We are a culture of too many cultures.
Canada prides itself on being a “salad bowl” (as opposed to America’s “melting pot”). We don’t strive to assimilate. We believe in leaving each other alone.
And so, there are pockets of Vancouver where people don’t bother to use English signs, and despite the fact that our official languages are English and French, a working knowledge of Korean will get you a lot further if you live in Richmond, BC.
Child rearing is the same.
We all just raise our kids the way we see fit, from the yoga-pants-wearing-stroller-moms, to the Japanese mom I met at the airport whose 10 year old son still slept with her at night – totally normal to the Japanese.
There are certain pressures levelled at us, mostly around the time of birth, from the government. Since we all contribute to a government health plan, and all our medical bills are paid out of that, the government takes an active interest in whether we breastfeed, whether we let our child sleep with blankets, and so on.
They know that a formula fed child is more likely to have ear infections, allergies, asthma, and so on. In other words, they know that a formula fed child will cost them more money. So they push breastfeeding pretty heavily, from the forms you have to sign acknowledging their lectures, to the massive posters all over the hospitals.
They also know that a baby who sleeps away from his parents is more likely to die of SIDS (and therefore not become a contributing tax payer someday) but that a child who sleeps WITH his parents may be smothered, so they push the “near-you-but-not-in-bed-with-you” sleeping arrangement.
They give mothers a year (or fathers six months) off of work on unemployment insurance benefits to care for the baby.
They push vaccines.
But none of that seems to have really made much impact on our culture… er, cultures. Some women breastfeed. Most try, at least. But the ones who were pretty sure they wanted to do formula usually do switch to formula shortly after leaving the hospital. Many, like me, discover that co-sleeping is easier and just take care not to smother their baby.
Basically, we go back to doing our own thing.
In a way, this is nice. It’s nice to be able to raise your child the way you want, without much interference.
On the other hand, there’s no cohesive bond. We have no collective set of childrearing rules, so what do you do when someone else’s child starts misbehaving?
I once saw a passing old lady grab a teenage boy by the ear when she spotted him littering. She made him pick it up and take it to the garbage – a total stranger.
Once upon a time, that would have been normal. Everyone disciplines everyone’s children based on a mutually agreed on set of rules. If your kid is out of sight, you can bet that whatever adult is around will continue to enforce standards of politeness and appropriate behaviour.
We don’t have that now.
Now, I don’t know what to do when someone’s kid walks up to me and says something insulting, while the mother smiles indulgently.
Now, I have to worry that someone will let my own kid do the same some day, when I’m not around to stop it.
I want my child learning sign language, and not watching TV. The people across the road, who are awesome, don’t care about their toddler watching TV and can’t be bothered with sign language.
Neither of us are right, or wrong.
But it can make conversation awkward.
We are all raising our children in Canada, but what culture are they being raised in?
Do we even have one?
Do you have something to say about motherhood in your country? Join the World Moms Blog Link Up, this Nov 2-4!
Alison@Mama Wants This said:
You have some good points there! I think at the end of the day, we just do what is best for OUR children. I will hesitate to step in with someone else’s children, I don’t feel it’s my place. But that’s my culture!
Exactly. But should it be? Maybe it really does take a village to raise a child. Hodgepodge had a great post about that recently:
Thanks for the shout-out. I still struggle with knowing when to step in and when to not… I think running the dayhome has made me more confident. I just can’t stand idly by, especially when other kids could be hurt by their actions – whether literally physically hurt, or just damaged by learning inappropriate actions.
Asta Burrows said:
Canada sounds quite similar to Norway actually, and must admit that I thought Canada was great (only been there once though, around Vancouver, Prince Rupert Sound and to a place called whistling mountain I think).
That would be Whistler, where most of the Olympics took place. It’s a beautiful place, and I’m glad you liked it! I’d love to visit Norway some day.
