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 happiest mothers in the world live? Well, you guessed it: the Netherlands!
In our popular 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 sh*t!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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!
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!
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).
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.
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.
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!