Ex-pat parenting: One mum on 7 BIG differences
Christine is totally Irish, but happens to live in the US. Her husband is totally Irish too, but somehow their two children are American. She spends her days wondering how this came about, baking muffins, and scribbling on the Internet at awfullychipper.com. She also sometimes gets paid to correct other people's grammar, which is a pretty sweet gig if you like that kind of thing.
If you asked me how parenting in the US compares to parenting in Ireland, I'd honestly have to say I can't answer you, because I've never been a parent in Ireland.
I gave birth twice in the USA and barring a few short trips home and elsewhere, I've raised my two children here and not anywhere else.
However, there are some aspects of having babies and bringing up children than have probably been different for me because I'm a stranger in a strange land. Let's see what I can come up with.
1 Being far from family and close friends during my first pregnancy had its upside. What I missed out on in unsolicited advice, I made up for in the freedom to do my own research and decide on the type of birth I wanted to aim for.
2 That same independence continued after my baby was born, when I could decide to breastfeed on demand, to co-sleep if I wanted to, to bath him and change him and respond to his cries the way I (and his father) wanted to, without having to worry about people who said "Are you sure that's a good idea?" I think it gave me a really great opportunity to trust my gut with my new baby and follow my instinct.
3 I was able to have my second baby in a birthing centre, which was a wonderful experience. I wish so much that an environment like that was available to Irish mothers.
4 The people who felt close enough to me to ask regularly if I was "still feeding that baby" (just my mother, actually) were at the other end of a phone, where I could happily sarcastically retort "No, I'm starving him" and avoid any long-drawn-out discussions on extended breastfeeding.
5 We didn't feel any pressure to baptise our children just to get them into a school. The public schools here are secular, as I think all national schools should be. The idea that most Irish schools teach religion (i.e. Catholicism) and automatically prepare everyone for First Communion and Confirmation seems bizarre to me now. I really thought the country would have moved past that by the time I had children.
6 Thanks to American health insurance, whenever we go to the doctor we pay just $15 for the visit. This has meant that if my baby was sickish, if I was on the fence about taking her in, I'd take her anyway. Fifteen dollars was a small price to pay for peace of mind about whether she really did have an ear infection, or what that mystery rash might be. In Ireland GPs charge €50 or €60 a visit, and I'd probably be thinking a lot harder before bringing my child to be seen.
7 My children say zeebra, and to-may-to, and they think spelling it "colour" is wrong. I just have to accept that and move on. It's a challenge, but I'm up to it.