“In Sweden, you are always told to find your own path since childhood. It is, however, sometimes a pressure. You always ask yourself, “is this really my own path?”.”
Lena, working in Leksand Commune in the Public Health and as an International Coordinator, mentioned it while I was spending time with her through visit.
It was quite suggestive. I have never thought about that side of “finding your own path”. After that I asked Lena about how she chose her own path, especially now working and raising twin girls of twelve years old.
Working on two different areas at the same time
– Could you tell me about your current work?
I work in Leksand Commune, and the Commune has mainly four responsibilities: 1) Social services and elderly care 2) Education from preschool to high school 3) Municipal development (planning, business, leisure and sports, environment, culture, fire fighting) 4)Administration and communication.
Among them, I work on two areas: Public Heath and International Coordination.
↑Leksand Commune, where Lena works. As you enter the building, you find a desk where citizens can ask about children’s school, starting a business and etc.
In the Public Health, I work with supporting the organization with statistics of the health of its inhabitants and finding methods how we can contribute to lessening the differences in health between groups in society: for example, between people with low and high education. Main areas I have been working with recently is how young people would like to change to make our society the best to live in, tobacco, alcohol and drug prevention and better accessibility for persons with a handicap.
As an International Coordinator, I work on developing our relations with our international contacts, mainly in our sister city Tobetsu, Japan. As Leksand and Tobetsu is celebrating 30 years as sister cities this year and Japan-Sweden celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relationship 2018, there will be mainly events planning in the future. Tourism is another area we are trying to develop. I am also the secretary of the Siljan-Japan foundation, where students, professionals, associations and companies can receive grants for exchange with Japan.
Leksand also has a student exchange with Soroti, Uganda and a municipal partnership sponsored by national grants for local democracy development.
Colleagues of Lena at Leksand Commune having morning fika.
Save the work to 75%, go to the nature with children after work
– Sounds a lot of work! How do you manage work raising children?
I took two years and a half of maternity leave after getting children. In Sweden you have the right to 480 days with payment to share between the parents. As twin parents you get 660 days. I used most of the parental leave days, but my husband used some too mainly in the beginning. It is not uncommon that Swedish parents share them equally. At least 90 days cannot be given a way from one parent to the other.
When I came back to work after the leave, I utilize the system that “you can reduce the work until your child is eight years old”. After that I got permission from my employer to continue working part time. I reduced the work to 50% during four years after the maternity leave and from then on reduced it to 75%. Among the 75%, I work right now 25% in Public Health and 50％ in International Coordination.
– How do you spend your weekdays?
My daily life starts like this:
7:00 – wake up
7.55 – go to work by car leaving our children at their school
8.15 – start working
between 13 and 14.30 – pick up children from school four days a week
“For me, it is most important to spend time with children.”, Lena says. (Picking up twins at elementary school after work.)
My husband is working in IT as a DBA at a big steel company in a larger town in the region. He can work from home one day a week, and can pick up girls that day. That day I work longer hours and try and fit in business trips or afternoon/evening meetings.
If a child is ill we discuss who can stay home with the child. It depends on who has the least meetings often that day. In Sweden you have the right to stay home with your ill child and still get about 80% of your salary until your child is 12 years old.
After work me and the girls have a snack at home or “fika”(coffe/tea and something sweet) at a café with friends. Sometimes we do grocery shopping together, but I also use a service where I order home delivery of groceries with recepes for 3-4 meals every second week. It saves time for shopping and planning, gives new inspiration and they are well constructed when it comes to nutrition.
Lena’s daughter picking wild berries in the woods. They have also planted berry bushes in their garden.
We also like to walk in the woods me and the girls, right now it is the season for picking wild berries and mushrooms, playing in the garden or snuggling up with a book and a cat. We have four cats. I try and exercise 2-3 times a week. I also love gardening and have planted new kinds of berry bushes this year.
In the evening I cook dinner on the days I have picked up the girls. We do not always have dinner together all family at weekdays as my husband works late and also like to find time to exercise three times a week at the company gym. My husband cooks on the evening the day he has been working from home. On the weekends my husband does most of the cooking and we try and eat all meals together.
We also share other house work, but we often divide them. I do most of the cleaning, and my husband most of the lawn moving/snow clearing, house and car maintenance and waste recycling.
It seems that Lena is sharing housechores and time with children quite well with her husband. How do they manage long vacations, however, which is quite a big issue for working parents in Japan…?
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