Writer and blogger Niki Brantmark lives in Malmö, Sweden with her husband, two children, Liv aged 7 and Allie aged 5, and her stepson Albin, aged 14.

Then and now
When I was seven my mother took me on a trip to Sweden to visit a primary school friend who had just returned to to live there. We had an amazing holiday, spending time in Stockholm and at her family’s summer cottage, enjoying midsummer celebrations and swims in lakes. I was completely taken with the country.

Then 12 years ago and I came on a summer holiday, again to visit the same friend, but this time in the south of Sweden. On the second day we went sailing with Per (who is now my husband) and the rest, as they say, is history – that little sailing trip turned into me leaving London for Malmö in 2004, and then getting married and having children here.

The area we live in is incredibly family-friendly, our children spend a lot of the time running in and out of each other’s houses

A different life
We live in a townhouse on the shores of the Öresund strait which separates Sweden from Denmark (also famous for The Bridge TV series). Living by the sea is perfect since my husband and I both come from sailing families and we’re lucky enough to have our boat moored up a few hundred feet from our house.

The area we live in is well known for its architecture and sustainability. It’s also incredibly family-friendly and our children spend a lot of the time running in and out of each other’s houses. In the summer we love taking daily dips in the sea, walking along the beach, and going for hikes in the nearby forest and nature reserve.

In the winter it gets a little dark and chilly and the sea often ices over but we have a small ski resort two hours away which the children love. We try to make our home cosy by lighting lots of candles and warming our hands with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and glögg (Swedish mulled wine) but if I’m honest it can get a little bleak. But then spring time arrives and we head outdoors once again.


An average day
The school day and work starts earlier in Sweden, which was a bit of a shock to the system when I first came here as I’ve never been much of a morning person. So my day starts at 7am when my husband wakes me with a cup of coffee in bed (I’m so spoilt). It’s then mayhem for the next 45 minutes as we get everything together and the kids out the door (although thankfully we do share the school run with a few of our neighbours).

By 8.15 the house is blissfully quiet and I pour myself another cup of coffee which I sip while checking through all my e-mails. I used to work as a marketing manager but I resigned from my job last year and now I work full time on my blog My Scandinavian Home and recently published my first interiors book, Modern Pastoral  It’s all very exciting and I never take a day for granted.

I’ve always been interested in interior design and when I moved to Sweden I was amazed at everyone’s natural flair for design, and the energy the Swedes put into making their homes beautiful, so I wanted to start documenting them. That is how the blog came about. I spend the morning researching and writing the day’s blog post, which I like to have published by 10 or 11am so that it arrives just in time for everyone’s morning coffee break.

At lunchtime I either go to the gym for a class or meet a friend (time permitting!). My afternoons are very varied (part of what I love most about what I do). I might work on a collaboration with a sponsor, participate in a press interview, carry out research for a new project, take photographs for blog posts and Instagram, or even hold a presentation for a Nordic business about social media strategy. I also do some freelance interior writing. At 4pm either my husband collects the girls on his way home from work or I nip out and collect them on my bike. And then the fun begins!

The Swedish work place recognises that everyone has a joint responsibility to collect and look after children. It also provides subsidised care for all children

Bringing up baby
One of the things that amazes me about Sweden is the equality. All my friends share responsibility for children and household chores 50/50 which is really wonderful. My children were born when I was working for a global company and I went on maternity leave for one year and then my husband went on paternity leave for six months after me.

The Swedish work place recognises that everyone has a joint responsibility to collect and look after children, which is why my husband and I take turns collecting them from nursery and school. The Swedish system also provides subsidised care for all children. It’s not unusual for male bosses at a big company to excuse themselves from meetings with the sudden need to collect a sick child from nursery.

Having my own business was an important part of motherhood for me. I love the flexibility of being able to choose my own work hours and where I work from and am keen to never miss wonderful events such as a school play or St Lucia celebrations.

Recently we went to Sri Lanka for three weeks to escape the Swedish winter and I blogged from all the different locations, even on the beach. I have also been known to blog while sailing, and even in the car on our way to the ski slopes. Having my own business generally means I get to decide when I’d like to spend valuable time with my family. Generally speaking though, I work from home or in a nearby communal workspace.

Highs and lows
I am so grateful for the Swedish maternity/paternity and daycare system, it means you really can have a career and be a good parent. Kids start school later in Sweden (the first compulsory year is the year they turn 7) and there is very little pressure to learn, the focus is more on play, so it’s lots of fun. In the summer it is normal to take three or four weeks off in the month of July so you truly get to relax and spend quality time together as a family. The positives truly outweigh the negatives when it come to raising children here.

I’m so happy with the life my children have here that I actually can’t think of any disadvantages, save for not getting to see their wonderful ‘Mormor’ and Grandad, and cousins on a weekly basis. The Swedish winter is also quite cold and long. When I first moved from London to a city of 350,000 it was quite a shock,  but these days I love that it’s a little quieter.

Home sweet home
I am thankful that England is a short hop (two hours) on a plane so I try to go ’home’ (as I always call it) four times a year. What I miss the most is the people: my Mum and Dad, my younger sister, and niece. My older sister lives in Mallorca. I absolutely love the English eccentricities and humour too.

Food-wise, funnily enough the thing I miss the most is an Indian take-away so that is always top of my list, closely followed by a Sunday roast cooked by mother and a pie of some sort – yum! I’d love to go back one day as it would be lovely to be closer to my family and also I’d love my girls to experience English culture first hand. Malmö would be a hard place to leave though, so we’ll see.

For more about Niki check out myscandinavianhome.com and her book Modern Pastoral

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