A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Hygge, the Danish concept of coziness and contentment, recently took the world by storm, causing many of us to invest in warm socks, candles, and loads of hot chocolate. Still obsessed with the Scandinavians, people are now moving onto the Swedish lifestyle word: lagom. Loosely translated, it means “not too much and not too little,” the just-right amount of everything.


Books and articles are already flooding the market, telling us how we can live a life of lagom. Sweden ranks in the top ten when it comes to happiest countries, and many wonder if it’s their balanced approach to life that gives them the edge. Others worry that lagom will fizzle out in countries where moderation and thinking of the whole over the individual have never been the norm.

Like hygge, lagom encapsulates gratitude because it’s about contentedness in any season. Unlike hygge, lagom is not as sexy or indulgent. It’s easy to want to drink that extra cup of coffee or to take a break in the middle of the day and enjoy a book, hygge-style. It’s less appealing to consider giving up excesses in the name of lagom.

This may be the reason lagom is not being met with the unbridled enthusiasm of hygge. For every article extolling its benefits, there’s another one from a jaded author begging the world not to follow in Sweden’s middle-of-the-road footsteps.

What, if anything, can lagom offer us when it comes to balanced living? Is it a good concept for our kids to embrace?

Minimalism, but not exactly

Lagom has been described as minimalism, but in the just-the-right amount way. Whether it’s putting together capsule wardrobes, contemplating working overtime, or deciding how much dessert to eat, lagom guides Swedes in decision-making so they err on the side of moderation.

It’s not a bad idea to teach kids moderation as a guiding principle. Many developed countries raise children who live with constant excess in their lives, and parents worry about children growing up thinking only of themselves and no one else. Lagom’s focus on the group, and on only taking your portion and no one else’s, is both wise and considerate. The current interest in minimalism and simplicity in the States is evidence that this might be the perfect time for lagom.

The environmental impact of lagom is also positive. Buying less, wasting less, and using what you have are excellent ways to live sustainably and live lagom. Growing a garden, buying locally, and only purchasing the right number of needed items teaches kids that living with less can be more.

An attitude of moderation even carries over to relationships and how Swedes interact with each other, and this is where questions about the benefits of the concept arise.

Lola Akinmade-Åkerström, author of “Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well,” says that adjusting to lagom was difficult at first. Having lived previously in both Nigeria and the United States, she wasn’t prepared for the way that the concept of lagom could make ex-pats feel like Swedes were simply distant and cold. The gregariousness and boasting of her former cultures was gone, and that left a lot of quiet. It took time for her to understand that this was simply a side effect of the lagomapproach to relationships.

Others aren’t as kind when talking about lagom in social interactions. When Richard Orange wrote a piece about lagom, he called it his “adopted country’s suffocating doctrine of Lutheran self-denial.” He bitterly claimed that lagom means “being moderate in personality, views, and politics,” leaving those who are outside of the norm or who live more passionate lives feeling ostracized from those who practice lagom.

Benefits of relational lagom

There are some landmines to sidestep when trying to incorporate lagom into relationships and social interactions. However, it can still be beneficial. Lagom squashes comparisons and boasting behavior. It’s the opposite of keeping up with the Jones’. It instead shifts the focus to making sure we’re not taking a slice of what the Jones’ should have, be it time to speak or items to own.

Akinmade-Åkerström says with time, she even felt comfortable with the silence that emerged when everyone wasn’t bragging about their accomplishments. “It feels liberating not to have to wear your accomplishments on your sleeve.”

It’s a cool kind of confidence we want for ourselves and our kids, the be-proud-of-yourself-and-don’t-constantly-seek-outside-approval type. There’s no striving to be loved for what we can do or what we own. Living lagom means we don’t teach our kids that having more, doing more, or bragging often is what makes them loved.

Living the right amount of lagom

The key to successful lagom may be applying it in, well, a lagom-like manner. Anna Brones, author of “Live Lagom: Balanced Living, The Swedish Way,” says her Swedish mother moved to the United States in part to escape lagom. Her mother found lagom to be “less about balance and more about the social equalizer; the thing that restrained you, kept you from being able to fully express who you were and what you wanted.” Her mother was an artist, so she found this definition of lagom particularly confining.

Still, Brones says that lagom crept into her family’s life in the way they ate, the way they interacted with the environment, and what they purchased. Her mother lived lagom in many ways without realizing it, and it became a normal way of life for Brones, one she appreciated.

