The childcare challenge

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After sitting on Children in Scotland’s Childcare Commission for the past year, it seemed strange to be so far away on the day it published its final report and set out its recommendations for change. But in some ways it’s being part of the Childcare Commission that has inspired this trip.

Parenting across Scotland is keen that Scotland creates the conditions in which families can thrive rather than picks up the pieces when things go wrong. The more we listened to what parents were telling us, the more we realised just how big an issue childcare was in parents not being able to take control of their own lives. Whether it’s about returning to work, getting out of poverty, educating themselves or their children, childcare is all too often one of the biggest hurdles parents face. Finding high quality, affordable childcare at a price that they can afford is well nigh impossible for too many parents in Scotland.

We’ve been advocating for a transformational change in childcare through consultation responses to Government, through evidence to Parliament and most recently through sitting on the Childcare Commission. During this time, I heard and read so much about the Nordic countries and their enviable system of early years provision that I was keen to see for myself the reality of early years in the Nordic countries.

The reality

If anything the living reality is better than I imagined from reading policy and academic papers. What is most impressive is how there’s a continuum of support from pre birth in an integrated policy framework that makes sense and supports families well and unobtrusively.

Of course, each country has its own distinctive policies, and these vary internally too as operating under national frameworks, the kommunes (local authorities) have responsibility for implementing educational policies locally. However, there is a broad commonality of approach, so with apologies for the broad brush approach, here’s how it operates.

The starting point is that the Nordic countries have a generous system of parental leave that allows families to stay at home with their children for the first year of life. This allows parents to adjust to family life in a more relaxed and less pressured way, and crucially allows them the time  to bond well with their children. Paid leave dedicated to fathers encourages (or in Norway’s case compels) them to take leave and to participate more in their children’s upbringing. The societal difference really is visible on the streets and in the nurseries with fathers being much more involved with looking after their children.

During this time, Sweden and Norway offer open kindergartens where parents can come and bring their children. They are places where trained staff (pre school teachers and ‘preventive’ social workers) are at hand to provide support and offer guidance, and parents and children can play, and meet other families. Workers provide support in an informal way that enables parents to ask for help if they need it. It also gives parents the opportunity to meet other parents with children of the same age and to find peer support. In addition to general support, most open kindergartens also run parenting classes such as Incredible Years or ICDP (International Child Development Programme) for families who ask for extra help.


Then from the age of one, childcare is available to families at a heavily subsidised rate, and usually at a discounted rate for second and subsequent children. It’s not a compulsory offer, and Denmark even gives families the amount that would have been spent on childcare should parents decide to stay at home. Nurseries are of very good quality with a highly trained workforce. For the most part, childcare hours and working hours are in accordance, though there remain problems with flexibilty for jobs with irregular hours. Generally families tend to take up the childcare offer, and combine work with family life.

Workplaces seem to recognise the need to be family friendly and operate a variety of family friendly flexible policies. Leaving early to pick up children is widely accepted rather than frowned upon. Each of the countries have policies that enable parents to take days off when their children are ill.

The Nordic countries have some of the highest maternal employment rates in the world, as well as markedly higher fertility rates, a combination that leave them better placed than most other European countries to tackle the challenges an ageing population poses to welfare states.

That’s important in policy terms, but more importantly the lived experience of families and the outcomes for children are so much better  in the Nordic countries than in Scotland.

What parents say

I’ve talked to a number of parents here – parents who have moved from Scotland; parents who are using the services; and older professionals whose children are now grown up.

I met parents who had moved from Scotland for a variety of reasons. Without exception they told me how much more affordable childcare was, how much easier it was for them to balance work and family life, and how much better set up they felt Sweden, Denmark and Norway were for families.

And I met parents who were using the services. Mostly they took it for granted that that is how the world is, though some were concerned that increasingly right wing governments are cutting back on funding and so on ratios and quality. The parents I talked to seemed to feel supported and valued.

When I told people here about the average cost of childcare for families in Scotland; their eyes widened in disbelief – it’s so far from what they pay and they can’t see how parents in Scotland can afford to work.

But perhaps more interestingly, while they can see why there is a focus on cost given just how high those costs are, several quite rightly expressed concern that the debate is focussed so much on cost, when the more important issue is the quality of the education our children are getting. Perhaps when costs are removed as a barrier, the discussions about quality, about ratios, about ethos can become – as they should be – centre stage.

