Motherhood around the world

This is a post I wrote way back in December 2015 on my previous blog. But I still love reading it even now so I took it with me here.

“As a new mom I feel compelled to read every piece baby literature I can get my hands on, in order to try (emphasis on try) better understand what’s going on with the newest resident of my household: my three months and a half Levi. I guess this is a new fear present in my head around the clock nowadays: what if I miss doing something my little one would need in order to evolve into the best version of himself? And what if years and years from now he’ll come back to me asking “Why? But why..?!”. Insert big gulp from my part and smell of brain on fire while …nothing eloquent comes out of my mouth. Nightmarish scenario, I’m telling you. I know I pulled this one out with my folks…so I kinda feel I have it coming. 🙂

As you can probably guess from the introduction, I’m following (maybe even virtual stalking a little bit) a lot of people more in-the-know than I am for information. One of these people I very much like to read from is Joanna Goddard&team aka cupofjo.com. I follow her posts via bloglovin.com (think of it as blog heaven for the lazy – where you can read all the new stuff from your fav blogs).

She posted a most wonderful series called “Motherhood around the world” where mothers from everywhere share their experience on how it is to live, give birth, raise a child, etc in the country they currently live in. I found it very fascinating and refreshing. And even more than that, I found it comforting, which was exactly what I needed. While reading post after post after post I had some “A-haa!” moments from time to time seeing that there is no unique right way to care for kids – people do it so differently starting from education to food, to play time, to… well everything actually.

Of course all those fears I have will never ever be completely brought to silence (and someday maybe I’ll come to better terms with that) but, on the bright side of things (which was about time to make an appearance) I think spending time getting informed and reading such materials help me keep them more in control, which is a totally awesome thing for me to accomplish.

Back to the motherhood series I was just telling you about, some of the opinions were in line with my own beliefs, other less so – I am still a product of the way I was raised to see things, but some items are definitely keepers. I’ve posted below some parts that I’d like to revisit in the future.

Enjoy!

Note: The excerpts and pictures below have been taken from cupofjo.com

EXCERPT FROM 14 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN SWEDEN

“On napping outdoors: Even in the thick of winter when temperatures are below zero, many Swedish parents put their kids, bundled up in their strollers, outside to nap. They say children sleep longer and better this way and believe the cold and that fresh air is good for a child’s immune system. And here, if you’re sick your doctor will say, open the window when you go to bed at night, fresh air cures all! When I first moved here, I went to meet a friend for coffee in the pouring rain. She told me her baby was asleep outside in the stroller, like it was the most natural thing in the world. His stroller had a waterproof cover, and she could see his stroller outside the window. I realized that it was not actually that crazy when I compared that approach to bringing a wet stroller with a sleeping baby, all bundled up in winter gear, inside a crowded, stuffy cafe, full of germs, trying to find a place to park the stroller, then risking waking him by undressing him so he doesn’t overheat. All of a sudden, leaving him outside seemed like a pretty great option!”

EXCERPT FROM 20 SURPRISING THING ABOUT PARENTING IN GERMANY

“On teaching self-reliance: Hugo is two, and we recently had a parent/teacher conference with his daycare. The teacher said, “I’m concerned about his coming into the group of older kids.” I asked why, and she said, “He needs to learn to stand up for himself more. When other kids come up and take toys away from him, he just lets it happen.” I was like, well, isn’t that just sharing? And she said, “He needs to either take the toy back or fight. We teachers can’t fight all his battles for him!” I was laughing inside, because it was SO different from how we were socialized as children. In the U.S., we were taught that you have to share, you have to compromise. In Germany, it’s all about self-sufficiency and standing up for your rights. When German friends come over, and Hugo wants to play with something the other kids are playing with, my German friends will say to their kids, “Come on, take it back! Did you not want him to play with it? Go take it back.” It’s not meant to be confrontational or mean in any way. But their emphasis is teaching the child to stand up for himself.”

On non-helicopter parenting: Childhood is a time of freedom and happiness. I see little kids walking or biking to or from school alone all the time. Sometimes on weekends, I’ll see kids in the neighborhood all alone, buying breakfast rolls for their families. Once a kid is around seven or eight years old, parents really encourage more autonomous behavior (that is controlled, obviously). Germans prize independence in children, which can feel a little strange to someone brought up in an American-Italian home (I think my parents would still like to hold my hand while crossing the street and I’m 36). The non-helicopter parenting totally extends into teenagerhood. I remember all my German friends having co-ed sleepovers. When you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, from basically fourteen on, you sleep over at their house in their room, unsupervised. Parents are so much more permissive and trusting—there’s a whole groundwork being laid of self-sufficiency and trust.”

EXCERPT FROM 16 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN CHINA

“On a diaper-free culture: Babies wear split pants, and they’ll pee and poop on the ground. My American friends say, “I’m so jealous that they potty train sooner,” but the definition of potty training is completely different here. Back home potty training means going on a toilet, whereas here potty training means going on command. It’s more laid back. Chinese moms will hold their baby and whistle, and then the child will go potty on the ground. The other day, while I was walking my daughter to school, we saw two older boys pooping on egg cartons. They’re potty trained to go anywhere—not to wait to hold it and go a toilet. One big bonus: When our kid has to go, we’re not scrambling to find a public restroom.”

