Unlocking the secrets of Dutch parenting

It’s no secret that Dutch women live a pretty charmed life. And we’ve all heard time and again that Dutch babies and Dutch kids are the happiest in the world. But the question remains: where do the the happiest mothers in the world live? Well, you guessed it: the Netherlands!

In our brand-spanking new book Stuff Dutch Moms Like we have investigated why Dutch mothers are so darn happy and how they truly manage to have it all. We’re here today to share 12 reasons why Dutch moms are the happiest. Get ready to start taking notes ‘cause this is some seriously good shit!

1 | They give birth on their own terms
Looking to give birth in the comfort of your own home with nary a doctor in sight? No problemo! Thousands of Dutch women have done it – and continue to do so everyday. Prefer a hospital environment with as many drugs and medical staff as possible? Also not a worry! Anything goes in the Netherlands. All jokes aside, freedom of choice plays a central role in the Dutch maternity system empowering women to trust their own decisions and bodies. Unsurprisingly, empowered pregnancies and births result in more positive experiences as well as better physical and mental outcomes for mothers.

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2 | They work part-time
Ok, this might be a bit of a stretch, of course not all Dutch mothers work part-time but whole heck of a lot of them do! According to the latest official national statistics, one in three Dutch women “stop working or work less” after the birth of their first child,  only a mere 12% of those with children under 18 work “full-time” (i.e. more than 35 hours per week). Plenty of Dutch jobs  accommodate part-time workers and in some cases an employer is not allowed to refuse  requests to work fewer hours.

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3 | They have flexible working hours
The acceptance of part-time work (even at higher levels) allows Dutch women to not have to choose between being a “stay-at-home-mom” or a “working-mom”.  Why can’t you be both and why shouldn’t you be? Want to be with your kids one day a week or be able to pick them up from school each day at 15:00? Dutch mothers can!

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4 | They take schedules seriously
Dutch moms live by routine. Don’t believe us? Take a peek on any street after 18:00 and you will not spot a single kid out playing!  Dutch moms have their children fed, washed, and nearly in bed by that time! The majority of Dutch parents follow a fairly strict and predictable day and nighttime routine, which produces happy, healthy, and well-rested children.

Happy, Swinging Reese

5 | They co-parent like a boss
Dutch moms have a secret weapon: Dutch dads! Dutch dads are actively involved in parenting across the board. The Dutch “papadag” helps as well, as over a third of men in the Netherlands have a reduced work week and 15% of all Dutch fathers choose to work less (CBS). The younger generation is also part of this modern new family with an astounding 66% of Dutch young men saying they plan to reduce their working hours when they become a father! There is no  doubt that in households where fathers are equals in parenting, mothers are happier!

Telefonerende vader met huishoudschort geeft baby de fles. [1961].

6 | They outsource
Round up the grey-haired brigade! Dutch parents know how to outsource. Have you too spied all those spritely seniors chasing tiny tots across the Netherlands? Oma and Opa play a significant role in childcare in the Netherlands. Aside from papadag and mamadag, many Dutch grandparents look after their grandchildren on a fixed day each week. Dutch grandparents are among the most involved in Europe with “60% or more providing at least some form of childcare”. 

Scott, Elaine, Opa and Oma in the zoo

7 | They have world-class postnatal care
Postnatal care in the Netherlands is simply, dare I say it, superior to any other country in the world. After giving birth, new moms in the Netherlands are entitled to 8 days of  home care by a highly trained maternity (kraamzorg) nurse. Yes, your very own post-baby fairy-godmother is on hand to help care for you and your new baby while also doing your laundry, cooking meals, tidying up and offering hands-on support and advice. A.Seriously.Awesome.System.

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8 | They feel less guilt
Dutch mothers feel less guilt – and that’s a good thing. This healthy attitude allows them to achieve a balanced approach to motherhood and its demands. Of course, I’m not saying that Dutch mothers do not feel any guilt whatsoever (because unfortunately some level of guilt is part and parcel of being a mother) but I do, however, believe that Dutch mothers feel significantly less guilt than their North American counterparts. Not convinced? Read more here!