The older professionals told me about how much more difficult and expensive it had been when they were younger to find childcare, and how they had had to juggle jobs, use informal care and all the other issues that remain part of parents’ experience in Scotland today. In their lifetime, they had seen the sea change in policy that has created a system that provides children with high quality early education and care, and parents with better work-life balance and the conditions within which families can thrive.

Another way

Sometimes change doesn’t seem possible – it seems like we might be stuck forever with what we’ve got. But actually seeing the reality of how the Nordic countries operate and what a different society this creates truly brings it home that things can change – another way is possible.

The Commission’s report

The Commission’s report comes after a year of taking evidence from a wide variety of sources including academics, parents, and others. It comes after much consideration and thrashing out of issues by the Commission members and its secretariat.

I’ve heard people say it can’t be rocket science to get childcare right – believe me, after the last year, I think it’s way more difficult than that! The report (hopefully) will get plaudits, and no doubt, it will provoke disagreement on some of the issues too. But what above all I really hope for it is that it serves as the platform for debate to move things on, because we’ve talked about childcare for long enough. Now, it’s time to do something and make a transformational change in childcare – Scotland’s children and families deserve no less.

Six reasons why it’s good to be a family in Sweden

Last month, Sweden was ranked as the fifth best place in the world to be a mother by Save the Children’s 16th annual Mothers’ Index. The Index is based on indicators around maternal health, education, income levels and the status of women. The UK romped home at a lowly 24th.

My study trip is about family support and childcare. It’s important that families receive the help they need when they need it, but how much better would it be to create the conditions in which families can thrive and avoid the problems in the first place? (Of course, there will always be problems – stuff happens – but we could be doing so much more to stop problems happening). It appears to me that Sweden has managed to put many more of those conditions in place than most countries.

Here are six things that make Sweden a great place to bring up a family

1. Childcare

Imagine widely available high quality pre school childcare widely available at a cost of approximately £190 a month for your first child and a reduced cost for subsequent children. Just imagine wraparound school care both pre and post school for about £80 a month. Hard to imagine in the UK where parents pay a eye-watering average £975 a month for childcare. It is, of course, in Sweden paid for by taxes, but this has the effect of evening costs across the lifetime rather than the concentration of costs experienced in the UK (which mean that many women who want to work are quite simply forced out of the workforce).

2. Family friendly working

And now let your imagination go really wild. You work for an employer who gives you about a year’s almost fully paid parental leave that you can share with your partner, you have flexible working hours, very generous leave entitlement, and sick days for when your child’s sick (and you can even grant these to a relative or a neighbour if you can’t take the time off work yourself). And it’s perfectly acceptable, man or woman, for you to leave at 3.30 because you’ve got to pick your kids up. Fika anyone?

3. Play

There are high quality playgrounds scattered around every town with great equipment and kids playing out with their mums, and much more commonly than in Scotland, with their dads, or just on their own. Housing has playgrounds within its grounds. And one thing I particularly liked was that playgrounds often had adjacent spaces for teenagers, for example, skate parks. None of this give teenagers no public space and then complain when they use children’s playparks, or assume that the time for play has finished when kids reach their teens. And do you know what? They seem to play quite happily side by side.

4. Risk and freedom

Like Scotland, Sweden gets more than its fair share of winter and bad weather. Quite often this involves snow and ice. Now, in Scotland, our reaction is to keep the kids in doors at playtime. In Sweden out they go waterproofed up to the eyeballs and polish up the ice slide – just as long as they wear their helmets. It’s much more common to see quite young kids out on the streets – on an errand, coming and going to school, just doing the stuff they do and having so much more independence than their UK counterparts.

5. Housing

Swedish housing across tenures is of better quality than the UK’s. A mix of housing tenures in the same area is much more common. Housing has green spaces around it, and a play area for children is part of that. But get this, fuel costs are included in your rent. In Scotland, we have an appallingly high rate of fuel poverty with far too many people being unable to heat their homes. How much people pay as a proportion of their income, the quality of the housing and its insulation are what makes the difference to their health and their likelihood of falling into poverty. Sweden is miles ahead of the UK and reaps the benefits.

