Excerpt from our new book Stuff Dutch Moms Like:
I first arrived in Amsterdam on a cold and wet day in 2004. I had precisely 3 days to determine whether I was going to pack up my entire life in Canada, kiss my family and friends goodbye and move to the lowlands for a 2-year work contract. For 3 days straight the rain poured and the wind howled, yet somehow, stepping out of my hotel on that third day, I knew the decision had already been made. Amsterdam had stolen my heart and it wasn’t planning on giving it back anytime soon.
One month later I was back in town with 2 massive suitcases, one pair of rose-tinted glasses and endless questions. Did I have to do these elaborate air-kisses with everyone I met? What was with the chocolate sprinkles for breakfast? Was I, in fact, incredibly short or were the Dutch simply giants? And most importantly, would I ever be able to pronounce – let alone understand- the Dutch word gezellig?
Over the years, these questions were of course answered, but embarking on the adventure of motherhood in the Netherlands brought forth a whole slew of new ones. The Dutch midwifery system seemed far too casual. Home births were not urban legends as I had hoped but a frightening reality. Working mothers were expected to start working a mere 3 months after giving birth, breastfeeding rates were shockingly low and Dutch parenting appeared far too permissive. It seemed I had entered an entirely new phase of culture shock and this time the cultural divide appeared much further apart than my initial experiences eight years prior. Could I actually give birth – let alone raise a child – in this country far far away from the comforts and familiarities of home?
Dutch Parenting Lessons
With so many differences between North America and the Netherlands on the subjects of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, I found myself obsessing over which way was, in fact, the right way. I spent countless hours researching and debating each side. Unfortunately there were no black and white answers to be found, and the closer I observed Dutch parenting, the more I began to realize that Dutch mothers – and their children – were certainly not suffering. Their births appeared more natural, their way of mothering more relaxed, and their children – who albeit were often running wild- seemed to be having a hell of a good time in the process. Were Dutch mothers able to have their cake and eat it too? I needed to know, so I embarked on this journey to find out the secrets of Dutch parenting- and how I could incorporate some of this into my own little Amsterdam life!
Curious? Read more from author Colleen Geske in her new book: Stuff Dutch Moms Like!
Colleen Geske is the founder of Stuff Dutch People Like. She is originally from Canada and has called Amsterdam her home since 2004. Stuff Dutch Moms Like is the fourth book in the series.
Photo: Rudi Wells Fotografie