A year of acceptance

December 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s amazing we’re here, at the end of the year of dramatic changes, sudden losses, and adapting to a whole new life. It’s been a year of learning to accept.

I’ve been quiet for many months now, my apologies. In September I fell sick with a bad case of common cold that took its toll on me for weeks. We found we’re expecting our second child, but unfortunately lost the baby at 11 weeks. On top of that we experienced some other worries and losses – I’ve felt numb and speechless.

I’ve also been experiencing my worst yet culture shock. When the long and sunny summer turned into a foggy and rainy autumn, I began to see the gloomy sides of living in Bosnia. Far too many times I’ve said we have everything we wanted, but just in the wrong country.

The shock is not over, though I think I’m moving to the right direction. I do see reason to all of this and I acknowledge that many of my dreams have come true: living on the mountain, having lots of animals, running a guesthouse, being able to make our own schedules, enjoying the freedom of living on ‘the edge of society and civilation’.

On 23rd of November I updated my status on Facebook as follows:

— Yesterday I was asked at a family party how do I like the village, “honestly”, the man stressed.
Honestly: “It’s great. The people are kind. The place is beautiful.” But I don’t think there was anyone sitting around that table (apart from my husband perhaps) that would’ve understood how complex and difficult the question was to me. And though I answered honestly, I left out a million things.
The people are not only kind, they’re welcoming, warm, funny, understanding. They don’t have a lot, but they’ve taken me in (knowing I come from the rich north). It makes me grateful and humble. Yet I feel that sometimes the culture, the customs are too much, especially as a woman and as a mother.
The mountains, the woods, the nature all around is amazing. But it’s not only beautiful, it’s also messy and rough. There’s a lot of trash being thrown in the woods. There are unkept, abandoned, run-down houses, cars, yards. Though there’s no bullet holes on the walls in the village, I feel reminded of the ugly war all the time.
Painfully I know my perspective is Finnish. How ever much I wanted to leave my homeland, to live in new places, it stays with me forever. I compare when it’s not justifiable (I mean: it’s almost always unjust, to make comparisons to the Finnish standards…). I judge when I don’t know better. I get angry when I’m tired, when the caged bears, the homeless dogs, the poverty, the war memories, the inequality, the smoking, the drinking, the not-doing-the-right-thing-and-taking-action is just too much. The fault is largely in me.
I’m in love with this country. I wake up happy here.
But it’s also the toughest school I’ve ever been to. —

This is as accurate as ever. I’m in love with this country. My family is happy here. I wake up happy here. I believe I’m here to learn, I’m here for a reason.

But I still have trouble finding words to describe where I’m at emotionally, spiritually, socially, I find it difficult to feel true contentment. I miss too many people, I’m still to find a true sense of belonging.

I’ve also found myself being a full-time stay-at-home mother since the summer. This was unplanned, my husband has just been extremely busy at the guesthouse, and there are no nannies or kindergartens where we live. I’ve accepted the situation, since we decided to take this challenge on together, as a team, and give it the best we have. However I miss reading, writing, feeling connected to other places and surroundings than home – so there are a few New Year’s resolutions on the way!

For now, though, I’m sending you kisses and hugs from the mountain! May the year 2014 bring you all the love and happiness and serenity possible!

This is my last post as Belamama – from now on I hope you’ll find your way to my new blog Mount Rewild. To be honest, just saying this makes me smile, even this kind of small step has a huge impact on me! I hope you’re going to like it too. See you at http://www.mountrewild.org!


Free range kid

October 17, 2013 § 6 Comments

A few times, especially in the last six months, I’ve said we free range our daughter. And a few times I’ve been asked what does it mean. In our life it means she’s allowed and encouraged to do things she doesn’t know yet how to. It means that we don’t stop her when she is climbing stairs or painting her face (instead of paper).


Our daughter is soon two years old, so in a way she’s just began free ranging. She’s allowed to wander around the house and our mountain inn without us parents following her every second. But our eyes are on her. She seems naturally quite careful and she rarely goes behind the guesthouse where there are more dangers lurking. But when she does, we’ll accompany her. When she wants to go somewhere she’s not allowed, or it’s just too difficult to get there on her own, she often asks for our help and company.


There are reasons for us to do this. We believe that kids need freedom to explore and challenge their abilities from day one – this is the only way of learning. We believe that us parents are not always best evaluators of what kids need to learn and when – kids themselves are. And we believe that if the world is wide open to the kids, they’ll learn to trust their own instincts and find their own bounderies.


I love standing back and looking what she does. What she sees and finds and understands next. What attracts and interests her. It’s sometimes extremely demanding not to help or show her how. I fail, over and over again. I interrupt her and guide her (when she doesn’t need or want it), I lead the way, and I correct her mistakes (that aren’t mistakes, of course, to begin with).