6. Gender equality

Sweden is ranked as one of the most gender egalitarian countries in the world – and you can see this on the streets and in society generally, where the fact that men play a much larger part in family life is evidenced by their visibility pushing buggies and hanging out in playparks with their kids. Sweden has gender equality policies which aim to ensure that men and women have the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life. Sweden ranks 4th in the world; the UK recently dropped from 18th to 26th. The Swedish government admits it’s not perfect and that there’s a way to go. But hey, a country where men have parental leave, and where it’s acceptable for men to leave work to pick up their children, and where the pay gap is so much less, seems to be heading in the right direction to me.

I could go on, and add in an integrated transport system, or the higher standard of living and the fact that Sweden remains one of the most equal countries in the world (despite the fact that inequality is rising rapidly), but six will do for now.


Some of this blog is garnered from general observations while I was in Sweden. Much of it is from conversations with Tove Samzelius, and Martin and Lucy Burns, who have recently moved with their families to Sweden. I originally asked them why they’d moved to Sweden –  but actually, why would you not if you had the chance?

Thanks to Tove, and Martin and Lucy – and lycka till med ditt liv i Sverige.

Dads on leave

dads having fika
Dads enjoying fika together

On my first visit to an open pre school (a staffed drop in centre for parents and their children) in Sweden what immediately struck me was the ratio of fathers to mothers; it was perhaps a third of the parents attending. Compared to playgroups and nurseries in Scotland where fathers’ attendance is so much more unusual, it really was noticeable. On the streets and in play parks, dads looking after their children are also much more visible.

While Swedish open pre schools are open for parents of children from 0 -6  years old, in practice they’re mostly used by parents on parental leave. And therein lies the difference perhaps. Sweden introduced parental leave for both parents in 1974; 41 years later, the UK is catching up with Shared Parental Leave arriving here in April 2015.

Paternity leave

Shared parental leave was introduced in Sweden in 1974. It was intended very much as a move towards gender equality and to allowing women to return to work more easily, and for their future careers and earnings not to be so detrimentally affected by taking time out of the labour market. Now both parents have the same rights to leave and it is possible for parents in Sweden to take extensive paid parental leave, sharing 10 months reimbursed at 80% of earnings.  In addition, both men and women can take a further month at the same rate of compensation, and a further three months at a lower rate. Currently the Swedish Government is proposing that the amount of parental leave dedicated to dads is extended from 2 months to three.

In the UK, we started with a rather paltry 2 weeks paternity leave, and then there was Additional Paternity Leave, and most recently, Shared Parental Leave. And although international evidence shows that leave that is paid and dedicated to fathers is more likely to be taken up, the UK hasn’t gone down that route.

I won’t go into the technicalities and likely impact of Shared Parental Leave here, but if you’re interested in finding out more, there are interesting blogs about Shared Parental Leave – about the experience of being a father by Paul Hodgkinson – and about likely take up of SPL by Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families.

A dad’s view

One father at the open nursery, who was on parental leave, told me a little about his experience. He and his wife had decided before the birth of their child how they wished to divide the parental leave. They’d decided that she would take the early months so that she could breastfeed and he’d take an equal share of paternity leave later.

It had been important for him and his wife to both spend time with their children and he felt that it he had bonded better with his children than colleagues who hadn’t taken as much parental leave. Research bears out his views. It also made him appreciate how much work childcare actually was. He said he realised that as well as looking after his son he should be doing the housework, and that the obvious time to do that was when his son took an afternoon nap, but that by then he was too shattered and needed to go and have a lie down himself!

He expressed the view that it was much more common for middle class men to take parental leave. He also thought that more ‘white collar’ professions and companies still tended to look on men taking parental leave more favourably.

Other views

One family worker told me that they’d had a dad attending open pre school sessions who had been the only dad in the room. He told her that just sitting quietly and listening to the mums made him realise what his own wife was experiencing, and how much more of the childcare and housework she took on!

Discussing this with another Swedish woman, she told me about how her daughter and her son-in-law were trying very hard to be equal in how they raised their children. While her son-in-law tried very hard to do his share, she could see that in the planning ahead and organising it was still her daughter who took on the lion’s share of the work.

