As my maternity leave is coming to an end I have been giving some thought to the Danish/Scandinavian way of living and working versus the British. Being close to London I know that working hours here have always been longer than perhaps other places in the UK. And as a freelancer myself, mine vary a lot from week to week.
I feel grateful that I get to spend more time with Caspian than most working mothers, though it is often stressful to constantly chase new opportunities and rarely know what will happen three months down the line. It also means working evenings and weekends a lot. But I love being in charge of my day and have the freedom to be creative with the blog when it suits me. Even the nitty gritty admin work behind the scenes excites me. And with a background as a performer I still get my kicks from running workshops on public speaking and presenting.
So to compare my work life with that of a Scandinavian mother wouldn’t be fair. I don’t think it is easy to be self-employed in Denmark as it’s very much a society geared for the 9-5 employed work life. This certainly has it advantages, but it also means institutions like nurseries and after school clubs close at this time, too. So many need to leave work at 4 pm to pick up their kids – I’m sure they hardly mind and it’s probably beneficial to their general health and well-being. I suppose this also gives them more family time in the afternoon and evening than a lot of British parents have. As much as I love our life where we are, I do think that the Nordic countries are some of the best places to raise children.
Another advantage in these societies are the cost of childcare. We have recently signed Caspian up for nursery – hopefully starting a day or two from early next year – but for a Dane I must admit that the cost did come as a bit of a shock. In Denmark you generally pay between £400 and £600 a month for a full time nursery place including milk, food and nappies. That’s the equivalent to what we’ll have to pay a month for our boy attending a day or two a week. I know there’s a scheme in place where you should get 15 hours free childcare from the age of 3, but I must admit that I believe the government should review this. A lot of working families need it earlier, say from age 1 or 2. I know that it would personally be a big help to us if I knew we could get this type of help sooner rather than later.
Britain has one of the highest rates of stay-at-home-mums in Europe. I can understand that many choose this, as working full time barely covers the cost of having your child looked after, so what is the point of dragging yourself off to work – especially if it’s a job you do not love – only for most of your pay to go on child care? I love my work and look forward to building a career, but I never had a child so that someone else could look after him, that’s why a good balance is very important to me. When I left the house at 7 am Tuesday morning of last week and didn’t get in till 12 hours later it was hard – especially as it was the first time being away from Caspian for so long – but I also enjoyed it, getting back into a job I love, and I knew that taking on such a full day allows me to have days off just to spend with our son.
How do you balance your work and family life?