10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Mexico

For our Motherhood Around the World series, our fifth interview features Naomi Smith, who lives in Mexico City with her husband and three children—Malachai, 10, Josu, 7, and Selma, 5. Here are 10 things that have surprised her about being a mom in Mexico City…

Naomi’s background:

Naomi and her husband Joshua met at The Masters College, a small Christian liberal arts school in Los Angeles. “We still consider L.A. our home base,” Naomi explains, although she grew up in Mexico. “My parents were Christian missionaries in a tiny town in rural Mexico.”

As newlyweds, Naomi and Josh lived in L.A. “We did the whole ‘living on love’ kind of thing,” Naomi laughs. “I recently looked at our budget from back then and it was like, ‘Food=$20 per week.’ ” Then they went on their own mission to Pamplona, Spain, a medium-sized city made famous by Hemingway and the running of the bulls.

They lived in Spain for eight years and had three children—Malachai, now 10, Josu, 7, and Selma, 5. Then, the Christian non-profit they worked for asked Joshua to take a position as their director in Mexico City. “At first, I didn’t want to go,” Naomi says. “This sounds silly, but I had been so shaped by Europe at that point—the architecture, the food, the aesthetic. The older I get the more Scandinavian I get: Form and function and everything minimal. And Mexico’s perception of beauty is the complete opposite: vibrant, colorful, over-the-top. More is more! It felt overwhelming.”

But after living in Mexico City with her family for the last three years, Naomi has grown to love the city. “We live in an old part of the city that actually looks very European. But truthfully, it’s the Mexican people who have made this city beautiful for me. They stepped right into our lives and invited us into theirs. I’d meet other parents at my kids’ school and say, “Let’s have dinner.” And they’d actually come over! That never happened in Spain, which felt like such a private culture. You had to know someone forever before you would ‘impose’ like that. In Mexico, it’s all about gathering with friends for dinner on our rooftop at night and laughing and talking right through dessert.”

On everyday poetry: Latin culture has a reputation for being romantic, and I see that even in the little ways people speak to one another. In Spain, if you want to order a coffee you’d say “Dame un café,” or “Give me a coffee.” In Mexico you say, “Good morning. How are you doing? Can you please gift me a coffee, if you can?”

And my friends speak in such romantic ways. My Mexican friend was telling me about when she and her husband first started dating. She said, “It was the time of life when you would reach into the sky and pull down stars for each other.” Another friend was describing a breakup and she said, “I cried an ocean of tears.” They actually say those things! It is awesome.

On greetings: Mexican mamas do this really great thing where they teach their children to greet adults with a peck on the cheek. It doesn’t matter if the child is 2, 12 or 22. It doesn’t matter if the child runs into you at the local market or comes into your home for dinner. A well-mannered child will always saludar bien—greet properly with a kiss. Sometimes I laugh at how even though children may run wild through the course of a playdate, there is always a pause at the beginning and at the end for this proper greeting. I’m so glad to embrace that custom. I adore how, in this pause, even little ones acknowledge the importance of friendship.

On grooming habits: When my kids first started school in Mexico, I was surprised how involved the school was in our family’s grooming habits. Our kids were often sent home with little notes saying that they needed to come to class more neatly combed! Then, once we got the combing down, we got a note saying they needed to be combed with hair gel, not just water. Their report cards even had a line item for “personal hygiene.”

On the love of history: My kids go to a local Mexican school, and it seems like they perform in a special history program almost every month. Children dress up in traditional garb or as political revolutionaries, and they enthusiastically sing, dance, recite poetry and perform plays depicting important historical events. I was once talking with a fellow mom about how my husband and I were trying to understand our children’s interests so that we could help them find a job they would love as adults. I jokingly moaned that my son only liked history but that he could never make a living off of that. My friend looked at me, shocked! “No!” she cried. “In Mexico, historians are highly valued and never have a hard time finding a job!”

On fruits and vegetables: While Mexican children certainly eat their fair share of processed, sugary treats, I find that as a whole, the children we know consume a tremendous quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it’s jicama on a popsicle stick, or grated carrots and sliced cucumber, or a cupful of papaya, pineapple, and mango.

In fact, the school just down the street from our house has a colorful little cart that magically appears in front of the school gates just before school gets out every day. As kids leave school, they can request the fruit they want and it gets peeled, chopped and sprinkled with lime and chili powder right in front of them.

On redheads: When we first got to Mexico, I would walk behind my family so I could watch passersby turn, look at us and then jump and squeal. It happened over and over again. I finally asked a friend, who confirmed to me that people were pinching each other! Apparently, when Mexicans see a redhead, the first one to pinch a friend gets a wish.

On laundry: Almost everywhere you go in Mexico City, you’ll see laundry hanging on the rooftops. Sometimes the laundry is hung according to color, sometimes it is hung according to size or type, sometimes it has no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I feel like I get a peek into the personalities of Mexican families, just by studying their laundry-hanging patterns.

We hang our laundry on our rooftop, too. Every time, I mentally whine about having to lug our clothes up four flights of stairs, but once I’m on the roof I stop pitying myself, and start pitying people in other parts of the world for not getting such a magnificent view while they do their laundry. My kids beg to go up with me, and so we end up making it a bit of a family affair—they ride their scooters, build forts and play tag around the roof while I hang up the clothes.

On street art: Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most beloved artists, believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone—especially the working class and the poor. So he dedicated himself to painting murals in public spaces. Mexico City is all about this idea of “art for the people.” Every day we pass the enormous mural along the exterior wall of the local cinema, the display of giant Samurai head sculptures along the street in our neighborhood and the brightly painted birds on the building next to ours.

On wealth extremes: A few months after arriving in Mexico City, I found myself at a Starbucks in a ritzy neighborhood. I had a good book with me and figured that I’d indulge in an hour of reading and praying before I had to head back to my side of town. As I sat there in my jeans and T-shirt, I grew increasingly aware of the people walking into Starbucks. Many had chauffeurs in luxury vehicles parked outside; they wore Italian leather boots with matching handbags. Every woman seemed to have an expensive haircut and lots of bling.

I felt so out of place.

I panicked; I had to get out of there! I didn’t belong! So I grabbed my cup, ran out to the street, and hailed the little passenger van that would take me home. (These vans are a cheap, common form of public transport—essentially gutted minivans rebuilt to cram in as many people as possible.) And there I sat, gripping my Venti cappuccino, crammed into a six-passenger van with 15 women who had probably never stepped foot into a Starbucks; women who probably fed lunch to their entire extended family with the same amount of money I spent on my coffee. And suddenly…I again felt so out of place.

That day captured one of my biggest struggles living in Mexico City: the tremendous class differences. From one street to the next, we find ourselves thrust into extreme wealth or extreme poverty. This constant juxtaposition of excess and need keeps my heart and mind racing, pushing me to evaluate what I own and why I own it; pushing me to ask myself if I find my identity in my belongings or social status; forcing me to dig deeper into what genuine need is, and what we as a family can do to care for people in need.

This self evaluation is often uncomfortable, but even so, I am thankful that my family is having to wrestle with these questions. The discussion itself makes us richer.

P.S. Motherhood in Norway, Japan, Central Africa and Northern Ireland. Plus, why French kids eat everything and babies sleeping outside in Denmark.

(Thank you to my fantastic friend and writer Lina Perl for help reporting and interviewing)

  1. gina says...

    makes me want to move to Mexico City! The photos are amazing and you’re very lucky to have three very beautiful redheaded children!!

  2. wow, i loved reading this post. i am from california and have lived in mexico for 3 years now. i’m currently pregnant and i wrestle with the sometimes conflicting ways that children are brought up in mexico, like machismo, a “woman’s place”, and socioeconomic status. however, there are many things i love about mexican culture – like eating a lot of fruits and veggies on a daily basis, or cooking real home cooked meals every day, and of course, the greet and kiss that you spoke of. i know that eventually everything will flow nicely and i am excited to see where this journey leads! thank you for sharing your story and enjoying Mexico!!

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  4. Andrea says...

    as I read this post, I realized this family are my neighbors from across the street. I even looked thru the window to compare the rooftop… I’ve seen this family of gingers causing curiosity in the streets of our neighborhood La Roma

    • Andrea! say hello to us next time you see us! we love to meet our neighbors!

  5. I love this series too! I lived in Mexico for a year in college. The pictures and stories here warm my soul. Muchisimas gracias.