EXCERPT FROM 12 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN ABU DHABI

“On hiring help: I’d never hired a nanny before moving to Abu Dhabi, but now we have full-time help. Our nanny, Tsega, is Ethiopian, and she helps cook, clean and take care of the kids six days a week.

Most domestic help comes from outside the country—Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines or Bangladesh—and it’s extremely affordable. People here say “nanny” or “housemaid.” Everyone—both locals and expats—has a housemaid, and often a driver. I’ve seen everyday Emiratis with a maid for each child!

I realize this is a controversial subject for some American women. Among the women I knew in Utah, it was common to have five or six kids and take care of them full-time, with no help. I felt real pressure to have a beautiful meal prepared every night, vacuum lines on the carpet, kids looking like they stepped out of Crewcuts—all while having perky breasts and wearing size 6 skinny jeans. For me, that was impossible. I felt like I was constantly failing. Soon after we moved to Abu Dhabi, our middle child, Asher, was diagnosed with autism, and we hired Tsega because I just couldn’t keep up. She swept in, with her soft gentle voice and impeccable cooking and cleaning skills, and saved us. She gave me TIME! Time to focus on my kids individually; time to actually have date nights with my husband; time to start my own business. Having full-time help has been a huge benefit to living in this city, and it’s something I’ll be sad to give up.

It’s worth mentioning that there has been some local controversy here about housemaids being worked too hard. For example, the Ethiopian government recently stopped allowing the UAE to recruit Ethiopian maids because of reports that they’re literally being asked to work day and night, seven days a week, by local families. I can only speak to my own experience, but we talk often to Tsega about her hours and pay and are very careful to make sure feels she is being treated fairly. I truly feel like she is part of our family and I adore her. Right now we’re paying for her to take computer and English classes so that when we leave, she’ll be in a position to move forward with her career and send more money to her family back home.”

EXCERPT FROM 13 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN CONGO

On hiring nannies and housekeepers: Jill: We had never hired people to work in our homes before moving to Congo. But it’s expected here for families who are relatively well off to use some of that income to provide work for others.[…]

[…]In Congo, all women are called “Mama So-and-So” out of respect, whether you’re a mother or not. I thought I would be uncomfortable sharing my mama title, but I’m not. It’s a strange relationship—that of nanny and parent and child—but one that is less threatening and more loving than I expected. Now it’s hard to imagine raising children without so many mamas.[…]

“On weight: Jill: There’s no need to step on a scale on the continent of Africa. I know I’m gaining weight when I start getting compliments on my appearance. More specifically, my butt. I’ve been told, with great kindness, that I looked “nice and fat” after returning from a vacation. The tailor who recently made me a dress looked at my lackluster curves and reassured me that she could figure out how to add in boobs and a butt via some magical seams.

Sarah: Recently I took some photos of some of the Mamas in my children’s lives, and Mama Youyou gently brought me Mamitsho’s photo saying, “Madame, umm, hmm, well…Have you seen this photo of Mamitsho? Well, hmm, has she seen it? Is she okay with this?” I told her I thought it was a lovely picture of Mamitsho, and in fact everyone who has seen it comments on how nice she looks. (In retrospect, I guess it was only Americans giving the compliments.)

“Well, Madame, it’s not a good photo,” said Mama Youyou. “She looks skinny. It must be embarrassing for her. You can see her”—and then she yell-whispered—”collarbone!” Body fat is a precious thing here; a sign of nutrition, comfort and a good life.

Jill: The different perspectives on bodies and beauty are something that comes up fairly often. I just read an article in a local magazine about tia foin, the dangerous trend of women using prescription medications to fatten up a bit. It’s the same discussion as we might see in the pages of Marie Claire or Elle about weight-loss drug use among women, but with a completely different spin.”

EXCERPT FROM 10 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN JAPAN

On food: Kids here eat mostly very healthy…tons of rice! Lunch boxes are mainly rice balls—sometimes wrapped in seaweed—with a little egg omelet, sausage and broccoli. The tricky part is that there isn’t labeling like in the U.S. So when you buy eggs or vegetables, you don’t know if they’re organic or not. My husband thinks it’s because all the food is good quality, but it frustrates me not to know. In Brooklyn I was part of a food coop and I bought all organic…Here I just have to close my eyes and buy it!

10 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT PARENTING IN NORWAY

On marriage: People work a lot fewer hours in Norway than they do in the U.S. For example, my husband works for the government for 37.5 hours per week (8am to 3:45pm, five days a week). That’s typical. Since both parents work, marriage partnerships feel much more equal here. Families tend to eat dinner together around 5pm. The housework is mostly divided, and I don’t know any husband who doesn’t help cook dinner and take care of the kids. I see just as many dads picking up their kids from Barnehage as I do moms.

For the whole series check them on Joanna blog here: Motherhood around the world

I would really love to see a series about Romania too. Thank you cupofjo.com for all this wonderful information!

Psst: Did this story connect with you in some way? Let me notify you when a new one is out

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