Meternity Leave – What the Dutch Have Been Doing All Along

6 May 2016

Meternity leave

 

Grab some popcorn and get yourself settled. The mommysphere is up in arms thanks to Meghann Foye’s New York Post article “I want all the perks of maternity leave – without having any kids.”

 

Faye is a thirty-eight year old self-proclaimed workaholic who just released her debut novel Meternity about a woman who fakes a pregnancy so she can take a much needed break. Faye explains her premise:

 

“But the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave – which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.”

 

From a distance it seems like a brilliant publicity plot. Taking into consideration that Faye is a magazine editor, chances are she may know a bit about garnering media attention. Sadly though, she missed her chance at a mea culpa and redeeming herself to the good graces of American mommies when she canceled an appearance on Good Morning America, and bungled her interview on UK’s This Morning. And given the current real-life struggle that American parents have with even getting paid maternity leave, this whole approach seems inappropriate, self-centred and daft.

 

Because maternity leave is anything but relaxing. Chances are, maternity leave entails a woman’s body being ripped apart (either their lady gardens or their bellies) and overloaded with hormones while having to cater to a helpless, tiny human who demands constant attention, love and care. Even if a woman had one of those magical births with the baby arriving on a bed of roses at the end of a rainbow with unicorns, fairies and pixies, the first few weeks of a baby’s life is anything but restful. If you ever see a new mom who exudes rest, it probably means that someone else is helping her with the baby.  

meternity leave

 

Dig a little deeper and this isn’t about maternity leave, another dimension to the mommy wars, or even about children. It’s really about work-life balance.

 

All of this went largely unnoticed in the Netherlands. I suspect that it’s a moot point here because going Dutch at work translates to: not working all the time. On any given weekday, especially on sunny days, you’ll see Dutch people on the terrace enjoying life. It took me a long time to understand and appreciate the Dutch penchant for not working.

 

The Dutch prioritize a good work-life balance by being the part-time champions of the world; 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women work less than 36 hours a week. Self-deprecating humour aside, the Dutch have discovered that having a life outside of work allows them to be even more productive at work and more content with life in general. And apparently, the Dutch remain competitive in the global economy.

 

Dutch women in particular love to work part-time, whether or not they have kids. Childless Dutch women have no qualms about working only for three to four days to make time to work on some personal hobby like photography, gardening, or just hanging out with friends for brunch.

 

It’s even perfectly acceptable for moms to send their children to daycare as a sort of mental health break. While some may consider it a lackadaisical approach to a career or parenting, Dutch women understand the importance of self-care. Like the airplane analogy of putting one’s face-mask on first in the case of an emergency, Dutch moms have internalised the importance of making time for themselves. And though this may sound selfish, they and their children are much happier because of it.
Rather than aspiring to be stylish like the French or trendily sophisticated like the Scandinavians, perhaps Americans should set their sights on the Dutch. Faye and anyone else advocating a “meternity” leave should seriously consider moving to the Netherlands. Though Foye may have brilliantly coined the term meternity, the Dutch have been doing it all along.

 

 

photo of Rina Mae Acosta with her baby by Elma Coetzee

A Love Letter to the Netherlands

3 May 2016

A Love Letter to the Netherlands

 

Dear Dutchland,

You’re officially known as the Netherlands mainly by the Dutch, but often referred to simply as Holland by the rest of the world, or the Low Countries for those who are more intimately acquainted with you. But to me, you are “Dutchland”, the world in which I choose to see you and turn my face towards the sun (if we’re lucky and it’s around).

Visiting Amsterdam to enjoy your country’s liberal attitude towards certain illicit behaviours is what you’re (in)famous for. But actually moving here and setting up roots, especially in one of your villages, is not a “thing” like moving to Paris, or somewhere under the Tuscan sun.

Celebrating King’s Day, Liberation Day and Memorial Day has put me in a reflective mood. There are several facets of life here that has enriched mine and my family’s life. Let me count the ways.

