A Swedish Lifestyle in Metro DC: A Photo Essay

I’ve been trying to polish my nails for weeks. The bottle is sitting on my bedroom dresser, and I see it everyday as I race by between waking and sleeping hours. I bought a new color – a deep purple – for the winter season. It’s now officially spring.

This little girl is wearing me out! She’s almost walking, so perhaps once that happens I won’t need to continue carrying her so much. Lately it feels like I am fighting to accomplish so many of the seeming priorities that fill lists, inboxes and calendars.

It was clearly time for a breather, so Bug and I went downtown to the House of Sweden, part of the Swedish Embassy that occupies prime real estate in Georgetown on the river. NoVa Mommy blogger friend Karrie had arranged a private visit for a group of moms and kids to experience the Zero to One installation at House of Sweden.

Zero to One is a concept meant to enforce the simple meeting between small children and adults. A way to put down the technology that makes our life simultaneously simpler and more distracted, the installation focuses on the fact that babies require quiet time to bond with their caregivers. The small room is completely white with malleable components (think pillows) made of bathing suit-like material of which some can be moved around the room, while others stretch in place from floor to ceiling. A fringe of white tassels welcomes people through the door frame. Trance-like, calm music plays. White opaque curtains filter natural light.

At first we moms were having fun calling to our kids and making a ruckus. Then a curator came in to teach us that the room is to be a quiet place where children can explore both the space and their caregivers. A safe space. A peaceful space, free of distractions. Then the room quieted down, and I could see how lovely it was to Just Be.

While cell phones are not allowed, cameras are. I tried to spend time taking pictures, and then time Just Being. But photography is one way I love to relate to Ladybug, and the white setting of the room made for a spectacular surrounding. Hence, this photo essay.

The Zero to Three installation runs through April 24. This weekend on Saturday, April 2, from 11:00am to 2:00pm, House of Sweden is having a Family Fun day that includes a host of events in addition to Zero to Three. When I visited, Bug also played in the interactive play room Space for Children which is filled with children-inspired design pieces for play and living (it’s more than just Ikea furniture).

Those Swedes really have it right. Social and office policies that genuinely support work/family balance. 420 state-financed parental leave days to use in a child’s first eight years of life. Paternity leave. Furniture and interior design that maximizes human efficiency and happiness. As one of the Swedish curators that day put it, “Everyone loves their children and wants to be with them. Swedish culture reinforces that idea.”

American culture can be crushing when it comes to working, raising a family, having a social life and honoring the independent self. It is a daily struggle to marry all these facets of life into one – a constant tension that makes me wonder if it can actually be achieved in America, or if I need to flee the country to a place where social policy supports families in being healthy, happy people. I recall that the nation of Bhutan measures Gross National Happiness. Can we do better in Vienna, metro DC and America? Perhaps we can start in the quiet space of the House of Sweden, even if for a brief view into how our lives could be.

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10 thoughts on “A Swedish Lifestyle in Metro DC: A Photo Essay

    • Yeah, I didn’t think too much about what she was wearing, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it all “worked” in the pictures. I really love these photos. So pristine and simple. I believe that’s the whole point here.

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  1. What a cool idea! Love the pure white setting. I have a friend who lives in Austria, and for each of her 3 children she got 3 years of state-sponsored maternity leave. I was so jealous of how mom-friendly their laws are.

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  2. After reading your post, we took Lukas there on Saturday. What a cool exhibit. We all had a great time. Thanks for the idea.

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    • Oh, I’m so glad! I bet your little guy had fun. Was the family fun day a good time? I wondered if it would be too crowded. The weather was so bad Saturday, maybe it kept people away?

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