Monday, March 7, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Clueless Western Mother

Every once in a while, largely out of curiosity, I like to check the stats on my blog traffic.  It's always interesting to see whether Linux users outnumber Mac users in my audience this week, or what Google searches people are using that lead them to me.  (Apparently, googling "my child ate Crayola washable finger paint" equals a hit for 8PP.)

One of my favorite things to check is geographic location of readers.  Don't get paranoid about internet Big Brother; it only shows what countries hits are coming from.

The other day, I found out that I'd received 8 hits, that day, from China.  China, origin of notorious "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua, the advocate of ultra-disciplined parenting.  My blog talks about teaching my kid to fetch beer, and taking him to the ER because he tried to eat a Christmas ornament.  I have absolutely nothing in common with the Tiger Mother parenting theory.

But when I started thinking about, I realized that, beyond a few scant stereotypes, I know almost nothing about parenting in a lot of my readers' countries.  Here is what I've patched together via Google searches and my own faulty memory.

8PP Presents:  Parenting Styles Around the World

Denmark.  Believe it or not, the country in 4th-highest readership of this blog is Denmark.  (U.S.A., Canada, U.K., and Australia predictably make up the rest of the top 5.)  And I know very little about Danish mothers, or really, Danes at all.  I'm pretty sure that's where Amsterdam is, so I bet they go easy on you if you get caught with a joint.  And Shakespeare's arguably worst mother, Queen Gertrude from "Hamlet", was Danish, so that's not a great example.

There was also that Danish mom a few years back who caught all that heat when she left her kid outside a NYC store in a pram, while she shopped inside.  (Her argument was that people do it in Denmark all the time.  I guess the lax drug laws make everyone a little more chill about these things?)  I looked it up, and it does seem like a pretty common thing for Danish parents to put a baby monitor in the pram with the infant, then let them sleep out in the yard in the sun.  That actually seems pretty nice, except you could never pull it off in the States.  Even if you lived in a gated mansion with no neighbors, if someone heard about you doing that, they'd have CPS on your butt in 5 seconds.  That, and we don't get to smoke pot here, so we make for more paranoid parents.

Singapore.  My small knowledge of Singapore comes from very offensive stereotypes in old war movies.  I'm pretty sure every war movie before 1990 that has any setting in Southeast Asia is required to have at least one scene where the American joes go to Singapore to pick up prostitutes.

Not wanting to sum up my section of Singapore with "Singapore moms are probably hookers?", I turned to my old research companion, Google.  And I found jack.

You know how almost no one in Hollywood is actually from Hollywood?  Singapore is apparently like that, but as a whole country.  Every bit of info I found was from one ex-pat or another telling other ex-pats how to live in Singapore.  I am forced to assume that all my hits from Singapore are actually American, English, Chinese, or Indian moms living in Singapore.

The one reference to natives I found in Google discussed "sarong party girls", or SPGs.  These are the native women who dress provocatively and hang out around the docks, looking to pick up wealthy foreign businessman for dates.  So...yeah, just as offensive as I originally expected.

India.  This one I have a little bit more knowledge of, seeing as I had an Indian roommate in college.  What I gathered from that experience is that Indians are very close-knit as a culture.  My roommate's best friend, also Indian, once asked her in front of me, "Why do you only want to hang out with other Indians?  We came to college to meet different kinds of people."  She then turned to me and asked, "How do you stand living with her?"  I don't remember what I said because, the truth was, I couldn't, and moved out the next semester.

It also seemed that Indian parents were very overbearing.  Her mom and dad called frequently, often multiple times a day, to check up on her.  My roommate had transformed into a college party girl, and asked me to lie to her parents and say she was studying in the library.  I'm just glad I wasn't living with her when grades got sent home.

I also once watched the movie "Bend It Like Beckham", which is about an Indian girl who lives in England and plays soccer.  Her parents seemed pretty strict, too, and didn't want her to date an English boy.  (The English boy was actually Keira Knightley.  It's one of those wacky misunderstandings which only seems to occur in European teeny-bopper flicks.)

Slovenia.  Come on, really?  I didn't even know the correct word for a Slovenian citizen until I looked it up ("Slovene").  Google tells me that the whole country's population is less than 2 million.  (For some perspective, the city of Raleigh, North Carolina has over 400,000.)  Based on common names, the typical Slovenian mother would be named "Marija Novak", and not get married or have kids until she's around 27.  The national sport is skiing.  Extreme sports are also popular.

Honestly...I got nothing.  It is really hard to find info about a country whose population is lower than that of a major U.S. city's.  I would love to be less ignorant, however, I just don't know where to look.

Germany.  German mothers have it tough.  It's still very taboo to be a working mother, even if you're kids are school-aged.  You'll get slurred as a "Rabenmutter", or "raven mother".  (Refers to the fact that a raven will push its chicks out of the nest.)  German mothers, I no longer envy you your awesome deserve it. I obviously need to learn a lot more about my readers.  Any readers who aren't in the U.S., please sound off in the comments section.  I am really curious what it's like for the moms in other countries.

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