 

Being fashionably thrifty

It’s quite refreshing to live in a culture that embraces the virtue of living within one’s means. The Dutch understand that #thestruggleisreal and don’t try to put up to pretenses. Perhaps the best known example is the urban legend about Prime Minister Willem Drees and an American diplomat after World War II. When the American diplomat came to visit the Prime Minister’s home to discuss what America could do to support the Dutch economy, apparently Mrs. Drees served him a cup of tea with just ONE cookie. The American was so shocked at the meager hospitality that he considered it a clear indication that the Dutch needed a lot of assistance to climb out of poverty. Little did the American know that the “one cookie experience” and the modest home was simply Dutch thriftiness.

 

The biking life

The bicycle isn’t some trendy hipster accessory. It’s an actual means of transportation for the Dutch. And I’m a certified bakfiets (cargo bike) mommy which is akin to the suburban American mom with a minivan. Though at times it can be a pain biking through hail, snow, wind, and rain – sometimes all in one day – I’m grateful for the regular dose of exercise and not to be living a big portion of my life stuck in traffic and fighting for parking spaces. I also look forward to the days when my kids can cycle independently to and from school, their various sports practices and whatever it is on their social agenda.

 

Love Letter to the Netherlands

 

Yes to sandwiches for breakfast and lunch and pancakes for dinner

A Singaporean expat friend once asked me, “What’s the difference between a Dutch breakfast and a Dutch lunch?”  I was stumped.

She answered,  “The three hours in between the two meals.”

Once you get past the monotony of having sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, you realize how pragmatic and genius it is. No need to think or spend precious time preparing elaborate meals. Adulting with a four-year-old and a baby has been so much easier thanks to the no fuss approach to meals. Just set the table with breads, slices of cheese, butter and hagelslag and they’re happily eating. On days when we just had enough of all the crying and tantrums, we can just serve pancakes for dinner. And since the Dutch are the tallest people in the world, this way of eating can’t be detrimental to the physical development of children.

 

Refreshingly direct and honest communication

The Dutch are often mistaken for being rude and too opinionated, especially by expats. But after living here almost ten years, I’ve learned to bite the bullet and appreciate it. After all the tears and insecurities, I’ve developed a thick skin. I always know where I stand. And I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons why I’m so much happier – no second guessing, no passive aggressive communication, no uncertainty. If anything happens to be lost in translation, we can all just have a meeting to talk it out. And as they say, all the problems in the world can be solved with a pot of tea and a heart to heart.

 

Not giving a f*ck

One of the most liberating aspects of living in this country is that the Dutch don’t seem to give a f*ck. They live life according to their values and don’t try to live up to societal standards or bow to the pressure to be perfect and successful. It extends to parenting where they try their absolute best, but at the end of the day, being good enough more than suffices. And their parenting approach leads to their kids being the happiest in the world.

 

Love,

Rina Mae

P.S. If you love procrastinating and want to join an awesome Facebook community, come join our page. I promise I won’t be too annoying.

The Life-Changing Magic of King’s Day

28 April 2016

The Life Changing Magic of King's Day ©Michele Hutchison


Each year my kids get to have their own Marie Kondo moment. As Koningsdag – King’s Day – approaches the time comes  to sort through all their old toys and decide what to sell. Do you still play with it? No. Have you grown out of it? Yes. Onto the pile. Many of these toys were accumulated at previous King’s Day markets for a couple of euros at the most. My husband and I are sometimes glad to see the back of them – particularly those of the cheap plastic, noisy variety.  I admit it, joy is sparked in my mind when I see those go on the pile. Less joyous is the way some of the toys selected for sale mark the end of an era. A Miffy hand puppet, dolls, a beloved train set or a set of Early Reader books. But there is no room for sentimentality – the more the children sell, the more cash they  make to buy new toys.

