11 Surprising Things About Parenting in Northern Ireland

For our Motherhood Around the World series, our fourth interview features Tiffany Wyse-Fisher, who, for the past two years, has lived in a village in Northern Ireland with her husband and three sons. Here are 11 things that have surprised her about being a mom in Northern Ireland…

Tiffany Wyse-Fisher grew up on a farm in Ohio but has spent most of her adult life in Peoria, Illinois. Two years ago, she and her husband Dustin quit their jobs, sold their house and most of their belongings, and moved with their two young sons to small town in Northern Ireland.

“I went to an adoption seminar one night (our oldest son is adopted from South Korea) and when I came home, I told my husband that our lives were too busy, too demanding, and that I wanted to quit my job and volunteer abroad,” Tiffany recalled. “At the time, I was an art teacher, and he was a graphic design professor; and we both owned freelance businesses. My husband also thought an adventure sounded appealing. We figured we’d spend a year planning and saving up, but instead we found jobs in Northern Ireland that required us to leave within two months.”

Now they Tiffany and her husband both work at an Irish peace and reconciliation center overlooking the sea. “We really love living here,” she says. “Our town is very small but self-sufficient, with four small grocers, six hairdressers, two butchers and a billion pubs. The government designated our village as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’ Scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed around here. We have to drive more than an hour to get to a proper city, which was hard to get used to, but it has been totally worth it.”

Tiffany and Dustin moved with their two sons, Liam, 3, and Miles, 5, to the local schools. Their third son—Ollie—was born nine months ago. She blogs about her experiences here.

On the slower pace: Irish culture is less about schedules and more about relationships, which means people are always late, but everyone is always up for a chat. This proved to be frustrating in the beginning, but we’ve come to love it. Our two-year visas are now ending, and I’m nervous about moving back to the States and facing a more hectic pace again.

On children’s books: Picture books have very adult humor and can even be quite dark. For example, Irish author Oliver Jeffers’s books are hilarious, but most of the time my kids can’t figure out why. There are also a handful of books my husband and I have gotten from the library that are a bit too disturbing for the kids. Whatever by William Bee is the story of a father who shows his child all sorts of cool things and his child just says “whatever.” Then on the last page, while the father is showing the son a tiger, the tiger eats the son and the father just shrugs his shoulders and says “whatever.”

On public tantrums: When your kids throw a fit in public, people get involved. Raising children here is all about joining forces and parenting as a village. I know, because my five-year-old has spent the last two years testing this theory. For example, we’ll be in the cereal aisle at the market when the wailing and tears begin. Up walks a nice lady with armful of groceries. She doesn’t pay me any notice, or shoot me any dirty looks. Instead, she bends down, looks my son in the eye, and says in her sweetest Northern Irish accent, “Ach, son. Now why you carryin’ on so? Look at yu’r Mummy. She’s so sweet, and she’s waiting for you to stop, so she can finish buying you food, so she is.”

On appliances: Priorities are completely different when it comes to home appliances. Washing machines are tiny. Refrigerators are tiny. I haven’t had a freezer for a year and half. But every home has an electric tea kettle. EVERY SINGLE HOME. I do know that when we return to the States I will invest in a really humongous, beautiful top-loading washing machine, but I may stick to the tiny fridge concept. With a small fridge you don’t run the risk of the forgotten leftovers that you find, unrecognizable, in the depths of your mammoth cold cave three weeks later. Food here is so fresh and local (it’s a small island after all) that people don’t refrigerate things like we do back home. Like eggs, for example, which you find at the grocery store un-refrigerated, next to the bread. People don’t refrigerate eggs in their homes either. They come right from local farms, so they’re very fresh.

Above is a caramel and shortbread “traybake” (which we would just call “bars” in the U.S.), which is a typical snack in a local cafe. No one would eat a traybake without a cup of tea, served in a stainless-steel pot with a cup, along with milk.

On drinking tea: One of the coolest things I’ve witnessed is an entire group of twelve-year-old boys sitting around drinking cups of tea. One minute they’re outside pushing each other down in the mud (like American boys), and then the next minute they’re sitting around on sofas sipping tea. When I was thirteen, tea was something only my mom drank after she put her on stretchy pants and turned on “Designing Women” on TV.

On pregnancy: During your pregnancy you carry a giant green folder—with your entire medical history—to and from all your appointments and the birth. It’s too big to fit in a purse, so it’s sort of like a giant ‘She’s expecting!’ sign around your neck. When I would pass another woman with the big green folder, it was like two motorcyclists passing on the highway; coy waves and understanding nods across the corridor. (I also had to carry my urine sample with me to my appointments in a little cup called a ‘urine pot.’ Believe me, nothing’s more embarrassing than pulling out your pee by accident in line at the post office.)

On birth: One nice thing about the green folder is that throughout your entire labor, the nurses are taking notes in it, like “patient is really angry” or “patient is begging for an epidural” along with the times it is all happening. So when you go home, you have an exact play-by-play of the experience. Because of this I know that they tried to talk me out of an epidural for exactly 3 hours and 24 minutes. (Whereas, in the U.S., they were happy to give me the epidural as quickly as possible.) My suspicion is that they don’t encourage the use of an epidural here because medical care is “free”—meaning someone has to pay for it, but that someone isn’t the patient—it’s the government, or your tax dollars, or something. However, they do give you “gas and air” (like laughing gas at the dentist), which they encourage you to take throughout the entire labor. Most women use it here and swear that it takes the edge off just enough to make labor completely “doable.” I think they’re all lying!

