This week I got a letter in the mail from my college roommate, our most faithful correspondent. At the end it asked what I missed about the US. It was a timely question, as the birth of Tabitha has touched off a new round of culture shock.
Even though I’ve never done it, I know how to parent two children in the US. Such is the nature of culture. Here, I have been musing all day about whether or not it is physically possible for me to go grocery shopping on my own with both girls.
In the US, no problem- pop them both in their car seats, toss in the diaper bag, drive off. Put the older one in the shopping cart and the little one in a baby carrier, find the things on the shelf, head for the child-friendly checkout line. Or put them both in a double stroller and walk, if I lived in a city. Kapow, done. If the baby wanted to nurse or needed a diaper change, there would be a bench somewhere and a bathroom in the store.
Here, I would need to carry the baby, the diaper bag, and the groceries. We don’t own a stroller; there would be no way to get it on the bus, and it would be extremely impractical given the terrain anyhow. If Tabitha wanted to nurse or needed a diaper change, there are neither public bathrooms nor benches. But the kicker is: If Anastasia got tired and asked to be carried I would not be able to do it- I simply wouldn’t have an arm free. I would have a wailing 3-year-old on the ground and I am having a hard time imagining what I could do next.
Or take adjusting to being a family of four. I’d like to spend time with Anastasia so she doesn’t feel neglected. In the US I could take her to library storytime. The playground. A museum. Swimming lessons. Here…. I’m trying to figure it out. Special.. tree-climbing time?
Now I know that millions of women all over the world do extremely commendable jobs parenting their children in similar circumstances. But my cultural script doesn’t quite line up.
(This is not to say there are not good things I am discovering about parenting in a different culture. For example, public breastfeeding is no big deal at all – women nurse their babies and toddlers whenever and wherever. Waiting for a bus in a crowd of people? Sure! Your baby’s latched on but your name is called at the pharmacy? Just stand up and walk on over. There’s even a breastfeeding postage stamp. Most refreshing.)