In the long run I think our free ranging means unlearning many things us parents were brought up with. There are far less ‘wrongs’ and ‘mistakes’ than we were told. When our daughter puts on her clothes the wrong way round, I remind myself that she’s learning, not making a mistake. When she plays with her shape sorter toy and puts blocks into the box by lifting the lid (instead of the right shaped hole), she’s not doing it wrong, she’s being resourceful. And she definitely doesn’t need our help all the time. Especially not when she’s playing, which is what she’s doing most of the time.


On the other hand free ranging is, in many ways, going back to what us parents had when growing up. Born in the 70’s, we had more freedom than many kids these days. We were out most of the day (and if we didn’t go, our parents would be shoving us out), running in the forests, going rough riding with our bikes, playing with the kids in the neigbourhood until dark. Often our parents were unaware of where we were. We came back for mealtimes and simply said we’d had a lot of fun. We had few organised or paid for hobbies, and we had, so it seemed, endless amounts of time. I remember coming home wet to my underwear from playing in the rain and puddles, or shivering of cold after a snowball fight, or heart pounding for running around playing cops and robbers. And that was all fine. I was only doing what a kid was supposed to do. For our daughter, this is all in the future.

I don’t know what comes out of this. I don’t know for a fact that trust in oneself and the world are built exactly like this. But I hope so. I’m not sure if this is good, or any better, for our relationship than some other kind of parenting. But it feels right. This comes naturally, and in this setting it feels like the only way of bringing her up.


— This blog is soon merging with my other blog (slosimple), and the location of it will be mountrewild.org. —

Top 3 books on early parenting

September 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m a bookaholic. Reading is elemental to me. And I’d rather own the books that I read, there is something satisfactory to me to be filling my bookshelves. Whatever I’m interested in, I’m soon reading about it. When I got pregnant, I bought books about pregnancy and childbirth. Soon after I was looking for books about raising kids. And now I’m moving onto unschooling and other topics alike about older kids and their lives.


I haven’t read all of the books I’ve acquired about kids and parenting. Some I’ve opened once or twice, waiting for a more proper need. Some I’ve read, made markings on them, underline here, exclamation mark there. I’ve returned to them.

Three books had a ground breaking influence on me:

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
  • What Mothers Do – especially when it looks like nothing
  • and Simplicity Parenting.

I’ve read all about attachment parenting, and I’ve taken in a lot of the gentle, unconditional, mindful parenting. But these three all gave a me a completely new look on their topics.


Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Reading this book gave me tons of self-confidence and determination. I didn’t have a midwifery community around me, and I had to give birth in a hospital, but I was sure to do it as natural as possible. I was curious of Ina May’s explanations on what happens in the body during labor, I wanted to know more about birthing positions, how to minimise the pain, and how to best apply all she talked about into a hospital environment.

The first part of the book is dedicated to individual birth stories. Stories of women and their babies, how the birth took place, what happened along the way. They are also stories of Ina May, how she, as a midwife, sees and understands the miracle of birth. Ina May has been a community midwife over three decades, herself and her partners attending to some 2200 births over the years.

The second part of the book is called The Essentials of Birth. This part “explains why we at The Farm Midwifery Center were able (with good and timely help from various doctors, hospitals, and community members) to achieve excellent results, even from the beginning when my partners and I had practically no experience. Before the first cesarean became necessary, 186 babies were born. The second cesarean was the 324th birth. We achieved this remarkably low intervention rate without endangering women or their babies.”

If you’re interested in organic, natural birth, but don’t know exactly what it is, or what it can be: read Ina May. If you are pregnant, but have doubts about your abilities, or you doubt the whole process of giving birth: read Ina May. Even if you’re feeling completely confident, it never hurts to read more inspiring and insightful words of wisdom.


What Mothers Do – especially when it looks like nothing by Naomi Stadlen

I fell in love with this one! It’s really about mothers and mothering, not parenting or children. It focuses on what happens in the woman’s life once she becomes a mother. By the time Naomi Stadlen wrote the book, she’d been running weekly discussion groups for mothers in London for over 12 years. And from what I’ve read, she’s a very wise, good, and kind woman and a mother (and an existential psychotherapist and counsellor).

Well educated women with careers universally seem to dwell on the same issues and questions: “Am I doing this right, too much that, too little this?”, “Are my feelings normal?”, “Am I overly cautious and panicking over nothing?”. Let’s face it, usually it is the mother (not the father or other family members) that is the least chilled when it comes to her kid. She’s the one checking if the baby well clothed, enough fed, and still breathing in the dark hours of night.