On midwife visits: The absolute best part of having a baby in Northern Ireland (besides it being free) is that you don’t have to leave your house for any pesky doctor’s appointments. The first week I was home with Ollie, a midwife came to my house every day to weigh him and see how I was feeling. Once she finished all her visits, the “Health Visitor” took over, and now I never have to leave the house to take any of my kids to their wellness checks. It’s amazing. I’m still trying to figure out why the U.S. doesn’t do it. It would solve so many early postpartum issues.

On school: My five-year-old goes to a full-immersion Gaelic school. (That was the only one that had space by the time we applied. Everyone applies to the local public schools each year for placement.) Gaelic is not spoken anywhere in the world except Ireland, and most Irish people don’t even speak it, though they learn it in school. Every day he wears a little uniform—complete with a tie and V-neck embroidered sweater. He sits at a desk and learns reading, writing and “maths,” all in Gaelic, which, to me, seems a lot to ask of a five-year-old. Sort of like trying to pin down a tornado with thumbtacks.

On birthdays: There’s not the same “Pinterest Mom” culture here, with its emphasis on perfect-looking dinners, birthday parties, kids’ rooms, etc. Birthday parties only have one theme—birthdays. The cakes are store-bought and simple. Birthday invitations are just the fill-in-the blank invites you get at the grocery store. The first time I got an invitation for my son, I almost sobbed because I couldn’t believe life could be so simple. No one was slaving away at night gluing googly eyes on the PERFECT invitation.

On Christmas cards: Similarly, Christmas cards aren’t about the “perfect family photo.” They are about the written message of love from one family to another. Putting family photos in Christmas cards is rare. I have to admit, I actually like getting photos of my friends at Christmas. However, it’s made me examine why I stress over the family picture every year. I think there’s a sense here that you don’t want to take yourself too seriously or be self-important. If you stress out too much over your appearance, your Christmas photo, etc., then you must think everyone is watching you, which they’re not. The idea is: Get over yourself.

Thank you, Tiffany!

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

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

  1. Lovely!

  2. I LOVE THIS SERIES. Please keep it up!

  3. Loved reading Tiffany’s perspective on life here in Northern Ireland (or Norn Iron as we would say!)

  4. Loved reading Tiffany’s perspective on life here in Northern Ireland (or Norn Iron as we would say!)

  5. Useful series even for a person like me who don’t think having a baby. You learn small detail about each culture and loved it! Thank you for keeping post it :) .

  6. Love this series! I had to laugh at her comment about gas and air. It is used widely here in Canada as well, and it DID make my natural labor doable! No lies :D I recently discovered it isn’t offered in the USA and I’m shocked…

    Can’t wait for more from this series – this one made me want to move to Ireland!

  7. I love this series. It really helps me put raising my child into perspective :D

  8. I loved reading this! I was in Northern Ireland a year ago and it is a beautiful place that has a calmer pace of life.

  9. I am loving this series! And I’m not even a mom! But I want to raise kids abroad someday to open their eyes to this big world and it’s warming my heart to see so many ladies feeling the same way. Plus, they have fantastic stories to share. Thanks for bringing them to your fab blog!

  10. I love this. We recently moved back from Scotland- we moved there for 2 years with our 4 kids. It was the best. We all really miss it. About tea, even tiny ballet studios have a tea kettle and biscuits (cookies). We loved the experience. Thanks for sharing.

  11. When I was 27 I moved to Scotland. I LOVED the tea culture… yes, electric kettles at every flat (so exciting after renting in the US where apartments don’t come with any appliances)… Tea is the perfect anecdote to any situation. Slow to motivate in the morning? Have a cup of tea. Cold rainy day? Warm up with some tea. Unexpected visit from a friend and nothing in the fridge? Serve them a cup of tea. Not sure if your date is over or just beginning after dinner? Have a cuppa at the flat and see where things go! I also loved having a small fridge and no dryer. I learned the beauty of air-drying and buying just what I need.

  12. i absolutely LOVE this series! even though i’m not a mum yet, i find all the cultural insight so fascinating. i’m hoping there’s an australian one!

  13. This is EXTREMLEY fascinating and enlightening. Maybe us Americans need to learn a thing or two. Which is funny, because too often I think we think we are always right. I love this series so much! I am not a momma yet, but I am a NICU nurse, so I feel like a momma deep down :)

  14. I used to stop by Cup of Jo of Saturdays to read stuff that you chose from the Web. Now, I have to stop by to read this motherhood series. So interesting.

  15. I am so in love with this series. To be honest, I didn’t even bother reading the first few because I don’t have kids and I didn’t think I would care, but I got sucked into the Congo story and now I have read them all! It’s SO fascinating to see how other people live in this great big world of ours. I think we can all learn so much. I love that Ireland doesn’t have Pinterest birthdays! YAY!

  16. This is fantastic and very inspiring…..

  17. Hang on, you DON’T all use electric kettles in the US?! I couldn’t live without one… My mind is blown. xx

  18. There is a book similar to this series, though it’s all written by one author who interviews parents in other cultures. It’s called “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm.” Love the series as well. Love living abroad.

  19. I just love this series!! I can’t wait to see what comes next. Reading about these women’s experiences in motherhood abroad is absolutely fascinating! Small note though: as other’s have mentioned above, Gaelic is in fact also spoken in both Scotland and on the east coast of Canada where I’m from. My Dad is from Cape Breton and my paternal grandparents used to sing me Gaelic lullabies when I was little.

    <3, Emilia

  20. I absolutely loved your feedback on the midwife visits and the “health visitor”. I work on a home visiting program for expectant mothers and fathers and postpartum families in the US and this made me realize that it is such an invaluable service. I also have a special place in my heart for Northern Ireland. I went there 7 years ago with a dear friend prior to a larger group of friends’ trip to Ireland.