  6. I absolutely love this Motherhood series. I missed this one on Mexico. The pictures and stories are magnificent. The story about grooming made me laugh. My Mexican husband has a conniption fit if our son’s hair is not gelled. I always thought he was being dramatic, but now it all makes sense. Thanks for shedding some insight into my marriage! :)

  7. Having lived in Central America, I can relate to all of this. The obsession with the historical celebrations, attention to hygiene, and the well-mannered child that will always saludar bien. I worked with teenagers in Honduras and in ten minutes, they would be giving me hugs, resting their head on my shoulder! I work with teenagers in the US and that is beyond inappropriate. Central America is mucho mas carinoso (affectionate) and it’s one of its beauties. Thanks for the post! The end statement was also spot on.

  8. Brilliant!

    Though I am not yet a mother, the Motherhood Around the World series is my favourite feature on your blog (and I’ve been reading Cup of Jo for years!)
    Please keep it coming, it’s such a beautiful glimpse into people’s homes and lives.

    In fact, I think it would make a great book! Have you thought about compiling them?

    All the best,

  9. I love your 10 Surprising Things About Parenting….

    I’m from México City and she’s right, totally. The thing I love the most of my country is how warm we are, we have a lot of economic and political problems but instead of cry and judge, we laugh and work.

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  11. Parenting in Spain please – i think you’ll find it interesting!

  12. On parenting in México City: Disclaimer-I’m not a mother, so I will speak on what I’ve observed. Schooling-either you’re rich and can afford to pay around $1,000 USD per month (more or less) for your child’s proper education, or you’re average and can afford to pay an average scholarship for a mediocre education, or you’re poor, and you send your child to a public school (or you’re a revolutionary and decide to “believe” in public education, even if you can afford a private school), or you’re very poor and your child begs on the street with you. Private schooling is mostly a business, not really education-concerned.

    There are a lot of young single mothers. In the mornings, if you take the public transportation Metrobús, you may see women carrying their diaper bag, their purse, their backpack, and their baby, while trying to fit into a jam-packed bus, which has exceeded its limit. Nobody helps them get in, everyone pushes and shoves. Single mothers are seriously single. When the bus moves, they stumble (if there´s any room to stumble), with nowhere to hang onto, and their bags fall. So if there’s someone with little human dignity around, they’ll help them out. I’ve seen women leave at 7am and return home at 9pm, with their children, and they’re so exhausted from working, you can tell just by her blank stare, and how uninterested she is in her child. Her child is also tired, crying, and hungry. Then I’ve seen single moms in malls. Nobody helps them either. They struggle to get their stroller onto the electric staircase and it’s probably embarrassing because it might seem like she’s a bad mom, but she’s carrying her baby and doesn’t have ten arms. People are very inconsiderate of women with children. I’ve seen countless number of women waiting to cross the street, with her baby or children and nobody stops to let them cross.
    I’ve never ever seen a woman breastfeeding in public (in México City). It’s probably a taboo, because people probably see your breast and think it’s a sexual invitation, when it’s just your baby’s food.
    Rich mothers usually have a nanny they can count on. Those nannies probably have many children of their own.
    Baby, toddler and child seats for cars aren’t enforced by law. Imagine that.

    Food: it also depends on the socioeconomic status. But in general, children DO eat junk food, and I find it false that kids really do eat veggies and fruits. In almost all schools K-12, public and private, at the cafeteria there will be more junk food for sale than books in a library. Not kidding. I told you it was a business. From my perspective, most Mexicans have awful eating habits. I´ve seen people, even moms, smoking cigarettes in front of babies. I´ve seen thirsty children being given coka cola. Vegetariansim and veganism is a rare yet upcoming culture. Alcohol is a huge part of culture. In the US, you cannot get a beer even if you´re 18. Well, in México, if you look old enough, you can buy whatever alcohol you want, wherever, and you can go to most clubs (especially if you´re a girl—oh, drinks are free for girls, mostly). Unless you have your children on a very tight leash, they´ll probably start drinking and smoking at a very young age. Interestingly enough, I’d say that in comparison to the US, young Mexican teens wait longer to lose their virginity (speaking of middle-class).

    I know that´s a lot of info, but just in case anyone was curious. All I said is from personal experience.

    • Atenea says...

      You are right Colette . Your description about my country is really accurate and true. I got mad when I read one post that said that we mexicans instead of complaining we laugh and sing ( or something like that) that’s insulting , anyway I live now in Canada and even though I think people here is very nice but cooold as the winter . Very quiet very reseverd but I rather live here than being worried about my children and myself.

  13. I am curious of the general safety, esp. in Mexico City i.e navigating safely with children?

    • México City is huge. Like, consider it a state. There’s no such thing as general safety, because it really does depend where in México City you´re talking about. There are certain neighborhoods such as La Roma, Condesa, Polanco/Reforma, Del Valle, Narvarte that are very safe for families. Downtown is always crowded, especially now with all the protests, so if you go, be very alert! Always always be very careful when crossing streets; people are maniacs driving. I guess that’s all. Good luck :)

  14. Hi Jo! I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I love your blog :) I just want to express that as a woman of color, I would love to see more diversity in your motherhood posts! If you don’t mind me suggesting, I would try doing NYC Motherhood Mondays that would highlight the diverse community of mothers all throughout NYC and how each adapts in their own way. Like how cool would that be? Not to mention that so many more mothers and women would be able to relate and I think that’s such a powerful thing!

  15. I’m not even a mother, and don’t expect to be in a long time. Reading your entries about parenting in different countries and cultures amazes me. It’s a great way to understand common elements and conceptions of society in such different contexts. I congratulate you on your approach and look forward to reading your future posts!

  16. I love the motherhood around the world series! Such unique stories that speak to so many greater questions as attitudes. I think you have a book here Joanna.

  17. Joanna, this parenting series is hands-down the best blog series on the internet. Thank you for your genius in putting this together. So very enlightening.

  18. I love your series on motherhood across the world and follow it religiously :)

  19. Joanna, I just wanted to tell you how much I LOVE this series! I save these posts in my reader until I have a cup of coffee and moment to really focus and think. These posts are such a nice break from all of the blogs I read that primarily serve to make me covet beautiful clothes and things! I love that this series really captures the beauty of motherhood and family and reminds me how important it is to stay connected to the idea that our cultural perspective is just one of many out there in the world. THANKS!

  20. I relish this series you do. I am not yet a mother, but I love travel, and understanding different cultures and the tiny ways in which we sink our roots, live our life, love our loves. Thank you for this incredibly beautiful, intricate and insightful mirror into different parts of the world.

  21. S says...

    I relish this series you do. I am not yet a mother, but I love travel, and understanding different cultures and the tiny ways in which we sink our roots, live our life, love our loves. Thank you for this incredibly beautiful, intricate and insightful mirror into different parts of the world.

  22. This is a wonderful series and it is a joy and a pleasure to read. I also find myself telling other people about it. I was actually talking to a friend about how dangerous Mexico seems to me and discussing whether or not I would go there. So I appreciate my eyes being opened. Thanks so much and I love this perspective, even because it is something I have always wanted to do and I feel I am living vicariously through these braver women. Love!!!

  23. Great post again! I seriously think you should keep this going forever! And/or make it into a coffee table book! You could feature several different parts of a country, rural vs urban, family homes ect. The pictures themselves would be incredible! LOVE this series!!!

  24. I love this series! And I really like this story :) I am from Spain and have a lot of family living in Mexico at the moment (my mother family is originally from Mexico and my dad family from France). By the way, all my family (who live in Mexico) have chauffer and would say you are absolutely crazy if you take on of those bus-bans, so I really like to read your comment about it.

    Just one thing that drives me mad when I read about: “Latin people” are those who come from the Latin cultures. And the Latinos were the people form de Roman Empire (the ones who spoke Latin and had a latin-culture)! So if you say “Latin people” you mean Italians, French, Spanish… Not Mexicans! Maybe it would acceptable to say Latin-Americans, but the most appropriated is to say Hispan-Americans.

  25. This post is so interesting! As are the comments. I’m going to read the rest of the posts in the series now and have subscribed so I don’t miss anymore!

  26. Thank you so much for your article! I really enjoyed reading it! I am from Guanajuato, Mexico, but grew up in Northern California. I enjoyed your observation of the amount of fruits and vegetables that kids consume,the strict personal hygiene in schools and manners in general. There’s nothing worse in Mexican culture than being “mal creado”.

    • You might mean “mal criado” ;)

  27. I love this!
    I grew up in Mexico City, and this really makes me nostalgic. What a beautiful perspective.
    Also, just wanted to comment about a comment that someone said the series should be named “Surprising Things about Parenting as a Privileged Ex-Pat in ___________.” Ridiculous. Clearly they are ignorant. This couple seems extremely down to earth. Two things that come to mind: drying laundry on the rooftop, and public schools. I don’t think “privileged” means these things.