I never thought I’d think negatively about mothering. I never thought of the specific words we use when we’re talking about mothers and their behaviour. But through this book I understood there are far less good words put to use, than there are ‘bad’ words. I quote: “It’s easy to hear a mother label her own actions ‘neurotic’ or ‘obsessional’; ‘compulsory’, ‘phobic’ or ‘paranoid’. — She might call herself ‘obsessional’ because she keeps checking whether her baby is hungry. She might say she was ‘neurotic’ because when her baby sleeps for a long time she suddenly panics that he might be ill or dying. — Perhaps up till now, mothers haven’t needed precise words to describe mothering. Perhaps that explains why we haven’t got many. Women saw each other being mothers. The importance and value of what they were doing was so obvious.”

This is in the very beginning of the book. It completely hit me! This book gave me words, reasons, substance to being a mother. It is full of quotes by mothers of the discussion group. They talk about the complicated feelings of a being a new mother: worry, joy, guilt, and love, all appearing at once. They talk about relationships and family life. They talk about what they are faced with going back to work – or not, breastfeeding and soothing the baby etc. How all this affects their lives emotionally, socially, mentally.

The beauty of What Mothers Do is that it doesn’t give you answers. It lets you inside other mothers heads and hearts, giving the reader a permission and possibility to reflect and ponder how am I dealing with these thoughts and emotions.


Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

I read this one while I was still pregnant. Although I was mainly focusing on books about the pregnancy and childbirth, I bought a few parenting books in the early months of pregnancy. In all its simplicity and clarity I thought this was amazing.

This one is quite the opposite of What Mothers Do in a sense of absolutely giving advice and answers.  From decluttering the kids room to simplifying the weekly or monthly family schedule, it’s full of tips and ideas on how to slow down and simplify any modern family’s life.

If you’re into simplicity lifestyle at all, you’d already know about limiting your media exposure, the quantity of stuff around or the activities you take part in. But what was important in this book for me, was the way it looks at things from the child’s perspective. It really gives you an idea of what they need and want. It also showed what happens once you implement some of these ideas into your daily life:

“Imagine how secure your child will feel knowing that:

  • when something is really ‘up’, when they don’t feel right, you will notice and respond
  • when they are overwhelmed – physically or emotionally – normal routines will be suspended
  • when their well-being is threatened, they will be brought to close, be watched, and be cared for
  • when they are not well, they will be afforded the time and ease to recover their equilibrium
  • your love will accommodate, and look beyond, their less-than-best selves
  • they are deeply known and instinctively cared for”

Simplicity Parenting addresses any household of today, and the author is quite realistic of his ‘expectations’. Once again it’s a case of not-one-right-way of doing things – you read, you contemplate and imagine how things would fit your lifestyle, and you pick the ones that resonate with you.


Other picks from my parenting bookshelf:

Ina May Gaskin: Spiritual Midwifery
Sarah J. Buckley: Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering
Alfie Kohn: Unconditional Parenting
William Grain: Reclaiming childhood
Naomi Aldort: Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves
Richard Louv: Last Child in the Woods
David Elkind: The Hurried Child and The Power of Play
David Bainbridge: Teenagers – a natural history
Myla & Jon Kabat-Zinn: Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

Will you have my kid’s back?

August 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

For a reason that’s already slipped my mind, I recently realised that over the years I’ve been blessed with people that have influenced me, that have touched, accompanied, helped, or moved me, believed in me, smiled to me, given me courage. And I realised I might not have ever thanked them. So I began to write thank you notes and letters of praise.

I was compiling a list of “must write to” people, and drew a timeline in a notebook. My adult life has been coloured with loved ones, boyfriends, and homes that I’ve lived in – it was easy to recall some beautifully influental people from the last 15 years. But the years of growing up were left nearly blank of such. And though I’m deeply, utterly grateful to have been blessed with great souls and marvelous encounters during my adulthood, I was startled by the absence of them in my younger life.

Is it possible I didn’t receive a lot of support from other grown ups (luckily my parents have always trusted in me)? Who were the people giving me nudge to the right direction or offering good, stable, adult advice?


I don’t wish to dwell on the negative, but as I was looking back I remembered a few non-supportive events. My teacher in the 80’s in Finland, told me on the first class of elementary school, that I was in her little black book. That I had been warned about by the kindergarten teachers. (Why I had reached the pages of her book, I don’t know.) I believe I was energetic, imaginative, running around, being too loud. I remember not understanding that from day one at school, I was expected to sit down, be quiet, and listen. But, perhaps contrary to my teacher’s hopes, being told I was bad, didn’t make me a better pupil or a quieter mind. It made me a little scared, and quite angry.

The other memory is from my first real job. I worked as an office secretary in an advertising agency and was given an overload of work. Simply too much. It didn’t cross my mind to talk about it with my superior. Instead I tried to keep up with the duties, and keep smiling. One day I was fiercely, loudly told off for not cleaning the office fridge. It was of no excuse telling my boss I was never asked to clean the fridge (the company did order for cleaning services from a professional). I didn’t have anyone to ask for advice, I was just puzzled, thinking now less of the boss. But I continued working, cleaning the fridge, too.

