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PARENTING IN A FOREIGN LAND They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if it’s not your village? International mothers share their stories of child rearing in Denmark with Keri Bloomfield. PHOTOGRAPHS PLAMENA APOSTOLOVA


RAISING CHILDREN IS a job of a lifetime and a lifetime job. A job that can be even more difficult when you’re doing it in a country that isn’t yours. The lack of close family and friends as well as trying to understand a new language and system, can make the challenge extra ordinary. If you are a new parent in Denmark, or are about to embark on this journey, learning Danish cultural norms, and building a supportive network around you, will be hugely important to ensure you remain confident in your role as a parent in your new home. I began my life in Denmark as a mother to a four-month-old baby. A baby that according to local Danish customs was being raised ‘differently’. A baby that didn’t sleep outside and that wasn’t taking Iron or Vitamin D drops. Three things that are assumed in Denmark but aren’t in my home country. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on in this jour-



you will be introduced to six other new mothers who live close to you. And if you aren’t fluent in Danish, you’ll be assigned into an International Mothers Group in which the common language will be English. Your baby nurse will co-ordinate this shortly after you give birth, and it can be a valuable network for support as you begin your parenting journey. Expat mother, Julija Chernova found that one of best things about parenting in Denmark, is the infrastructure made available to moms, including these Mothers Groups. “Being introduced to five other mothers soon after the birth of my daughter was a great way to begin building a supportive network around me, especially in the early days,” Julija told me. Julija also found that everything in Denmark is generally very well designed for families with children, “from finding changing facilities to special manned playgrounds and even movie theatres where you can take your babies to. If you take advantage of them, the opportunities are endless in Denmark which helps to ensure you don’t feel isolated in a new country,” she said. Although, even with the best infrastructure, challenges still present themselves when trying to build and blend a family in an international environment. Especially when trying to reconcile two cultures and languages within one family. ney, was from our Danish baby nurse who reassuringly told me, “there is more than one way to do the right thing”. I remember these words well, because it was at a time that I was frequently being asked why my daughter, Bilingual Backpack Baby (BBB) and other children from my home country, didn’t sleep outside in their prams (barnevogne). It’s a question I still struggle to succinctly answer, other than, they just don’t. At least not to the level in which they do in Denmark. Equally, I am still unable to adequately explain to people who have not lived in Denmark why Danish babies sleep outside. They just do. For Denmark, it’s the cultural norm and for the world outside of Scandinavia, it isn’t.

BUILDING A SUPPORT NETWORK One of great things that happens when you’re a mother in Denmark is being assigned to a ‘Mothers Group’. As a new mother

BILINGUALISM In my own quest to learn Danish, I have been guilty of using BBB to improve my Danish language skills. When at the supermarket or on public transport, I’ll often talk to her using my limited vocabulary of Danish. Which, for now, matches a 2-year-olds vocabulary. Kom så. Skal vi gå hjem? Er du klar? Er du færdig? and Det ikke vores, have all became firm favourites when out and about with my daughter. Subconsciously I think I also began this habit to blend in and not be spotted as the ‘foreign mother’. It has only been recent-

Profile for The International Denmark

The International April 2018 issue  

Our April issue is out now! Enjoy the latest issue: - The famous cocktail bar Curfew, and it's owner Humberto Marques. - As always our pop...

The International April 2018 issue  

Our April issue is out now! Enjoy the latest issue: - The famous cocktail bar Curfew, and it's owner Humberto Marques. - As always our pop...

Profile for the-intl