There is a long tradition of buying and selling your old toys in the Netherlands. Two areas in Amsterdam are set aside for children’s free markets: the Vondelpark and the NDSM wharf on the north bank of the river IJ. Grown-up Dutchies turn the rest of the city into an orange-festooned party zone and random junk market. There’s a lot of loud music and beer and drunken revelry so it’s better for the kids to have their own venues where there is relative peace and quiet.

The Life Changing Magic of King's Day

©Michele Hutchison

 

If you opt for the Vondelpark you can take a blanket to spread out on the grass for the kids to display their wares on. Enterprising children can also earn money by singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument, sometimes blowing their very first notes by the sound of it. Or they paint the faces or fingernails of passers-by a clumsy orange. I tend to make a run for it when I see them to be honest.

The NSDM wharf is home to the monthly flea market so you can hire a proper market stall for the princely sum of €7. Or you can simply put down a blanket on the tarmac which we did last year. It was rather uncomfortable, even after the children had managed to acquire an inflatable cushion and a prayer stool to sit on. This year we hired a stall and as the date neared, we began to worry about the weather forecast. Hailstorms and strong winds threatened to put a dampener on the celebrations. We decided to simply brave it, like proper Dutch people. It would instil some extra grit in the kids. Martijn bought a canvas sheet and I transferred all the toys to plastic crates with lids. When we arrived, my hobby sailor husband quickly strung up the canvas, employing his canny way with knots. All Dutch men know how to raise a sail and tie a seaman’s knot, perhaps they are born with the skill.   

The canvas kept us out of the wind, more or less, and protected the stall from the intermittent showers. Between them, Ben and Ina earned €34 which is not too bad, but not a great hourly rate for freezing your ass off in the cold. We got rid of just over half the junk. But no worries. Everything left over simply gets stored until next year’s market.

King’s Day 2016 marked the end of another era. Ben didn’t find anything to buy this year. He’d grown out of most of what was on offer. Ina, however, found herself some off-white cuddly toys, a Sudoku board game and this fantastic bargain. I wonder whether it will still spark joy in her mind next year. Somehow I fear it will.

 

The Life Changing Magic of King's Day
©Michele Hutchison

How I Ended Up in Dutchland and Why I Decided to Stay

26 April 2016

 

why-i-moved-to-dutchland-1

photo copyright © Gelya Bogatishcheva

 

Next month I’ll have been living in Amsterdam for twelve years. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. Until then my life seemed to have followed a rhythm in sixes, from birth to six years, from six to twelve, twelve to eighteen, then the six university years of moving every six months, and then six years in London. I didn’t come here for love, though I did marry a Dutchman. Actually, I was married to a Dutchman before I lived in Holland. We had a long-distance commuter marriage and that suited me just fine. (One of my exes once called me commitment-phobic, but we won’t go into that.) In any case, Amsterdam/London on alternate weekends went smoothly, until I got pregnant. And the pregnancy worked just fine, mainly on my own, until it was time to almost give birth. It was only logical for me to take my six-months paid maternity leave in Amsterdam, so off I went, 37 weeks pregnant and about to pop.

 

The Dutchman (he’s called Martijn* but only proper Dutch people can pronounce that, my mum spent years calling him Mar-tidge-en) picked me up in a van and drove me and my boxes and boxes of books from my publishing job back over the channel to his home city. I didn’t pop. It was six weeks before the baby deigned to make an appearance (another six). But by the time I’d crawled through the lonely isolation of a maternity leave in a foreign country, I realised I was going to have to change my plans.

