The Grass is Greener

Since Jonah wasn’t born in the US, I obviously have not had the experience of being a mom there and until we go back to visit I sometimes forget all the differences between there and here.  I think that the grass is greenest where we are right now at this moment, but when I go back to the US I see things I miss and also things that I really like about being in Prague.  Here’s some highlights of the biggest differences for me.

Mommyhood in Prague:

1) Family Friendly Culture

This is one of my favorite things about living here with a baby.  People are so nice to moms with babies.  There’s always someone willing to go out of their way to help me lift my stroller up and down the stairs or to give up their seat on the tram when I am wearing Jonah in the carrier, even young teenage guys on occasion!  Most restaurants (even the nice ones) and cafes are very family friendly and many even have kids’ corners for the kids to play while the grown ups socialize.

2) Use of Outdoor Public Spaces

We are outside, in parks and in the fresh air ALL the time here.  There are tons of parks-they’re very nice and very well used.  Many moms (including myself) take their babies for walks in the park every day, if not a couple of times a day.  As a culture, the Czechs really seem to value getting their children outside in the fresh air (as fresh a polluted city can be, but that’s another story).  It’s nice having lots of options for parks and for playgrounds now as Jonah is getting bigger.

3)  Children are Raised to be Respectful

I think this is a nice thing about the culture here.  Like I mentioned before, Czechs are raised to give up their seat on the tram to older people, pregnant women, women with kids and to help people when they need it.  Of course just like anywhere, there are  individuals here who are not so helpful or courteous, but as a whole, this is what I’ve noticed.  Children are taught to greet adults in a formal way, “Dobry Den,” which is like “Good Day,”  rather than “Ahoj,” which is like “hi” or “hey;” and they address adults as Pan or Panni (Mr. or Mrs.)  I really like this level of respect for adults and plan to teach Jonah the same.

4)  Walking as a Mode of Transport

Since we live  in the city, we walk or take public transport mostly everywhere.  I love that Jonah spends very little time in the car and going for walks is something that’s really enjoyable for him.  It also helped me lose that baby weight, which was a major pro in my book!

5) No Yoga Uniform

One thing I noticed quickly upon moving here is that there is a different dress code for Europeans than for Americans.  Definitely no mommies in their pj’s here dropping off kids for school and no yoga pants as regular attire either.  Even going to the gym or yoga class, most of my friends wear regular clothes, then change into their  workout clothes there and clean up and change back after class lest someone see them in less than their best. 😉  While this was a big adjustment for me, I like this now that I stay home all the time.  I think the fact that people are a bit dressier helps me to feel like I should actually make an effort in picking out an outfit, putting on makeup, etc. and ultimately I feel better about myself and more willing to go out and be a part of society at large rather than lounge at home in my yoga pants.

6) No childrens’ character mania

Another thing I love about living here is that Dora, Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse, and all the other fun character friends are not lurking everywhere on every children’s product here trying to get your kid to buy everything from diapers to dishes.  I’ve never been too much into cartoon characters and as we are not big into tv I didn’t really want to introduce all these “friends” to Jonah.  If you are a big fan than by all means carry on and know that you will have to bring your Elmo products and Dora cartoons to the Czech Republic should you ever decide to move here.  There is one character who is very well known here though if you need a fix.  Krtek, aka The Little Mole, is pretty popular and supposedly the Czech version of Mickey Mouse. 😉

Things I miss about Mommyhood in the US:

1) Capitalism

Oh sure, Communism here ended 22 years ago, but it’s a long road to change.  There is not a lot of variety here when it comes to products and everything-especially toys and clothing is so expensive.  To be honest, sometimes it’s nice to only have one kind of butt cream at the pharmacy and to know that it will probably work because it’s the only option, but as an American at heart, I miss the choices.  And the prices!

2)  Driving

Ok, ok.  I realize this contradicts what I said before.  I do love that we can walk most everywhere.  But I do not love it when it is below zero or raining or snowing or I am just feeling especially tired.  Sometimes I remember the days of just hopping in the car and hitting the Target.  And that’s when I really miss driving.  And capitalism.  Sigh.

3)  Convenience

Other things I miss are just every day conveniences like toaster waffles, drive-throughs, and being able to get everything on my grocery list in one place instead of having to go to 40 different places.  To be fair drive-throughs do exist here, but since we live in the city center and don’t drive much we don’t really get to use them.  And it’s mostly just McDonald’s.

4) Family and Friends

Of course this one is just a given, but there is no time in my life that I’ve missed my family more than now that I’m a mom.  I would love to just have my mom pop over at the drop of a hat to watch Jonah while I run some errands or drop him off at our in-laws for an evening out.  We’ve made the best of it here by finding a baby-sitter that we like, visiting family and having them come here, and Skyping every weekend, but it’s just not the same.  And as much as you can like a baby-sitter, there is just no one you can trust like your family when it comes to caring for your child.

5) Not Being Told How to Parent (for the most part)

Sure, people in the States may judge each others parenting like it’s their job, but for the most part I think we keep these thoughts to ourselves or maybe just whisper them to a friend. 😉  Not here though!  People feel very free to point out all the things that you are doing wrong as a parent.  In these instances, I am just thankful I don’t speak the language-but I get the message when the finger starts wagging.  I have been lectured for everything from not dressing my child like we’re in Siberia even though it’s a sunny, spring day (this is a popular one) to not taking a seat that was offered on the tram when pregnant (don’t you know this is dangerous?!) to giving Jonah a bottle while he was in the stroller (not sure what the problem with that one was-too many bumps I think).  The list could go on and on.  I think generally people are well intentioned when they point out your parenting failures and maybe everyone looking out for and helping to care for the children is just a leftover socialist ideal?  I’m not sure, but I didn’t miss it when we went home to visit.

I’m sure that there are many other differences and things that I miss from home, but these are just the burning things on my mind.

If you’re an expat what do you miss as a mom and if you’re not what would be hard to give up?

6 Comments

  1. I love this article! Being given the opportunity to understand, compare, evaluate, and choose makes us more tolerant and appreciative. So… let’s make everybody live in a foreign country for some time.Only “some time” because after some time greener becomes less green and….but that’s a different story.

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  2. Ha, ha! True to life:) Especially the bit about shopping in 40 different places and unsolicited parenting advice. It’s funny that you were told off for dressing him too warmly. I’m usually told off because he’s not wearing 50 layers. My favorite was a 95 degree summer day, when I was told Ev wasn’t dressed warmly enough and would be cold. They are funny, the Czechs:)

    BTW, you can get toaster waffles in Billa. Pre-syruped though, so a bit sweet.

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  3. Oh girl, maybe I mis-spoke. You know it was of course because he was not dressed warmly enough even though it was warm and sunny and he was sweating in his pram! I think I could dress him in a snowsuit, hat, and mittens in the middle of the summer and no one would bat an eye. Or maybe I would just get a pat on the back and some approving nods. 🙂

    Thanks for the tip on the waffles. But of course I like the fancy whole wheat, healthy kind. Let me know if you ever spot those. 😉

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  4. I love this. We hosted an exchange student from Prague before we had kids and then visited her after my daughter was born. We found the culture to be very tolerant of babies. The airlines were where we noticed it most. It was such a refreshing change from the American airlines who treated us like we were such a burden. Now our exchange student has a baby of her own so it’s fascinating to read about your experiences. I am glad you like it. I think Prague is such a beautiful city.

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    1. Thanks, Lucinda! Prague really is great, and you’re right-I think European airlines are so much more family friendly (and friendlier in general) than American ones. Very cool that you have a connection to Prague. Thanks for stopping by my blog. 😉

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