Inspiration to Dream said:
For a moment there I thought I was reading something my hubby had written. He is always marching out the story about how once if an older man was walking down the street and a young lad spat on the ground he’d tell him off and the lad would apologise, and then now if that situation happened in this day and age the old man would probably get sworn at and / or worse.
Everything you say here is true, is thought provoking and in some ways is sad. Fantastic post to make us all stop and think
Doesn’t it make you feel old when we start talking about “kids these days”? But it’s so true!
Angela Yatko Slagle said:
What a great insight into the Canadian culture? Living in the states, I knew that health care was paid for – but I didn’t know about the gov involvement (or attempt) into ones daily life. Although it may seem oppressive and you will make your own choice, they are at least teaching you what is medically best for your baby. Sometimes I wish those lesson were more commonly known here.
Littering is my pet peeve. I have stopped young teens when I see them discard wrappers, etc. I usually say something like “oh, I think you dropped something” with a very important tone as if it was money. That always gets their attention. The other day I watch a grown man discard his wrapper into the street – I caught his eye while doing so and shook my head – hopefully that was enough to teach him that our street are not his trash can.
Good for you!
Most Americans think it’s creepy that the government takes a strong stance on health issues and tries to pressure us, but to us its normal.
Most people here don’t even think of health care as something that costs money!
Jennifer Burden said:
This is an interesting post, Carol. And, I think we have a similar situation in the U.S., as also alluded to in two of the previous linked up posts — how American moms are different from each other. Which makes me think…is it because our countries are geographically large and in the grand history of the globe, newer countries?
My family descended from Polish and Lebanon. None of us speak either languages, and it only seems like the ethnic food was the most successful in passing down through the generations. My culture about raising my child is more about reading books by experts with studies than what would my great grandmother have done? Perhaps as the globe gets “smaller” we are losing some of the important parts of culture.
For example, I met a Russian grandfather while I was waiting for my car to be washed the other week, and he told me that his favorite remedy was to boil dill in water and feed it to the baby/child to help heal their stomach aches. Those pieces aren’t being shared enough and getting lost. I hope that is something that World Moms Blog can help preserve. 🙂
This post was a real thought provoker!
That would explain why there is dill in gripe water!
Polish Mom Photographer said:
I remember from my childhood how many times I was yield at by some stranger or some of my friend’s parents because they saw me doing something what I wasn’t suppose to… . Nobody would get offended. After all I would even be slapped or yield at (again) at home if my parents heard what I’ve done before… .
oh… those good old days.
There’s a good and a bad side to that, I guess!
I’ve never really been a babysitter, because it stresses me out that other people have different rules than I had growing up. I was never confident enough to step up and enforce my rules with other people’s children. I should really take a lesson from my dog, who insists that all 4 legged creatures play by her rules.
The trickiest bit about raising a child when you don’t have uniform parenting rules is that everyone thinks it should be done differently, and most of those close don’t hesitate to tell you so. My mother and my mother in law both give me advice. My mother is particularly bad about telling me that I’m doing things wrong, even after lamenting how her grandmother was never supportive of her parenting decisions (my MIL usually panics and backs off if she gives me advice and I treat it as a debate and offer a rebuttal). Mothers in general are a judge-y bunch, and don’t take well to people having ideas different from theirs.
Yeah, I never really took a strict route with my babysitting charges. Anything the parents laid down as a rule I enforced. Beyond that, I was definitely Ms. Fun.
I want the kids to like me, and I remember the “you’re not my mom” feeling I would get when a stranger would try to boss me around or enforce rules that my mother didn’t enforce.
I think that as our own two kids grow side by side, we’ll probably end up enforcing each other’s rules by instinct, especially since I think our rules will be similar. Hopefully our sons will benefit from that.
Thank heavens I haven’t been preached to much. My MIL has never given ANY advice on baby raising, even when I try to press her for some!