I understand that these are minor events in a world where people are treated with violence and injustice all around. And I survived, no doubt. But to the 7 and 19 year old me they were ground breaking – in an ugly way.

So, I’ve grown since then. I’m no longer put down as easily, and I’ve found my place and purpose. But I started to think about my own child. Will there be people around her, telling her she’s great and smart and good? That she can do anything. That she’s worthy regardless of her accomplishments. That she’ll always have love in this world. That no dream is too big or small to cherish. Will she have grown ups listening to her? Sharing their wise thoughts and advice, telling her that she’s made good decisions in her life and that they’ll have her back, whatever happens? Sure enough she’ll have us parents, but I’m thinking neighbours, friends’ parents, teachers, career advisers, colleagues, superiors, mentors, and the odd acquaintances she’ll make on her journey.


A few weeks ago we had a visitor from Australia at the guesthouse. She was 19 years old (!), travelling alone for a month in the Balkans. When she arrived, she went for a straight four hour hike in the woods, having never been in Bosnia before, not speaking the language, nor taking her phone with. She held her head high and had no hesitations. I was worried, but she came back safe and sound. After we had a little chat. She told me she’s already on her way back home, because her studies were starting. She said she’s into medicine. I was curious (and I’m not a big believer in the current path Western medicine has taken), so I just listened. She spoke calmly, but enthusiastically. She spoke wisely, like a 19 year old would. And at the end of the monologue it felt so extremely good to say that I thought she’s made excellent decisions. That I think she’s on the right course in her life. That she should keep that and always listen to what her heart tells her. It felt good to me to say that.

When you look back, do you see supportive, trustworthy adults? Did you have a person (outside the immediate family) that you could turn to? Was there someone telling you – with words or actions – that you’re special, wonderful, strong? Intelligent, kind, good?


My dear fellow parents, friends and strangers, mankind and the universe, take the position to praise the kids around you. Tell them they’re great! Not that they look cute – though that’s sometimes ok too – but that they are excellent the way they are. Tell them there’ s no grand expectations, just to live in peace. Tell them the world is and will be a good place to live (even us adults sometimes don’t see it that way). Tell them that they are phenomenal, magnificent, powerful – simply because they exist.

** And if you have a minute, read also this. It’s a great piece by Emily Plank on the importance of seeking and seeing the good in everyone – parents and kids. I quote: “She sees me for the best person that I am, trusting in the goodness of my motives, even if the outcome of my behavior leaves room for improvement — Along with seeking help for challenges that push us beyond our ability, let’s begin a conversation about the truly amazing and incredible generation we are raising.” Some very good stuff. **


Pink isn’t the issue

July 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’ve lived on the mountain in Bosnia for half a year now. It’s the perfect natural setting for any child. We have endless amounts of wild, beautiful nature around us. We’ve got donkeys, goats, dogs, and cats. Our girl is not yet two years, but she’s loving the place. She’s a free range child, allowed and able to run, climb, wander free (with minimal restrictions, mainly due to safety reasons). She picks up flowers, she’s amazed by the moon and the stars, she is fascinated about ants, butterflies, birds – sometimes for two seconds, sometimes ten minutes at one go.


Nevertheless I’ve been told we need to move to the city (Sarajevo) by the time she’s six years old. Or when she’s four, or when she’s reaching her teens. And anything in between. Six is a definitive turning point, since that’s when kids go to school here. Perhaps four would mean that then – at the latest – she needs to go to kindergarten, and teenagers, of course, they need to be out in the “world”.

This particular issue worries others, but not us. I think we’ll stay on the mountain for as long as it feels good and as long as it’s possible. We’re only about 20 minutes drive away from town, so if we absolutely needed, we could pop down on a daily basis. Renting a place in downtown Sarajevo costs anything from 200 KM (100 euros) a month at the moment. So we could even have a second home there. The next move is years away, if ever, and I’m pretty sure it’ll all work out organically, in due time, as it’s done so far.


What I am worried about is a more conceptual matter. I’m not at home in the tough-love, boys-are-soldiers-girls-princesses, a-slap-every-now-and-then-never-hurt-nobody environment. I’m not happy with the gender-based upbringing of children that I see around me. It’s a culture shock to me, a conflict of perspectives. Many issues here (and all over the world, of course) are addressed with “that’s how it’s always been done”. There’s little space for unconventional thinking and acting when it comes to children. Boys have plastic guns for toys, they’re expected to be tough, loud, good at sports, competitive, and they’re definitely NOT – god forbid – supposed to cry! Girls are sweet, mellow, pretty, soft, and basically nothing like boys. And that’s the way it stays.


The radical gender-neutral upbringing trend, that I’ve read about, doesn’t appeal to me either. What I don’t get about that approach is that it implies the gender being the problem, and what needs to be addressed is the gender itself. I didn’t and will not have any intentions of giving my children gender-neutral names (that don’t indicate the gender of the person). Nor do I have trouble dressing my daughter in dresses and skirts. I don’t think those are the real issues.