 

why-i-moved-to-dutchland-2

photo copyright © Gelya Bogatishcheva

 

What kind of a fruitloop would try to bring up a child in London when all the advantages of a happy, relaxed Dutch childhood were staring me in the face? Friends back home who had become mothers were killing themselves trying to get from the crèche to the office on time and back again in the rush hour. There was no let- up of work pressure, and on top of that there was pressure to be the perfect mum. Perfect mums did things like teaching their kids to read and write before they even went to school, when would I have time for that? When I took a look around me I saw that the Dutch have:

  • a fantastic, non-fee paying school system
  • relaxed parenting styles
  • kids playing freely outdoors
  • a better work/life balance for parents
  • no horrendous public transport issues – you could simply bike everywhere

It was a total no-brainer. And here I am almost twelve years later. I’ve got two children, a son Benjamin and a daughter, Ina, who is two and a half years younger. And my life has stopped moving in sixes. Although in six years’ time, I may be tempted to move again.

 

*Martijn is pronounced something like Moarr-tey-n. Only the Moarr bit has to be nice and short, not elongated.

I Am Back with Exciting News!

25 April 2016

hospital

 

I’m back!  It’s been a while. I’ve missed you and blogging about my life in the Netherlands.

 

Behind the scenes of Finding Dutchland, I’ve become a mom of two. I underestimated just how my life would change. Raising a toddler and a baby required me to take a step back from everything else. But never once did I forget about my blog.

I initially started blogging because I wanted to connect and share the crazy, wonderful parenting reality happening in the Netherlands. Perhaps I can make a friend, or two. It has become so much more over the years, especially the gezellig Facebook community. I even managed to convince my husband to work on the re-design of my blog while I was in hospital waiting for my second baby to be born.

 

By chance, I became BFFs with another expat mom Michele. She’s a British mom of two kids also married to a Dutch guy, and living in Amsterdam. It’s a love at-first-sight mommy romance complete with a shared passion for writing and living a life well-lived, influenced by our Dutched reality.

 

michele-hutchison

 

And Michele has graciously agreed to become my partner-in-crime, co-blogger of Finding Dutchland. It will give me just a bit more space in my life to dedicate to my kids, while carrying on blogging.

 

We’re looking forward to sharing our cultural musings about the Netherlands, everything related to parenthood and anything that catches our attention and our heart’s fancy. We aspire to create a space where you can be inspired and perhaps have a laugh or two.

 

Here’s to Finding Dutchland, wherever you may be.

 

-xo, Rina


P.s. Feel free to join our mailing list.

P.p.s. Feel like procrastinating some more? Take a look at our lives on our Instagram account.

Postpartum Care and What We Can Learn From the Dutch

30 March 2015

Postpartum Care and What We Can Learn From the Dutch

 

As an American mom expecting her second child and living in the Netherlands, I can’t help but think about postpartum care between the two countries. It’s hard not to notice the difference – there is none in the United States.

 

In Holland, mothers getting back on their feet after delivery is a matter of national interest. All mothers are entitled to a kraamverzorger (a professional maternity nurse) for the first eight to ten days after giving birth. According to the pragmatic Dutch, a mother’s body has a lot of healing to do postpartum while also meeting the near physically exhausting, twenty-four hour demands of a newborn.

 

That’s where a kraamverzorger comes in – to help the mother rest, regain her strength, and bond with her baby in the comfort of her own home. A kraamverzorger is not only responsible for the well-being of the newborn, but also for closely monitoring a mother’s recovery’s process. It’s a gentle crash course in motherhood where a kraamverzorger serves as an invaluable resource for breastfeeding tips, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, feeding, and schedules.

 

She works closely with a midwife, or an obstetrician if any potential problems arises. An added bonus is that a kraamverzorger can take over household chores – cooking, laundry (washing, drying folding and ironing), tidying up, vacuuming, general household cleaning, and watching over older children.

 

Kraamverzorgers are a solidly Dutch middleclass experience. It’s not just for the fancy. I would know. We’re a single-income household. Kraamverzorgers are part of the basic universal health insurance and the cost of care is sent directly to the health care provider. There is an additional nominal contribution and depending on a person’s health care package, even this can be partially or completely reimbursed.