  21. The best series of your blog… EVER!
    I love it.

  22. Have not read yet (just the first paragraph or so) but will enjoy later over coffee. Just wanted to say that I live in Peoria, IL and the idea of your adventure is exciting. Wonder if they need US trial lawyers there. No? Oh well. Will need another way to make an exciting move work.

  23. Hi Jo, I just wanted to let you know I really love your blog and I enjoy reading the comments as you have readers all over the world. I want to start a feature on my new little blog where we show ‘a day in the life of’ people all over the world. Maybe you or some of your readers would be interested?

  24. In Germany everybody has an electric kettle. I never thought that this is not common in the United States.

    I also laughed about the “epidural” part. Iam working in the healthcare sector and medical care is also free (tax payed) in Germany. I can tell you that most of the nurses dont even know how expensive an epidural is or how much a specific medication costs because it simply doesnt matter. If they didnt give you an epidural it was clearly a medical decision.

  25. I love Love LOVE this series! Thank you so much Joanna and all of the awesome contributors so far :) I have truly enjoyed reading about all of your experiences and look forward to this post every Monday!

  26. This is the neatest thing. I’m adopted from Korea as well, and love the thought of a diverse family living in another country; I’ve told my husband that I’d love to pursue a life somewhere else — this shows it can be done. And learning to embrace new places, new faces at that developmental age is the most beautiful thing!

  27. This is an absolutely wonderful series,Joanna! I had loved ‘My Balance’ as well, and I find myself waiting for Mondays to see which part of the world will be featured next. I’m not a parent, but I feel that as women of similar age groups, our lives are bound by a thread of commonality regardless of nationality.

  28. My first thought was… gorgeous place. I’ve heard the same about children’s books in France. Which is funny, because I bought a book of Mother Goose rhymes, and they’re pretty dark and brutal, so I don’t read them anymore to my little girl. Strange. Love this series!

    Cheers! from,

  29. I’ve never loved any blog feature like I love this series. I hope it stays forever! I’m not a parent and usually dread “Motherhood Mondays”, but these are fascinating and engaging!!

  30. This was brilliant and I learned as much from the post commenters as from the post itself.

    You have to do a part of this series in London Jo! It would seem as though I am not the only one asking for insights into what would that entail. I mean I’ve figured out what it’ll be like to parent in Australia only for Hubby to get a job in London so I am back at ground zero. Pretty please Jo?

  31. My husband and I are on a two year travel adventure is a very small travel trailer (a Casita). I had to be very intentional when choosing what to take along. My electric kettle came, of course!

  32. LOVE this series!!

  33. Absolutely misinformed comment about holding off on epidurals. (Some) Americans seem to have this idea that government-funded healthcare is inferior to the out-of-pocket system they’re used to, and thus say silly things such as being talked out of an epidural because the government will be footing the bill. Can you imagine the uproar that would take place if we were denied care because frontline staff are making decisions about budgets?

    When looking at childbirth on a grander scale – global numbers and historical data – it’s clear that epidurals aren’t the norm. The medicalization of birth isn’t as adopted in some parts of the world as it is in the US and so, of course nurses from a country where this is the case would try to dissuade a birthing mother from. And, as mentioned earlier, there are sound reasons for opting out of an epidural. I’m Canadian – we have universal healthcare and regular epidurals. No one is telling women they can’t get epidurals because of costs – it’s cultural, not monetary.

    • Loved the bit about children’s books, very true and very funny.

      However, I completely agree with Julia…

      The nurses wouldn’t have been trying to talk anyone out of an epidural because the ‘government will be footing the bill’ – epidurals have their own dangers and draw backs and certainly aren’t a first port of call.

      The NHS is a fantastic service and the mind boggles that the US doesn’t yet have anything that even compares. The idea that people can be denied treatment because they cannot afford it or their insurance will not pay out just seems so entirely bonkers. As does the idea that basic medical care ought to have profit margins? I mean, it’s mad. Yes, you cannot always make your own decisions but that is because said decisions should be made by someone in possession of all the facts i.e. a medical professional. Choice really isn’t a good thing in all situations.

      It terrifies me to see the increasing privatisation of our healthcare system. Please don’t take this as a personal attack, as on the face of it it’s not the wildest assumption that anyone could choose to make – it is nevertheless a myth and one that needs to be quashed where it rises specifically because there are at the moment those that would like to see the nhs go under completely / be transformed into something completely ineffectual, and a far greater number struggling in its defence.

      Anyway…otherwise, nice post, and it’s an excellent series – sorry for going off topic but there are really some things worth picking up on.

  34. This was fantastic, so fun to read and so true to the Irish culture. Great piece, I loved it!

  35. I love these stories and they inspired me to start an own series about people that are in a position which is life changing. E.g. What should I study (Where?Why?How?)? My first job (How to get it? Where? Dream companies? Challenges?)? Quitting a job I hate, what to do now? Deciding to have a child AND AND AND.

    Expect to see some stories by the end of this month. I am still looking for interesting people that would like to be interviewed or simply like to contribute! Tell me YOUR story!

    Thank you for sharing this amazing insight!
    Hugs, Taty*

  36. I admire these parents for realizing that a slower paced life would be better for them and their family. Sounds like they made the perfect move to a beautiful place!

  37. This my favorite post into this serie. She lives in a slow life movement, very rich and complete, focusing in the important matters: family and friends.


  38. Love these pictures. I have another place to add to my bucket list. Beautiful pictures and family.

    Have a wonderful day.