  28. This series about Motherhood Around the World is my favourite thing in my blog reader these days. Even though motherhood is 1000% unappealing to me, this post gets me so excited about travel, seeing the world, and learning about different cultures! Thank you!

  29. Cultural awareness and diversity issues are not something that is often addressed in the very white, very privileged (identities that i too hold) blogosphere… so I am glad to see such dynamic content! I must admit though that each week I get a bit nervous reading these – afraid that I might stumble on some xenophobia or unwieldly American standards abroad but I am always impressed by the level of thoughtfulness and openness to doing things differently than in the US. I walk away having learned something! I love that!

  30. I thoroughly enjoy each instalment , I love seeing insight into each cultural context and how it influences children’s upbringings

  31. I am a bit late to the party on the comments here. Broad band issues.

    I just wanted to say again how much I am enjoying this series. It is super interesting to see ex-pats who speak English in another country, especially when they have kids. I am an avid reader of travellers blogs, but they tend not to have families. And travelling is something I love.

    To see this series and it show all the beautiful places out there. and what it is like to live there is like a little peek through their window. I adore it. Please don’t stop this series! It is a little piece of sunshine on a Monday.

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  33. I know this family too and they’re just fun to be with. Naomi and Josh generally have their children with them most of the time and they know how to act around adults plus they’re so polite. Now I know more about Naomi and I can ask her about things the next time I see her. We are world’s apart in age. I’m a retiree in Mexico (of my own choosing) but she and I have things in common – California. Regarding the “safety issues” in Mexico, I feel like what one of the other commenters said, that Naomi didn’t even think to add it to her article. I don’t think about it either except when my friends and family in the US bring it up which they tend to do a lot. Mexico City is the best, a
    cosmopolitan, int’l-flavored city right here on the American Continent, Naomi, I want to see your roof-top laundry area. Let’s have coffee :-)

    • coffee ON my rooftop! let’s do it! :)

  34. I LOVE her kids’ hair! XD Ginger is such a beautiful hair colour. ;D <3

  35. love this series. so glad it continues….

  36. I am so enjoying this series, Joanna. This one in particular is so interesting. Thanks for sharing! And let me know when you want to do top 10 interesting things about raising a child in the microcosm utopia of Portland, OR. Ha! ;) xo, PQ

  37. Love, love, love, love this series Joanna :)

  38. Hi ,

    I m a single girl, no kids, not married and I read your blog every day. It is one of my all time favourite blogs. The Motherhood Around the World series is amazing. Its wonderful to hear about how different lfie is all over the world.

    xo Nermisa

  39. I love this series! This one in particular is very well written.

  40. forgot to comment about seeing redheads. I grew up in Venezuela and we do the same thing, both with redheads and Volkswagen beetles.

  41. I love this series, totally be up for a book!

  42. I adore this series, and I look forward to every new one you post!

  43. I love this series! And this one is one of my favorites!

  44. Oh Joanna, please keep these articles coming! i love them, and it makes me want to put some more nomadic features into my life!

  45. Thanks for posting!
    Love Mexico and the mexicans

  46. I’ve also lived in both Mexico and Europe and can concur with the writer of this post that the beautiful thing about latin america and its people is their warmth and love that you feel constantly surrounded by. I don’t care if this post was written by a Catholic or an Atheist the messages are the same to me. Mexico is such a beautiful country that has been given a pretty bad name by much American Press that bleeds into Canadian press as well (my native country). I always fought for Mexico with my groups of friends, colleagues and acquaintances and I can only hope the more good press that we can spread around about Mexico might encourage people to be more compassionate about the issues that Mexico faces and the truth of the story that Mexicans are hard working and loving people with one of the most beautiful and welcoming cultures I’ve ever encountered. Not to mention one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Thanks for featuring Mexico! Te quiero mucho mi mexico lindo y querido!

    • Claudia says...

      Joanna, very well said!

  47. I wonder what a series about raising kids in the different parts of the US would be like! I love this series but I just had this thought! I love learning about parenting now that I just became one in May :)

  48. I loved this! As a person that grew up in Mexico, the author of this piece brought back some really nice memories of my childhood. I miss my beloved Mexico with all of my heart, EVERYTHING!!! Its color, music, art, food, culture, history… but most importantly, its people. I loved that Mexico was included in these series. Thank you Naomi, reading this piece added a huge smile to my face and made me very happy.

  49. Thank you for sharing another installment of this series, I’ve been loving them!

  50. I can’t get enough of this series. More, more!!!

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  52. Thanks for this! We are about to move from Washington, DC to Mexico City with our two year-old. We are so excited!

  53. LH says...

    This is such an incredible series. THANK YOU. It’s so enlightening and I love how genuine and sincere all these women are who share their experiences.

  54. Love this series…this particular post made my eyes well up with tears. Thank you for sharing!

  55. Whether these women realize it or not, their white privilege is real and affords them status and power. (Most beneficiaries of white privilege are rarely aware of that privilege. This should surprise no one.) But I think complaining about what this series is not–a rich, diverse examination of American mothers/motherhood overseas–we should appreciate it for what it is–a series of fluffy, feel-good vignettes on a popular lifestyle blog. It is what it is. I hope that someone will be inspired to create a parallel series; I’d love to meet more families of color, more queer families, more unconventionally attractive families and yes, more white families who are willing to confront their privilege.

    • I am white and aware of the privilege, but these families have a number of other priveleges as well that have a compounding affect. Just sayin’. Being white may account for something sometimes, but it’s not everything either.

      I agree that we should accecpt this for what it is (and I agree with you about what it is!). It’s a coffee table book – not a Ph.D. dissertation!

      I, too would love to see (to do?) interviews with all sorts! One of the most interesting jobs I had was as a nanny… seeing inside of other people’s lives was fascinating! There are so many different variations of this that would be interesting.

      I’d love to ask: how one of these families confront their priviege in the context of an article? In general? I’m genuinely curious. Is it an acknowledgement issue, or something else? It gets mentioned all the time (here, and generally when race-related topics come up) but I’m not sure what the practical *act* of it looks like. Also, is it not possible that they HAVE confronted it, but it’s not being discussed here because she’s trying to keep things focused on parenting?

    • Hey Laura! I’ve done a lot (A LOT) of reading since posting. I GET it. ;)

  56. Another lovely and interesting post. Thank you to the author for sharing. My son is not a red head and we live in Utah (not very ethically diverse) but where we live has a nice blend of black, brown, and white kids and I always laugh because he is the whitest at the pool. Sad that people judge you and your family for even saying you are missionairies as an intro with no mention of religion in the post. Ive lived and traveled all over the US and have been appalled at the abject poverty a few blocks from mansions….drive through North Carolina…people live in tin shacks!

  57. jm says...

    This is a great series. It is a wonderful slice of life. It opens my eyes. Awesome!

  58. I really love this series. I hope you will continue it.

  59. Great post and insight into raising a family in another country. Our family loves Mexico, but we’ve never been to Mexico City. One day!

    I am so curious… is the mural in front of the cinema a “living” mural made of plants? It is stunning!

    Thanks for sharing. xo, Dawn (

  60. I’m neither white nor upper middle class but I still find this series quite enjoyable. Despite our differences, we can still relate to one another as mothers and as women, and learn from each others experiences. Thank you Joanna for creating this series.

  61. I love this series. It’s so interesting to read about all cultures & parenthood.

    And that little tidbit about redheads made me laugh a little :)

  62. I love this, Mexico City looks wonderful….and to live there with adorable little red-heads causing people to squeal seems like a bonus! Excellent series, keep it up!

  63. I love this series so much, it is fascinating! (Although I have to admit, this particular installment seemed like it didn’t fit the title of the series quite as well as some of them … but it was still interesting!) I hope you will consider keeping something like this going for a long time!

  64. Thank you for highlighting parenting in Mexico City. My family is from Mexico City and yes no matter how old or young saludar bien is a must. We were taught that way and my siblings and I have passed that on to our children as well.

  65. see a redhead, make a wish! wonderful.

  66. I am a Mexican mom and have read this series for a long time, and was expecting to read a story about an American mom living in Mexico. It was fun to see how the “small details” I am used to are extremely relevant for non-mexican moms, hehe. But I wanted to point out about the security issue here because I feel, as many others have pointed before, that we should not judge a country only for what we read or hear on the news. I assume that if Naomi didn’t mention a thing about security issues living in Mexico City was, probably, because she doesn’t feel the need to do so. Of course, as any other big city in the world, Mexico City has its complexities too but as someone else mentioned above, there are US cities with higher homicide rates than Mexico City. I recommend reading this:

    I have the fortune to travel very often around the world and I think that traveling is one of the best ways to learn and understand other cultures and have a wider perspective about this kind of subject. Parenting in Mexico (specially in Mexico City, where I live) is a wonderful experience: our great weather all year round means lots of outdoor activities; fruits and vegetables are everywhere available all year round too; and as Naomi mentioned, we are very friendly people: we help each other in every possible way. Our rich culture is a wonderful learning experience in every sense so I invite you to visit Mexico (which can’t be resumed as Tijuana or the border line, we are far more than that), without being afraid to do so. I can’t wait to read more about other moms around the globe and learn, without judging, about the pros and cons of parenting in each country. Thanks!