 

I initially found the whole Dutch approach foreign, frivolous, and a bit entitled. I was one of those first-time mothers-to-be who was confident that she could handle postpartum recovery all by her lonesome self. I had trusty reliable sources such as “What to Expect When You’re Expecting“(the ultimate pregnancy bible for stereotypical first-time moms), fail proof Google and mommy forums. . If my own mom was expected to hold the down the fort (cooking, cleaning, laundry, a newborn and two older children) a mere days after her second C-section delivery, why couldn’t I ? I was going to be a super-mom: no need for a stranger to come to my house to help me and my newborn. Hear me roar.

 

What I didn’t count on was making God laugh with my well-thought out birth plan of a picture perfect delivery and near instantaneous recovery. My son came exactly one month before his due date and not without a struggle (vacuum-assisted delivery and an episiotomy). While I had meticulously prepared for all the baby essentials and devoured all the pregnancy literature, I didn’t anticipate that I might actually need some personal care. There was also the initial difficulty of feeding a 36 week premature baby and getting the intimate breastfeeding dance started. And the hormones. Oh the lovely hormones.

 

My kraamverzorger, a matronly Dutch Surinamese woman named Rhada, was responsible for my change of heart. She’s like a modern day Mary Poppins but even better – she taught me how to embrace the new me. Not even my own mother could give the kind of care, patience, love, understanding and assurance Rhada gave me.

 

A friend recently shared with me that after her delivery, her Dutch midwife showed her the placenta and pointed out, “That’s the size of the wound left inside of your body.” Puts postpartum recovery in perspective doesn’t it? The midwife’s words speak volumes of the importance of allowing a mother to convalesce after she gives birth.

 

It’s a modern approach that sees the wisdom of taking care of moms so they can have a solid, positive start to the year long recovery process of childbirth. It certainly helps address potential issues such as birth trauma, postpartum depression, struggles with breastfeeding and physical injuries from difficult deliveries.

 

I can’t help but wonder if this kraamverzorger program is part of why Dutch moms raise the happiest kids in the world. Happy moms generally raise happy kids. And for a mom having her own private maternity nurse to help her recover and pamper her in the comfort and coziness of her own home can do wonders for a mom’s overall well-being. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

Now that I am almost half-way through my second pregnancy, I’m looking forward to the glorious first days with my newborn in my arms and my kraamverzorger by my side. I’m convinced that going Dutch postpartum should be the latest parenting trend that American moms would be excited to be part of.

 

 

(photo courtesy of Tanja de Maesschalk taken during my first pregnancy)

From the Cutting Room Floor: A Letter to My Two Year Old Son

5 November 2014

hello-november

Dear Bram Jr.,

 

When I was pregnant with you, I had lofty aspirations and unrealistic expectations. I actually believed that If I allocated eight months (my entire pregnancy) of doing absolutely nothing but researching and reading all the highest rated parenting books according to Amazon and the New York Times, then everything would play out according to my plans. I was the perfect parent before I had you.

 

Part of the plan was to be writing monthly letters to you inspired by one of my favorite blogs – Nurshable. The premise would be to highlight your different quirks, personalities and milestones month by month. Helicopter-attachment-parenting at it’s absolute best, or worst, depending on whose opinion you’re soliciting. Obviously that didn’t happen because this is my first letter to you more than two and a half years after you were born. As a firm believer in self-improvement (I’m American after all), it’s never too late to start now.

 

So let’s get to the heart of our story shall we?

 

At two years and seven months, you make being a mom an absolutely wonderful experience. I’m starting to distrust the common myth of the terrible twos. Rather, I would like to re-name this wonderful age as the “terribly, terrific twos”.

 

You are so affectionate. You love random cuddles throughout the day and insist on falling asleep in my arms.

You’re very clear of what you do and do not want. And while you also have your set of preferences, you’re also open to and curious about discovering the world around you. I pray that you never loose this. Stay true to yourself.

 

You love to sing and dance. I’m not sure where you got that from because your dad and I are tone deaf and each have two left feet.

