around the world
more to come...
I will rotate stories about parenting in other countries. I think
it is interesting to see what parenting is like, the trends and
fads, the customs and traditions of other places. Some ideas are
a world apart, and some may seem just the same as your feelings,
but it’s always fun to compare and contrast your parenting
with that of others. And who knows you may come up with some new
ideas about your approach to parenting.
It’s fun to see what people are doing around the world. There
are no statistics to report (if you know of any, please tell me
about them!) but it seems as though there is a baby-BOOM going on
out there and on my recent trips to Sweden, Iceland, Italy and Switzerland
there are kids popping up (and out) everywhere! This baby boom is
causing theatres to add movie viewings just for new moms with kids,
just about any restaurant you go to these days you will find booster
seats (and with the new no-smoking laws it’s even better),
and just about every museum has a children’s room for painting
and playing. I think it’s great! The world outside our homes
is not just for grown ups anymore and children love seeing the wide,
wide world out there!
Along with the baby boom, the range in age of parents out there
is interesting too. Maybe I notice it more because I am a new mom
at 40. But I see more and more moms and dads in their forties, pregnant
or with young children. I have three friends, at my age, that are
now pregnant, and I can’t help but wonder if we will be different
parents, because of our age, than those that had children younger.
I personally think that I have shorter patience than if I was younger,
and there is something about just wanting to be at home with my
son…but maybe that is just being a parent at any age.
If you have any special stories or theories about this age “phenomenon”,
or about parenting in other countries, please send me an email so
that we can share each other’s ideas.
Send an email to me at: email@example.com and I will post them on the website.
country – sweden (country
I would like
to focus on a country that I am familiar with so that brings us
to Sweden. Both of my parents immigrated to USA from Sweden in the
1950’s. As children we spent our summers in Sweden and those
are some of the fondest memories of my childhood, not for anything
in particular, but the lives of my cousins seemed so different than
ours, and it was really fascinating to us.
We had great fun swimming in the lakes, riding bikes, and celebrating
midsummer. One summer I remember we planted a whole field of potatoes,
and believe it or not that was a great memory as well. My Aunt and
Uncle still live on the farm that my mother grew up on. They are
such an inspiration to me because they plant their own garden, grow
their own wheat for baking their bread, and they have lamb on the
farm in which they slaughter two each year and share the meat with
their family. They use the skins of the lamb to make items for their
home, so as not to waste anything. Canning their own vegetables
and fruit makes their farming last into winter. They bottle their
own “saft”, which is made from the fruit, to drink throughout
the year instead of soft drinks.
Today, my cousin shares this farming value with her children. She
currently has a farm with 50 ewes and many lamb. She is making her
own feta cheese and selling to the public (which is organic). When
I asked her “why cheese?” she said “it seemed
interesting to make a product out of grass”, she went on to
say that “other people have just problems with the grass and
we look at it as a resource.” They live off their land much
in the way that her parents had when she was growing up, ecology
just runs in the family.
I wanted to get some ideas on how parenting is different in Sweden
as opposed to the United States, but my cousin was quick to point
out that her kids are not interested in the farm. They eat all meals
together as a family and they bike together, but the kids have their
own sports commitments…sounds a little familiar don’t
you think. Their home duties are related to the house and not the
farm. I was surprised to hear this but then again as my cousin said,
“at 13 I was not that into the farm either”, that came
later in life. I hope it’s true! Her attitude pointed out
the casual approach that the Swede’s tend to take with parenting.
There are no fancy parenting tricks here, just plain and simple
love, caring and respect for each other.
focus city – sweden (city
Another half of our relatives are living the city life in Stockholm,
Sweden. Just as it is here in the United States, the city life is
very different than my cousins in the country. Life in Stockholm
is full of the contrasts that exist in any big city, the pressures
from peers to raise your children under the watchful eye of just
about everyone around you, and all of the excellent support networks
that exist in big cities. I remember getting very specific parenting
suggestions from random people sitting next to me on the subway
train in New York City while pregnant. Well it’s just the
same in the cities of other countries, so while my ‘country
mouse’ cousin gave me a couple sentences on her parenting
ideas, my city mouse cousin prepared a very thorough and well thought
out curriculum on parenting in Sweden. I will publish it as she
wrote it, because it’s full of the passionate language of
a perfectly fluent-in-English Swede, and it’s packed with
delightful and eyebrow raising information on parenting.KIDS AND
PARENTING IN SWEDEN
To begin with it is really important and usual with breastfeeding
in Sweden. During all your pregnancy and also when giving birth,
all medical people you meet will go on and on about the importance
of breastfeeding. As for me, when giving birth to my second child
they would all ask, "How long did you breastfeed your first?"
and the more months the more they will say "oh bravo!”