  67. This series makes me think a bit about the book “Bringing up Bebe” which is a FANTASTIC book that Joanna has mentioned in previous posts. I’m loving it.

  68. I love this piece. I spent six years of my life in Mexico City (all of elementary school) and it’s had such a huge impact on the person I am today. I think more kids need the chance to experience growing up in a different country.

  69. Amazing. I love this series, so surprising and uplifting. After reading your blog for so long, I finally got the courage to make my own! It’s mostly recipes so far and other distractions from being a law student, but I’d love any tips!

  70. I love these pieces and I know you are showing just a small glimpse into your life/ the lives of your friends but every time I read these it becomes so painfully obvious how white American all these families are [even if they’ve been abroad for years]! Those qualities allow for a ton of privilege that I don’t think other people who are different in these two characteristics have the opportunity to experience– and I think that’s a really important perspective to share. There was that white American family living in Kenya [I believe?] and described the native people as others/foreign yet ultimately terrifically welcoming and inclusive which is great. When I imagine a black family [American or otherwise] in Denmark or the Czech Republic, the experience, despite being as ‘foreign’ and as physically different from the native population as that white family in Kenya, I imagine that experience being so different. Having visited those places and experiencing significant amounts of staring, stereotyping, etc. I can say for a fact that a not white family would have such a different experience. I think it’d be so incredible if the families you highlight here could speak on that privilege– the ability to fit in seamlessly without a second thought, to randomly how up in communities and have people offer you jobs and comfort, to have native populations [despite history] give you the benefit of the doubt, etc. More, it’d be incredible to highlight different kinds of family [families who main basis/main cultural adaptation isn’t just that of a white family living abroad.]

    • Hi! I wanted to reply to you and Kendriana (above).

      First of all, as a white person who lived in Japan – I assure you that I did not blend in seamslessly! I think ANY expat is afforded certain luxuries (regardless of skin tone) on the basis of being an expat: I wasn’t expected to speak Japanese (although I did), conform perfectly to cultural/societal norms, and I was very aware that I was making more $ than my peers in similar jobs and had larger living space…. because I was an expat. I also got stared and pointed at on the street, kids touched my “blonde” hair (it’s chestnut), was told “you people all look alike”, and I had to rent an apartment through the school I worked at because Japanese landlords are reluctant to rent to foreigners – even white middle-class college-educated ones. The families in this series aren’t talking about it much (the pinching!), but I’m sure some of them are experiencing at least SOME of what you did. Conversely, my african-american sister-in-law spent time in Senegal and was comparatively regarded as pretty damn “white” for all intents and purposes. It’s all “an experience”, I think.

      Secondly, I don’t think “white” is a big a primary charactaristic here as CLASS (and being American). What I’ve discovered not living in America is that America actually has HUGE class issues that are largely unacknowledged. Being white affords some privledges… but that alone is not as powerful as sex, class, family wealth, nationality etc.

      I’m really sad that someone thinks this perpetuates the colonial narrative. I can see it a bit in this post – they’re missionaries, so it’s kinda the point – but largely I think getting out into the world and humbling yourself and adapting (not just traveleing, but LIVING) and changing and becoming part of the community and culture (to whatever extent you’re able) are GOOD things. I think it’s also important to go out into the world and form your own opinions and see what’s out there for yourself… without relying on media, stereotypes, etc. One great thing you discover by traveling is the the rest of the world really doesn’t give as much of a sh*t about America as you think.

      “those of us that aren’t given such racial privilege to solely consider our own opinions and self-important cultural ideas about EVERYONE ELSE.”

      I’m confused. I don’t understand why non-white people can’t have opinions or self-important cultural ideas about other people. Some of the comments here seem to exhibit that very quality as there certainly seem to be some opinions on upper-middle class white people who live abroad! What’s stopping you?

      I haven’t noticed complaints in response to “diversified content” – I’ll have to go back and look.

      Also… PEOPLE. There are infinite variations of this theme that would be interesting… African-Americans living abroad! Fathers! Europeans living in Canada! Just interviewing folks in their native counties…. poor people, rich people… etc. JO is doing one version – we can all do the others!

    • ugh, thank you! You said very eloquently exactly what I’ve been thinking :)

    • K. says...

      I agree Jen. One perspective, from one blogger. How can she possibly cover every combination/point of view? How can she possibly include a complete ‘disclaimer’ about racial issues…you could write an entire doctoral thesis on all of these issues and that’s just not the scope of this particular blog. I love this series!

    • I have to agree with the original poster. I was really eager to see a Mexican descent family living in Mexico who would be able to share their experiences of raising a family, in contrast to a family say in NYC, and I was disappointed when I saw that this was in regards to a white family. Instead of getting a more authentic take on how a Mexican family integrated in their Mexican heritage, it is shown from a white perspective, which hinders a readers proper understanding on parenting in Mexico.

      I think ultimately it would be nice to see some variations and diversity in Jo’s “Parenting around the world” series. Mothers, despite race/religion/ethnicity, all have a common goal of caring for their kids/families, and we should all be able to bond over that. When we only focus on a subset of Mothers, it begins to exclusive and uninviting.

  71. I really love this serie, Joanna!!! It’s a wonderful idea!

  72. So fun to see a fellow alum of Master’s featured on a blog that I so regularly read! :) This Monday series has been a fun and insightful read, but this one was extra special. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Natasha! It’s so funny to see friends comment on here and find out so many people read this blog. :)

  73. I am Mexican, and when I have met people abroad that have traveled or lived in my country they all say the same: what makes Mexico beautiful is it’s people. It felt very akward reading that people have the perception of this being a terribly unsafe country, in part I think of all the bad media projection we have, yes it can be unsafe if you are exposing yourself as in any other country, I have had the fortune of traveling and living in other countries and can honestly say that there is nowhere as warm and colorful adn welcoming as Mexico, of course you are in danger if you are flashing around town with new cars, bodyguards, jewelry and such things, as the lady states in this article, this is a country of extremes as the majority of our people live in a situation of poverty, of course there is people who want to take advantage of that, as in any other country.

  74. Beautiful post! I’m from Honduras, in Central America, and I was delighted to read this because even though we share a similar culture with Mexico we have a lot of differences as well. Besides, I can’t imagine living in Mexico City, it seems like such a huge metropolis. So thank you for sharing this experience!

  75. This was a beautifully written piece [and thought-provoking series]. Her thoughts on wealth extremes and re-evaluating what is truly important in your life makes me take another look at my own life and ask the same question. Thanks, Jo!

  76. Loving this series so much – but – am really missing the father’s perspective in all this discussion of parenting! This is such a fascinating theme and it’s so rare to hear candid stories like this about parenting but no word from the fathers? It would be really helpful and educational to hear what they have to say too!

  77. Wow! I’m so impressed with the way this woman pays attention to her surroundings and makes something beautiful out of the everyday. I’m also disappointed to read some of the judgmental comments. I really wish mothers everywhere would spend more time supporting each other instead of bringing each other down. As a new mom, every day is a struggle within the walls of my little home. My struggles may be different than everyone elses but none-the-less we’re all facing challenges and working hard to overcome them. I would never judge anyone for their decisions be that breastfeeding/natural births/religion/politics, I wish everyone else would have the same courtesy.

    Thank you for this series and thank you for introducing me to beautiful mothers around the world.

    • I also noticed that, and was impressed by her very acute and perceptive observations of her surroundings – describing the little things going on, not just the generalities of her environment, and the sorting through of her own internal responses. Great work Naomi!

    • I couldn’t agree with your sentiment more, Mrs P Vega. I’m an American expat pregnant with my first child and one thing that has really terrified me about the future is just how judgmental fellow mothers (or just women in general) seem to be towards one another over life events that are deeply personal and private experiences. And sadly it seems that this trend is global. Even here in HK, debates rage on about birthing in public vs. private hospitals, having live-in helpers vs. on your own, scheduled c-sections vs. natural in addition to the usual breastfeeding/epidural/stay at home vs working hot buttons. There just seems to be an endless list of issues for people to pass judgment down on you as a mother which just makes this whole experience even more daunting than it really should be.