  39. Oops! That was supposed to say “measurements”. I should never publish without previewing first…darn typos!

  40. This series makes me look forward to Mondays like I never did before. :-) Would love the recipe for the caramel traybake, if someone could convert it to American measurments…thanks!

  41. I met Tiffany when I was over at Corrymeela (the peace and reconciliation centre that they work at) in February when I was over in Northern Ireland with Dalhousie University. So cool to see her and her family featured here on Cup of Jo! Love this series :)

  42. The bit about ‘maths’ made me giggle. I’m Australian/British and used to date an american and he’d always get his knickers in a twist if I talked about ‘maths’ and not ‘math’

    Loving this series!

  43. Like everyone else, I am loving this series. This one was especially lovely since I was born in Northern Ireland but grew up in the US. As for an above comment about not calling people in N.Ireland “Irish” as they could be “British” or prefer “Northern Irish” – I have family both Catholic and Protestant and they would all call themselves Irish.

    How about a post on Parenting in Peru?

  44. I love this series, although I don’t plan to ever have children. I found the stuff about health care odd, I’m Canadian and I have no experience with American health care. It seems weird to me to have private health care

  45. Loving this series! I’m an Irish girl (from the Republic) living in Siberia, Russia with my husband and two boys. Even though we’re from the south I could relate to many of Tiffany’s experiences. I find it so funny that what seemed mundane to me in this piece was interesting to others! Thanks for a little piece of home.

  46. My favorite series on the blog! So interesting. I’ve always dreamed of packing up and moving to another country.

  47. Thank you for this series! I just had my first baby 11 weeks ago and attend a mothers group every Tuesday while I am on maternity leave. I have been telling the other mothers about your blog and they love it too :)

  48. As a brit living in Australia the thought of moving to Northern Ireland as an American seems totally and utterly bizarre. But they have obviously got so much out of the experience. It sounds so beautiful and down to earth.
    I especially love the quote by the lady in the supermarket as her son was throwing a tantrum. Adorable.

  49. I always get excited when I see a new post in this series! Such a great idea! Although, sometimes it makes me think I just want to leave the U.S. so badly because everything is just so much cooler everywhere else. The grass is always greener…

  50. I couldn’t agree more… FAVORITE series! I’ve been looking forward to Monday’s here on your blog. Completely fascinating!

    Thanks so much!

  51. This is truly an AMAZING series. Really outstanding idea and all beautifully written.

  52. Another amazing post for the motherhood around the world series- please keep doing these, they are so fascinating and a real eye opener. I am a londoner just moved to australia for 12 months and really enjoying seeing the subtle differences even in aussie parenting from how we do things in the uk. its so good to realise theres a whole load of different ways of doing things and each is pretty good in its own way!
    i think publishing a book of this would be awesome!

  53. I love this! I live in England, so many of the things on this list are just second nature to me! You never see a house anywhere in the UK without a kettle; the idea that any house anywhere would not have a kettle is completely mad to me! And where else would they put eggs in a shop? They place them alongside the flour and other baking ingredients in supermarkets!

    George | Artised xo

    • Totally agree George! Was about to write this points myself. Laura, uk

  54. Love this series :) Seriously it could do on it’s own.

  55. My boyfriend and I were talking about raising a family overseas…. my gosh I love this series!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  56. I rarely comment on your blog but look often – but I have to say this has been the most fascinating series you have done and I love love love it!

  57. Like everyone else, I think this is one of your best series.

  58. I thoroughly enjoy this series.

  59. Absolutely loved this post and it is just so refreshing to see Northern Ireland profiled in such a positive way without reference to nationality or creed.

    The North coast is simply stunning and I am a great believer in gaelscoil (Irish language schools) for primary level (aged 4-11) children. A wonderful way to revive the Irish language.

    Love this series Joanna, love your blog!

  60. such beautiful scenery.
    the funniest bit for me was also the ‘electric kettle in every house’…. well, yeah! in Australia everyone has a kettle (I didn’t even know that a non-electric kettle was really a thing) and have never come across anywhere that this wasn’t the norm!

  61. I visited a Gaelic school in Dublin, Ireland while on a short study abroad trip. It was so cool – I got to listen to 8 year olds discuss Harry Potter in ANOTHER LANGUAGE that is so musical and lovely.

  62. This is my favorite installment in this series so far. She’s a great writer, wonderful voice and sweet-looking kids. How fun. And Ireland is simply gorgeous.

  63. This is great! We moved from the US (Chicago) to St. John’s, Newfoundland 4 years ago and its so similar! We call it “Ireland Lite” up here.
    Slower pace….more community. Its a hard adjustment but one that is worth it.

  64. I love this series so much! I’ve always wanted to live abroad, and knowing that I could still do it with children makes it so much better :)

  65. This series speaks volumes, not about the countries discussed, but contemporary US culture, the commodification of parenthood and childrearing and the extraordinary pressures of ‘performing’ motherhood to a wider US community. The paragraph here on birthday parties is actually heartbreaking. You’ve gotta wonder, how long can Americans take the horrendous pressures of late order capitalism. C’mon guys, revolution!

  66. Loving these posts! It makes me really want to travel and experience new things with my kids.

  67. I am not a parent and I find this series so interesting and fun. keep em comin please.

  68. I LOVE this series, I’ve been telling everyone I know about it. I look forward to each week!!! I don’t want it to end!

  69. Yay! Another wee Northern Irish girlie here! I’m thrilled everyone enjoyed this one so much because it all just seemed so normal and unremarkable to me ha ha. I love that she got in the “so it is” bit, a very Northern Irish thing to say!