Though I think there is a moral standard at around 9-12 months where
most people stop, and if someone would breastfeed after that it
would be found a little bit peculiar instead. It is OK to breastfeed
pretty much everywhere these days, but now and then there will be
a café or so that won’t allow it and it is usual it
will be a debate in a newspaper because they call it segregation.
I breastfeed everywhere if needed.
I would guess
that 95% of all kids get formula in a bottle each morning and night.
From 1 year until 4-5 years of age.
The recommendation of introducing babyfood is 4-6 months because
that is a stage where the baby is very curious about new flavors
My kids eat just about everything. I think because we love food
in our family and always served and let them try a lot of what we
eat. Actually my 4-year old said the other day that "Mmmm,
mom we have to have sushi for lunch" and when we found a sushi
bar it was next to McDonalds (he is very aware of the happy meal
with toys and all)...but he didn’t even mention the McDonalds,
he ordered 5 pieces of mixed sushi and finished it all...I was very
satisfied to see this. But in our every day food we also serve them
the typical favorite foods of Swedish kids: thin pancakes with jam,
meatballs and pasta, fish fingers etc. I do not really worry actively
about organics, but if there is a choice in front of me in the store
I will choose the ecological. In Sweden most dinners are prepared
at home, take-out or so is not the family typical dinner as I imagine
in the states many times? I never force my kids to eat up, as long
as they taste I’ll respect if they don’t like it or
if they are full - actually I believe strongly that it is therefore
they love food and try a lot. Positive feelings around eating is
important I think.
In Sweden the government pays 360 days off work and it is a law
for the employer to give the parent the time off and guarantee an
equal job when going back to work again. Though the maximum monthly
pay the government gives doesn’t really equal your ordinary
salary if you have an ok paid job, I almost lost about 40% of the
usual income per month! Since a few years the 360 days are equally
split between the mother and father, however the parents can just
send in a paper where the father can give his days to the mother
instead BUT 30 days are solely for the father and can’t be
handed over, this to try to activate the fathers in the parenting
more. Oh, and when the baby is born the father automatically can
stay home for the first 2 weeks to help out the settling in. Though
since the man usually earns higher salary the loss of the usual
income would be too big so it doesn’t always work. My husband
has not taken leave because of income loss, but most of my friends
right now will have the father staying home the last 6 months with
the child anyway because they find it worth it.
Many families chose to stretch the 360 days, because there is a
choice where you can say for example "I’ll take out 75%
amount per month instead", which means the value will be added
in days in the end giving another extra few months to stay home.
About 1 year and a couple of months is the most usual though. I
stayed at home 1 year and three months with Ludvig and this time
with Lea I’ll stay home 1 year and 1 month and then go back
working 50-75% so that I can pick them up earlier each day and have
Fridays off in the beginning. Lea will be the youngest baby...which
gives me a bad feeling of course. But it also depends on what month
the baby is born since it is in the autumn it is easy to find free
daycare spaces for kids (cause the 5-year olds move out of daycare
then). It is impossible to find a free space in for example January,
(So if I wait for Lea to turn another 2 months old, maybe there
won’t be daycare space left). Ludvig was born in June so it
was perfect to start in September the following year. A lot of planning
Ludvig is not in any activities. It has grown popular in Sweden
lately with activities starting already when they are just 3 months
(baby-swimming is really usual here). But they say it is more to
activate and keep the mom busy during the year home, than it is
for the baby’s sake? I have always taken it is easy with activities
because they are in such a busy environment all day at daycare and
I think they should just come home and rest, have some quietness,
learn to not stress and just talk, think and just play free. Last
year Ludvig tried theatre school one hour on Fridays, but I found
he was just confused with more new kids/groups/rules/teachers so
I let him quit. Talking to other moms they had the same experience
with their kids weather it was ballet or swimming or whatever. They’re
Since about 5 years there is a governmental maximum rate per month,
right now 840 SEK per child (About 90 dollars). That includes everything
with foods and fruits and activities they do. The usual is 4-5 kids
per teacher which is too much and heavily debated. Usual open from
7 until 17.30 or so. We go to a private daycare but the governmental
law for rate still applies. The parents are the "board"
of the daycare and we meet regularly to discuss everything from
economics, foods, activities, toys, themes, books, teachers...when
you’re busy it is a burden but it is really good that we have
the control and say of the quality of everything. There are 16 children
Other hot topics in Sweden right now is the role of grandparents.