  78. thank you so much for sharing Naomi! this is so beautiful… genuine and real.
    i love your story and the family you have made!

    this is my favorite from the series so far!

  79. Naomi, I promise there are lots of wonderful jobs for people who love history in the United States and all over the world, as well.

    • this made me smile; thank you! :)

  80. I though this was a great post. I live and work in San Francisco, in a clinic. I’ve been to Central and South America several times and the wealth and poverty she decribes is right on. And truly heart breaking. However, many of those disparties are right here in our backyard. SF is just one example of areas that are full of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. I know that this post got some negative feedback, but I would have to say many evangelical organizations are doing a lot in the name of helping the poor. Yesterday a thousand church going volunteers served one of the roughest and poorest neighorhoods in SF. It was touching and humbling.

  81. I am enjoying this series so much. It makes me appreciate and respect the differences in motherhood all over the world. The women in the profiles are so insightful and warm, I feel like they’re my friends telling me about their experiences.

    To reiterate what so many others have said, this would make an incredible book.

  82. I adore this series already, but loved this post specifically as one of my best friends grew up in Mexico City before moving to LA. It was interesting to learn more about that it was likely like for her growing up!

  83. I so love this series! Every installment is a peek into another culture reminding us just how alike and different we are at the same time. And now after reading today I sooo want fruit drizzled with lime and chile!

  84. I am from Mexico City, now living in NYC with my 1 year old boy. I understand the out of place feeling within the different sectors of Mexican society, it is shocking when you question that everyday. That is the case in Mexico city, you cant avoid facing the contrasts.
    By the way, a typo, it is Diego Rivera not Rivero.
    What to keep reading more about these series.

  85. Love this series!! Hope it continues for many weeks!

  86. I absolutely love these posts on Mondays – and as a graduate of the Master’s College, Naomi’s story is a special addition. It seems like their family is really thriving in a place so different from their own home, and she writes just beautifully :)

  87. so true what she says about the kids eating fruit and vegetables – I see them everywhere with their bags or cups full of goodness

  88. Really enjoyed Naomi’s story, especially the part about everyday poetry.

  89. jm says...

    This was fascinating and makes me want to go to Mexico City – the people sound amazing! I look forward to the next “episode.”

  90. I love it, love it, love it! It’s amazing! I am from Mexico City and I just have to say that there are so many things we take for granted that you start to not value the place you are in.

    Congratulations for your series.

    Is it possible for me to get in touch with Naomi Smith?


    • Maria! I would love to hear from you! just leave a comment on my blog and I’ll get my email address to you.

  91. love this series! it’s by far my favorite one you’ve done. keep it going! :)

  92. So interesting! I’m surprised how this post specifically has drawn so much negative attention for the reasons stated in the comments. But thank you, both my husband and I look forward to these each week!

  93. Another good one :)

  94. LOVE this series!! what a delightful little family.. loved getting a glimpse of life in Mexico City! Please find a mother in Hong Kong! I’ll be moving there soon and would so appreciate the info!

  95. This is the most interesting series I have ever ever read on a blog, ever.

    • 100% agree. This really could have been written as a book. Pitch it Joanna!

  96. I love this series! They’re fascinating and I always look forward to reading them each week :)

  97. I’m pretty sure that Joanna is not intentionally only choosing white American families for this feature, and feel that the people who commented on that are in fact claiming that Jo is being rascist whilst being rascist themselves? Something that is featuring all cultures- white/Asian/black/Latina is surely the least rascist article of them all…?!

    • Reverse racism doesn’t exist, so your argument is void.

      Racism isn’t just for men in pointed white hoods, but I haven’t read a single comment yet calling her a racist so your straw man argument is again, void.

      It’s not going to take away from this blog to raise valid criticisms of the lack of diversity and narrow viewpoints of those featured. The fact that she didn’t intentionally only pick white American families for this feature yet that’s what happened anyway is just as troubling than if she had done it on purpose. Joanna is a talented writer and a savvy blogger and she has considerable social capital in the blogosphere, how is it that she only knows slim, conventionally attractive white women that she could have asked to contribute to this series?

  98. Really enjoyed this one specifically because I love mexico and often half joke that we should up and move there. The whole clash of the extremes, poor to wealthy, scares me though and it would be difficult to pinpoint where you fit in.

  99. Great series! I’d love to hear how these parents are navigating the language issue as well. Are their children learning both languages? And the parents? And what do the families speak at home?

  100. What a great series! I especially liked this post. I was born in Mexico (yes, to American missionary parents). I am so proud of my Mexican citizenship and I love Mexican culture. I really enjoyed what Naomi shared about all the commotion that’s caused by her red-headed children, too! I was blonde as a kid, and it’s considered good luck in Mexico to touch blonde hair so you can just imagine! I also could totally relate to Naomi’s comments about being Mexico being the total opposite of the Scandinavian aesthetic…and I can understand what it’s like to love them both! As I’ve grown older, too, I’ve been more drawn to the minimalist look — I have a mostly-white bedroom, for instance, with a vibrant mexican blanket thrown into the mix. It’s very nostalgic for me. And yes, I still like fruit with lime and chili! ;)

    Thanks for featuring all these wonderful families!

  101. LOVE this series!! Love readin how she views Mexico and helped me see the value of all the things that are so common to me as a mexican. Everything she mentions is right on!

  102. I am really loving this series as well. Keep it up!

  103. Thank you Joanna for this! I look forward to reading it every Monday–a great way to start my work week :)

  104. This is such a great series. I’m thinking of moving from San Francisco to Singapore with my husband and toddler son, and I love seeing these stories of other mothers who have made similar decisions.

  105. I have loved reading this series and I was shocked to see that the couple in this post graduated from the same tiny college that I attended! :) I went to Mexico City once and I heard about how it is dangerous there, but I never felt unsafe.
    Thanks, Joanna, for this very interesting series. My husband and I will be moving to Malawi, Africa next year (he was born there, I was born in California) and this series has been so helpful and encouraging.

  106. My husband’s family is from Mexico City, so this one was especially interesting to me. The wealth disparity she describes is stunning, and I love her observations about the poetic language and the “more is more” aesthetic.

  107. I am a Mexican mom living in the US. Your post made me cry and miss my country so much. Then again, I still struggle with the same things you do: the inequality, PLUS the discrimination to anything minority, it’s a big deal in Mexico. Thank you for your beautiful honest vivid post!!!

  108. I love this series! Especially when moms have good things to say about the country they live in contrast to one of the moms who lived in Japan. I agree with other commentators would love to see a non American mom’s view on raising children in a nother part of the world. Maybe the next series?

  109. I never want this series to end. It makes my morning.

  110. this is the best series! i’m also very curious for all the ex-pat moms/families in all these countries how they feel about safety for their kids? i know even cities in the US can be ‘dangerous’ but i’d love to hear their thoughts!

  111. I don’t have any children so I can’t really relate to the motherhood side of this feature, however I really love your Motherhood posts. They give me a sneak peek into other cultures ;)

  112. I absolutely love this series and can’t wait for the next installment. Thank you for posting these awesome stories. They are truly entertaining and enlightening. In regards to the negative comments towards the fact that this family is there for missionary work…how sad to have such a narrow view of the world that you judge people on the basis of religion without knowing anything more about them than what you read in a short blog post. I feel really sorry that you feel the need to bring such negativity to such a positive and thought provoking series. Thanks Joanna for sharing these great experiences. I feel like I get to live vicariously through these mothers!

  113. LOVE IT!

  114. Love this series! How cute about the redhead thing? : ) Found that so charming.

  115. Naomi Smith is a wonderful person and a blessing to know. She exudes joy and love even in the midst of struggle. I know that I am a better person for having known her while living in Mexico.

  116. I love, love, LOVE these Motherhood series and am so thankful to be able to read about various types of parenting around the world. Thank you for writing these series. It helps me to appreciate our differences and learn about other ‘mothering techniques’ that I may apply to the life of my sweet girl.

    Cheers Joanna!!

  117. This really struck a chord with me! “…forcing me to dig deeper into what genuine need is.”
    I feel like this self evaluation is so crucial to our happiness!


  118. So funny about the redheads–another part of this series (Congo, I think?) featured a family with some redheads and I wondered if they ever felt out of place or singled out by their uniqueness. On a more serious note, I think the wealth extremes would be difficult thing to live with, although certainly eye-opening.

  119. Wow! This one and Ireland are my favorite so far! I live less than half an hour away from mexico, I have never been and I really had no idea what it was like. So cool!

  120. This is a great read! I’ve always wondered how different it would be to grow up with a family in a different place- what an adventure to experience! It’s amazing how people create their own misconceptions, but then are completely surprised by the experience that unfolds before them.