Akinmade-Åkerström says the secret to lagom is to define it as optimal, to be used when the time is right in the way that works. “My personal lagom isn’t your personal lagom,” she notes.

We have to make our own decisions about when lagom is right for the situation and when it’s not, as well as what just-right is to us. This helps keep the lagom concept a guide, not a straitjacket confining our every move.

If balance and moderation are goals, lagom has a lot to offer. It can be applied to how often we engage in technology, consume sugar, or stay late at work. In its best form, lagom is the magic of good enough, knocking out the compulsion to work harder, do more, and never be satisfied in any area of life. Lagom, with its message of good enough, just might be the word we need.

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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Yesterday at Target I stood in line behind a Mom with two screaming kids. One clung to her leg while the other, a brand new baby, wailed from her arms.

I am not used to being the one who is not the parent of the screaming child.

This was uncharted territory.

I identified with her painfully and I wanted desperately to affirm her. I wasn't sure what to do except smile and look as nonjudgmental as possible. I tried to think of what I could say, like, should I shout above the screaming, “YOU'RE AMAZING!!" Or should I go in for a fist bump, “You got this!!"?

Before I could process what my awesome, pro-mom, non-judgey response was going to be the mom turned to me with desperate eyes, “I'm sorry, um, can you hold her?" She held out her crying infant towards me.

“YES!" I said eagerly. As I took her precious one in my arms, the little girl made eye contact and then wailed. I bounced her gently and put her pacifier back in her mouth, feeling such an intense solidarity with this mama.

“I have four," I offered, hoping to reassure her that she hadn't chosen a psychopath.

“Me too," she smiled.

“Target with kids is hard," I said, “how old is she?"

“Four weeks," she smiled with postpartum exhaustion in her eyes, “thank you so much," she took back her baby and I watched her walk away.

No…thank you. I thought.

I have been the woman in the checkout line more times than I can count.

I've stood sweating in this woman's exact position, barely commanding the tears to wait until I got to my car. I've felt my face grow red and hot as my toddler screamed and kicked, waking up my baby who was angry and ready to nurse. I've felt so alone and so out of control.

I've thought I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS. I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG AND EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT IT IS EXCEPT FOR ME.

I've pretended to be calm and cool while inside I felt like I was suffocating. I've felt embarrassed and emotionally naked in front of an audience of spectators. In my mind people were waiting and expecting me to GET IT TOGETHER.

But as I rocked this baby I thought, in those moments, there were probably people just like me who were longing to lighten my load and whisper—hey, I get it, I've been here too—you're doing a great job.

This mama was brave.

She let her guard down and because of that, gave me a gift. She redeemed a thousand of my own frantic check-out moments by letting me be a part of hers. She let me join her village and reminded me that I'm not alone.

I am not the first one to walk this road and I will not be the last. There are grandmas, great grandmas and great great grandmas that have gone before me. There are mamas whose kids are older than mine and who are navigating junior high and high school. There are those who are right where I am and those who have brand new babies.

Whatever stage I find myself at, I will not find myself alone. This is a weathered road we travel.

I'm not the only parent whose kids have thrown tantrums in Target, I'm not the only one to have her kids tell a lie, I'm not the only Mom to lose her temper. I'm not the only one to have a son who struggles with reading, or the only one to have a child scream I HATE YOU. I am not the first and I will not be the last.

We really are a part of a village, a part of something much bigger than just ourselves and there are women all around us who simply get it.

Chance brought me one of my people, a sister I just hadn't met yet.

She is one of the ones in the ring with me, doing messy, but beautiful work. We are both knee deep in motherhood and for a moment our stories crossed and I am grateful.

To me she was beautiful and valiant, a mother holding everything together by a thread. I don't know how she felt. I don't know if she felt small, or if she felt tired. I don't know if she felt undone or defeated…but I hope she felt supported.

I hope that in that moment she did not feel alone.

I hope she felt like I was WITH her.

No judgement.

Just respect.

We are not the first moms and we will not be the last to have a “moment."

It is messy, it is hard, we will fail often…but we do none of it alone, and we are never, ever the “only one."

#Solidarity

Jessica writes at her blog Wonderoak. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

We all know that being a mother brings many joys, but a phenomenal sex life is not usually one of them. While parenting with a partner can be the most beautiful bonding experience, it can also be a breeding ground for resentment, romantic disconnect and unsatisfying sex.