Dads attending pre schools

There’s been a lot of talk in Scotland about how to attract men into parents, whether we need to have groups specifically for fathers, whether childcare being so predominantly staffed by women makes a difference. Though one centre I visited had a session for dads, most had no sessions specifically for dads; and seemed to have no problem attracting dads through the door. But then the situation is so very different here with more men taking parental leave and potentially feeling isolated at home. Just as with women at home looking after children, dads feel a need to come together with their children for support. There’s even a name for this in Sweden – latte papas.

Interestingly, staff in pre school settings are overwhelmingly female in Sweden too (only about 3% of staff are men). To an extent this shows that childcare is still essentially viewed as a female domain. However, the largely female environment doesn’t appear to have an impact on getting dads through the door.

Some background

It’s very clear here that having dedicated parental leave for fathers does make a difference – the visibility of fathers looking after their children and in childcare settings compared to the UK is self-evident. However, it’s also clear that this doesn’t produce equality over night. While take up of paternity leave in Sweden is 89% (the UK government estimates the take up of SPL by men will be 6 – 8%), women are still likely to take the biggest share of the parental leave: in 2012, men took about 24 per cent of parental leave, although this is changing over time.

It’s also very unevenly spread – it’s much more common to take paternity leave if you’re white and middle class, and if you live in a city. Some of this is due to traditional gender stereotypes persisting, and some to the pay gap which means that men still tend to be higher earners, making it less attractive to lose out on 20% of that larger part of the household salary.

Women's share of parental leave decreasing as men's increases
Women’s share of parental leave decreasing as men’s increases

A journey

The process of change is slow and while social policy initiatives can drive and facilitate it, attitudinal changes take longer, and the road to gender equality remains a slow process. As Elisabeth, a social worker in one of the Gothenburg family centres and my guide for the day, said “In terms of gender equality, we’re on a journey, and we still have a long way to go.”

And if Sweden still has a long way to go, how much further do we in the UK and Scotland have to go?

And just in case, you didn’t already think paternity leave was a good idea, here’s a gallery of photos of fathers on parental leave in Sweden:

Incy wincy spindle

So one week into my trip and I know about six words of Swedish – hey (hello), hejdå (goodbye), tack (thank you), ja (yes), ne (no) – so far, so normal for a foreign trip – and spindle (spider). Excuse me, spindle? Spider? It’s not what you think – I don’t have a pathological fear of spiders and a need to learn the word for spider in whatever country I’m in to avert disaster. But I have been singing incy wincy spindle along with Swedish parents and children.

Song lyrics to help learning
Song lyrics to help learning

Singing in Sweden

In every Swedish early years centre I’ve been in, there has been a singing session. Now,I know that we do this too in the UK and, that in particular, in Scotland we have a particular tradition of music and singing. In early years settings in Scotland there’s often singing and music. But… the importance the Swedes put on it seems to be in an altogether different league.

Sweden has a long tradition of professional and choir singing. According to Sveriges Körförbund (the Swedish choir union), roughly 600,000 Swedes sing in choirs, and the union represents about 500 choirs. This makes Sweden the country with the highest number of choirs per capita in the world.

They believe that singing, and particularly communal singing, has multiple benefits and that, among other things, it’s important in fostering the sense of community and shared national identity.

Singing in pre school settings

The pre school curriculum in Sweden states that singing and music should be used as a means of self expression for children (National Agency for Education 2010). Research (Trevarthen 2011) supports the thesis that musical games and songs support the development of important skills in preschool years.

In open pre school, singing sessions take place every day at a scheduled time and parents and children gather round to sing. Some parents and children drop in specifically for the singing. Sessions are much like those in Scottish early years centres or nurseries: together with staff, parents and children sing and perform a series of actions to the songs. While providing an opportunity for parents and children to bond, it also allows workers a chance to observe parent and child interaction in an unobtrusive way and to offer support to families if need be. The shared activity also creates a community of parents, and aids the creation of all important peer support.

Within Swedish family centres, singing is seen as an important activity in terms of bonding with children and fostering attachment between parent and child. Midwives working with expectant parents will stress to them that babies in the womb can already hear and that singing is beneficial to them.

