Kitty shook her head, a perplexed look on her face. “Difficult? Of course not. Why would they want me to hide it? Women often transition between part-time and full-time work.” In other words, women in Norway move from the “mommy track” to the fast track without having their careers derailed in the process.
In 2002, when Filip was three years old, Kitty was recruited by Shell Oil to come work in their communications department. She explained she was working only part-time and they replied that wasn’t a problem; she could work part-time with them as well. In Norway, 83 percent of mothers work, but 41 percent work part-time while their children are young. The norm with jobs in service industries such as teaching or nursing, this is standard in business and media as well, as Kitty’s career reveals.
Kitty took herself off the “mommy track” a few years later because she was ready to commit fulltime to her job. Her career has skyrocketed ever since. She has faced no repercussions for her pauses and pull backs. She’s done exactly what Norwegians expect her to do: fully integrate her family and her professional life.
Careers Working With Wild Animals Photo Gallery
I told Kitty about my repeated attempts to find solutions to the seemingly competing desires to be an engaged mother and a committed professional. How I left my job at Nestle to work in an advertising agency for an inspiring woman who was the primary breadwinner in her family but who had no will to find solutions to my request for a flexible workweek after I had spent months on bed rest with my second child. How I had turned to consulting to get the flexibility I needed, but how that consulting meant I had little safety net in terms of benefits or a consistent paycheck. How, after my third child was born, I eventually abandoned my business career altogether, realizing there was no way I could accomplish my personal and professional goals in that arena. I also told her about the challenges of finding good care for my children while I worked; the lack of child care centers, the high-cost nannies we were forced to hire, some of whom were excellent, but some of whom I realize now to have been not just neglectful but actually harmful to my children. And I told her I was one of the lucky ones blessed with enough resources and family support to eventually find solutions at all.
It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of pity, but I felt it that day when I spoke with my cousin. I asked Kitty who cared for her three youngsters while she was rising up the ladder; she responded, “They were in day care, of course.”
Today, a mix of state-run and private centers are at the heart of Norway’s child care solution.119
Whether private or public, these centers must meet extensive state-defined requirements to exist. That means every parent can feel confident their child will be cared for by well-trained professionals who have dedicated their careers to early childhood development.
Unlike the United States where a full 53 percent of children are cared for by a parent, a relative, or a nanny,120 the vast majority of Norwegians use these child care centers for their young. Oslo-based marketing professional Else Marie Hasle explained in an interview for Slate that in Norway parents are very skeptical about nannies and rarely use them: “We feel that day care centers are the safest places for kids.”121
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