But all is not lost to a life with little ones. As a mom of two, I attest to the fact that parenthood can actually improve your sex life; and as a relationship coach, I know I'm not alone in that. But here's the thing: you have to give it some attention. Great sex doesn't just happen on its own.

A truly satisfying sex life after kids requires education, communication, commitment and confidence. It asks that you shift your attitude from seeing sex as a chore to something pleasurable that you have the privilege of doing with the partner you love.

And I'm here to show you how.

Here are six elements to have a great sex life after kids.

1. Time

A great sex life requires time. I know what you're thinking: there's already too much on your to-do list. But you're just as important as everything else, and you need to make pleasure a priority. Maybe you put the kids to bed 30 minutes early or swap babysitting nights with your sister-in-law for a pre-planned date night. But you need to find the time to focus on yourself as a woman and as a lover.

2. Sleep

You need sleep to feel like a human, and you need to feel like a human to rekindle your sex life. A 2015 study found that with just one more hour of sleep a night, women were 14% more likely to engage in a sexual activity the next day. So do whatever it takes to get more sleep; take two 20-minute naps or promise yourself one early bedtime a week and see the difference it can make.

3. Ask for help

Between picking up after the kids and laundry and dishes, household responsibilities can put a toll on your relationship. After all, they provide the perfect breeding ground for resentment; and, let's face it, resentment is the opposite of attraction. So ask for help. Yes, from your partner (research shows that sharing household responsibilities increases the frequency of sex a couple has), but also from the reinforcements. Call your mom or your best friend and ask for help, or even splurge on an agency to help you get things back in order.

4. Attitude

When you want a happy and healthy sex life, you need the right attitude—one that doesn't treat sex and intimacy like a chore, but enthusiastically embraces sex positivity. Although it sounds difficult, it's really just four principles.

First, make sex a PRIORITY, which may mean giving up an evening playing Candy Crush to have a romantic night with your man. Then you need to do some PLANNING and put sex on your calendar. Planning intimacy does not have to take the fun out of it, but instead builds the rhythm we need for spontaneous lovemaking to occur.

But you also need FLEXIBILITY to make a great sex life work, especially with parenthood. Is one of the kids sick? Push back your special night until tomorrow. Babysitter cancelled? It's okay to settle for Netflix and a quickie. Go with the flow a little more and you may be surprised what fun you can have. Finally, FOLLOW-THROUGH and commit to these principles. If you throw in the towel after the first roadblock, you're telling yourself and your man that your sex life isn't important enough to fight for, which only leads to more disappointment and resentment.

5. Sex toys

Sex toys aren't only for solo play, they can add fun and excitement when used with your partner. A toy, whether a vibrator or silk blindfold, brings newness to the bedroom, which can turn you on and inspire you to explore. Beyond their aphrodisiac effect, sex toys can give you the extra stimulation you need and ensure that you get your happy ending, too.

6. Sense of humor

Parenting can bring MAJOR frustration to your sex life, and when it goes unaddressed, it drives a wedge in your relationship. Don't let it. Approach parenting's chaos with a sense of humor. Share your oh-my-god experiences together and laugh about them. Embrace the crazy joy parenthood offers and use it as a connection point, something that ties you together, not tears you apart.

Mamas, I know you're exhausted. And I know sex is often the last thing on your mind. But I promise, if you put in a little bit of effort and dedication in your sex life, it pays back tenfold. You get better sex. Your relationship improves. And your partner transforms, once more, into your lover.

The mental load of motherhood is heavy, but it can be difficult to explain what it really feels like to others. It's that never-ending to-do list that has to get done, but only seems to get longer. It's the constant worry of having to get all of those things done, from routine check-ins to managing the emotional balance of the household.

Simply put, it's invisible work that has to be done by someone—and that usually falls on mama.

If you're having trouble explaining that load to others, whether it be friends or your partner, Karen Kleiman, a well-known international maternal mental-health expert, put it into words. And Molly McIntyre, an illustrator and comic artist drew beautiful images.




Illustrated by Molly McIntyre. Molly McIntyre is an illustrator and comic artist with a background in traditional printmaking and book arts techniques. Her illustrations have been featured in Bitch magazine, Everyday Feminism, ScaryMommy, Psychology Today, and more. She is currently working on a collection of comics about new motherhood, called Momzines. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and young son.

Comics from Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts, an accessible collection of comics and resources, releasing March 1st from Familius and available at bookstores everywhere.

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