Since I began my journey into crunchy mothering (when I was pregnant with my second child in 2007), I often wonder how other cultures (especially more “primitive” cultures) raised their children. Seriously, how DO Eskimos keep their babies warm? I marveled at the thought of Sacagawea wearing her growing newborn on her back as she helped the Lewis and Clark team trek west in the wilderness. I’d think about babies being born and raised in jungles and deserts and the tundra — YIKES. Why was it so “hard” for me to raise my little one with all the modern conveniences?
I stumbled upon Mei-Ling Hopgood’s new book How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between). For the most part, I loved this book. Some of the chapters went a bit long but overall I am so glad that I stumbled upon and read this book. As I’ve long believed, no one culture has the “perfect” way to raise babies. And I had come to the decision that I would take the things from other cultures that resonated with me and blend it in with my family’s developing culture. I also had to learn to accept that MY way was not the “perfect” way for others and that they too had to develop their own family culture. So, basically, I had to learn to not judge others for not cloth diapering, for using a stroller instead of a baby-carrying sling, for not breastfeeding their babies until they were 3 years old, for letting their kids eat “fake” food, for not co-sleeping, for vaccinating their children, for not homeschooling, etc.
So, in her conclusion, Hopgood writes: “The experience of looking at parenthood through the eyes of parents in different cultures has opened my mind and challenged some of the beliefs and practices that I’d held pretty tightly. Hearing and seeing what others do differently made me rethink what I thought was right. Sometimes it reinforced what I thought, and sometimes it changed me completely. Regardless, I’ved collected some invaluable pieces of knowledge to compose the ideals and practices that work for us.”
And: “While no culture can claim to be the best at any one given aspect of parenting, each has its own gems of wisdom to add to the discussion…We may or may not adopt what another family in another culture or place does, but we can take comfort in knowing that there really is more than one good way to get a baby to sleep, transport her from place to place, and feed her…While there are some univeral standards of how a child should be treated, there are many ways to be a good parent in the world.”
What are some of the non-mainstream parenting practices that you have included in your family culture?