 

The infamous toddler tantrums are far and few inbetween simply because we finally learned your language, rythm and schedule. You sometimes get upset and tears are shed to release your frustration. It doesn’t last long. There isn’t a simple explanation, perhaps an apology in order and a cuddle that would make everything better.

 

You are absolutely crazy about everything and anything related to transportation vehicles – construction trucks, cranes, trains, motorcycles, boats, and cars.

 

You love books and reading, whether it’s imaginary play reading, or one of us reading out loud.

You’re proactive about being helpful with household chores. Though it does take longer, a lot of patience and holding back my tongue, I’m absolutely delighted when you “help” set the table, vacuum, and load/unload the laundry. I’m afraid that the concept of folding clothes hasn’t

 

You’ve discovered the joy of stickers, coloring and arts and crafts. Thank God for your preschool to organize those things for you.

 

You’re finally sleeping in till at least 8:30 a.m. In my mind, that’s an absolute miracle.

 

You love being outside, whether to play in the sandbox, jump on the trampoline, lie on the grass (or trampoline) and stare at the clouds above, run around in the garden, “bike” to your heart’s content, and take walks in the forest right outside our front door.

 

You’re a foodie! Although you won’t eat everything, you’re always willing to try something new and decide for yourself whether or not your like it. You absolutely love Filipino stews like Chicken Tinola (Chicken clear broth stew with lemon grass), Bulalo (beef marrow stew) and Sinigang (Tamarind soup) and Pinakbet (Filipino vegetable medley stew) with a generous helping of rice. When you’re hungry, you would simply say “Soup rice”, climb up your chair and sit expectantly at the dining table.

 

And of course, you are absolutely crazy over herring with onions, smeer kaas (spreadable cheese), hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) with white bread and butter, and french fries. To get to your heart, a warm cup of chocolate milk always does the trick.

 

I was actually caught off-guard with how enjoyable parenting a toddler can be. Perhaps I read too much of Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. Rather seeing the humor of all the wonderfully witty stories, I became anxious about this stage and dreaded it. Sarcasm sometimes gets lost in translation. Forgive me for being wrong.

Being a mommy blogger, I’m also careful to protect your privacy. There are the things unwritten and unsaid that will remain just between us. Though part of blogging is connecting to the bigger and larger world, to commiserate and share our experiences, I’m also coignizant that some things shouldn’t be shared unless with your permission. And right now, at two years and seven months, I have the foresight to gage that it’s a little too young and presumptious of me to ask it of you. But what I can share with conviction, is that overall, our life right now when you’re two years old is perfectly imperfect.

 

I don’t know how long this stage is going to last. The superstitious voice in my head (a byproduct of having Filipino parents) warns me that providing an honest snapshot of my personal life would mean sabotage. But the reality is, and it took me becoming a mother to internalize this fact, is that nothing in life is permanent. Not if, but when. The only things we have my dear son is now, our hopes, our dreams and each other.

 

These must be the precious handful of little children years that empty-nesters long for the most. When a young family’s life can be chaotic and exhausting, but delightfully simple and refreshingly ordinary. For now, there’s no worries about school bullies, fitting in, grades, standardized testing (CITO and Common Core come to my mind), schedules governed by soccer practices and music lessons. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there (which isn’t too long from now I’m afraid). There’s also no dealing with teenage hormones, resentment issues, drama and a whole boatload of other emotional landmines that adolescence may bring.

 

So for now, waking up from the fog of severe sleep deprivation and exhaustion the first year and a half brought (and occassionally still does), I’m reveling in the moment of the terribly, terrific twos.  Thank-you.

 

Love,

Your Mom

 

(Photo taken of my son at the Kröller-Müller Musem)

InstaDutchland- A Montessori Toddler Room of His Own

13 October 2014

Montessori-Inspired Dutch Toddler Room

Out of all the rooms in our house, our son’s room is the one that is the farthest along to being finished. It’s also arguably the easiest room to decorate. Though it’s not completely finished yet, I couldn’t resist sharing some snapshots of it.

