Saturday, 22 June 2013

thoughts on being a stay at home mom

Fuji Provia 100F, Canon EOS 500N

Ine asked the other day if I could tell a little about Sara starting barnehage (kindergarten) rather late. Sure, I can.

First, a few facts:

- Norwegian parents may take 46 weeks of paid parental leave at 100 % pay or 56 weeks at 80 % pay.
- Three weeks before and six weeks after the birth are reserved for the mother, while 12 weeks of the total parental leave period are reserved for the father.
- Parents may take a year of unpaid leave directly after the parental leave ends.
- Norwegian women who do not work outside the home are entitled to a lump sum grant when the child is born.
- You can receive cash-for-care benefits (kontantstøtte) for children between the ages of one and two years. In September 2012 22 % of one and two year olds received this benefit (in September 1999 the percentage was 73). 
- Children between the ages of one and five may attend pre-school day care centers (barnehage/kindergarten). It is a voluntary service that is paid for by the parents.
- It is a statutory right for all children between the ages of one and five to have a place in a kindergarten. Children must turn one within the end of August to get a place the first year, otherwise they are not entitled to a place until August the next year.
- Education for children between the ages of 6 and 15 is compulsory. It is divided into primary school (age 6-12) and lower secondary school (age 13-15). All children in Norway are entitled and obliged to attend primary/lower secondary education. Tuition is free.

Check out Ny i and NAV/cash-for-care benefits for more information in English.

Kodak Ektachrome 100VS, Canon EOS 500N

So, this is how we did it:

Sara was born October 30 (2011), so she was not entitled to a place in barnehage the following August (2012) as she would not yet be one year old. We did apply for a place, but didn't get one - as expected. We did consider finding a nanny (dagmamma), but didn't feel completely comfortable with it. Nannies are not very common in Norway because of the (near) full barnehage coverage. So, we decided that the best solution for our little family was that I would take a year unpaid leave from my job as a copywriter at ASKO Reklame and my freelance business. We have received cash-for-care benefits during this year.

I'm very, very glad we made this decision. 

Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS 500N

I didn't predict it would be such a full time job to take care of my daughter all day. It is the best yet most exhausting job I have ever had.

Some days are all joy; I have plenty of energy to follow Sara's ups and downs from dawn til dusk. We have a whole day to fill with fun and no stress. Other days are just painful and I only look forward to Sara is asleep for the night so I can have a glass (or two) of wine.

But that's life, isn't it? Some days are good, and some are bad - being a stay at home mom or not.

As mentioned the other day, this week was our last normal week before Sølve starts his six weeks summer holiday (which in reality is the second part of his 12 weeks paternity leave). Sara starts barnehage on August 5 and I will start working again. By then I have been on maternity leave for nearly two years. 

Our friends have nicknamed Sølve "the 50s man" because he has a stay at home wife - which is not very common in Norway; most mothers work outside the home - who tends the house and cooks him dinner. For the time being, I'm fine with that. Sølve works long hours and I love cooking. I feel privileged to be able to spend so much time with Sara. Our everyday life is (mostly) stress free. We don't feel the time squeeze (tidsklemma).

I do think the change will be good though. I'm looking forward to being more than just mamma (Norwegian for mother) and homemaker, and I think barnehagen will do Sara good. She is at an age now when I sometimes find it hard to give her all the attention/entertainment/play she needs during a day. A bunch of kids in barnehagen will hopefully provide that. But I expect the transition to be hard - both for me and her. There will be tears - from both of us. 

So, any thoughts? Are you a stay at home mom? Do you wish you could be a stay at home mom? Why? Why not? I would love to hear your thoughts! 


  1. I work in a barnehage and I think the barnehage system in Norway is fantastic! In England most mothers stay home til their kids start school at 4 because affordable childcare is just not available.
    It's super cheap (possibly the only cheap thing in Norway?!)and great value for money.

    Sara is going to have a ball Astrid :)

  2. Thanks for this post, Astrid! Interesting to read about your experiences. I don't think I could have been a stay at home mum permanently, but if it was possible financially, it would have been nice to be able to wait with barnehage a little longer than 1 year. At the same time, I think most barnehager are very good in Norway, so I don't think I will be worried to leave our son in one when that time comes.

  3. We are in Scotland and I work part-time (2 days a week) and my husband condenses his hours into three long days so he can look after our little boy (15 months) on my work days. This is quite tiring for him so we may not continue with this once our little boy is 2 but it is working well at the moment. We did consider sending him to a childminder (someone who looks after children in the childminder's home, it is a more family setting than nursery) but my husband decided he wanted to try sharing the childcare. If we decide not to continue this our little boy will go to the childminder (if she has room, there are restrictions on how many children they can look after) one day a week and my husband will work four days a week. I always thought I would want to be a stay at home mum but actually I really enjoy being able to go to work, not sure how I would feel if it was full-time though.

    In the UK you can take up to a year off, you can start maternity leave 11 weeks before the baby is due but most people try and work longer to have more time off with the baby. FOr 39 weeks of your leave you get statutory maternity pay (as long as you are entitled to it, most people are), for the first 6 weeks it's 90% of your usual pay and then after that about £135 a week. If you take the full year off the last 3 months are not paid. I am very lucky because my employer pays the normal full wage for 6 months, then it drops to statutory pay for 3 months then nothing for another 3 months. I took a year off but I did take several weeks off before giving birth as I had a difficult pregnancy (lots of sickness). I returned when my son was 11 months old.

    Good luck with returning to work!

  4. So very interesting to hear about maternity leave in other countries! Wish it was like this in the US....we have pretty much next to nothing. I think the norm is 3 months for moms and fathers MIGHT get paternity leave if they are lucky. I think at my workplace, they give fathers 5 days. After that, you just have to figure out what do ti!

  5. Thank you for sharing this, I found it very interesting!


  6. Wow! I am an Australian mum to three boys under 6 years old. I find this fascinating! I am also a teacher. I have stayed home full time for the past 6 years and am just returning to work part time. I miss my boys, my youngest is nearly 2, but he is old enough to tell me about his day and to know I will be home after work.
    The last 6 years are the best of my comparison to the teenage years ahead...
    I love hearing about your life in Norway... so interesting! And I loved hearing about your differences in saras routine to ours... dinner times sleep times etc...

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