What troubles me is that our daughter is already considered more fragile than boys her age. When we’re watching her doing her thing, there are often others gently trying to rear her to safer games, or lifting her up and down stairs. I watch her trying to refuse the assistance, and I see the frustration. And again, the problem is not offering her help, that’s simply kindness. The trouble lies in the back of it all, in the general way of thinking that where boys will be fine, girls will struggle. We try to give her space to learn on her own, and offer our help when she needs it.


Although we’re not crazy on the material side of family life, I was excited to find A Mighty Girl. It’s a great tool when you’re looking for books, toys, clothes, or films for the kids. They’ve done a lot of work putting together items that promote the growing up of “smart, confident, and courageous girls” – no doubt the stuff is as good for boys, too.

I was brought up in the 80’s, thinking girls and women can do anything. My childhood heroes were Astrid Lindgren’s characters Ronja the Robber’s Daughter and Pippi Longstocking, both strong, witty, and courageous girls. I was brought up in Finland, of course. Finland is said to be a pioneer in gender equality, being the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote and stand for election, back in 1906. (Find here some interesting, current facts about women, business, and the law worldwide)

Perhaps the upside of this is that while living in Finland I might have taken the gender-neutral perspectives for granted, thus not paying too much attention to what’s really happening in the playground. At least now I’m actually addressing these issues. And while I don’t always even notice the seeming extraordinarity of it, my daughter is as joyful playing a princess holding gently her soft doll as she is play driving our old truck. That’s the way kids are, they don’t divide things to girls’ stuff and boys’ stuff, until they’re told or taught to do so, by us, the media, or whoever it might be. I just hope that time is still light years away.

Just your everyday dad

July 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tom Stocky, a director at Facebook, updated his fb-status (7th of July) about his paternity leave. He spent four months taking care of his daughter, a lengthy paternity leave (not long enough, some might say, though!) that is rare in many countries and cultures. I reposted his text on my own wall, as did many others. I quote Stocky: “What I never got used to was the double-standard for fathers when it comes to childcare. I experienced it predominantly in three forms: (1) low expectations for fathers, (2) negative perceptions of working mothers, and (3) negative perceptions of “non-working” fathers. (Side note, the term “working mothers” is bad because it implies at-home mothers aren’t working, which is of course not true, but I don’t know a better term to use.)”


It still amazes me how fascinated we are by fathers taking care of their children, in the year 2013. I’m constantly reminded that my view on children and family life is not exactly mainstream. Some are struggling with – what seems to me – the very basics: who’s turn it is to do what (change the baby’s diaper, feed her, put her to sleep, etc.), who is capable of what, who has the right to go to work, to see friends, to excersise etc.

2012-02-18 12.51.30

What I think is wrong or strange with this is that it’s such a power struggle. As if there was a fight between the good and desired and the not-so-interesting and less-of-value, work vs. children, going out vs. staying with the kids, doing the chores vs. being free. And the way I see it, is that all of the mentioned activities (and countless others) can be enjoyable when you’re happy and balanced.

Especially after becoming mother myself, I’ve had trouble understanding couples fighting over who’s to stay behind and take care of the kids. I get that if it’s always the one and never the other, it’s killing all joy in the family life. What I don’t get is why someone wouldn’t want to stay with the kids.


I’m not saying I’m getting an actual pleasure out of changing my baby’s diaper, but I do enjoy the fact that she lets me do it, and I get to spend that time with her. If she didn’t feel comfortable letting me change her diaper, I would be very worried. If I never got to work, read, go out with my friends, or spend time with my goats (!) without her presence, I would quickly wear out. Needing one’s own time is a simple, often expressed fact by many parents.

Yet when it is the father staying with the baby, it still makes the headlines.

Stocky mentioned that he was often encountered with admiration and / or surprise when seen taking care of his child. He mentions he got “ridiculous praise for changing his baby’s diaper or going grocery shopping with her”. How is that so? How is it  possible that we don’t expect men to participate on these mandatory and completely normal duties of a parent?

I did have expectations towards my husband. I didn’t think of them, though, until our baby was born. I believe I am unquestionably as entitled to have a life outside the home as he is. Even though I married a Balkan man (not always known for their liberal thoughts or belief in equality, I’m afraid) I’ve never doubted my “rights”.

My husband didn’t take an actual paternity leave since he was freelancing at the time our daughter was born and was able to spend lots of time with her from the beginning. My maternity leave was 12 months – a normal duration in Slovenia – so we were pretty much hands-on both of us.