 

If you’ve been following me on Pinterest, you would know that I have a particular soft spot for vintage, Scandinavian and modern minimalist design trends. And it was our 1930s Dutch cottage in the woods that inspired my latest design preferences.

 

It was so easy to work with the natural beauty of this room – the hardwood floors, the original wood paneling, the built in closets and cupboards, the different nooks and crannies, the slanted walls and the abundance of light thanks to the two strategically placed windows. The room simply evokes nostalgia of happy childhood memories.

 

Taking a page out of Montessori, we also wanted to create a playful, functional and safe space for him. Most importantly, for him to feel like it’s a special room of his own, a space where he can play and let his imagination roam free. In true Montessori-style fashion, we made his toddler room in a way where everything would be easily accessible for him – the twin mattress on the floor, his miniature library, closet and shelves he can open to choose his clothes, and the various storage spaces for him to collect and put away his toys.

 

Montessori Inspired Toddler Room details

 

As you can also see, I made two separate “spaces” to encourage him to read. There is a reading nook with his own little tent and a wooden treasure box filled with his latest favorites. The other space – a mini library with low placed shelves – was strategically placed next to the door, making it not only easy for him to grab his book when he’s in the room, but to also for him to take a book (or two) with him when he walks out.

 

montessori-inspired-dutch-toddler-room

 

 

Thanks for letting me share his room with you! And hopefully, if you’re also a parent-to-be or a parent, this post may have given you some inspiration too.
p.s. You can follow me on Instagram to get a glimpse of how I celebrate the ordinary moments of my life or come dream with me on Pinterest as I collect ideas for our new home in the woods.

 

 

 

5 Dutch Parenting Habits That Should Catch On In the US

2 October 2014

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When I stumbled upon an article on NPR titled “Global Parenting Habits That Haven’t Caught On In the U.S.“, I got excited. I had not-so-secretly hoped that Dutch parents would be mentioned. I nodded (perhaps too enthusiastically) as my eyes read down the lines, mentally compartmentalizing each habit as a “Yes, what a great idea!”, or “Interesting, but no thank-you.” Like an impatient toddler on a road-trip pleading “Are we there yet?”, I wondered if the next one would finally mention Dutch parents.

 

My heart sank at the end of the article. There was not a single mention of Dutch parents. Once again, this small North Western European country remains obscure compared to her European contemporaries – oh-so glamorous France and the hipster-approved Norway and Denmark. Yet ironically, for two consecutive times, UNICEF declared Dutch kids as leading the way in well-being. In a comprehensive study that encompassed 29 of the world’s most advanced economies, Dutch kids ranked the highest among the five dimensions studied: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, and housing and environment. If Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world, surely Dutch parents are doing something right. And since happiness is a cultural obsession in America, one would assume that they would look towards the Netherlands for some inspiration.

 

Logically, I knew I was being irrational. Of course there could only be a limited number of cultures highlighted. Yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling of being ignored. What is it about Tiger mothering, or bringing up Bébé that attracts the intrigue of Americans but not common sense Dutch parenting?
Upon closer examination, is it because Dutch parents are following and living the advice that American parenting experts, medical professionals and psychologists have been emphasizing for years? Does it hit too close to home?

 

Please don’t misunderstand me as only promoting Dutch parenting. My son is growing up in a multicultural household with a Filipino-American mom (me) and a Dutch dad. We strictly follow the one parent, one language philosophy so our son grows up to achieve native fluency of Dutch and American English. We’ve opened our hearts to our dearest friends from all over the world -Singapore, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Philippines – with all sorts of religious (and non-religious) affiliations – Muslims, Christians, Jews, agnostics, and atheists. Because the truth is, our reality really does resemble a United Colors of Benetton advertisement of multiculturalism. Acceptance, open-mindedness and love begins at home after all.

