Parenting Perspectives Around the World: Scotland, Part I | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

December 16, 2011

Parenting Perspectives Around the World: Scotland, Part I

Here is Jo's first installment of Parenting Perspectives: Scotland.  



So, I don't envy my lovely mother-in-law right now. Bless her. She is trying to prepare her home for the simultaneous Christmas visits of a Scottish daughter in law with a 13 month old, and an Oregon daughter in law with a three month old.  Forget the fact that the babies are going to be jet lagged in opposing directions (if you know what I mean), this is where suddenly theory meets practice in terms of Mummy vs Mommy...

As a Scot married to a Yankee, Steph asked me months ago to pen some thoughts on  the differences I had noticed between Scottish and American mothering. I have written about 20 versions of this so far but most of them ended up falling into three clear but unsatsifactory categories.

a) An annoyed sounding rant about all the hassle of being a mother here. Scots naturally have an Eeyore way of expressing themselves. We are only happy when moaning. (Hey, what can you expect in a country where the sun never shines?)

b) A polemic about the sun never shining in Scotland  Did I mention that already?

c) A string of comparisons between the two countries that doesn't actually stand up to scrutiny because I only know my side of things and am basing the rest on a teenage fascination with Sweet Valley High crossed with compulsive House MD viewing.

So today, having yet again put my foot in it by making assumptions about what my little nephew needs as opposed to what Bearcub needed at his age as I try and prepare for this Xmas trip, I thought I would start all over again! So here followeth the Scottish Mummy not quite -A-Z  (more like A-Y with some missing) of British things that Americans (maybe?) do differently....

A- Ashton and Parsons - Its teething powder that works. From a camomile plant. Its like gold dust. Rumours occasionally circulate about where you can find it and then you witness a stroller stampede (much like those videos of Black Friday carnage that appear on the web at the end of November) to buy a little match box sized container of the powders. Its been off the shelves for 5 months just now and I guard my little supply with almost as much zeal as Bear's beloved soft toy cat.

B-Breast is Best.  Brits are not good at heeding this message. We are an unhealthy nation. I have seen one year olds drinking Irn Bru (crazy orange soda) out of bottles. However, in a misguided attempt to correct this, the "Breast is Best" message is rammed down your throat from the second you conceive. At our pre-natal class, my husband and I were made to watch an Australian video on nursing from the mid-80s which repeated the mantra "100% pleasurable, 100% possible" throughout. Now, I have loved nursing my son, but we had MASSIVE problems to start out with and that saying is just not true. I felt like I was the only one in the world who couldn't do it - shouldn't it be easy and fun according to the video????  What is funny though is trying to match this nanny state approach to feeding with the natural British conservatism  - they want you to do it - but they don't want to see it.... 

C-is for Calpol. Basically baby Tylenol. Swear by it for teething, colds, fevers and just peace of mind when my Bear is just not himself. They also make Calgel teething stuff which is great.

D-is for diapers (technically nappies over here but I will humour you since I already have ideas for 'N'. We are disposable (Huggies if you are interested) all the way. Not many people in Edinburgh have gardens of their own to hang things to dry and in our tiny wee modern flat (condo?) there is nowhere to hang reusables at all. There is a growing market for nappy laundry services but I would feel bad even paying someone to deal with what Bear can produce!

E-is for Education. The jury is out here on how much to push everything as a learning experience and how much babies should be able to just play. There are free pre-school places for all kids for half a day from 3 and a quarter and that seems early enough for me. But if thats not soon enough how about Baby sign language to help them speak before they can talk? Baby foreign languages? Computer classes? 

G-is for Groups. Community, as Steph holds to, is one of the key things, if not THE key thing to keeping a mum sane. Mum and Toddler Groups therefore are really popular. I go to a small one at my church on Monday mornings and then a Toy Library group (awesome 20C to borrow a clean, working toy from vast selection for two weeks - do you guys have these?) on a Thursday. Some of the mums I meet there roam the city to go to a group every day. One group in Leith (my locality) is just for under ones and has 47 babies every week.

H-is for Health visitors. Not sure what the American equivalent is but these people are the nurses in your doctor surgery who are responsible for checking on your baby for the first few years. This means weekly visits for the first month and then they do the immunisations (see below) and you can go to drop in weekly weigh ins for the first year either by choice if your baby is deemed to be doing well or by command if not. Mums I have spoken to are pretty much divided into two camps on this. Some love their health visitors for their sage advice and kindly manner (there are lovely ones at my doctors) and others loathe theirs and are terrified of them. I had a temp health visitor at first. That was hard. Bear was feeding constantly and I was having huge issues but I felt I was doing ok. She would insist on stripping him naked, even if he was asleep and then would weigh him and frown concernedly before asking "are you sure you are feeding him dear?" You can imagine how that made me feel. I was really proud when a few months ago I ran into her again by chance and she looked at my great big Bear with disbelief and declared him a "Miracle Ad for Successful Breastfeeding". Once I have completed my psycho therapy for the trauma her initial comments had on my fragile new mum ego I think I will allow myself to feel just a little smug.....


Check back next week for Part II, and you'll get a few more letters of the alphabet to compare parenting experiences with the Scots!

I'd love to share more worldwide Parenting Perspectives. While I doubt this blog reaches the far corners of the world, if you happen to live outside of the States and would care to share a bit about parenting where you are, please email me!  

moderndaydonnareed {at} gmail {dot} com.

I'd also love to hear what you find interesting, different or surprising (or the same!) with Jo's Scottish parenting experience. Feel free to leave a comment below and share your two cents!

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Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

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