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9 | They let their children be children
The belief in freedom and independence is a fundamental principle in Dutch parenting. The Dutch expression, “Een kind opvoeden is een kind loslaten” roughly translates to the notion that to raise a child is to let a child go. Dutch babies and toddlers are given the space and time to cultivate their “independent lives”.  Dutch children may appear to be running wild and free at times, but this freedom actually cultivates and helps produce very independent children. Something we all wish for!

Mila at the beach

10 | They don’t helicopter
You will be hard pressed to find “helicopter parenting” in the Netherlands. At the numerous Dutch playgrounds I have frequented the exact opposite tends to be true. Ridiculously high climbing structures? Check! Open waterways and canals? Check. Check! Even with looming “danger”, the “helicopter-parent” trend has thankfully managed to not successfully cross the Atlantic – as we all know those kind of parents are no fun to be around (and more importantly, are sadly trapped in the realm of constant worry, stress, and over-protection).

helicopter

11 | They don’t attach themselves to their children’s failures – or successes
Dutch parents have an uncanny knack for separating their children’s talents (or lack thereof) from their own. Their children are not seem as a direct reflection of themselves, but instead, autonomous beings with individual characters, strengths and weaknesses. It’s an utterly refreshing perspective which automatically removes competition, guilt, and self-praise from the core of the parenting equation.

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12 | They sleep better than you
Guess what? Dutch mothers sleep better than you. It’s not fair, but it’s true. We all know that actually the MOST important, critical, life-saving element of parenthood is actually just…. cold.hard.sleep! Dutch moms sleep better because their babies sleep better, and therefore their kids do too. We could write a whole chapter about it, and well, we kinda did.

Sleeping like a baby

As you can see Dutch mothers come pretty close to “having it all”. Intrigued? Confused?  Jealous? Find out more about why “going Dutch” might just be the best parenting advice yet!

 

cover-stuff-dutch-moms-likeGrab your copy of our new book

Stuff Dutch Moms Like” here!

29 Responses

    • Kristen

      When a mother ‘hovers’ over her child 🙂

      Reply
      • alsatian

        Shouldn’t you be on eye-level with your child?

    • Tessa

      What Kristen means is when a mother is constantly hanging around/ watching over their child, watching what they do, making sure they don’t hurt themselves, etc etc…

      Reply
      • Jennifer

        A helicopter parent is someone who is obsessively involved in every aspect of their kid’s life. This includes everything from setting up playdates with the “right” children, to getting into the right preschools, meeting with their college professors, going on job interviews with them, and more. A helicopter parent basically doesn’t let her child make (and learn from) mistakes. It is the opposite of “Een kind opvoeden is een kind loslaten.” The end result is kids who become adults who cannot function on their own. It’s abusive behavior if you think about it.

    • Ann Marie O'Brien (@pangur1)

      I am so glad you do not know that. It’s when the parent is doing their college student’s homework for them and calling the president of the university for their child when they have a problem. I experienced that when I went back to teaching at an American university 15 years ago. That is about the time that the trend happened in the United States. I had never received so many calls for college students from their parents prior to that.

      Reply
  1. An

    Guess this post has been written by a Dutch man or woman….

    Reply
  2. Linda

    Very interesting. I love learning about other cultures. The Dutch way of life seems very appealing.

    Reply
  3. Christina Rambo

    OH my gosh! I love this blog. I have been a firm believer for a LONG time that we Americans do so many things that are detrimental to families. I have done a lot of learning about the things you touch on here.

    Reply
  4. Debi @ DebiStangeland.com

    I love everything about this post. There are so many golden nuggets of truth in here. I am particularly fond of #6. We’ve found that having Oma as an active participant with our kids’ has made them much more social, better able to talk to adults, and interested in a wider variety of topics and subjects. Excellent!

    Reply
    • Debi @ DebiStangeland.com

      Visiting from Naptime Nation and I write at RealFunFamily.com I just hate changing from one account to another just to comment.

      Reply
  5. savagesevenblog

    very interesting post. I think we all have to do what works best for our individual and unique situation. It is good to see they are flexible with working parents because we def have a problem with this in the States.