 

I don’t want to be another insufferable mom doling out unsolicited, asinine advice on the “right way” to raise other people’s children. But there really is something genuinely wonderful going on in the Netherlands.  I’ve experienced so many eye-opening, “wow” moments that really have made a difference in how I parent my own child. Before giving me the near automatic proverbial eye roll, please consider taking a moment to read these five Dutch parenting habits (many more to come in future blog posts):

5-dutch-parenting-habits-2

 

 

1. Living an active lifestyle (biking, outdoor play, walking).

Regular “exercise” is an integral component of Dutch culture. Dutch parents can be seen everywhere walking around their babies in strollers, or baby-carriers. Before Dutch toddlers can even properly walk or run, they are given a loopfiets (walking bicycle). And Dutch childhood wouldn’t be complete without lots and lots of unstructured play while Dutch parents relax, drink coffee or read.

 
2. Eating regular meals together to allow time for discussions and openness.

Family quality time happens every day at the dining room table where everyone gathers to eat breakfast and dinner. Young school kids often also go home for lunch too. Healthy, open conversations are much more valued and nurtured around the dinner table than what’s actually being served.

 

3. Dutch Moms doing less household chores and Dutch dads doing more.

In fact, the current trend in the Netherlands is that women are doing less household chores and men are taking on more. Not only will you’ll have happier moms, but recent research suggests that there daughters of dads who do household chores grow up with more ambition.

 

4. Implementing household chores and responsibilities early on.

For the community-minded Dutch, the polder model that everyone pulls their own weight begins at the cradle. Okay, maybe not exactly. But as soon as they start school (usually at the age of four), Dutch kids are expected to make their own lunch. Dutch parents usually spread out all the necessary ingredients – breads, cheeses, meats, and fruits – and leave it up to the child to assemble their lunch.

 

5. Strict schedules, including early bedtimes.

The Dutch cultural obsession with having an agenda for everything is implemented the moment a child is born. “Free, unstructured” play time is penciled in as well as strict early bedtimes to ensure plenty of rest for both the child and the parents.

 

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You Have to F-cking Eat

30 September 2014

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Author Adam Mansbach is back with a promising sequel to the HIGHlarious children’s book Go the F-ck to Sleep.  For those who have been living under a rock (perfectly understandable when being a parent), Go the F-ck to Sleep is an internationally acclaimed book that debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and sold over 1.5 million copies around the the world.

 

In collaboration with illustrator Owen Brozman, Mansbach entertains us with another near universal parenting frustration: the tumultuous process of getting your child to eat something. Mansbach’s new book You Have to F-cking Eat, complete with profanitieswill likely resonate with parents who appreciate Mansbach for keeping it real

 

Mansbach’s books may initially appear to fall under the category of the children’s book genre but it’s definitely not intended for the ears of impressionable children. Consider Mansbach’s style reminiscent of the ongoing spirit of “imperfect parenting” that draws millions of parents to communities like Scary Mommy and Blunt Moms. Despite all our best intentions, worries and concerns about our children, sometimes all we can do is have a hearty, bellyfull laugh. And Mansbach offers the perfect comic relief on those “how-am-I-gonna-survive-this-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes twitching, sleep-deprived exhaustion” kind of days.


You Have to F-cking Eat
 
will be available to purchase on November 12. It would be the perfect Sinterklaas or Christmas gift for a special parent in your life that might just need a good soulful laugh. Or even perhaps parents-to-be who might just need it for some last minute therapy in the future.

 

*Disclaimer: As stated in Amazon, you probably should reconsider reading the book to your children. Then again, perhaps your parenting philosophy is more in line with sociologist Dalton Conley who’s more concerned with a child using profanity within the appropriate context.

 

P.S. If you’d like to waste time on the internet, you should watch this adorable Filipina grandmother discover just how inappropriate reading Go the F-ck to Sleep is.

 

P.P.S. If you haven’t already, come join us on Facebook. I promise I won’t be too annoying.