The formal Finnish name for grandmother is Isoäiti. Iso means "grand" and äiti means "mother." Less formal words for grandmother include mummo, mummu and mummi. No difference is made between the names of maternal and paternal grandmothers, but often families use one form for a paternal grandmother and one for the maternal, in order to differentiate between them.
Some Americans of Finnish ancestry dislike the mummo, mummu and mummi names because they are too close to mommy or mummy.
They prefer names that are more differentiated from a mother's name.
Family Structure in Finland
Very large "joint" families used to be common in the eastern Karelian area of Finland. Grandparents would share households with their adult sons and their wives. It was common for these households to number between twenty and fifty individuals. Elsewhere in Finland, the basic family unit was smaller and nuclear in structure. With urbanization, the practice of living in "joint" families has largely died out.
Today Finland has one of the most progressive systems for providing for mothers and children. It includes generous maternity and paternity leave.
Child Rearing in Finland
In Finland, child rearing is geared toward making children independent. A key trait in Finnish culture is sisu, which embodies grit, perseverance and toughness.
These qualities are fostered in Finnish children.
Children spend a lot of time outside in spite of the temperatures. Finnish culture values nature, and many families have some type of vacation cabin or second home.
The education of children is taken very seriously in Finland. It was made a high priority in the 1960s when Finland emerged from its long subjugation to Russia and Sweden.
The goal was for all children to receive a quality education. Education in the United States is often compared unfavorably to the Finnish system.
Children start school at age 7, but Finland has a universal early education system that guarantees high quality day care.
In Finland, teachers must have master's degrees, and teaching positions are highly sought after.
Finland has a long-standing record of gender equality, with women serving as strong partners in farming and other early endeavors. Finland was one of the first countries to give women the vote, trailing only Australia and New Zealand. Women have had great access to higher education, and stay-at-home mothers are relatively rare.
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland is the dominant religion, and it allows the ordination of women.
The Role of Grandmothers
The combination of generous family leave and extensive early education means that Finnish grandmothers may not be needed for routine child care as much as grandmothers in other countries. On the other hand, Finnish children spend fewer hours in school, so there should be lots of chances for mummus to enjoy their grandchildren.
The beautiful outdoors and traditional activities of Finland give grandparents and grandchildren ample pleasures to enjoy.
Finns enjoy both religious and secular celebrations. Christmas in Finland is focused on the family. "Peaceful Christmas" is a common greeting, and celebrations may include remembrance of deceased family members, honored with candles lit at their graves.
The more raucous holiday celebrations occur when the weather is warmer, at May Day and Midsummer. Still, the Finnish will celebrate almost anything. Finland is, after all, the home of the wife-carrying contest.
Any discussion of Finland must touch on the topic of saunas. Ritualized bathing in a sauna is a social practice but is also believed to promote good health. Finland has thousands of saunas, both public and private.