My real name is Anne G. Sæbø (Sabo). I grew up in Norway on the outskirts of Oslo where I did most of my undergraduate work. I moved to the United States in the mid nineties when I was in my early twenties. By 2000, I had completed my graduate degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle (I have a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature), and was working as a college professor in Northfield, Minnesota, a small college town just south of the Twin Cities. I continued to serve as a college professor for ten years, teaching courses on literature, film and women’s studies.
In 2008 I became a mom. The birth of my daughter changed my life. Determined to make a positive change, I left my position as a tenured professor in order to focus on my family and writing that matters. (Please visit First the Egg for my essay I left a tenured academic position, but I am not a goner.)
I am passionate about women's rights and the value of parenting, and I am upset about the lack of gender equality and the lip service paid to mothering in our culture. A lot of what I write about in my posts here at Quizzical mama is inspired by books and articles that pertain to these issues specifically, and the politics and philosophies of parenting in general. I don't shy away from controversial issues, and often reflect on different cultural practices and attitudes to child rearing and motherhood in the US and my native Norway. But some posts are just my own personal anecdotes about life as it is now; musings by a quizzical--questioning, curious, puzzled, surprised, perplexed, inquiring--mama who likes to write.
Please visit my official homepage to find out more about me. Or read on to learn more about my approach to parenting.
My parenting style comes closest to a form of attachment parenting. This is not to say that my life is consumed by my child’s needs and that I’m always on the floor playing with her. When my daughter was a tiny baby, I’d read, write or check stuff on my laptop while she nursed, slept in my lap or next to my thigh (if I managed to get her there without waking her). As soon as she was content playing by herself for a bit, I would sneak a moment to write. I’ve also snuck moments to write while half catering to her needs and half lost in my own train of thoughts.
I am happiest when I can combine my work parenting with my work writing or reading, thinking or walking, or visiting with friends. Or even when cooking, cleaning, gardening, and doing errands. If you saw the movie Babies (2010), I like to think of my parenting style more like the Namibian mom’s than the styles of the San Francisco- and Tokyo-based moms. I don’t divide my work and chores from being with my daughter, caring for and playing with her; I incorporate them all.
I grew up in a country where parents are given one year of paid parental leave. When my daughter was born, I had an unpaid leave for a year from my position as a college professor. When my request for an extension was denied, I quit after ten years of service.
Gender equality is a fundamental value in Norway, which to a large extent explains why most moms there return to full-time work when their children turn one and are guaranteed a spot in state supported daycare.
But neither my daughter nor I were ready for separation when she turned one. Or when she turned two. Everything I read about the child’s need to develop attached relationships with her parents and/or select caregivers in her first two to three years of life resonated with my guts. We couldn’t afford to pay for a daycare provider with low child-to-caregiver ratio, or a private nanny. And I wanted to breastfeed for as long as both my daughter and I wanted it. As she turned one, and then two, I was still nursing her frequently.
During the second year of my child’s life, I shared my time being with my daughter and my time writing with my husband. To me, equally shared parenting, where the child reaps the benefits of spending equal amounts of time with both parents, and each parent also gets to pursue his or her own work, is ideal. Unfortunately, in our culture, it is nearly impossible. Part-time work usually does not come with benefits; its pay does not measure up to half of what its equivalent full-time position would pay; and a part-time position typically implies more than 50% employment.
So during our child’s third year of life, I was with her all day while my husband worked. But I was not a non-working “stay-at-home” mom. A mama and a writer, I worked whenever and wherever I could.
We enrolled our child in a Montessori preschool the day after she turned three. She’s been loving it every day since. As have I. Though you will still find me craving more time for my own work, researching and writing. And more respect for the work I do too, both as a parent and a part-time professional. – It really is high time we replace the “mommy wars” with an open mind to the many ways moms today navigate parenting and work. And it is time we join forces to create more options for women and men to share the work of parenting, and allow both women and men the opportunity to divide their time between their own work and their children.
To summarize -- I did this:
• I left a secure tenured college professor to be with my child.
• I nursed on demand for three years (with some exceptions).
• I bedshared with my child for three years.
• I lied with my child until she was asleep for nap and night for three years. She started going asleep by herself at night when she was around three. (And she stopped taking naps the summer she turned 4 and we were at the pool all afternoon.)
• I have carried and held my child a whole lot.
• I watched my child's cues and helped her go in the toilet; then in the potty when she could sit by herself, and then eventually in the toilet, all by herself (diaper-free parenting).
• I gave my child solid food only after she showed interest, and after that only from the food that was in our house and that my husband and I would eat too.
• For three years, I was with my child the entire time unless she was with my husband. From she was two till she turned three, she was with my closest friend, whose daughter is my daughter’s closest friend, every Friday morning so I could focus on my writing. My friend and I have also child swapped for yoga on a weekly basis. My husband and I had a handful of dates while our daughter was with said friend or his parents on their occasional visit.
And I did not do this:
• I did not “sleep train” my child.
• I did not put my child on a “schedule.”
• I did not let my child cry if I could help it.
• I did not train my child to be okay walking around with soiled bottoms only to later have to “potty train” her.
• I did not give my child special baby food.
• I did not leave my child crying in the care of others to attain “separation,” and I have resented it when others leave their child crying for such “separation,” say at early childhood family education programs.
• I did not leave my child in the child watch area at the gym until she was ready and fine with it, which in her case was around two-and-a-half years. Before that, I would keep her with me while exercising if the staff were okay with it, which they sometimes where, other times not.