My own mother has been surprisingly accepting, too. She’s an opinionated lady, but she mostly seems to think I’m making the right choices, although I know she raises her eyebrows a bit at the co-sleeping.
However, I AM getting some pressure from the Persian cultures at my daycare! More on that soon…
Grace Goldragon said:
On finding out that the Boy still sleeps in our bed, MY mother in law said, “Well Dr. Phil says that children should sleep in their own beds because it gives them a sense of ownership.” Thankfully that didn’t come to me directly but my response to Mr. G when he was relating it back to me was, “Pfffft, Dr. Phil. He’s not even a real doctor! And anyway, is ownership something that we *want* to instill in our kids? If you ask me, I think they could use to feel a little *less* ownership.”
Oh gawd, I hope my parents don’t see that one. My dad loves Dr. Phil.
I love how he parrots things like that with ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE to back it up.
I think it’s interesting that you mention the “You’re not my mom!” feeling, since in the village scenario you’re describing as ideal, it would either not work that way or work to a much lesser extent. I guess it just reflects the way you (and I) were raised -outside of a village ideal.
The incident that comes to mind with the MIL situation was a discussion regarding the Ergo. We were out at Lighthouse Park (lovely scenery if you’ve never been there, actually where hubby proposed), and RuRu was in the carrier on me. MIL commented “Isn’t there any way he could face outward in that thing?”. I replied “No – it’s not designed that way. It’s better for them to face inwards so that he can watch my face. There will be plenty of time for him to watch scenery later.” I didn’t think I was being particularly harsh, but MIL looked crestfallen. She then, almost apologetically, said “Oh. Well…I guess…I guess he can still see lots if he turns his head to the side. I forget how easily they get overstimulated”. I still feel bad about it.
My own mother is supportive sometimes, for example she thinks co-sleeping is acceptable. However, my mother thinks I am a cruel mother for not feeding RuRu solids at 4 months. Never one to keep quiet on something like that, she passive-aggressively talked to him about how hungry he must be and how awful we were not to share everytime we ate while he was close by.
Oooh can’t wait to hear daycare stories.
yes, exactly. In the village, everyone would have the same rules and it would be normal for all adults to discipline all children the same way. Thus the “you’re not my mom” phenomenon would be (and in many places IS) non-existant.
Tatter Scoops said:
This is a great post that gives a deeper insight to how it is in Canada. In the old days yes, it seems like the old adage of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ were hardcore but now people seems to shy away from it. I would feel uneasy to correct someone else’ child unless it is something massive. Once I gently told another older kid at a playground not to play too rough because the wee ones were copying him. The mother wasn’t there, only the nanny. I’m sure it would be harder to do with the mother around. Thanks for sharing this!
I ran into a neighbour a month or two ago who told me a story:
His kids were playing at a playground, and this boy started throwing gravel at the other kids and then actively KICKED on of his children. The neighbour physically hauled the kid off of the playground and back to his mother, and told him not to EVER do that again.
The mother just rolled her eyes at the neighbour and sighed “his father and I are sure that he’s going to turn out a bully,” and she shook her head hopelessly.
The neighbour was furious. He said to me “If she thinks that, why doesn’t she DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?”
The Alchemist said:
Personally, I would envy the maternity leave Canadian government is offering as opposed to the Indian maternity leave of measly 12 weeks. But thats just me.
Your article gave lots of insights into “Canadian Parenting” if I may call it so.
Thanks for the link up post at World Moms Blog.
Yes, I am deeply grateful for our maternity leave, but I am also jealous of places like France who get THREE YEARS!
Nice article, Carol. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.
I’ve found that, for me, the gap amongst my friends and me and how we raise our kids has narrowed as they’ve gotten older, thankfully. Most of the differences were related to baby stuff. But I’m still very hesitant to try to discipline anyone else’s kid, and always will be. I dislike babysitting and only really do it for my closest friends and when they’re in a pinch.
I don’t mind if the rules are VERY clear.