‘How Sweden helps me combine parenthood and education’

'How Sweden helps me combine parenthood and education'
Photo: Oluwatoyin Olatoye
SI Scholar Oluwatoyin Olatoye shares her experience of being a parent while studying in Sweden.

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.