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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

7 reasons why I am glad to raise my children in the Western World

Am I the only one, who, when reading articles like this one and this one, thinks: “oh how great it is to be able to raise children in the Netherlands”? Who doesn’t think that Western parents got it all wrong? The only one who is not at all impressed with the fact that a three-year old can use a knife or a mechete?

I am not American, but I just don’t understand they recent backlash against the way Americans raise the children. I get it that looking at other cultures may teach us something, but not everything can be transported into our culture, and secondly, why would it? I see a trend of books and articles and blogs devoted to criticising the American (which often stands for Western) way of life and raising children. European parents are also shown to get it right, unless of course they are seen as part of the Western world and this is when they get it wrong.
 For a long time, I thought how to write this post and just couldn’t come up with anything. And then I remembered Babble’s “9 ways American parents are doing it right”, and I was even more convinced that I should right this post as a list, just on a slightly deeper level.  So here it is: 7 Reasons why I love raising my children in the Western world in general and in Europe in particular.

1)      The obvious
Such as the fact that  while we can still work on women’s and minority rights, most people living in the West will not be killed for having an education, for expressing their views openly, for being a woman, or for believing or not believing is something, or in general, being different. Such as the fact that even despite the crisis, the political situation is more or less stable. As the fact that my children can get an education, have access to fresh water, medicine and technology. Also, while social media, unhealthy body images can be a threat to my girls, it’s most probably the worst they will encounter.

2)      We are diverse
“The West” seems like such a unified concept, especially when it comes to criticising it. Western parents don’t sleep with their children, Western parents don’t carry their children, Western parents don’t care. Except the West is extremely diverse. I have friends who babywear and friends who breastfeed and friends who don’t. I have friends from all around the Western world and they will be the first to tell just you how diverse we are. I always love it when in American books Europe is shown as the perfect example of good parenting, except what part of Europe do they mean? In Europe, all countries have their own traditions and customs on raising children, and that is awesome! Our diversity is our greatest gift. On top of that, they will come across many different people from different backgrounds, including gay parents, childless couples, parents who adopted, and of course, parents from many cultural and racial backgrounds.

3)      We are open to criticism and we want to learn
The fact that such critical articles even exist and gain recognition so quickly, pretty much proves my point. Because if we weren’t so open to criticism, we wouldn’t welcome these articles and they wouldn’t spread so fast. We think a lot about raising our children. We try to look for an answer that suits us. We try to learn from other cultures and incorporate their methods into our everyday lives. We think of how our parents raised us and try to do better. We really want to learn. We question everything and try to find our own ways. What is so bad about that?

4)      We give our children roots and wings
It seems to me (and please correct me if I am wrong) that other cultures raise their children in a more unified manner. Every parent does the same. Then, the children start doing the same with their children, and the children end up doing what their parents are doing, because the community requires it. Our children, on the other hand, have choices in what they want to become. We have our own culture, and teach that to our children. At the same time, we want them to become part of something bigger. We want the children to learn about other cultures and accept them. We want our children to find the right balance between respecting us as parents and respecting themselves, between keeping their connections to families and finding their own ways.
5)      We want it all and we want it now!
We may come across as entitled and privileged and arrogant, but we feel very strongly about our rights. Not only do we want everybody to have their rights, we want everybody to have all rights and have them right now! We think big. We dream big. When we want something, we will fight for it. We believe that we are able to do it all. We want to work and spend time with the children and instead of giving up on our dreams we try to change the system to accommodate it. While this can cause us trouble, I believe it takes courage.

6)      We believe in individual choices
The one thing I particularly love about living in the West is the freedom of choice to do what I please unless I endanger somebody else’s freedom. We truly believe that it is our right to be happy and we should do everything to pursuit our happiness, to the point where we often get through divorces or break up families in order to be happy ourselves. Egoistic? Yes. But I believe that egoistic decisions are not always bad, because following rules just to please society or because we fear judgment may make us unhappy. Paradoxically, unhappy members of society are not good members of society. Does it make sense? We look for happiness everywhere. And we do have opportunities, which can cause us to feel uncomfortable. But as I say: it is better to have too many choices than to have no choices at all.

7)       We grow good people and we enjoy being with our children

Just like parents everywhere, we just want the best for our children. Just like everywhere else, our children grow up to be good, caring, involved people. One thing that books like to criticize about Western parents is that they don’t allow the children to play by themselves. It is only me who think that the reason that we do so much with our children is the fact that we have so much fun with them? That spending time with our children, be it playing, teaching, running, laughing or anything else is actually fun and we do it because we want to and not because we have to? We are not authority figures and we don’t strive to be ones. Instead, we want to be friends and advocates and confidants of our children. We do not expect our children to behave; instead we want them to be themselves. I don’t even know why some people think that the West is not child-friendly? It totally is.

I believe that I am lucky that I can raise my children here. I hope my children will grow to be as lucky as I am. But of course let’s not forget that there is nothing that couldn’t be made better. But then, see point three! 

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  1. Great post! As you say, every culture has something to contribute. No one culture has is it "right." I especially love your comment about the safety of women and girls - so important! And about dreaming big. At times this can become arrogance, but it can also be really beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Leanna! I think the reason why we criticize the West is because we have a good life there. It's like criticizing vaccines because we totally forgot what the world looked like without them. But we are really lucky to live in a world where women won't die in childbirth (another important point I totally forgot). Where women can vote and work and have support if they can't do these things. And yes, dreaming big: I often get annoyed by the "you can do anything you want"-attidude, but without it, we wouldn't even try to change anything, adn this is why we need it.

  2. Another great post from you! Thanks for standing up for all of us Western parents and reminding us that we do a lot of things right. None of us are perfect (or perhaps even in the same room as perfect), but we all bring valuable ideas to the table. Before we try and accuse an entire culture for all of the errors they make, we should all take a moment and write down all of the rights and see if they don't just maybe balance out in the end. At the end of the day, that might be the best that any of us can hope to accomplish.

    1. Thank you, Lynn! Nobody likes to be criticized all the time, which is why I wrote this post, even though I am not American. Looking up to other cultures is great, but how are we going to teach our children cultural appreciation if we don't teach them to appreciate our own culture?

  3. These are all such great points - and that's coming from someone who has a post in her head about "why I love raising my kids in Kenya." : ) I agree with them all - especially #3. I think our introspection and intellectual curiosity is what spurred all these "let's look outside our culture and look at the unintended consequences of our Western parenting" tracts. It actually makes me a bit defensive too - as an American. But I also do see that sometimes Western parenting can be too indulgent and too neurotic and parents can be too overwhelmed by choice. Yet all this is laid over your excellent point about how intentional we are, how many freedoms and securities we have and all the other great stuff about Western/American parents. I think yours is a crucial perspective in the debate. Great post!!

    1. Thank you, Kim for your comment! I don't think we're perfect, it's just that I aboslutely love my life in the Netherlands and have a strong connection to Europe, thus making me a part of the West. I think that we know that we're not perfect and try to change that. Oh, I'd love to read your post about why you love to raise your children in Kenya! I just wanted to make some general comments: like we're doing some good things, too, please consider that instead of taking it for granted and criticizing everything! And, my other question: where is the West anyway? I am Polish, so theoretically I am part of Eastern Europe, which is geographically in the very center of Europe, but then still belongs to the "West". COnfusing? It is. Also, there are many Eastern countries that operate on the very same principles and enjoy the same freedoms as we do, let's not forget that! I think we could have a whole blog-worth of post on what and where the West is! I am looking forward to your post!

  4. Really,this post is really good thanks for posting it.The information which you provided on this blog is truly useful and informative for each person.


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