I received a complimentary copy of Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of the wonderful new anthology Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style, all about expat life in the Netherlands. Excited because several of the authors are friends of mine, and excited because I am fascinated by how parenting styles vary across national and culture lines. So who better to explore this theme than a group of expat moms? They know intimately the differences among parenting norms in different countries, as they themselves are raising children in a country different than the one they grew up in.
How has this experience of living abroad changed their views about parenting? Find out below!
What Parenting Abroad Taught Me About Being a Parent: From the Authors of Dutched Up!
I recently had the pleasure of “interviewing” (via email) several of the authors included in the new anthology Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style, a collection of essays from expat mothers living in the Netherlands. (You can find more about the anthology at the end of this post). Here are their thoughts on what living abroad has taught them about parenting:
1. What has parenting abroad taught you about being a parent?
Olga of Olga Mecking: Oh so many things that they actually needs their own blog posts. But at least this: be more understanding of differences, about adapting and staying the same at the same time. To feel less guilt and more joy.
Ute of expatsincebirth: I don’t consider parenting abroad something “different”. My parents already “parented” abroad, i.e. far away from the rest of their families, so I grew up without having uncles, aunts, grandparents nearby. It was very natural for me to do the same. I don’t ask them for parenting advice and obviously can’t pretend that they come over and help me with anything.
People often say that “it takes a village to raise a child” (an African saying) and I think that parenting abroad implies that we have to build our own village, i.e. to find people who we can trust and rely on if we need help. We have some good friends we can ask for help, but I think that one fundamental fact for families who live abroad is, that the core family – father, mother, siblings – needs to be much stronger. I call it the inner family circle, which is much “closer” and stronger than in families who live with extended family nearby.
I consider that building resilience in our children (an us parents) is the most important aspect of leading a healthy life abroad.
Farrah of The Three Under: Many ways are the ‘right’ way to be a parent. Being open to learning from and observing foreign people is a wonderful way to add to my own ‘bag full of tricks’ when it comes to being a parent.
Amanda of Expat Life with a Double Buggy: That there are many different ways to parent and raise a child – and I have learnt to be open to new ideas simply by watching Dutch parenting styles around me. Parenting is as cultural as anything else.
Lana of Smart Tinker: Parenting abroad taught me to parent according to our values. The cultural difference between the Philippines and Netherlands is very prominent. Having a mixed family also comes into play (husband identifies more with his Serbian ancestry although he is born and raised in the Netherlands). So we learned to parent according to the values that we adhere to, something that both my husband and I have constant talks and reflections on.
Rina of Finding Dutchland: I actually became a mother in the Netherlands. I never even imagined being pregnant and giving birth in a foreign country, let alone raise a child with my husband so far away from a strong family support network. Now as an American mom raising her two year old son in the Low Countries, I discovered that motherhood is a universal experience that transcends borders. Though there are quite distinct differences between American and Dutch parents, inherently we all dearly love our children and want them to live happy, fulfilling lives.
2. How are you a different parent because of living in the Netherlands than you would be elsewhere?
Olga of Olga Mecking: I think many things would be the same: I would probably raise my children bilingual, for example. But some things would be different. For example I may be a more stressed parent if I didn’t have the support network of daycares I have here, of if the cost or quality of healthcare would have been different (worse).
Ute of expatsincebirth: I’ve been a parent in Italy and now in the Netherlands. I think that what made me a different parent here is the fact that I adapted to the local culture, like I did when I lived in Italy and I suppose I would do if I would live elsewhere. I do like the locals. I embrace the way of life here, the language, I adopt some habits and values. But I think I’m not only a different parent, but a different person in general. With living abroad we have the opportunity to discover a facet of ourselves we wouldn’t probably know if we wouldn’t make this experience.
I feel that many things are easier here: moving around with children for example. Not only you can bike everywhere, but also taking public transportation is very easy with kids. The infrastructures are very good here in The Hague and I really feel that we get a great support and that we’re safe. This country is child and family friendly. Italy is very family and child friendly too, but somehow moving around in Florence all together wasn’t as easy as here.
I think that the main difference is that here in the The Hague we live in a highly international environment and meet many like-minded families. We have the feeling to belong together due to our similar situation: our families live far away, we speak multiple languages, our children grow up cross-culturally etc. When we lived in Italy, our friends were mainly locals and for the most part monolinguals. – Being an expat-since-birth myself, the international environment here in The Hague suits me better than a monocultural and monolingual one.
Farrah of The Three Under: I’m much more trusting of my children (with their decision making, safety and physical endurance) than I ever was back home in the US. My kids are happier than I ever imagined, which in turn makes me a happier and more relaxed mom (something I never thought I could be!).
Amanda of Expat Life with a Double Buggy: I am not there 100% yet, but I am learning to be a more relaxed parent than I think I would be if I was raising my children in England. Children have more freedom to be who they are in the Netherlands; their boundaries are less defined.
Lana of Smart Tinker: The perks of being in the Netherlands that I am grateful for is the social and healthcare system. I don’t have to be too worried about their tuition fees or health related bills because these are free. Taking the financial burden out from these areas give us time and resources to explore other things. Another advantage that I see is the richness of culture. I love art and am fascinated with the vast array of art related activities that we can do with our kids. The environment is just alive with history and culture. Areas of learning that are crucial for me and my husband.
Rina of Finding Dutchland: Who I am today is because of all the eye-opening experiences I had as a mom in the Netherlands. Being a foreign mom in a foreign country has definitely made me a more open-minded, patient and less judgemental mother.
One gains a type of freedom from living in a foreign country. It encourages you to re-evaluate everything you believe in and allows you to live a life authentic to your own heart’s calling. It’s true that you can accomplish that wherever you are, but being an expat in a foreign country really does give you a bigger breathing room for re-invention.
About the Anthology
Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style is about expat life in the Netherlands, as seen through the eyes of expat women bloggers. The book covers a wide range of topics about everyday life as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. Some are funny. Others have a wealth of professional information. Yet other stories are sad, shocking or surprising.