    Reply
  6. Megan @ The Many Little Joys

    Interesting ideas. I would sure LOVE the care of a nurse that first week post-partum. Also, this is a little unrelated, but all the Dutch bikes in your pictures look awesome! What a cool way to cart the whole family around!

    Reply
  7. Julie Hoag

    This is a great post, I love to learn about motherhood in different cultures. I worked part time after my first two boys were born, and I became a SAHM with the birth of the third. I agree with the Dutch way of life for mothers, I wanted to be home with my kids as much as possible as motherhood came first. It would be so lovely to live in a culture where this was valued more.

    Reply
  8. itsahero

    I’m absolutely FASCINATED by all of this! WHY can’t we be more like the Dutch!?

    Reply
  9. Melissa

    I love learning how other cultures parent their babies. There is so much to learn from other mamas around the world!

    Reply
  10. markelashley

    Love this. I’m a huge fan of Dutch parenting and have read a lot about it myself. The biggest struggle is being the the US and getting the nasty looks at the park when I let my kid fall and brush it off. I love that there is no one right way, and try to foster that in all of my friends.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Meanwhile, I’d be agreeing with you at the playground. The worst thing a parent can do is not let their child explore and learn how to do things on their own. Kids have to learn how to get up and brush themselves off – become self-reliant.

      Reply
  11. No Fear of Fashion

    I am afraid there are parents, even in The Netherlands, who want their children to achieve goals they have set out themselves. Not necessarily matching the child’s abilities. School levels too high, pressure… all not good.
    Greetje

    Reply
  12. Dutch girl

    I’m Dutch myself and the facts mentioned in the article above are so obviously normal to me. I’m actually mindgobbled that it isn’t for a lot of other people in other countries.

    Reply
  13. wies

    Agree with a lot that is mentioned in this post, but truly NOT with part of the first reason mentioned. “Prefer a hospital environment with as many drugs and medical staff as possible? Also not a worry! Anything goes in the Netherlands.” I feel it’s the opposite: many women are peer pressured (by their midwives) to have un-medicated births, preferably at home. That may work for some mothers – and more power to them! – but if you wish to have an epidural or other pain relief, you are often met with A LOT of resistance.

    The numbers are getting better, but in part due to this pressure to have births at home and without specialist’s (ie trained doctors, not midwives) involvement, The Netherlands have for decades been nearly at the bottom of infant mortality rates, globally. Embarrassing, for a first world nation. And across the board this focus on having “natural births” is not at all happiness inducing, in my opinion.

    Reply
  14. Jascha

    Nonsense! This post can’t be written by a dutch person. For example: not all grandparents babysit, many are busy doing their own stuff. And these shorts: you can wear them maybe a few weeks a year, if you are lucky. This is not a tropical country. Regular schedules? Errr… seriously? And I wish for the day we can arrange for our own birth. Hospital staff likes to do things their own way! Not complaining or anything, but this list is too rediculous to even be funny. Weh weh weh weh… a dutch person would say.

    Reply
  15. Sarah

    It often makes me mildly irritated to see “women” or “mother” focused articles like this one. How about “parenting” articles? Shouldn’t this be about happy parents having the ability to work part-time, with flexible hours, and invest more in their personal/family lives? Are opportunities for these part-time and flexible hours employment accommodations gender neutral? How does it affect careers? Are women getting equal pay for equal work? Is there a relative balance between men/women in professional responsibilities, opportunities? Taking schedules seriously may be a good parenting characteristic, but not exclusive to women/mothers. Having someone helping at home helps both parents easing into the new family dynamic, not only the mother. It exasperates me that in 2017, we are still hearing/reading so much gender-specific talks, geared towards a specific gender/sex audience. Has any man read this article, and would there be any interest when it talks only about mothers as happy parents? We remain societies that condition people to be as per assigned gender identity, instead of letting them bloom as who they are as individuals, regardless of the sex they were born with. Freedom for all to be who they are and live how they want to live. I do have a strong feminist fiber in me… 🙂

    Reply

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