Equality in a relationship doesn’t mean all is 50/50, it doesn’t mean you keep count of what’s who’s share. At least in my family it means we try to fix things so that we’re all content with what we have and do. I was perfectly happy to be with our daughter almost 24/7 the first four months. I had complete faith in my husband’s baby caring skills, but I wanted to be close to my girl. Gradually after the first months my husband was spending more and more time with her alone. They would go walking in town, sitting in cafes or my husband would take her to meetings he had to attend to. We never really even discussed this. It was just the way we did things.

And, it didn’t always go the way I wanted. Often when they were leaving home, I would fuss “did you remember to take diapers”, he would look at me certain way or laugh straight at me, and I would back off.  He might put funny clothes on her or forget to pack some food. Sometimes I phoned him to ask if he took spare whatever with him. But I always trusted she’d be in the best of care with him (why wouldn’t I?!). And they always returned looking so happy.


What I learned was that he does things differently (and sometimes better). I admire my husband for being so relaxed with our daughter. He doesn’t worry or get tensed when he needs to take her with him to work. He trusts that it’ll all be cool. And if anything does come up, he’s quite capable of handling it. What he says he learned was that it’s fun and easy with her. That they can go almost anywhere without hassle or too much worry. But more important than all this, is that our girl knows her father and he knows her. They trust each other, they feel each other.

Or as Stocky puts it: “It was nice to have her like me so much, to come to me for comfort when she fell, to come and cuddle with me when she got sleepy, to run toward me screaming with excitement after I’d been away for awhile. I realized that’s just because I spent so much time with her, but I didn’t care, it felt really good. Maybe it was also because I got better at childcare. It feels nice to be good at something, and I got much better at the work I was doing at home”.


Top 5 to living with a newborn – best advice I ever got

June 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

1. Nesting
Nesting means snuggling in peace and quiet with your baby. Making a nest-like, super comfortable, soft place at home, and enjoying in the warmth of it. In a more broad sense it’s about focusing on you and the baby, and not letting other factors bother or distract you. In practice this means not making definitive plans or arranging for events you can’t back away. Make arrangements at home so you’re comfortable laying low with your baby. Many advice on having the baby close to you, skin on skin, as this helps hormone levels adjust and it gives a safe and secure feeling to the baby.

When my baby was born, we were lucky enough to take time to get to know each other. In the first weeks we spent countless hours just napping, gazing at each other, not worrying for the rest of the world.


2. Hands-on first, stuff second
If you’re expecting or have just had your first baby, you might think “what do we need to buy for her?”. Rest assured, you already have (almost) everything she’ll need the first few weeks! Ok, naturally you’ll want to have clothes and diapers and some other things at hand for her. Where ever possible, try not to fill the home with baby stuff and gadgets. You’ll have plenty of time to purchase things a little later, once you know what you really need. Your baby is likely to sleep a lot and while awake, she’ll be happy just to look at you, the household cat, or pictures on the walls. Being close to her family is the best entertainment for the baby.

Having things like babysitters or bouncers, play mats, and toys of many sorts cost money, will be needed only later (and not in large quantity), and can overstimulate the baby if introduced too early. Especially you might find yourself frustrated trying to put her down and expect her to be content away from you and happy playing alone.


3. Ask for help
There seems to be an ever increasing trend in the western world to survive alone, to handle difficulties on your own. For a new mother who’s spent her adult life being independent, productive, and self-reliant at work and home, it might prove difficult to ask for help. Yet first time fresh mothers in other cultures and other times have hardly ever been left alone to “just handle it”. You might be surrounded with people rushing to work and continuing the lifestyle you shared with them, just a moment ago. Thus it might be difficult for them to offer help, as they’re simply not sure what to do for you, what you might want and need.

Hence: Ask for help. Be precise in what you need and ask boldly. Tell your spouse, your family and friends what to bring you and how to help at home: clean the kitchen, cook for you, take the baby for a walk outside so you can sleep.


4. Go out when you can and want
In some cultures it is strongly advised not to go out or exercise in any way in the first six weeks after giving birth. In others new mothers might go back to work even after just two weeks. The traditions and habits vary. The biological and medical fact is that your insides are not back to their original places and you are likely to be extremely soft and tender all around. This is why all physical exercise and challenges should be postponed to a later time. At the same time I think it’s hugely important to many of us to go out and see other people. Especially if your friends are at work, and can’t accompany you at home, you might want to participate in “life” outside your home.

When you feel well and strong enough, just go! The first time out, pushing the pram or carrying your baby might be very exciting and tiring, so make a plan not to go too far (around the block is probably plenty!) or how to get back, if you lose your stamina.


My postpartum nurse was very cautious about my moving around after the baby’s birth. I went out on the fifth day, and tended to walk daily ever since. I was careful, tried to walk at a pace suitable for my condition – which was difficult! I was feeling so well and really needed the fresh air. I was super happy to see other people and enjoy the nature (it was the end of October, the trees were bright red and yellow, the air crispy clear). I found a perfect “schedule” for us: we would stay at home each morning until noonish. I would have breakfast, lie down, snuggling with the baby, fall back to sleep, napping until almost midday, and then slowly, with great laziness put on clothes and go out for a few hours. We walked to a café in the center, and then back, some three kilometers all together.

