with studying full time, without being overwhelmed.

I believe this still is an issue for parents in developing countries and especially for females. We are often torn between picking between these two options and feeling that if we choose one, we do it at the expense of the other. However from my experience of living in Sweden, I can state that the opposite is true here.

What I noticed first was the emphasis on equality, with no discrimination against foreign residents. Living in Sweden entitles my children to a high-quality education at any school with little to no cost, and I get the same chance to secure a placement for my children at any preschool much like any Swedish parent.

Furthermore, the opening and closing time of the schools works well in my favour. Going to early morning classes and meetings is possible because my children can start at preschool from 7 AM and end at 5.30 PM. I have plenty of time to devote to my academic work without any pressure and can concentrate fully on my studies knowing that my children are in good hands.

I have two children who, in Sweden, get to learn adaptive skills, social skills and of course have a lot of fun learning how to ride a bicycle. The Swedish system helps both my children and me to grow and develop, albeit in different ways.

Another advantage of living in Sweden is the healthcare service. I was pleasantly surprised to receive mail requesting I bring my children for vaccine updates and to discuss any issues of concern. It felt reassuring to have such individualised attention.

Being a parent and studying at the same time comes with its own challenges though. Challenges the government cannot solve. Children have their own needs which can sometimes reduce my time spent studying and vice-versa. Scheduling weekend meetings or attending conferences over the weekend can be complicated. But it’s all about compromising.

Overall, I feel that our wellbeing has been catered for by the Swedish government. I genuinely believe the welfare system here is consciously and intentionally built with everybody’s needs in mind, to help everyone combine the best of both worlds.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.