  70. absolutely loving this series! i wanted to chime in on the section about midwife visits. i agree that US healthcare leaves much to be desired and i don’t want to get into politics here so i’ll leave out my comments on why things are the way they are, BUT i did want to let US women know they do have a choice and can seek alternatives. all my pre-natal and postpartum visits were done with a certified nurse midwife. pre- in her office and all but the final post- at my home. these home visits were reimbursed to me the same as an in-office dr. visit would be, by my health insurance. it didn’t last forever, but in those first few weeks it was wonderful!

  71. i just love this series, joanna! (i know it’s been said before, but i’ll say it again!) :) i don’t even have children (and i’m not even sure if i’d like any), but for some reason this subject fascinates me. i can’t wait to read the next one! :)

  72. I realy enjoy the M.A.W. series. Great idea.
    Polish mom.

  73. I realy enjoy the M.A.W. series. Great idea.
    Polish mom.

  74. This series is just spectacular. I echo the sentiment that a book on this subject would be seriously amazing!!

  75. Loving this series. Glad some people are explaining the normal epidural practice!

  76. This is such a great series!

    When I have children I will raise them in good ol NYC. But I do LOVE hearing about how other mothers do it in exotic places.

    Totally calling all my bar cookies Traybakes from here on out!

  77. My ex husband is from Ireland, he grew up in the country later moving to Dublin before coming to the states (roughly 15 years ago). A lot of this sounds like him… Chatty, loves a cup of coffee/ tea and has no problem calling out a whiny kid or adult for that matter. :)

  78. My favorite so far! I suppose the fact that far more Americans (at least in my experience) drink coffee rather then tea accounts for our abundance of “coffee makers” and our lack of electric tea kettles. On the rare occasions when I do make tea, I use a tea kettle on my stove top.

    I am also chuckling over the no-epidural-because-it-is-safer vs. no-epidural-because-it-is-cheaper debate that has popped up in the comments. Frankly, it is both cheaper AND safer, which is convenient in a state-run health system. I had a home birth here in the States with a midwife for both reasons: cost and safety. Thankfully I didn’t have to remember a big folder.

    Oh, and the Pinterest thing – very funny. I think in the US it depends on your social circle and possibly your location. In my small midwestern town I get most invitations over the phone, via text or in my email.

  79. Hello! I just want to defend the National Health Service and promise you that it is not, definitely not, the fact that “someone has to pay for it, but that someone isn’t the patient—it’s the government, or your tax dollars” Believe me, my boyfriend is a doctor and I have three midwives in my close family, also there would be national uproar if women in labour were denied treatment to cut costs.

    With epidurals it’s NHS policy in a number of health care trusts not to give one before the mother is dilated to a certain amount because it can in some cases seriously prolong the 2nd stage of labour and that has a number of risks for mum & baby. Also, in America there do tend to be less Midwife led births meaning there are generally more people qualified to dispense epidurals on the birthing floor, in the UK only an anaesthetist (anesthesiologist) can give you one and they tend to be kept quite busy in operating rooms with patients whose lives really do depend on them being there.

    I would in fact argue that it’s possible that your hospital in America would be jumping in to give you an epidural asap precisely because they know they can charge you for it (on average it adds approx $2000 plus a few hundred for the anesthesiologists time to the cost of delivering a baby in the USA).

    • well said

  80. This whole series just makes my heart swell.

  81. I’m an expat Brit living in the US. I started my pregnancy in England and finished it in the US so I had the hand-held notes and pee-pot for a while ;). After having my daughter I wish we could have had home visits like my friends at home. And yes yes to the Christmas cards and birthday parties. Although I do love having photos of my friends arrive in the mailbox at Christmas I also missed the “traditional” cards of home.
    Love this series!

  82. This is definitely my favorite post in the series so far. I will be SO sad when it ends. I’ve definitely been inspired to spent time parenting abroad. Thanks for broadening my horizons, Jo!

  83. Love love love this series! I am learning so much. Thanks!!

  84. Gaelic is actually spoken in small areas of Nova Scotia, Canada. Although it wouldn’t be exactly the same.

  85. Can this be a permanent thing? Please! I love it so.

  86. How interesting other cultures can be! I wish we had such thorough medical such as that. When I delivered my second child the nurse would peek her head into the room and ask if I needed anything. Then she was gone. How awesome to be given undivided attention!

  87. Sounds lovely! I love the story about the older woman admonishing her son. And the book Whatever sounds like an Irish version of Pierre, by Maurice Sendak. :)

    • I was thinking Maurice Sendak could sue for copyright infringement!

    • Ha ha. I’m sure the book is different enough. But the interesting thing is that one of the reasons that kids love Maurice Sendak is because he is not afraid of morbidity… we really shelter our kids here in America but in other countries, it would be no big deal!

    • In red riding hood the wolf eats the grandma! LOL whole I might add… its the same.

  88. It sounds similar to our life here in Belgium in a lot of ways. We have electric kettles too and apparently I should be very happy about that, never thought they were so “European”.
    Children’s parties are also still simpler though the influence from what people see in movies/on pinterest is definately growing.
    And our children’s literature is also sometimes rather dark or has humour that is secretly there for parents reading the stories to their children. There’s even been some discussion on whether some books that have won awards recently are really children’s books.
    When giving birth we use either no anaesthetic or go for the epidural, I did one with, one (the second!) without. You have a choice here as a patient. We also have “free” healthcare, well it’s not completely free, and the free part obviously is paid for by tax money. I agree with what someone else wrote, epidurals aren’t being dissuaded because they’re too expensive or anything, it’s because here a lot of people think it is better to give birth without one if it is possible. I wanted to try without, but the first time labour just went on for too long and my doctor said that my body was too exhausted to go on without one. The second time I stayed at home for a long time before going to hospital and probably was to late to have one.
    We also have midwives and other help for the family at home after birth and it is great. The midwives help you feel confident, help with breastfeeding issues if you have them, and check on your and your baby’s health. The help for the family helps with cooking and cleaning so as a mom you can focus on your family.