The grandparents today are so busy with their own schedules of careers,
traveling, hobbies such as golf and meeting friends. This was not
how it was when we were small and before that they say. Some say
it is good for the grandparents but some studies say that the bands
and emotional security was really needed for the children’s
best. Especially when seeing where the world is going, the old type
of family bonds are needed.
The complete toy hysteria is also debated a lot. Us parents try
to comfort our guilt of working too much and being tired at home,
with giving the kids more and more things instead of time and attention.
Sad but true!
Allergy and cancerous risks in the baby products such as shampoos,
crèmes etc is also hot topic. Last week they tested the 50
most used such as wipeys, crèmes and only 3 of them passed
(!). In one hand you get worried on the other hand there is always
alarms everywhere and they change from time to time and unfortunately
the modern human being just turns on a shield and think "well,
isn’t everything dangerous in the end". I myself am skeptic
and think if I change to another product they’ll find something
more dangerous with that next year and so on...
Right now it is a baby boom in Sweden and there are magazines, TV-shows
etc. for the modern mom/parent. Some accuse some people of seeing
the baby as the latest trendy accessory!
country – morocco
Julie Ann Klear, who
was born in Germany and raised in Ohio and New York City, is co-founder
of Zid Zid Kids. She writes to us from Marrakech, Morocco where
she has lived since 2002 with her Moroccan American husband, daughter
Noor 4 1/2 and son Zak 2 1/2.
Although it was her decision to make this move she is aware of being
spiritually, mentally and physically a long way from home in a country
where her traditions “stick out like a sore thumb”.
For inspiration she draws on a small group of female friends who
are older than her and have lived in Marrakech for quite some time.
These women have helped Julie find the balance between the influence
of the Moroccan culture and the need to make a place of her own.
Having had her first child in the U.S. and her second in Marrakech,
Julie is uniquely qualified to comment on the differences in these
two cultures approaches to maternity.
“We Americans are very spoiled…. In the USA you get
rewarded with all kinds of pampering. There are baby showers, girlfriend
bonding time and constant questions from friends.” She sites
the access to parenting classes, books, websites and pediatricians
as being unique to women pregnant in America. In contrast, the Moroccan
cultural tendency is towards privacy. Pregnant women are rarely
seen on the streets and their pregnancy is unlikely to come up as
a topic of conversation. Women cover their bodies and are careful
where they go when they do go out. Signs of the “evil eye”
are used to ward off evil.
Upon closer inspection, Julie has realized that these women are
well cared for by their mothers, sisters and grandmothers, but privately
in their own homes. “To dispel my prenatal misconceptions
further, I had a wonderful Moroccan gynecologist who had the most
sophisticated methods and equipment in his office. Trained in Paris,
he had better equipment than what I had in Cambridge. I had a sonogram
at every visit and an extremely thorough examination every few weeks.
He was wonderful in the delivery room, which was a private clinic
here in town, and he was accompanied by a wonderful French Midwife
named Marie Sange. My second pregnancy happened without a single
hiccup and childbirth was a smooth and as easy as you could image.
Zak was a born a healthy baby boy. My husband and I shared a bottle
of champagne in the quiet, clean room directly afterward, called
my parents back in Toledo, Ohio and our old good friend Dr. Michel
Cohen in New York City to give them the good news.”
Despite the great care Julie received, she notes that many well
to do Moroccan women as well as Western women leave to give birth
in New York or Canada, giving their children dual citizenship before
“Morocco as a whole is made up of an incredibly diverse web
of methodologies for raising a family.
Julie has noticed several unique styles of mothering and comments:
-There are contemporary and stylish Moroccan working moms who do
many things a western mom would do, like work full time outside
the home and take her child to ballet class on Wednesdays. These
children normally attend a French or American School and will aim
to continue their studies abroad.
-There are some Moroccan women who cover themselves entirely from
head to toe in traditional Islamic dress, are devote Muslims and
almost never leave the home except to walk their children to school.
They stay close to the home and are very good, strict, obedient
mothers. Their children normally attend an Arabic School. These
children grow up to be the community’s middle class, with
a good education behind them and strong family and religious values.
-There are women who come from the countryside, Berbers, who are
the indigenous people of the country. You will find them wearing
simple clothing and most without a formal education. They have very
little, and yet, you will find them very happy. These mothers will
carry their children on their backs until age 3 or so while either
tending the sheep, working in the field or in the home. Most of
these children do not go to school or if they are lucky, will have
someone in the village teach them to read and write.
