I am desperately in love with the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced Hooga). In fact, I think the clever Danes probably owe me some credit, royalties or at least a mention as I am certain I have been personally working on this concept for years previous to their presentation of the ideal. Hygge as a constant force in my lifestyle? Oh yes please. How refreshing to promote laziness, cough, hmm, I mean cosiness as a lifestyle choice. A relief from reading blogs and articles on the benefits of Oven Yoga (I am sure it is called something else) or Circuit Training or Spinning Yourself to Dizziness/ Death (whichever happens first). Exercise and I are not enemies and I have been known to walk, Zumba and Salsa with the best of the latest trend grabbers but I can tell you one thing as a mother. There is something unnatural about wanting to have Near Death Experience Yoga if you have had two children in two years and you are only getting your head sorted now that they are two and three years old and able to explain the ouchie.
I know that I am definitely capable of hygge. My friends and I have been majoring in this subject for years. Think Lough Rynn Castle and afternoon tea. Cocktails by a fireplace. Hot chocolate in a snowy Prague. Cake in Newbridge Silver Tearooms. Mr Paper and I definitely had it down too.
Fresh pizza slices on a wet Sunday evening in front of a Box Set with the scent of the best of Autumn candles, the Yankee Lemon Lavender. A smell that makes me relive that Hygge sensation. Chianti in San Gimigano. Pasta in Sienna. Cruising in Canada. Dates in Dublin. Drives for coffee.
Notice the past tense. Had.
Babies are a type of Hygge in themselves for many. The fresh powder smell (even if you don’t use powder, what is that all about?) the adoring snuggles, the comfortable little onesies with the barnyard animal design- these are all definitely real experiences, delicate and precious. Babies are also the perfect antidote to hygge. Nappies. Colic. Reflux. Teeth. Sleeplessness. Throw up really doesn’t aid your comfy clothes choice if you gave to keep replacing them. Watching the much required coffee grow cold. Have you ever lost your baby’s favourite dodo in a ballpit at softplay? I have! Nothing relaxing about that. Inhaling your food. Cosiness and Babies are difficult to combine despite the Anne Geddes’ imagery. I actually spent the last pregnancy being solidly uncomfortable the entire time. I can truly say I have spent quite some time with my two under two where life was never fully comfortable, never mind cosy. Getting into the warm, flannelette, freshly made bed just to have to repeatedly leave it upon the plaintive cry of your tiny baby. Entering the warm, aromatic coffee shop/ restaurant to spend the whole time there protecting the little one from dangers and eating with one hand. (This limits choices quite a bit by the way, one handed eating). Not very hygge. Hospitals. Sleeping on the mattress by the baby crib. Cuddling your sweet baby in the witching hours as she screams with what must be pain due to something, wind, intolerance, teeth, you just do not know and you would do anything to help her. I love my girls to infinity. They are beautiful, precious and smart. They are the most amazing thing in mine and Mr Paper’s life. We did have to sacrifice of course to be parents as all do. Spending your life looking at hygge, reaching for it, fingertips scratching at a fur-lined cocoa bean dream, only for it to dissolve into shadows, is part of the process. Malevolently prowling parental guilt makes you feel selfish and mean for even thinking this. For wanting personal comfort.
Ophelia the storm arrived in Ireland on Sunday night, the 15th October. Recently also, in antithesis to this, my own inner storm has begun to tame and life has begun to change for me. I am finding it easier to be me. I can enjoy being a parent much more. I love life with my girls and Mr Paper so much as I now can finally live in the moment once again. We are back on the path of a life less awkward. We have even glimpsed states of the elusive hygge. So when Ireland began to take serious measures, and I realised we would get a stolen day at our home due to the storm, I began to feel many emotions. A bit fearful- what sort of hurricane would this be that required a full country shutdown? We expected something in the style of Dorothy’s twister, where the animals wouldn’t stay grounded and cycling, haggard, ageing viragos would transform into broomstick flying cacklers before our very eyes.I must clarify that we are the lucky ones in our home, not becoming orphans of the storm, we retained power and also structural soundness. I am sorry to report that lives were lost in Ireland during Storm Ophelia and despite the many humorous memes and gifs we socially shared in this tempest, the wrath of the elements are something to be respected and feared.
We were lucky.
So I felt nervous of Ophelia. Aweing of her. Uncertain of the lady. I also couldn’t help but begin to feel a radiating Ready Brek warming glow in my heart as I thought of what a day like this might possibly bring. This is a feeling I may not have had last year. Don’t judge me; I am being an honest mother. Locked in by a potential Hollywood style cyclone with two cranky babies was just not hygge, work day off or no. Not now though. Not now. Thankfully.
So what did we do?
Having spent a lot of time searching for the elusive hygge sensation, I decided this storm was an opportunity to actually teach out and try to grab it for ourselves.
I have been informed that you cannot hygge with children. Maybe you cannot sustain a consistent state of hygge, but I am here to tell you can have elongated moments of the state of comfort!! I have proven it. Here is how we hit moments of hygge in the midst of a storm.Firstly, you must have well children. No rotavirus, measles or pox of any kind. A rarity but a must for this hygge to exist.
We felt hygge at these moments…
- Porridge and Toast…with Good Jam. Simple breakfast before the winds properly gathered all sitting at the Peppa Pig table. Hot, hot coffee.
- Stare out the Window and Wait. We talked about the big wind. The ‘dorm Mammy. Precious little conversations with my little people as we all sat looking out the little more than grimy window in our warm home.
- Experience and Enjoy the Warmth and Safety of Home that you Work so Hard for. Is there anything nicer than sitting indoors with a fleece lined patched quilt whilst the elements pound the outdoors? We all had our ‘blankies’ and cuddles.
- Comforting Family Meal that features Custard. Luckily, we had been to the good butcher at the Birr market the previous Saturday and had bought some excellent steak. I roasted some potatoes, we cooked up carrots and peas, and I fried the steaks with mushrooms. We had a top class Sunday dinner on a stolen Monday that was never meant to be a holiday, together at the ‘big’ table. Dessert was apple crumble made with the sweet apples that the crèche owner kindly gives me and dollops of hot custard. Powdered. Not fancy. Just comforting.
- Family Movie. We sat and watched a Disney Classic ( The Aristocats ) with the hope of electricity remaining intact.
- Avoid House Duties. Days off are ruined by the need to do mundane and awfully repetitive tasks such as laundry or dusting. We have evolved so far yet we still need to brush floors. Having had it mainly all done at the weekend, I felt justified barely thinking about it on stolen time. I didn’t even feel guilt!
- Play Games. We just played. Like 1987.
So endeth the storm and our hygge. After our sneaky, stolen mini holiday, we curled out from our blanketed bunkers, emerged blinking from a chrysalis of comfort, bellies boasting our extra Ophelia gained pounds and having had a healthy dose of time out, vaguely aware of an outside world.
I recommend it.