    • Thanks for mentioning this bit about the epidurals. Public healthcare does not have the same focus on the cost of individual interventions the way the U.S. does. By this token epidurals are not dissuaded based on cost but rather on the evidence that if avoided that birth can proceed more normally and may not need as many, possibly dangerous, interventions later in the process as a result of having an epidural. Either way it’s good when those choices are made by an informed mom :)

    • Thank you! It’s weird she mentions that it’s about money and then goes on to say the midwife visited her continually at home free of charge, lol!

      It’s completely about how epidurals slow labour leading to more medical interventions, and then to a possible C section. They are not (typically)the ideal for the woman or the baby, it’s not about money, which should seem clear based on the other care she received.

    • “It’s completely about how epidurals slow labour leading to more medical interventions and then to a possible C section. They are not typically the ideal for the woman or the baby.”

      Wow, this is dead wrong. If I had NOT had an epidural, I would most certainly have required a C section, as my labor was long, exhausting, and my child was in a rare (face-presenting) position, which meant over 3 hours of strenuous pushing. If I hadn’t had an epidural and a chance to rest before phase 2 of labor, I would never have had the energy and stamina to deliver him vaginally. I honestly cannot stand people telling women what the “ideal” way to deliver a baby is. Back. Off.

    • Epidurals do slow labour and should be used with care. A normal or fast labour normally don’t benefit from an epidural. However if the labour already has been long and exhausting, as yours, it can be a good alternative. I was persuaded by my midwife (in Sweden) to get one because she thought that I otherwise would be to exhausted to be able to go through with the labour.

    • Well – you just said that your child was in a rare position. You obviously were going to have a different experience but normally…….

    • Actually, no — my labor was completely normal until just before stage 2 of labor, which is typically when face-presenting babies move into that position. It is not well understood why this happens, but the entire first phase of my labor was normal. And if my doctor had denied me pain relief during the first phase of labor based on my so-called “normal” labor, I would have needed a C section.

      My point is, each labor is unique, and these are decisions that should be between a woman and her health care provider in that moment, not by a health care system that deems one way the “ideal” way. First of all, the risks of epidurals are highly overstated (there is no evidence at all, for example, that they lead to C-sections). Secondly, like everything else in medicine, they are risks to be weighed against the opposing risks. Nothing is entirely without risk, and a woman who is screaming and begging for an epidural for hours on end and not getting one is certainly at risk for post-traumatic stress, postpartum depression, and exhaustion.

      I really doubt the many commenters on here would be OK with a hospital forcing an epidural on someone against her will because the system or the culture says it’s best. Yet, somehow it IS OK for a woman who wants pain relief to be in agony because “we know best.” Utterly hypocritical.

    • I don’t think anyone here said “it IS OK for a woman who wants pain relief to be in agony because “we know best.”” My baby was also face presenting (we have a more beautiful word for it though: sterrenkijker” = a baby that is looking at the stars) when born and that is no reason for an epidural. The exhaustion and pain can be, but no one said that a mother should not be allowed one when necessary, just that giving one every time is not good either. The epidural even made things more difficult because I didn’t feel anything anymore, no contractions, nothing and that slowed the birth down and got my baby in trouble so they had to litterally lie on me and push her out. I needed the epi because of exhaustion but it did have negative side effects too!
      And off topic, I think people are allowed to their own opinions, I think even doctors don’t agree on the epi’s so I wouldn’t call people with a different opinion hypocritical just because they don’t share your views

  89. I love this series and I loved this one in particular being British in the States. I have no idea how Americans live (or why) without electric tea kettles, they are so central to British life. And YES to the whole simplicity of birthday party thing.

    But yes most of all to the Christmas card thing. One of the things I find strangest about America is the family photo-as-christmas-card thing. For me, Christmas is about Jesus, the baby, the nativity etc. So I find it odd when people put themselves on the card as if they are central to the Christmas story. It feels uncomfortable to me. I tend just to put a family photo INSIDE the card so people know what we look like these days, but we’re not taking over.

    Fabulous series…and you have picked wonderful women to be part of it. Thanks!

    • I agree with all of this – loving the series and wondering how the USA can survive without electric kettles! For birthday parties when we were younger we sometimes had matching (plastic) tablecloth and (paper) plates and napkins because they always sell them together in supermarkets, and Mum would sometimes make a co-ordinating cake (like the year I was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians) but they were so simple in comparison to the USA ones I read about! It seems so stressful.

      And yes about the Christmas cards too! My family do a short family letter with some photos on just to let people know what has gone on through the year but would never put ourselves on the front. Seems more stressful too – What on earth does one wear on their Christmas card photos…

  90. Wow. This was my favorite one so far in this series — it kind of makes me want to move to Ireland! And I’m just an art teacher, too…

  91. Recipe for the tray bake—-please!

  92. This series is brilliant. I am enjoying it immensely.

  93. This is hilarious because I’m Irish and find all of this so normal and not usual whatsoever. Twelve year old tea-drinking boys is no big sight to behold!:P

    • Me and I’m loving how much everyone is talking about the electric kettle, hilarious!

  94. Again, so interesting and honest!

  95. Quite redundant, but I need to say it anyway: LOOOOOOOVE the series, hope you are coping well with this hectic first month! Can’t wait to read your views on the differences from first to second son (in order to check if I’ll try it or not ;)

  96. Since she mentioned their visas will expire soon, I’d love it if you would follow up on her family when they return to the states.

    • I just took a look at her blog & they are already back, they moved a few weeks ago :)

  97. I just love Ireland, the Irish and their culture so damn much!! They’re like the best people you can find on this planet :)
    I actually got homesick reading this..

  98. I love this series. I get excited every time a see a new post. I’m a Mum to be and this makes me even more excited to experience motherhood. Thank you.

  99. I look forward to this series every Monday morning. It’s so enlightening! I’m a preschool teacher (2-5 year olds) in Washington, D.C., and I LOVE Tiffany’s quote, “Sort of like trying to pin down a tornado with thumbtacks.” Thank you for this!

  100. I’m new to your blog but I loved reading this post. I grew up in Sweden but now live in England with my husband and three kids. Have you written any posts in this series on parenting in Sweden or the UK? X

  101. Just a couple of points:

    1. Gaelic isn’t just a name for the Irish language, there is also Scottish Gaelic and varieties within the two, the variety spoken in Northern Ireland is Ulster Irish.

    2. The majority of people from Northern Ireland generally don’t like to be referred to as “Irish”, it’s not true of everyone of course and the Catholic community often does, but most people from Northern Ireland take exception to being called Irish and they are likely to correct you and point out that they are in fact British/”Ulster”, or specifically “Northern” Irish.

    3. You clearly live in one of the more idyllic parts of the country, it’s unusual that you haven’t mentioned the British army presence, the Unionist and Republican animosity and the religious divisions that still exist, especially with regards to children attending Faith schools (hard to forget images of terrified Catholic kids being shepherded to their school through a braying mob hurling debris at them).

    • Good points…..I live in London but would know never refer to someone from Northern Ireland as Irish, Irish as far as I have always been aware is Southern Ireland. .

    • Its refreshing that its not mentioned. I live in NI and the stereotypical views of NI are not my experience at all.

    • Jo… as a girl from the heart of Belfast (far from idyllic), I have to say that I was waiting on someone like you piping in with criticisms for what I believe to be an excellently written article on ONE woman’s experience of living in NI.

      Let’s review your points…

      1. As her son is attending a school in NI who speak Gaelic, I think we can all assume she’s not referring to Scottish Gaelic.

      2. I think you’ll find that it’s impossible to quantify how many people prefer to be called “Irish” vs “British” in NI. Unless you are going on how many Catholics vs Protestants there are (a small minded measurement if ever there was one) in which case you’d still be wrong in your assumption as they have actually reached a balanced proportion according to the last census. I’m afraid it’s a very petty point to make in any case.

      3. I’m with Elizabeth here in that it’s a refreshing and entirely more accurate depiction of life in NI today to not bring to focus to ‘The Troubles’. And while animosity still exists in some areas, progress is being made at astounding rates. It’s hard to read your third point without feeling a degree of scaremongering considering that the British Army haven’t been operational in NI since 2007 and that those photographs of ‘terrified Catholic kids’ (as horrendous as the Holy Cross Dispute was) are over 10 years old now.

      I have to admit that when I saw the title of today’s post, my heart jumped into my throat a little as I anticipated a hammed up account of division and war… But I am so delighted to see that someone actually experiences my home land for how I see it too… Cups of tea, caramel squares and community.

      Much love Tiffany, you did our country proud.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Naomi. Scaremongering indeed.

    • Naomi, thanks for adding balance to Jo’s comments. I have always lived in London but my family (one side Catholic, one side Protestant) is from Northern Ireland and visit every year. Tiffany’s experience and ‘Get over yourself’ is spot on!

      Yes, there are pockets of animosity with outdated views AND lovely people and areas of stunning beauty (particularly the Glens of Antrim) – you could say this about all sorts of places. I’d hate for anyone to be put off visiting, what’s not to love about a country that always has time for tea, cake and a good laugh.

  102. these posts always make me want to move abroad. love!

  103. I absolutely love this series so much, you should make it into a coffee table book!

  104. I live in Ireland, but in the south, and am only recently realising that most Americans DON’T have a “tea kettle”!!! I couldn’t imagine life without one!As soon as someone walks into my house, the kettle is on and I’m making the tea.
    And though I am a bit of a “Pinterest Mom”, most if not all people here are not, and pretty much everybody thought I was crazy when I did a whole rainbow theme party for my daughter three yrs ago!
    I think its more common in small towns and villages but there definitely is a feeling of not taking life too seriously in Ireland, and I love it. There’s always time to sit down and have a cup of tea, slice of cake and a chat. And I think that’s just how life should be!

    • mo says...

      About the whole tea thing in the US… it’s just that tea isn’t part of the culture here. Like most people here, I have a tea kettle that sits on the stove and the water boils that way, doesn’t take too long… however, it is really rare that I even make tea. Like, maybe once a month, in the evening. We don’t drink it all the time like you do in Ireland and UK. Coffee in the morning, and that’s it!

  105. Excellent series, v interesting. One teeny point though, we have the Gaelic language in Scotland too, albeit a slightly different version. How on earth do you make a nice cup of tea in the US then without an electric kettle – stove-top ones take ages to boil! :)

    • Karen, you beat me to it! I was about make BOTH of those points: Gaelic is spoken in North west Scotland (you pronounce is gah-lick), as well as Ireland (where it’s called gay-lick), and are very very closely related. And tea kettles? But how – I mean HOW – does the water get boiled for tea?! Please enlighten us, North American friends!