-Then there are rare women here, like me, American women, European
women who look at life differently and break away from certain molds
and choose a place like this to raise their families for diverse
reasons. Our children tend to be multi-lingual, well traveled, and
“As a woman here and amongst my friends, I would say we are
woman who have decided to chart our own paths; make choices based
on our intuition and creative senses, not on what society or the
community expects of us. A common trait that I share with my female
ex-pat friends is that we tend to be bold, be scared of very little
and look for alternatives to offer our children.”
+ zak's school
The children attend a French school that starts at 12 months. As
play dates, mommy and me classes and libraries are not available,
Julie and her husband have placed their children in the school environment
earlier than they would have in the USA. The children are taught
in French by Moroccan women, some who wear traditional dress, and
they are the only American family enrolled in the school.
Noor and Zak speak French, Moroccan and English fluently as do most
Moroccans. The children learn to read and write in both French and
Arabic at school.
In the beginning Julie struggled with what was “missing”
in Marrakech. Without resources such as libraries, open grass filled
parks, museums with art classes, play dates, what does an American
“This is something I struggled with at the very beginning
of my stay in Morocco. But after some long heartfelt thinking, I
asked myself, ‘Am I not an artist, an educator and resourceful
American weaned on Martha Stewart and Sesame Street and the rest?’
After tearing out my hair over things that were not there and would
not be any time soon, I started to look, actually look around me
for what I did have and what I could offer my children.”
To take matters into her own hands he has turned her home into a
private Montessori environment, made her own children’s library
filled with 100 English books as well as a few in French and Arabic
and she turned the city into a playground by exploring Marrakech
with her children. In a beautiful park she and her children have
discovered old equipment to play on amongst the Palm and Fig trees,
roses and other exotic plants. Noor and Zak climb on and lead the
horses and camels that wait for tourists under the Palms. The children
also enjoy working in the local Carpenter’s Woodshop much
to the delight of the carpenters. Her family also enjoys frequent
trips to the countryside, the Atlantic Ocean and even the Sahara
“With this amazing world, culture and colors at our fingertips,
play dates and the neighborhood park began to pale in comparison
and fade away,” Julie concludes.
Julie notes that eating right was actually one of the reasons she
and her family came to Marrakech. People as a whole eat very well,
as there is an emphasis on fresh home cooked meals enjoyed together.
Time is set aside for a mid-day meal by the closing of schools and
work from about noon to 2 each day, so families can gather to enjoy
good food and companionship. Everyone can unwind while eating fresh
vegetables, home made bread and delicious fruits.
Every Friday, which is the Muslim holy day, an enormous platter
of couscous is served family style and topped with 7 vegetables.
This meal takes 4-5 hours to create and Julie hopes to learn how
to make what she calls “a cultural labor of love”.
“As a result of home made food served to us everyday, we not
only eat well, but have the chance to connect with our children
AND teach them to sit for a meal and eat a healthy meal. This is
a major lesson I know for a fact would be lost on us if we were
still in Cambridge, MA. Our hectic schedules simply don’t
allow for this on a daily basis.”
Healthcare is much harder to come by in Marrakech with many people
not having the means or the money to visit a doctor. Julie and her
family are fortunate to know many doctors in the area and the children
are attended to by an extremely caring pediatrician.
Muslim Holidays and Official State Holidays are celebrated with
reserve and dignity and focus on spending time with family and friends.
Islam is the dominant religion in the country and although Julie
and her family do not practice this religion or the Catholicism
of her own background or the Muslim of her husbands’, they
find ways to integrate discussions about God and the different types
of prayer, worship and holidays that surround them.
“Being close as a family unit was one of the driving forces
of returning to this country as a place to raise our children. I
have found that I can’t stay put and need to be exploring
a new culture or challenge almost at all times. Along side this
need, I also have a constant desire to be doing something creative.
For me, I see life as one big art project. I need to have my hands
in something creative. Because my husband, a creative too, has been
longing for a way to return to his home country, we felt that relocating
to Morocco would be the best fit, in terms of the quality of our
work and home life. We have been able to melt the 2 together to
make something that is unique to our family, our individual needs,
our business needs.”
lessons i have learned
“Don’t lose site of yourself and who you are while living
in a foreign country. If no one around you speaks your language,
prepares food the same way or plays the same games, it is no reason
to stop believing in who you are and the place you came from. On
the contrary, it is essential to carry on your personal rituals
with more gusto and energy in order to be heard. Additionally, you
need to embrace the world in front of you and make it your own.
find a balance in other worlds outside your own and learn a great
deal in the process.”