    Simply Akshara

  121. This series is wonderful! Thank you.

  122. Oh! I recognize these guys, we live in the same neighbourhood! I’ve always wondered who they were ;-) And Jo, Mexico city is one of the safest city in the country; compared to us cities, Mexico is as safe as Washington and Detroit is 3 times more dangerous.

    • Agnes, that is so neat that you recognize the writer! What a small world we live in. I agree with you on the safety issue. There are safe and dangerous places in every large city and the media likes to emphasize the more dramatic news. I have a foreign friend who will not let her child study in the USA because “men with guns like to shoot children in schools and students at universities.” It’s all relative, is it not?

    • Agnés! say hi to us the next time you see us; we love to meet our neighbors!

  123. I’m sorry, but this series really should be entitled “Surprising Things about Parenting as a Privileged Ex-Pat in ___________.” Regardless of how their work takes them there, all of these parents come from another country. You’re not really highlighting the sociology of parenting in the specific country, but rather the experience of being Anglo (American/Aussie/Canadian/Brit) in another country and it perpetuates the colonial narrative in a way.

    I recognize that I don’t have to read it, and so I’ll stop reading now.

    • If you read the intro to this series, Joanna has a disclaimer that states just that- these are all Americam ex-pats with a similar demographic and Joanna is reporting exactly what she intended to report. Your complaint is completely invalid.

    • “Every Monday, we’ll feature an American mother living abroad in a different country around the world with her family.”

    • I think that was the original point of this series: to get an American/Anglo perspective on parenting abroad (versus the one-sided perspective of a native parent.) Jo specifically sought out Anglo women who had experienced life and motherhood in both countries and could write about these comparisons.

      I love this series and I haven’t found any of the interviewees to come across as particularly “privileged” in a way that makes them unrelateable.

    • This is a series specifically about being an American mother in another country. Moreover, an American in Norway nor a woman of Japanese decent in Japan is not exactly perpetuating colonialist ideals. I can see this particular piece being problematic (the fact of the matter is that evangelical Christian missionaries do not have a very peaceful history in Latin America), but if you actually read through the entire series, you would see that she is doing exactly what she set out to do.

    • “being Anglo (American/Aussie/Canadian/Brit) in another country and it perpetuates the colonial narrative in a way.”

      SPOT ON, if it was the author’s intention by “similar demographic” to only seek out opinions about how whites feel about living in countries surrounded by non-whites then it’s time for me to stop reading and sharing this blog. This ethnocentric perspective IS very colonial in nature, maybe this blog is mostly read by white women but this series is becoming a huge turn-off for those of us that aren’t given such racial privilege to solely consider our own opinions and self-important cultural ideas about EVERYONE ELSE.

      I also noticed that when Jo does try to diversify the content there are alot of complaints from readers about not being included as much…on that SINGULAR occasion. Interesting to see more clearly the racial privilege that this blog perpetuates.

    • Kendriana, I really appreciate hearing your views. It seems like it’s not a welcome one by the readers of this blog, but you’re bringing up important points.

      It strikes me as irresponsible to feature a white, privileged view of motherhood around the world without expecting pushback or welcoming a discussion of what that means. After all, a white American view is basically the only view most Americans hear everyday.

      I understand that Joanna’s stated intent was to feature Americans living abroad and sharing their views, but at what point do we admit that what a white, well-off white woman has to say about parenting abroad just really isn’t that interesting? After all, my life is filled with the message that white, slim, straight women of means are more interesting than POC, than fat people, than working class women, or of queer women. Yes, Joanna is obviously not a bigot but is it acceptable that she’s not using her considerable privilege to make this a more welcoming space for those of us who get shouted down in the comment for raising these points?

      Why is it not okay for us to question Joanne, as an extremely popular and well connected blogger, for not trying harder to feature a more diverse group of mothers around the world?

      Why is it so shocking for commentators to be told that the white, American view isn’t the most interesting or relevant one to a discussion of motherhood around the world? I really like Cup of Jo as a nice break from some of the more political blogs that I follow and have been reading her for half a decade at this point but I don’t want to keep reading it if there’s no room for these questions to be raised.

    • jleestone: I think you meant to say “Every Monday, we’ll feature a WHITE American mother living abroad in a different country around the world with her family.”

      I completely agree with heartfulmouthful, Kendriana and Laura. It is really getting on my nerves seeing almost NO diversity amongst the women being interviewed, and as a result a series of interviews which could be very interesting have become annoying and frankly quite boring. Just because she has put a disclaimer and expressed that it would be american women in different countries, does not mean to say that it is okay to ignore the fact that it is all very white-washed! Joanna and probably the large majority of the readers of this blog come from a position of huge privilege which I have never seen acknowledged on the blog anywhere (and very rarely in the comments).

      I am white, british, and middle class, but I am sick of only seeing things from the same white, well-off perspective without any privilege being acknowledged or addressed. It is probably too much to ask for here, but I am quickly getting sick of it!

    • Oh please. How childish.

    • While most of them have been from an Anglo perspective, not all of them have been.

      This series is just starting out and I do hope to see more diversity of American parents, and maybe eventually get the perspective of international parents in the United States as well. While it’s good to have discourse and to view things critically, I’m not a fan for attacking someone without leaving room for dialogue therefore shutting down any opportunity for learning and growth.

    • OMG! this is so ridiculous! Would you be criticizing a woman of color’s blog if she only wrote about her issues? NO!! I don’t think so. (but Joanna writes about women–whatever race they may be). She just happens to be
      a white woman. She can only see the world from a white woman’s perspective. Why is that a bad thing? This is her reality.
      If a woman of color was writing about this same thing and sharing from people around the world, most of them would probably be stories by women of color. People do write from what they know and can relate to. Some of you are white women hating on her for the fact that she is white. So go read a woman of color’s blog if you want things from that perspective.

      As Joanna explained all this in her disclaimer, you didn’t have to continue reading knowing exactly what it would contain. Why does race have to come into everything? You are ruining a perfectly great series.

      I am a woman of color (black) and I appreciate this blog. I appreciate that she’s not the same as me and is sharing from her point of view.

      Keep up the good work Joanna. Please don’t late these (few) haters spoil it for the rest of us!

    • Thank you Aisha!! You are spot on, and all the negativity totally blows. Keep up the great work Jo, and keep sharing these wonderful stories!

  124. still enjoying this series so, this post in particular! “The discussion itself makes us richer.” how true a statement, in so many ways.

  125. my family is from (and still lives in) guadalajara, mexico and this made me miss it so, so much. i go back at least once a year but every time i leave, i “cry an ocean of tears” just like this writer described!

    • I have been to Guadalajara and surrounding areas twice on business. Que bonita!

  126. Fascinating! I love reading these posts- look forward to them every Monday. The hair gel had me giggling, and I so admire Naomi’s deep honesty at the end of the post.

  127. I Love Love Love reading all the posts on moms around the globe. So wonderful to learn about new cultures and how this big beautiful world. Thanks for the posts!


  128. I look forward to Mondays so I can read about a new mama in a different city. Thanks, Joanna!

  129. I wonder if the author might be able to address the perception of Mexico City as being a very dangerous place to live…

    • I was wondering about that too. The perception I have of Mexico City after six years in Los Angeles is that it can be terribly dangerous. I wonder what kind of impact that has on raising children and wished she had mentioned it in some way.

    • I was wondering about this as well. My sister in law has lived in Mexico City for several years and her husband’s job mandates 24 hour security for everyone in their family. Someone walks her children to school every day and she has someone go with her every time she goes grocery shopping. There was no mention of anything like this. I understand that they’re missionaries but it is not a safe country. Americans are killed there all the time.

    • I actually traveled with my husband (who is Mexican) to Atlixco from Mexico City and spent a wonderful 10 days with his family. We rode a “greyhound” from the City to the rural town. Yes, you can easily see the two economic extremes – poor living in the same neighborhoods as the rich. We even rode the public transport throughout our stay there. Granted I only went out with my husband, and since I am accustomed to city life i am always conscious of where I am. We never ran into any kind of trouble there, but we did not look for trouble either. Any city (American or international) can be both safe and dangerous, it all depends if you are looking for trouble or are careful. Such perceptions that a certain country is “not safe” just incites prejudice. Please be courteous when making such comments.

    • ;)

      Okorolev is right, I’m mexican and by analyzing the news I think the press wants every other country in the world to believe Mexico is not safe. I’ve lived in the north (Baja Caifornia)and in the south (Yucatán) of the country and let me tell you, it’s safe.

