Notes from a Small Country

I couldn’t find a pen, so I used a crayon

“Look, children, the bush pig has lost his parents, so it’s being cared for by mama and papa lion. Even in nature, there are blended families.” – From the movie Blended

I’d never heard the term blended family until I saw the Adam Sandler movie of the same name.

Blended families are where the parents have children from previous relationships and all the members come together as one unit.

In Denmark 15,000 couples divorced last year (2018), that’s nearly half the number that got married.

It’s a country with one of the highest divorce rates in Europe and until recently the act of divorce was almost as simple as filling out an online form and hey presto ‘you’re now divorced’.

This results in a lot of blended families.

The headteacher of a Copenhagen state school once famously said “There are lots of divorces and our children have from one to six parents. It’s not uncommon to hear a child say, ‘I heard you had Charles’s father last year. I have him this year’”

I’m not sure this is a true depiction of reality, though blended families are much more common here and they work (as divorce tends to be very amicable in Denmark)

What’s interesting is that whether blended or not, 50/50 split parenting between mums and dads is the norm.

My kids need their father as much as they need their mother

Danish men take on parental responsibilities almost as much as danish women do, which is rarer in countries like the UK & USA.

In fact, there are many more males in Danish kindergarten and education too. It’s sad when I think about the UK, where the mixed messaging for males has created a culture where they’re encouraged to be good parents inside the home, then treated like potential paedophiles anywhere else.

Not so in Denmark.

What’s more common here is that Danish men and women split 50/50 when it comes to getting the kids to school, picking them up at the end of the day and looking after them when sick.

Work is flexible for this, with gender equality for parenting being closer to reality than many other countries (though it’s still got a long way to go).

Don’t let your luggage define your travels, each life unravels differently

While in the UK my wife chose to give up teaching law in order to parent our children in their first 4 /5 years (before they attended school).

So she did just that.

“But how will you define yourself?”

Came one of the questions my wife was asked at the university where she lectured. This was right after announcing she was moving to full-time parenting.

Neither of us defines ourselves by the job we do or where we work, so the question didn’t offend her, it made her chuckle.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.” – Maya Angelou

Yes, I wipe up poop, but I deserve to get paid

If you choose to stay at home and parent full time in Denmark, that choice is confusing to many. Society has little understanding as to why a person would do it and how it could be fulfilling.

In the UK, while it’s more common to give up work completely or work part-time to parent as much as possible, it can also be judged negatively by many women (my wife experienced this first hand).

My older brother was a stay at home dad in the USA for many years. I got to see first hand it wasn’t all sitting back drinking coffee and watching your favourite TV shows all day.

So why have many societies begun to look down on women (or men) giving up work for full-time parenting?

I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that in Denmark, while it’s less common and can be a lonely existence (as everyone is working full time), no one is judging our parental choice, they’re simply interested as it’s not a choice many people make.

In reality, all mums are working mums, and all mums are deserving of respect and support

Denmark is great for flexible working, whether that’s to enable your hobbies and / or to parent your children while working.

It’s also great for not being judged on choices such as not working in order to parent.

For me, the type of society I want to live in is one which enables choices. Choices like making it easy for mothers to work full time, while at the same time making it easy for those that don’t, and crucially, not then judging whichever choice is made.

If you are a mum, you are a superhero. Period

Women and men should have equal status, equal rights and equal opportunities.

Whether one chooses to parent full time or work full time is a personal choice. Making it so there is an opportunity to do either is our responsibility as a society.

If you feel forced to work full-time when you want to parent full-time, there’s an issue to solve.

If you feel forced to parent full-time when you want to work-full time, there’s an issue to solve.

In Denmark, it’s not perfect, but at least mothers tend not to be judged by their choice.

And that’s a good place to be.

“When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing.” – Steve Maraboli

Extra reading – Here are two terrific letters that might interest you. One is from a working mum to a stay at home mum, the other a stay at home mum to a working mum.



I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

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See you next week for Episode 9.

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Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters

Notes from a Small Country

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination

“They f*ck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”

From ‘This Be The Verse’

A well-known poem from British poet Philip Larkin. Often cited in parenting books and even been used by judges in high profile divorce cases.

Since becoming a parent I’ve pondered on this poem a lot. I’ve read a ton of research, lots of books and listened to countless interviews and podcasts.

It seems we really do f*ck up our children.

But maybe less so in Denmark.

Childhoods never last. But everyone deserves one.

When our first son was 3 years old we were still in the UK, and the education system expected him to talk better than he could.

They tested him at preschool, fed back and told us to take him to speech therapy.

My wife and I were unsure, for a few days, at what to do.

Our intuition told us he was fine. We understood him, he understood us and he was only 3 years old.

We kept reminding ourselves he had only been on this planet for 3 years.

It can take that long to get seen by a specialist in our national health service.

So we ignored the advice.

“If a child is poor in math but good at tennis, most people would hire a math tutor. I would rather hire a tennis coach.” ~ Deepak Chopra

3 years on he’s not only speaking great English, but he’s also getting by speaking Danish too.

We were right. We gave him space and we took him away from the chaotic test heavy structure of the UK school system.

There is no land like the land of your childhood

Giving children unstructured play is amazing for them.

If you’re over 40, you might remember what that was like?

To have space and time to be bored as a child.

Space that isn’t structured by an adult.

Our son has spent just over a year in Denmark and he’s blossoming like the child we always knew he would be.

In the UK, at 4 years old they put him in a large classroom, gave him homework and made him wear a school uniform.

“Kindergarten, which used to be focused on play, is now an academic training ground for the first grade. Young children are assigned homework even though numerous studies have found it harmful. STEM, standardized testing and active-shooter drills have largely replaced recess, leisurely lunches, art and music.” – New York Times, Kim Brooks

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship

The Danish Kindergarten where my son is has kept its focus on play.

They coach, mentor and teach. There’s no punishment system, no reward system and no organised timetable.

Their No.1 role is to help children develop and flourish through play and socialising, not how to advance up a league table.

So minimised monitoring and almost zero testing.

It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults

When our son first started at the kindergarten he showed signs of stress. We thought it was all the change in our lives and the new language.

We talked to him over several days and it turned out another child was picking on him.

We talked to the kindergarten who jumped on it right away.

It was a troubled child, someone who’s now a friend of our sons. They coached my son to be confident and express how he felt, and they treated the bully with kindness, not punishment.

Over a number of weeks, my son grew in confidence and the bully grew in empathy. It was win-win, not win-lose.

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best

Looking at our Danish school choices for next year, we’ve discovered they take into account how a child interacts with others, the relationships they build and how they contribute in the classroom.

It’s not all about test results. It’s about a holistic view of them as a person.

How great is that? Pretty great, it means less f*cked up adults.

“Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart.” ~ Annette Breaux


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

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See you next week for Episode 8.

Marcus Purvis leads software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more. He’s also learning to write inspiring content on LinkedInMedium and here at

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters