MARYMERAK x Ingrid & Emil

 For the launch of our latest preloved collection MARYMERAK x Ingrid & Emil, we got a virtual chat with Marija Paganini, Chur resident and the woman behind the popular Instagram account @marymerak. She recently left a long-term career in retail, to instead focus on content creation and promoting local/sustainable brands with a focus on Italian-speaking Switzerland. To Ingrid & Emil, she tells us all about her cryptic pregnancy that was discover at 6 months, what her parenting philosophy is, and her secret best tips for exploring the Italian parts of Switzerland with kids.
Name: Marija Paganini
Does: Content creator promoting local/sustainable brands with a focus on Italian-speaking Switzerland. Runs the popular Instagram account @marymerak
Lives in: Chur, but spends much of her time in Lugano and Poschiavo
Family: Husband and daughters Mia Sophia, 3, and Gaia Charlotte, 1,5

My favourite kidswear brands:  PlayUp, My Little Cozmo, Minimalisma

This thing that my kids wore I would never part with: all the handmade pieces that the children's grandmother made for us.

One of my pro tips for keeping the kids entertained: it depends on what one means by entertaining... Children are just looking for our attention and a few minutes of playing with them is usually enough to keep them happy. The problem is often when you're not taking care of the children but doing other things with the children around. I find that most of the time the best thing is simply to involve them (for example in the daily house work). Granted, it takes twice as long but at least it gets done. When I absolutely have to do something without the kids, like take an important phone call, the only thing that works with Mia (3 years old) is an episode of Curious George, while with Gaia (1.5 years old) the only thing that works is putting her in the baby carrier and walking around.

"Children are just looking for our attention and a few minutes of playing with them is usually enough to keep them happy."

Besides my kids, my passion is: investing time in anything creative makes me happy, whether it's photography, writing, DIY, interior design, fashion or party planning. I am constantly looking to find my own interpretation of these creative spheres.

My favourite thing to give as a gift is: Experiences or Swiss/local artisan products. The love that goes into making and gifting handmade products is huge.

My best book/podcast/series/movie tip right now: I have really enjoyed Natalia Levinte's podcasts (in Italian) which deal with the subject of motherhood from a female point of view, very much oriented towards the modern woman, her difficulties and her needs.

Favourite pieces I’m eyeing right now at Ingrid & Emil are: Anything from Bobo Choses.

My parenting philosophy is: Such a great question… I don't have a strict parenting style or philosophy. I always try to analyse my own behaviour when I've been in challenging situations with the children. I try to be kind to myself, understand what I could have done better, and correct my approach for the next time. I am 100% a human mom who expresses her emotions and tries to be transparent with her children.

But I have definitely worked a lot on myself to detach myself from the cultural dogmas I grew up with. For instance, I often stop and think about my choice of words when speaking to my daughters, and how I am interpreting their behaviour. I try to get away from the more traditional judgement, that for instance would call a children spoiled as soon as they cry. I have learned to give up trying to just achieve obedience to embrace gentler and more cooperative methods. Articles in the Italian magazine UPPA and two books; "The Danish way of parenting" and "Raising an emotionally intelligent child", have helped me a lot in learning about this philosophy.

I only found out that I was pregnant with my second child at 20 weeks...

A cryptic pregnancy, i.e. a pregnancy discovered after week 20?! The stuff of American TV shows, surely?! I knew it could happen to women with obesity problems and maybe in some very rare cases to women without symptoms, but not nowadays and certainly not to me. 

I listen to my body's every little signal (always with a thread of hypochondriac anxiety 🙈 ), I notice every change, I know exactly how I digest what I eat, I check every mole. I simply know myself very well. At least that's what I thought.

One cold morning at the beginning of November 2019, I found myself taking a pregnancy test in the emergency room. My first daughter was then 14 months old.

I was there because I hadn't been able to sleep on my belly for a few days, and felt a constant weight in my lower abdomen. During my first pregnancy I discovered I had a myoma in my uterus, one of those things that 60% of women have but don't know they do. Thankfully, it was nothing serious. I was diagnosed with a benign myoma that I would only have to show if it started growing, and now I had noticed a clear swelling in my belly for weeks. I was terrified.