    • As a mexican who lived in NJ suburbs for quite a long time (Summit, New Jersey, to be precise) then came back to Mexico City but frequently travels to the US, safety and security in Mexico are issues that I feel very strongly about.
      Our country is safer than many cities in the US. Obviously, as in every country in the world, if you go to dangerous neighborhoods or areas you will find trouble. But Mexico City is safer than Washington or Detroit. I am by no means “high class” but we are well off and I am grateful and happy to say that neither me, nor my family have ever had an unpleasant experience regarding safety. I also have many foreign friends living in the City or visiting, and they have never experienced anything that has put their life in danger. No matter where you live,there will always be an unsafe zone or dangerous things happening, so it’s terribly unfair to label Mexico as a dangerous country.

    • I’m glad that you ask this question because as a Mexican I get upset when Americans comment without knowing what really is going on in my country. thank you @laurencapri for posting the article above!
      Even though I could write about how Mexico is as safe as the US, it would seem like I want to defend my country, I would love for Naomi to answer any questions because after all the article is about Americans living in different countries.


      As someone who lives extremely close to the US/Tijuana border, I know I feel nervous every time we head down to the Las Americas outlet center in San Yisidro for fear of missing the last US exit on the 805 freeway and getting stuck in TJ! My family’s business has MANY customers who live in Mexico and I’d say it’s about 50/50 when they comment on the safety in the country. One customer (who owns a toilet paper company) has been kidnapped FIVE times. FIVE. He’s very well off, but now drives a beat up old mini van to avoid being targeted.

    • oh yes! So many people wonder about the safety issues in Mexico; and while it is something that is always in the back of our minds, I will tell you that as a family we feel cared for by the people who fill the City. On the Metro people often give up their seats for my little girl; if my boy is headed towards a hole in the sidewalk, there will most certainly be a sweet grandma nearby who will warn me; the local vegetable stores, taco stands, and coffee shops know the names of my children and ask about us when they haven’t seen us for a while.

      As a nation, Mexico is certainly facing some real challenges with drug related violence, but Mexico City is one of the safest areas of the country. It does have big-city safety issues, but not any more so than other large urban centers like New York or Washington DC.

      that said, I would also include:
      1. we try to live without fear, while at the same time making wise choices (being aware of our surroundings, not going out too late at night, not whipping out my camera in the middle of the rush hour in the metro, etc . . . )
      2. we recognize that, sometimes, helping someone in need or spending time with someone that we love might put us in a more “risky situation,” but sometimes helping someone or loving someone is more important than being “safe.”
      3. while thankful that we have our needs generously met, we do not lead opulent lives. We have no car, we travel in public transport, we live in a small apartment (with beautiful old windows and one tiny bathroom!) and we genuinely seek to share our lives with our local Mexican friends and partners, which means that we seek to live as part of our local community, and that same local community watches out for us.

  130. I am not a mom and I’m not even sure I want kids, but this is the most enlightening and interesting series! I never want it to end!

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  132. Diego Rivera not Diego Rivero :)

  133. Thank you so much for this. I’m not a mother yet, but it’s inspiring to think about what motherhood will be like when it happens! x

  134. I love love this series. I could read a new one everyday. Thanks for thinking of it :)

  135. This is my favorite one yet, and, like everyone else, I LOVE this series!

  136. I love Motherhood Mondays!! What a cool peek into Mexican culture…it sounds lovely, bright and welcoming. Would love to see Iceland and Canada next!

    • I highly recommend Names of the Sea by Sarah Moss.
      She’s an English academic who moves with her husband and small children to Iceland for a year =)

  137. As much as I have enjoyed this series, Im sorry to see you highlighting parents who are clearly in another country as evangelical religious missionaries. As someone who has lived and worked in latin america, there are few positive things to say about these people/groups (evangelical missionaries, not necessarily all religious charities).

    • I am so sorry you have had negative experiences with evangelical missionaries. In my experience, it largely depends on the person. Some can come across as pushy and domineering, but many are compassionate people who share their faith with love and respect. Reading Jamie Wright’s blog (she was a missionary in Costa Rica) has helped me to work through some of my feelings toward evangelical and short-term missionaries. You might enjoy it too–

    • Way to proselytize, you have truly mastered the missionary way…

  138. This is one of the best series you have had on the blog so far. As a child who grew up in several countries I find it fascinating!



  139. As much as I have enjoyed this series, Im sorry to see you highlighting parents who are clearly in another country as evangelical religious missionaries. As someone who has lived and worked in latin america, there are few positive things to say about these people/groups (evangelical missionaries, not necessarily all religious charities).

    • I don’t think it’s really a highlight – each woman in the series has been in another country for a completely different reason. Missionairy is only one of them.

    • I agree with you Emily :(

    • Emily, each family in the series has different professions, why discriminate based on religious bias? The person didn’t share anything about their faith for the blog piece, it was just mentioned how their family came to live in Mexico. Personally I wish there was more non-white American families highlighted but who cares what religious background someone is?

    • @ Emily – I completely agree.

    • I’m pretty sure this is really the first one that mentioned they were in the country for missionary reasons… and that part of their lives was only briefly mentioned, it certainly wasn’t the focus of the piece.

    • Emily, I’m sorry you have had such a negative experience with evangelical Christian missionaries to feel the need to post this comment. Personally, I find your comment to be discriminatory and insulting. Why object to only this class of people? This series features women of all sorts of backgrounds (religious and otherwise) and I’m bothered that you think this particular mother should be left out, simply because of her religion. How is that not discriminatory? Without knowing her personally, you are lumping her with all the other evangelicals you know… how is that not stereotyping?

      Joanna, thank you for highlighting the differences in American mothers around the world and not shying away from featuring this mother, simply because of her religious background. I’m glad to see you truly appreciating the differences in American mothers and not discriminating against anyone.

    • I’m sorry to say that I agree with Emily on some level. Not that I think this family should have been left out, but I also question the motives of people who make it their life’s work to be in other countries as missionaries – and it seems that this choice is passed down through generations, as in this family. Be that as it may, I enjoyed looking at the pictures, even though it seems that she didn’t include as much information about child-rearing in Mexico as the other mothers did in their pieces. And to Rachel S. – I hardly think Emily was saying anything about the woman’s religious background – it’s the missionary aspect she was commenting on, which is the same thing I picked up. Nothing at all to do with her religious beliefs, which weren’t touched upon at all!

    • Thank you for that great reply Rachel. You said it perfectly.
      This is really the first entry who mentioned moving for religious reasons. The others clearly said they moved for jobs or just for adventure.
      So Emily, Girliest Nerd, and Lizzie Polish are you sure we’ve all been reading the same series?

    • Reading comprehension helps. When Emily says “Im sorry to see you highlighting parents who…” she’s obviously not talking about the whole series but the parents here who are missionaries.

      Rachel S – ” Why object to only this class of people?” Please, please, do research and learn the history of what we are speaking of before declaring “religious discrimination”, particularly when the comment is as innocuous as “there are few positive things to say about these people/groups (evangelical missionaries, not necessarily all religious charities).”

    • “Women of all sorts of backgrounds.”

      …maybe if the world was composed of only middle-class, Caucasian families.

    • I’m sorry to see negativity creeping into the comments on a series that has been enlightening for many people, including me. This series is about parenting, not being a missionary. I’m sure there are plenty of occupations you don’t agree with but I hope you continue to learn about them so that you may broaden your own horizons.

    • Wow, @Emily. “These people”? Would you really be comfortable referring to people belonging to any other religious group—Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Atheist, Hindu, etc.—as “these people,” or is that only appropriate when it’s evangelical Christians? Would you be ok with someone referring to the way you categorize your own religious preference as “these people”? Please remember that the mother and family profiled in the post are real people, not abstract representatives of some group that you find at odds with your own beliefs. This mother is sharing her personal experience of life as an American mother in another country. Why should her profession or her religious affiliation prevent her from having insights to share about ex-pat motherhood?

    • I too, am sorry Emily that you feel this mother shouldn’t have been featured because of her faith. We are all different and we are all equal.

      Would we be making the same remarks if they moved to Mexico because her husband was offered a job? Would we be making these same remarks if they moved to Mexico because they just decided to up and move?

      Thanks Joanna for featuring this lovely young woman and her experiences, loved reading about her life in Mexico!

    • oh goodness! I want ALL of you over to my house for coffee right NOW! this would make for really fantastic, robust conversation!

    • Emily, it saddens me to see you turning this post from a great series into a place where you can vent about your personal frustrations (and generalizations you’ve made) towards a specific group of people.

      Joanna, thank you for having an open mind towards the world we live in, and thank you for allowing all groups of people to share about their own experience with motherhood in different countries.

      I’m still LOVING this series!