Language development

Of course, it’s also important for language development. The singing sessions offer children a range of different communication techniques, such as lyrics, gestures, rhythm and repetition of the activity. Not all children will actively participate, and their age and stage of language development, will, in part, determine this. Nonetheless their exposure to the constant repetition, rhythm and gesture, may aid their linguistic skills. While developing communication skills is important for all children, there’s particular interest in whether this can help the children of Sweden’s substantial immigrant population to acquire Swedish.

Where parents come from in one early years centre
Where parents come from in one early years centre


And maybe all those Swedish successes in Eurovision aren’t unconnected. Six successes in 60 years (and no, I didn’t know – Swedes  told me), second only in wins to Eire. Come on, Scotland, it’s time to wake up – our future Eurovison success depends on our singing in pre school – you see, early years make a difference in so many ways.

Swedish family centres – four legs better

An open pre school in Gothenburg
An open pre school in Gothenburg

Swedish family centres have four legs and in this case it’s definitely not “Four legs good, two legs better”

Not like this…


More like this…


The aim

The aim of family centres is to provide health promotion, family support and early prevention. They coordinate their resources to enable multidisciplinary collaboration and early prevention.

Four legs good

The four legs consist of maternity and child health care, an open pre-school and preventative social work. This is the ideal, and, for the most part, centres conform to this, but sometimes centres are missing a leg. Family centres employ a range of professionals that may include midwives, child health nurses (very similar to health visitors in Scotland), pre school teachers and social workers. They also have strong links to other workers beyond the family centres, such as librarians, psychologists, relationship therapists, counsellors and community workers; and often collaborate with them.

Ante natal services

Usually the point of entry for families is through the health services – the ante natal services or child health services. Similarly to Scotland, a pregnant woman’s first contact will be with the midwife; very often there will be no contact with a doctor unless there are problems. As well as a series of individual appointments, parents are invited to join antenatal groups, usually for about four sessions. It’s usual for both mothers and fathers to attend and has been for about 30 years – when I asked midwives if fathers were part of antenatal groups, my question was met with a surprised look and the reply, “But, of course”. Attendance tends to be high at ante natal groups. If midwives identify that families are likely to need extra support after birth, then they work with the child health nurse to enable that to happen.

Child health nurses

Child health nurses have a very similar role and qualifications to health visitors in Scotland. However, the programme of child health checks is so much more extensive. After initial home visits in the first days of a child’s life, appointments will be weekly for the first month, and then monthly for the first year. Children have their weight and height measured, as well as their developmental milestones (sitting, language development, motor skills etc). It’s a universal service with an incredibly high take up rate – approaching 99% of parents access child health services (not always in family centres, of course). Is it any wonder that Save the Children ranks Sweden among the top five places in the world to be a mother?

The child health nurse in a family centre setting is expected to be very open to the needs of the family, and if she detects that parents need additional help can refer onto the open pre school or to preventative social work. Given the co-location of services this is a much easier, more informal and immediate process. One child health nurse gave the example of having a mother crying at an appointment, and being able to take her through to the open pre school. Simply the fact that the nurse was standing at the entrance to the pre school with her arm around a parent’s shoulder was enough to alert the pre school worker that the mother needed extra support.

Open pre schools

Open pre schools are a staffed drop in where parents and children can come together. While they’re open for children between 0 and 6, the main users tend to be parents on parental leave (and, of course, Sweden has very generous parental leave). What was remarkable to me going into the open pre schools was the high proportion of fathers attending (on which, another blog post soon). Open pre schools are very much child driven; while there is a Swedish pre school curriculum it’s very much underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and emphasises the importance of play in a child’s development.

The agenda is generally very relaxed and free. There’s always fika and there’s always singing sessions. Fika is essentially a coffee break but something more than simply that – it’s very much about socialising around food and given a very special place in Swedish culture. At pre school there’ll be a range of healthy snacks available for families at a very low price. The importance of eating together is stressed.

And then, there’s singing – there’s always singing – there will be a slot in every open pre school session.  And the Swedes place a very high importance on singing. In open pre school, parents and children come together at a specific time each day, with many parents arriving specifically for the session. It’s seen as having a role in child development, communication skills and attachment – but more of that later (that’s another blog post)

Preventative social work

The social worker role in a family centre is viewed as preventative. While there is a child protection system in Sweden, this happens outside of family centres and in local authority settings. Consequently the family centre worker is viewed as less of a ‘threat’ and with less stigma by families (it reminded me to an extent of the perception of voluntary sector social workers in Scotland). In one of the family centres I visited, a social worker expressed the view that by being around in the pre school, parents regard her just as ‘Camilla’ rather than as ‘the social worker’.

