A decade has passed since we sold our little house in Sweden …

A decade has passed since we sold our little house in Sweden. We left boxes of books, family pictures, bikes, and antiques with a friend. Stuff that we could not haul back to Kansas or simply toss. It’s time to sort through these belongings.

It makes us happy to return to a more leisurely approach to time; the encouragement to schedule more mindfully. Instead of packing in 5 to 7 major things in a day the Swedes leave more time for rest and revitalization. They enjoy 6 weeks of vacation and have many more long weekends than we do in America. Almost everything shuts down during these Holidays. Less harried, life becomes simplified. When we’re invited for a coffee, we look forward to a three-hour visit with 7 treats and many cups of strong coffee. Conversations build to a crescendo and a lull that comforts, opens–the space to appreciate one another’s company in silence. The unspoken rule: do not rush.

When my cousin Peter and his wife had their last child, he was given two weeks off to help bring their baby home so that everyone could integrate this new life into the family, and fully celebrate Sarah’s arrival. Anna-Lisa was given two years leave of absence from her job and received 80% of her pay. When she returned to work she relied on good childcare available to all families in Sweden. If Peter had decided to stay at home instead of his wife, he would have received the same benefits as his wife did. They also had the option of splitting the benefits between them.

Sweden ranks as one of the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries. Swedes believe men and women should share power and influence equally. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Sweden is a world leader in equality. On average, women’s monthly salaries are 94 per cent of men’s, when differences in choice of profession and sector are taken into account. Pay disparity is found mostly in the private sector. After the 2010 election, 45 percent of the seats in the Swedish Parliament were filled by women, down from 47 per cent after the 2006 election–the first fall in this figure since the 1930s. At present, 13 of the 24 Government ministers are women.

Time in Sweden provides us relief from the inequities that plague our society and inspire us to advocate for more equality when we return home.

May we all be inspired to work for a well-balanced life so that when joy beckons, we’re available.


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