5. Search for your kind of motherhood slowly
You might have ideas of how you’ll do things, what mistakes you’ll definitely try avoid, and what kind of a mother you will be. Thinking about motherhood and what it means to you is highly recommended. Mothers-to-be often plan well only until the birth, and don’t really bother about the time after. But that’s just when it ALL begins!

I would urge new mothers to give themselves time to find their way. Your motherhood is entwined with who your child is. As you get to know your baby, you get to know yourself as a mother. If you’re not sure how you feel about different mothering issues in the first weeks, try not to feel frustrated, instead cut yourself some slack. Whenever you can, just sit back, snuggle, and breathe.


Late spring photo diary

May 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

As much as I love writing – and miss it when I don’t write – I see that photography is what I do more effortlessly. I take photos almost on a daily basis, without much planning, without a mission. I take my camera everywhere.

There was a time I didn’t carry it around. I’d learned that I had a hard time enjoying life as it was, without the camera as an armour. So I took a few years off.

By the time our daughter was born, the device had grown back on me. (My equipment is far from professional, a Canon 400D plus some lenses, but it’s adequate enough for my purposes.) Here’s a miniature photo diary from the past month and a half.

water systemEarly April. The joy of running water, coming down from the mountain.


local shop

Stopping by at the local shop with Tata.

flower picking

First flowers.


wild garlic

Picking wild garlic with Tata.


with r

Late April. Spending a sunny afternoon with Rauha the dog.


Mama went working for two and a half weeks. First ext. location of a film shoot in Slovenia.



Dancers having a break during the shoot.


Screaming happiness of watching the white water. Location scouting with favourite uncle Dragan.


On the set.


A romantic picture at the end of shoot.


The May sun.



Tired dogs in an early morning mist.

with c

Finally all at home again!


Greeting the neighbour and their cat.


snow morning

An early morning snow fall in May.

Mothers and friends

April 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s nearly midnight in March and the five of us are outside a closed restaurant, laughing so we’ve got tears in our eyes. We’ve been talking about kids and the various lifestyles and situations we’re in. One of us is taking her family to the jungle in Brazil during her fieldwork there, one has just come back from the freaking cold and fierce Finnish winter, and me, I’m moving to a seemingly remote location to the mountains in Bosnia. After an evening of having dinner, talking about our joys and frustrations, and enjoying a few glasses of wine, our reality looks nothing but wacky and absurd. So there we are, standing on the street on a Tuesday evening, in an empty town, cracking up. Me and my four best friends.

The next day we drove to Bosnia with my husband and spent three weeks there, making a home. During that time we saw a few of our friends in Sarajevo – but I didn’t have the girls around, the support net that we’ve woven in the years in Ljubljana. Surely the net is there, but 550 kilometers is a long drive away for an afternoon coffee.


(TOZD, our local in Ljubljana. Superb coffee, btw.)

We went back for a few days last week, and I was reminded how lucky I am for having these incredible women in my life.

They are smart, funny, beautiful. They are brave, trustworthy, creative. They are mothers (all except one) and career women. They are also all Finnish. I never intended to surround myself with fellow Finns when I moved to Slovenia. Accidental as it is, it’s not surprising. We’re the same age, in similar life circumstances. We live abroad, in a tiny country, coming from a tiny nation up north. We share a cultural background, we’ve grown in a special kind of climate (be it weather, environment or social life) and we’ve swapped all that to live in very different circumstances, mostly because we’ve fallen in love. Quite possibly there is no-one on this planet that could understand me better than they can.

in tozd

(Kids, kids!)

When I got pregnant there was only one child among the five of us. Within seven months after my girl was born, three more babies had joined us. The first six months of my motherhood are among the happiest in my life. I was thrilled to have the baby I had longed for, the love hormones were going wild, of course, and she was so beautiful to me. But it wasn’t just that. It was also that I could share the happiness with my friends.

They say it takes a village to raise kids right. Although I’ve just recently moved to a village, I’d like to think my village is a different sort. It’s the friends and loved ones we have around the world. I like to think that when my children grow up, they’ll have many homes to return to. And vice versa, my door is always open to my friends and their children, whenever they need a place to rest or another adult to listen to them. So I can’t really believe my luck of finding these women with whom I share so much of values and views of life.


We’ve spent together Christmases, New Year’s Eves, Midsummer nights, and birthdays. We’ve heard the birth stories, the love stories, the unhappy endings of past times. We’ve laughed about the weird dates and the never-agains, and cried about losses and disappointments. When one of us goes to Finland, she brings something to all of us: chocolate, books, magazines, packages from families. Together we could open a Finnish design and bookshop, but we settle for organising parties with all the right decorations and nostalgic music.