The social worker may take on a variety of activities: facilitating parenting groups, counselling, relationship work and supporting families on a one to one basis as needed. Once again, here the work is very much informed by the UNCRC. The UNCRC refers to the role of parents and the family in ensuring a child’s rights and to the state’s role in supporting parents to do this: the UNCRC states:

“the family, as the fundamental group in society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community”

And social workers in family centres work with families to provide that support. They will work to promote attachment, will encourage parents to perceive their children as individuals and respond to their needs  accordingly. They work on a universal basis responding to individual need, and will use a range of targetted interventions where needed. (Sweden does not prescribe specific parenting programmes but devolves this responsibilty to municipalities). The social workers that I talked to were very keen to ensure that parents were empowered to see themselves as the experts on their own children. The role of connecting parents to one another and enabling peer support was also viewed as critical. Because professionals are co-located in the same building, it seemed easier for support to be delivered in a way that felt informal and unobtrusive.

So what next?

In future posts, I’m going to look at singing, at fathers, at collaboration and partnership working – and I suppose I really should look at fika – or maybe I should just eat fika, do fika – the cardomom buns are pretty darn fine.

So, any questions? Do ask, and I’ll answer if I can.

And if any of my Swedish friends are reading this, do feel free to correct or add to this through the comments. And once again, thank you for welcoming me into your family centres – och tack för fika!

What’s Masterchef got to do with it?

So I’m making a trip to the Nordic countries to look at family support and childcare –

My journey around Sweden, Denmark and Norway
My journey around Sweden, Denmark and Norway
and just what has Masterchef got to do with that?

Just before Christmas last year, I was watching Masterchef The Professionals, hooked as usual by the gripping spectacle of fabulous food being prepared in front of me. Why, I wondered, was I quite so hooked by a programme about food I couldn’t eat or even smell? Like most people I like my food and I love eating out; I even enjoy cooking. But I prefer the taste of the food to the presentation – my own efforts look nothing like the professionals’, and my eating out tends to be of the cheap and cheerful rather than the starred variety.

Musing it over, it struck me that what I love is the fact that the contestants are people who are really passionate about what they do. They welcome the chance to take time out, review what they do, learn more about what they love doing, take some chances, all with the aim of refreshing and improving their practice.

And that’s what it’s got to do with my trip. I realised that that’s just what I’m doing. For the past 8 years, I’ve been working in policy and research around families for a partnership of Scottish voluntary organisations, Parenting across Scotland; we’ve been working on issues that are important to families – better support; more health visitors; better, more affordable childcare; and family friendly working. It was time for a fresh look, a chance to step back and look again, to refresh my thinking.

Last year, I applied to the Winston Churchill Memorial Travelling Trust for an award to look at early years in the Nordic countries. I was lucky enough to be awarded a travelling fellowship to travel to Sweden, Norway and Denmark to find out more about how these countries, renowned for their social policy around families, do it. Thank you to WCMT  – I’m loving the chance to take time out while still doing what I love and care passionately about.

The journey starts here. I’m in Gothenburg, Sweden, on the second day of my trip. I arrived on Wednesday night (27th May) and plunged into visits straight away the next morning. It’s been a full and fascinating two days and already I’ve got a lot to report. Have to admit – I am looking forward to the weekend for a chance to process it all, do some organising, a bit of preparation for next week’s visits – and may even catch up on my sleep!

Over the next month or so, I’ll be travelling around Sweden, Denmark and Norway visiting early years centres, family houses, academics, policy makers and professionals. After Gothenburg, I’ll be visiting Orebro and Stockholm in Sweden; then it’s off to Copenhagen in Denmark; followed by Tromso, Oslo and Bergen in Norway, and finally back home to Edinburgh.

I’ll be blogging here about what I learn. It would be great if you came on this journey with me (you can also follow me on Twitter @scotparents). And if you’d like to comment or have any questions you’d like answered, that would be just grand and would add to the learning and the journey. (I already had someone ask me something last night on Twitter that I was able to find out and answer today).

I do hope you’ll join me on my journey.