You’re Not Getting it Wrong Canadian Mum

Pamela Chan/

I see these types of posts at least once a week. “Why parents in France (fill in another country name) have got it right and North American parents are getting it wrong.” Or at the very least, could be doing things differently. Do these pieces resonate with you? Or do you think there’s a good dose of glossing over going on?

Important side bar. You will notice that these trending stories (usually heavily circulated on mainstream media and prominent blogs) are usually related to a book tour.

Much of my childhood was spent living in other countries; most of my closest friends parent elsewhere; and, I’ve taught young children from many different nationalities both here in the Lower Mainland and overseas.  When it comes to different parenting styles and attitudes, I’ve seen and heard it all – the good, the bad and the “what?!”. I don’t buy into any ideals about parenting styles and childhood circumstances elsewhere because these conversations never mention the warts.  They never mention the constraints; challenges faced; and, familial and societal expectations. We know about foreign childcare policies. But there are other support systems in place  that make it possible to embrace a different parenting paradigm.

Here’s an example we should think about, sitting in British Columbia, as we read these pieces.  If you live in a European city that’s flush with a wide variety of jobs (unlike Vancouver), complete with a housing market that’s got a wide selection of affordable rentals, how are the choices for your family different? If the cost of your rent is 1/3 of the price that people are paying in other cities, and your wage is respectable, what freedom does this give you to tweak your family’s lifestyle?  How will your own employment choices be different? The employment reality of parents does affect the overall picture.

Is this your work/home life reality? You’re up with the roosters (or before); rushing off to daycare; working at a stressful job that probably doesn’t pay that well; rushing back home via daycare after slogging through inefficient transit routes; and, trying to have a go at it as a family before you go to bed only to do it again the next day.

With this picture in our mind, how do all these parenting stories from afar, placed in front of you on Facebook, suit your fancy? Will you stand at the school gate, croissant in hand for your child, as you start a meaningful conversation about European history and walk home through a parkland.  Yes, the walk score and access to transit in our ideal European city related to your affordable apartment is that good. (Our proposed European city is based on a real one, by the way.)

I digress. I forgot to mention that you, British Columbia mum, might find yourself often falling asleep while sitting on the toilet after working at home until 1 in the morning.

Mum’s don’t fall asleep on the toilet? Oh yes they do. And they’re exhausted in many other ways too.  They tell me their stories. The up early, make breakfast and lunch, take transit from one province to another to get to work, walk home in the cold snow from a distant bus stop, cook, clean, sewing until the wee hours and into bed late part was my mum. And she was a War Baby – not a Millennial parent. This routine has been going on for decades.

This scenario focusses on the mum who works outside of the home. You can rewrite it to feature a Work at Home mum or a mum who isn’t working for a pay cheque right now, but is still very busy.

You’ll be interested to know that all is not golden in the great beyond. In Sweden – where we are told by expats (who write books and newspaper columns) that everything is done better  – parents are fighting back after a teacher complained about his students online and then went on to give parenting advice. Apparently the children aren’t polite and the parents…  Well, I won’t spread one person’s opinion lest I change your views about Swedish families. But surely this teacher must be delusional because none of the Parenting, Schooling and Childhood is Better Over There pieces mention that there are any challenges.

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Hmnn. Should we write a post in Swedish about how they could follow the Canadian lead? Because the children in my community are very polite (our schools are working on social and emotional learning goals) and the children spend hours outside every week working on their hand calluses while they swing on monkey bars, run around trees with sticks, dig in the dirt and develop their gross motor skills. They don’t look bored to me. And they’re not leaving in (fill in the name of a country other than Canada/the USA). Imagine that!


And other things we never hear about.

In one of the countries mentioned in this piece, you often see young children screaming in public “no, no, no” as they demand something in the store.  I’m not going to say where it is, but I know why it happens.  And that’s fine. It all works out in the end.  But it will never show up in a piece like this one (which has interesting information but doesn’t give a balanced view).

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