But with the fear of something bad I discovered that it instead was something beautiful. Ten minutes into the appointment they told me I could go home. "Relax ma'am, what you feel in your belly is a baby, you're just pregnant". Shortly afterwards I felt the baby's first kicks. Or maybe I only recognised them then.

Those summer months of cocktails, quickly rinsed fruit, saddles of rare venison and charcuterie went through my mind. I was reminded of an X-ray at the dentist's, an anaesthetic in my tooth and that flu where I had stuffed myself with cough medicine, cold syrups etc. A shiver of fear ran through me. "Oh God, will she be healthy?!". I prayed that I had not harmed the child.

In a few weeks my belly exploded, I looked like I was 6 months pregnant, which I was, but I felt more like I was 2 weeks pregnant. To my friends I explained that I thought I didn't have my period because my body probably still wasn't back to normal after having breastfed for more than a year. I simply hadn't recognised the signs.

In hindsight, I did need to go to the bathroom very often that summer, but thought it was just because of the litres of water I drank because of the heat. I had no other nausea, no tiredness, no aching, swollen breasts, no nothing. Not a single one of the symptoms I knew from my first pregnancy. Just fuller lips, but I didn't pay any attention to that. 

As I told the world that I was pregnant, still shocked and incredulous myself, I felt the joy of sharing. Then I truly understood once more how important that is for an expectant woman, and I had missed it all these months. Of course, I didn't even feel the typical fears of the first trimester, but that awareness of my own body and of what was happening inside me...I missed it a lot. 

"For months, I felt a sort of frustration and guilt. I didn't feel any of the symptoms I knew from my first pregnancy."

For months, I felt a sort of frustration and guilt. I did a lot of introspection and finally accepted that I had misunderstood the symptoms. But I was a new mother and my attention was focused on a little being who brightens up my days (and some nights too, hihi). I was more tired and less attentive to myself.

I don't know if that was the reason, but I like to think that I was distracted by love and unknowingly, created an ideal place within myself for a new life. Without feeling guilty, with time I have understood myself, but above all I have forgiven myself. Today I look at Gaia Charlotte and just explode with positive emotions. The ones that sometimes, out of fear, I hadn't been able to enjoy with her in the belly.

"I don't know if that was the reason, but I like to think that I was distracted by love and unknowingly, created an ideal place within myself for a new life."


I’ve decided to sell my kids clothes because: I am a big fan of second hand in general, and also often shop preloved. For me, selling my kid's used things is a gesture with many positive messages. It can be teaching my daughters about taking care of objects so that they can have a longer life, the value of money and the power of saving through small gestures, supporting the circular economy, an ecological act, or finding good quality brands at more affordable prices.

"For me, selling my kids used things is a gesture that can pass on many positive messages to my daughters"

 Shop Marija's preloved page here 

How I ended up living in the city of Chur:

We were looking for a Swiss-German city with a bit of Italian flair that wasn't always grey, where it's hot in summer but snows in winter. 

That's the romantic version. The reality? Chur was strategically located for my husband's job, but it turned out to be much more than that.

The biggest change and/or benefit of having left a typical office job behind is: The opportunity to look for new career paths. To reorient yourself. To discover talents or skills you didn't know you had. To create new dreams.

We spend a lot of time in the Italian part of Switzerland. Here’s what you can’t miss if you visit Ticino with kids:

Let me share my best list of family friendly places:

To sleep: Campofelice Camping Village

Places to eat with playgrounds: Caffé Touch Quartiere Maghetti Lugano, Ristorante Storni Tesserete

Simple outdoor activities: Swiss miniature, lakeside walks

If it rains: Splash and spa, Museo in Erba

Picturesque views: Gandria path, Brissago islands

For villages and nature: Val Maggia (Foroglio or Bosco Gurin)

Follow Minimeexplorer for more great tips.