Åsa Algard is a new member of SACC-Houston. She decided to join the organization after starting going back to work to meet more Swedes and professionals. Åsa and her husband moved from Stockholm to Houston 14 months ago with their two kids, Olivia (4.5 years old) and Adam (2 years old). They moved here because of her husband’s job, but after being on maternity leave for 2 years Åsa decided to go back to work. “During the day both of our kids were in pre-school and I didn’t like being at home anymore. I missed work and needed some new challenges.”
What kind of job do you have and what do you like the most about it?
I am working full-time at a Multinational Professional Service Company as an Audit Manager. I also worked for the same company in Sweden for seven years before we moved here. There are a lot of things I like about my job: we have flexible hours, so I can spread out my work hours however it suits my schedule. My boss is very understanding of my situation being a mother of young kids. Finally, the daily tasks are always changing and can at times be a great challenge. I am constantly learning new things and often end up outside stretching my limits, meaning I never get bored at work.
What type of reactions do you get when people hear you are a working mom?
I was very surprised how accepting everyone was towards working when you have young kids. The culture at my company is also very open to working moms and a lot of women return to their positions after they have kids.
Best advice you received as a mom?
Be present with your kids. Put down the phone and don’t check emails. I feel like I am much better with taking advantage of the quality time now when I am working. I enjoy every minute with my family.
How does a typical week look like for you?
I wake up early. My husband always takes the kids in the morning and I pick them up after work. The end of the day is dedicated to quality time, daily tasks and to prepare lunch boxes, outfits, etc. for the next day. We alternate every other night, putting one kid each to bed.
How do you balance family life and career?
It’s all about planning and prioritizing. When I was home I went to the grocery store every other day. Now we go once a week. We also try to make all the kids’ lunches and our dinners for the week, during the weekend. Luckily, it doesn’t get as messy at home because we are not home as much. However, it’s tough to find time for yourself, go to the gym, read a good book, etc.
What is the most difficult part about being a mom?
Life balance! Everyone talks about the guilt not spending enough time with their children and of course I can feel that too when my job takes a lot of my hours and energy. I am convinced, though, that pre-school is very good for Olivia and Adam as they have the opportunity to interact with other children, learn about a new culture and a new language. I do not think you should have too high demands of doing everything perfect or else you will fail; keep it simple, kids are simple. I think many parents feel unnecessarily guilty, if the parents are happy the children are happy too.
How is your experience of working in the US vs. Sweden?
Of course we don’t have the same close support from family here as we did at home. There are no grandparents that can pick the kids up from preschool or help us out a couple of hours once in a while. It’s not as social at work compared to my job in Sweden; for example, a lot of employees eat their lunch in front of their computer, while in Sweden you always go out for lunch and coffee. The flexible work environment is the same as in Sweden. I can do a lot of work from home, as long as I do what I have. Before I moved here everyone told me that “face time” is very important in US. Of course, I go to see the client everyday but I don´t need to stay late every night, instead I can go home spend time with my family and finish up my work when the kids are in bed. It is exactly the same as in Sweden, which is a positive surprise to me.
How is childcare in the US vs. Sweden?
It is working great and the kids love it here. Our personal experience is that Swedish pre-school look after the kids while American pre-school focus more on teaching and developing the kids. For example, Olivia who is 4.5 years old can already read and write things.
What inspires you?
At work – Co-workers with a lot of passion, inspire me.
At home – My kids’ personal development when they learn new things and I can see how proud they are of their new skills inspires me a lot!
What concerns you?
Right now we are living our dream and we have worked so hard to get to the US. However, we are here on a contract with only one year left and I am worried of not taking the time to enjoy right here and now. Time is running out for us here.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
My motto is “everything will be alright” and I’m also very spontaneous, so I don’t really have a plan. We are just trying to enjoy our life and our living dream right now. Maybe, we will stay here, go back to Sweden or move to another country. Who knows?
Mary Alenbratt, SACC-Houston