    • I can’t speak for Emily but my problem with this mother is the fact that she is a missionary. I don’t approve of people moving around the world to convert people to their religion. I find it deeply sickening and it really bothers me that Jo is so okay with it that she featured one on her site.

    • As I read these comments, I must laugh. People find it so terribly offensive that someone might travel to another country to share their religious beliefs, but see no hypocrisy with proselytizing their own beliefs (religious or political or emotional) through blog comments. If an issue is very important to you, it is human nature to share it with others. Hopefully, in the public arena the best ideas and beliefs will rise to the top, but only if they can be freely shared. Many commenters don’t like this post because the mom is a missionary. I’m sure I could find a categorical reason to dislike many of the commentors. I’m sure someone will have a problem with me. Perhaps, to borrow a Christian teaching, we should all “remove the plank from our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.”

    • Dana – it’s becoming apparent to me that people either do not know the history of missionaries in Latin America or have chosen to remain willfully ignorant of it because of their own religious beliefs.

      It’s not just that some nice Christian white lady from The States went to Mexico, it’s about the long abusive history of Christian missionaries in that part of the world (as well as others).

      So anyone who is associated with a group that did a lot of damage (i.e. the nice white lady here) is going to get some well deserved flack for it. People are in the right to mistrust the christian evangelical missionaries given their history.

    • I am sorry that you have only observed a negative impact of christian missionaries in Latin America, Emily. I have also spent time working there and have observed many people whose quality of life was greatly improved by the generous work of christian missionaries in a variety of areas: medical, educational, vocational, etc.

      It would be rather discriminatory to exclude this couple merely for their line of work. You don’t know whether their impact is positive or negative, or whether the other non-missionary couples who have been featured in the series are involved in professions that are damaging the local culture or environment. That is simply not the focus of this interesting series.

    • Girliest Nerd – “it’s becoming apparent to me that people either do not know the history of missionaries in Latin America or have chosen to remain willfully ignorant of it because of their own religious beliefs.” One could call the kettle black, since you seem to insist on remaining willfully ignorant of even the tiniest positive element missionaries may have contributed as well ignoring the terrible “contributions” of many non-white non-missionaries to the culture and history of Latin America. I am, by education and inclination, a rather well-read historian, so I feel that I am at least as qualified as you to comment on this subject. Of course, I could just resort to calling you stupid or a anti-religious bigot, but I’d rather not drag the discussion down.

    • @ Dana – “Of course, I could just resort to calling you stupid or a anti-religious bigot, but I’d rather not drag the discussion down.”

      Wow, so, so nasty. I never resorted to a personal attack at any time.

      I see from your blog you are a religious individual. Despite your claim of being “a well read-historian” I think it’s more likely you are offended by anyone saying anything negative toward your beliefs. It may be a good time to reflect on how your own beliefs cloud your judgment toward a discussion on missionary work.

      It any regard, as soon as someone starts pulling out the ol’ passive aggressive ‘stupid’ and ‘bigot’ for making sane points I am done with them. I’m happy to keep discussing this topic with other rational people though.

    • @Girliest Nerd
      First, let me apologize. As I re-read my comment, I suppose it was a bit nasty. I intended my closing remark to be a sarcastic response to your opening line “it’s becoming apparent to me that people either do not know the history of missionaries in Latin America or have chosen to remain willfully ignorant of it because of their own religious beliefs” but clearly it was not received in that light. Again, I apologize.

      Thank you for visiting my blog, by the way.

      Since you never make personal attacks, I will assume that your jibe about “rational people” was kindly meant and I will agree with you that perhaps it is best to be “done.” Best wishes.

    • Girliest Nerd — Since you invited discussion, I’ll bite. Disclosure: I’m not particularly religious at all, and I’m certainly rational. But I find your statements disturbing, particularly this one: “anyone who is associated with a group that did a lot of damage…is going to get some well deserved flack for it.” I suggest you really think about the implications of what you are saying. This is a woman — an individual– you know nothing about. Not what she does in Mexico, not how she treats people there, not her reasons for going, nothing. You only know that she and her husband work for a Christian nonprofit, and based on only the “history of missionaries in Latin America” you have decided she should get “well-deserved flack.”

      I am not sure how you define “flack”, but in looking around this comment thread, I see some pretty ugly stuff: people calling her “sickening”, people suggesting she should not be allowed to share her motherhood story — so, if this is what you mean by “flack”, you mean she deserves to be shamed and silenced.

      And based on what? Based on the her mere “association” with a group that has a “history of abuse.” If you are as into history as you seem to be, you shouldn’t need my help to think of what other groups have a history of abuse and what innocent people could, many years later, have an association with those groups. If you are truly saying that people should be shamed (and if it’s OK to shame them, what else is it OK to do to them? I shudder to think) because of their association with predecessors that HISTORICALLY have done bad things, you are going down a slippery slope.

    • Hey Michele. Right off the bat here I have to address something. You said “you mean she deserves to be shamed and silenced” and implied I was cool with calling her “sickening”. To that I say please address the particular individual(s) who said it and don’t read into words I never actually wrote. I’m direct, there’s no need to read into anything I’m saying, I’ll just try and state it as clearly as possible. :)

      “Flack” meaning people are going to share their opinion on this topic, opinions which may be negative because there is a long problematic history with missionary work (which is intrinsically tied in with the history of colonization – but that’s another topic). It’s been my experience that people with a religious background (even those who say they’re not “particularly religious”) have an extremely difficult time with admitting that the history of their religion may not be all positive and may have had a detrimental effect, one which continues to this day.

      I don’t know this lady at all. She seems perfectly lovely, but it’s not really all about her. You write she shouldn’t get flack “Based on the her mere “association” with a group that has a “history of abuse.” I wouldn’t call that mere at all, and I certainly don’t think the damage of it is all in the past. I can’t speak for everyone here who expressed concern; however, I would say that I was dismayed to find her portrayed because of her association with this group. So that’s the crux of it for me.

      I also think people made valid points about the lack of diversity of the American’s portrayed here and I agree with that. However(!) for the most part I am truly enjoying this series. I wouldn’t be bothering to comment if I didn’t like it and want to see it get better. Also, I love Mexico and highly encourage people to visit and learn its history :)

      Thanks for taking the time to respond Michele.

    • No problem, happy to add to the discussion. By the way, I truly don’t have any religious background. My parents were atheists, and I had no religious upbringing. I said “not particularly” because my extended family is Catholic, so I have attended church before. But given both my parents’ rejection of their Catholic upbringings, I don’t think I’m a person who would have a hard time confronting any negative historical aspects of said religion. Just wanted to mention it.

    • Agree with you Emily. I have no problem with their religion but I do have a problem with their profession.

    • I agree Emily!

      And to all of the commenters in one way or another saying you are discriminating against this woman because of her religion… it’s not her religion that’s the problem! I am an atheist (raised Christian) but I believe in respecting other people’s beliefs: live and let live.

      And that’s exactly the problem with missionaries, evangelism – convert the sinners to save their souls from hell! Well, excuse me, but what makes anyone the authority on which is the correct god, the correct theology, the “right” way to live? And do you know how they go about converting people? By scaring them into seeking salvation by telling them they are going to hell if they don’t. (Though of course missionaries would emphasize the love and forgiveness of Jesus and downplay all the hateful condemnation.)

      So, the history of Christian missionaries and colonialism aside, the missionary work being done today is indeed pretty upsetting.

  140. I have been loving this series, it’s so interesting to get peeks into different cultures from the American perspective.

    • From AN American perspective.

    • Which is what Joanna said it would be about when she started. AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE!
      So please take your negativity elsewhere.

      Joanna, this is a great series and thank you for sharing.

      Oh, Kendriana, before you get upset at me I’m neither an American woman, nor white (referring to your later comment as well). I’m a an immigrant and a black woman.

    • Ish, you have to understand your language here. Your previous comment said Naomi provided THE American perspective, meaning that she alone gave the perspective of all Americans. However Kendriana, who I agree with, is pointing out it’s just one perspective being offered by a white woman.

  141. Another touching addition to this wonderful series.I’m already looking forward to the next one! Thanks, Joanna and Naomi!

  142. I live in Mexico and is amazing how the little things that seem so normal to me, are completly different for other people. Is such a different point of view about the lifestyle here. Thanks for share.

  143. What a wonderful series…I have enjoyed the peek into different cultures whenever you post these. A good way to vicariously gain some perspective. Thank you Joanna!

  144. This is such a fascinating series, thanks to you and all the moms for sharing your stories. xo.

  145. I recently discovered your blog and I especially enjoy this series on Motherhood all over the world. It is fascinating! Thank you for putting it together and sharing it with us. I’ve found myself telling others about it. Life is beautiful, just about where ever you are!