We talk about work (“Should I take the kids to the Amazon with me?”, “When are the clients from India arriving?”), politics (The Yugoslavian heritage, capitalism, socialism – the soil is fruitful for any political talk), and art (exhibitions and gigs we’ve missed, or aren’t going to miss this time). We talk about relationships, naturally. Kids, family relations, friendships. When I’ve been tired or worried about the baby, there’s always the four of them, listening to me, giving advice if needed, and offering help. Our families and old friends are far away, so we’ve become each other’s local family members, in a way. We often have kids with us, when we gather. On some evenings it’s just us girls. Our husbands and boyfriends are ever astonished listening to us, speed talking in Finnish, and laughing aloud. (Yet they quietly thank their fates for us girls having us girls. For it’s the five of us that circle around in the good and the challenging times, thus taking a little off the burden of the boys.)

I see us as girls – more than mothers or career women – and I see us being silly, drinking champagne and talking about boys and lipstick when we’re in our seventies. And just the thought makes me giggle. In one way, I can’t wait to get there! On the other, I’m really looking forward to sharing the years in between with them. But most of all, I’m just happy about my friends in the now.


(At Sarajevo Film Festival.)

I once heard this morbid declaration of friendship: Friends help you move, best friends help you move bodies. There’s a wide gap between the two. Though I sincerely hope I’ll never need to move a body, it’s good to know I have a few people I could call.

So mothers and friends all around: Be fearless in sharing and giving. Happiness lives in giving, and your motherhood will thrive the happier you are.

P.S. I’m writing this in a café in downtown Sarajevo, and I see girls talking, holding hands, and laughing. It makes me smile. So much love around.

At home in the wild

March 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

While I was growing up, I used to dream of living like Astrid Lindgren’s character Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. She is the daughter of a robber, and the family lives in a medieval castle in the deep woods. She’s left muchly to run wild, with no-one to tell her what to do or not. To me she represented the ultimate freedom, love to the woods, and the joy of being one with nature.


(A shot from the film Ronja Rövardotter. Ronja with her father Mattis.)

Of course I wasn’t able to live quite like that – but as it turns out, my daughter has more of a chance. We live in a village called the wolf haven, after all. On a mountain, surrounded by forests.

When she was a year old, we decided to keep her at home with us, rather than putting her in the kindergarten. (In Slovenia working parents kids are often put to kindergarten at the age of one, or soon after.) Although I was happy with the decision, I couldn’t help thinking if we’re going to be able to provide her with the kinds of activities and social surroundings she needs.

Having read a lot about the subject, I knew it wasn’t a bad decision. But was it a good one? Though she’s with us, we’re not exactly stay-at-home mom and dad. And things have radically changed after that, of course. We run a guesthouse, and at times we’ll be quite busy with it. On top of that we both work partly from home, often focusing on other things than her. On an average day we’re doing the very basic stuff: cooking, talking on the phone, checking emails and Facebook, going over paperwork or trying to read.

the cat

So what does she do? She tries on her own clothes, putting them on in funny ways, in the “wrong” order, and takes them off again. She spends time testing her fathers shoes or my scarfs. She pats the cats and dogs, and also screams at them (to make them run away, then laughs – something she knows isn’t allowed). She climbs up to the sofa and chairs, and then climbs back down. She goes to the kitchen cupboards, takes all down, and “cooks”.


I’ve seen now what I’d been reading about earlier. I really don’t need to do much. I don’t need to be professional about kids to have her at home. I need to make the environment ok for her, eliminating the immediate dangers and no-gos. But it’s enough that I respond to her, when she’s calling for me. It’s enough that we play for a while, look at the birds flying, and then I return to work. It’s enough that my arms are wide open.

By having her I’ve really understood I can’t push anything too hard. Things happen when they’re meant to happen. If she needs me while I’m writing an email, it’s in everyone’s best interest I attend to her then. Finish the email later. Make the call later. Watch the film later. Clean the bathroom later. I’ve learned there is always time. Now and later.

Being with her gets better, easier, all the time. The moments she’s happy with her own imagination are longer. I enjoy playing with her more. Her humour and playfulness change and develop. It gets more fun and wild. It gets more like Ronia’s life. We run, we hide from each other, we climb up the stairs. We scream – a lot!


As the spring is coming along, soon it’s time to get dirty in mud puddles and go rambling in the woods. We’re planning the garden with vegetables and flowers, and I’m sure she’ll be helping by throwing the soil around and picking far too many flowers from the well made beds… I can’t wait!

And soon enough she’ll be running the woods, without me. She’ll be making friends with the trees, the squirrels, and the mice. She’ll learn how to jump from a rock to a tree stump. She’ll be at home in the wild. Or that’s what we hope for.

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