      Ellie, Edinburgh

    • Most people in America have tea kettles that go on the stovetop, like so: That is, if they drink tea.

      I keep mine on the stove all the time and it doesn’t take that long to boil. I prefer having it on the stove because I need all the counter space I can get :)

    • I am laughing a lot with the kettle thing… Here in Spain are not common at all, but we always have had one at my home (my dad loves tea). However when I moved to Dublin I realize Irish people (and I suppose people form UK as well) use kettle for everything! Now I do too :)

      By the way, Gaelic might be not a really useful language, but I think is great people preserve it. What I am not too sure is about the need of being compulsory at school for every kid (at least it is in Ireland). By the way I find Gaelic so easy to pronounce (so much easier than English!)

      Joanna I love this series and I hope to hear more soon. I would be happy to hear about cities like in UK, Spain or Sweden and would love to read the experience of someone in Dublin ;)

    • Gaelic is also spoken in Canada on the east coast. Though it’s becoming more of a lost art, it’s still taught at some schools.

  106. This is the BEST series. I want to read about a mother in every country in the world :)

  107. I never ever comment on blog posts but I had to this time. I wanted to let you know that I have been LOVING this series so much (and I don’t even have kids!). I am always excited for the next one! Great idea :)

  108. I loved this post very much. I’m living in England now but would love to have a short stint in Northern Ireland! It sounds lovely!

  109. This series is amazing and every week I find myself wanting to move to where the author is living! Please keep this series going! I think it would even be wonderful to have perspectives of different families stateside.

  110. I am absolutely loving this series! I don’t even have kids but I finding reading about motherhood in all these countries so fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

  111. Totally love this series!!! Northern Ireland looks so beautiful and I loved the mention of Oliver Jeffers books- we love his books in our Canadian household!!!
    xo Emma
    **wedding giveaway on the blog!**

  112. love this! beautiful pictures, lovely family, and I immediately had to google “caramel and shortbread traybake”

  113. This series is amazeballs, Joanna! :)

  114. This is awesome. Truly truly truly awesome. I dream of the day of quitting my job and packing it up with my fiance and moving some where outside the States. After I graduated college I cam close to saying eff New York, Australia here I come. I still think that. Anyway, I hope for their sake they can get their visas renewed bc they are seriously living a little fairy tale.


    • I was about to say the same thing! I hope they can renew their visas! Love this series :)

  115. OH that birthday protocol sounds wonderful :) And yes, let’s all get over ourselves.. I like that too!

  116. i am loving this series! amazing views of parenthood from around the world. even this non-mother is enjoying them! ;) *

  117. I’m from Northern Ireland, and I never realized anybody didn’t have an electric kettle!

    Re Alice: I think it’s called ‘Millionaire’s Shortbread’ in England, but in Northern Ireland, it’s a ‘caramel square’ – trust me, I’m an expert! :P

    • I agree with you about thinking everyone had an electric kettle, I couldn’t function without one!!

    • Me too! I’m Irish and the strangest thing about this post was the kettle bit. I assumed everyone who has a kitchen, has a kettle.

    • That part made me smile – I’m American, but one of my best friends is British (met in college) and one thing he has always marveled at was our lack of electric kettles (he had to explain what that was the first time he mentioned them – I had never even heard of one!).

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • jo says...

      Here is Australia everyone has an electric kettle, probably the English influence! loved this installment

  118. Love this. I’m from the Republic of Ireland…and though I live in the capital city life is pretty similar here.
    Though I don’t think that midwives try and convince you not to have an epidural because of the money I think it’s because they believe that it’s better not to have one!

    • M says...

      Totally!! It is all about empowering you to trust in your body’s ability to cope.

    • Yeah, I agree – I don’t have kids, but my friends who do (I’m English) all seem to feel a stigma attached to epidurals – they actually WANT the midwives to help them hold out against pain relief for as long as they can.

    • It’s true! In the States (and a few other places) we are taught to be terrified of birth and the pain associated with it. To think it’s about money is pretty silly, I think that’s U.S medical system brainwashing.

      Loved the post though, great series!

  119. Have you read “A World of Babies”? It’s a book written by anthropologists (nerdy, yes), in the style of parenting guides from several different cultures around the world. It’s one of my all-time favorites and read it for the first time in graduate school.

    Thanks for this series, it’s been wonderful!

  120. Love this! It makes me realise how much we take life TOO seriously, don’t you think?

  121. This series is fascinating!! Loving the posts and the honesty of all the moms. Thanks for sharing!

  122. It’s so true about the electric tea kettles. I’m a postgrad at a university here and there are at least 3 kettles in every flat kitchen in student accommodation. As I’m from the US, I never even knew they existed! But I use them all the time now.

    • Ha, I was the opposite – I’m from the UK and had no idea until about a year ago that most people in the US don’t have electric kettles. I was completely baffled!

    • My husband and I always joked while living in London — certain things are so out-dated and slow and never going to change … but figure out how to boil water in 30 seconds for a cup of tea? They have that!

    • LOVE this series and this post in particular! I moved to London from the US about four years ago with my British hubby, so give me a few more years, and I’m sure I’ll need some of this advice ;)

      Re the tea kettles – I made a comment about the abundance of kettles over here when I first arrived. When I said I usually just microwaved a mug of water for tea, I got the funniest looks! But now I’m a total kettle convert!

    • In Canada, most people I know also have electric tea kettles – whether it’s used to boil water for tea or a hot water bottle! I guess you can learn something new everyday. However, I do notice that not everyone has tea pots here – they just put a bag of tea into a mug and fill it up with hot water. Since my mom is from the UK, I literally grew up drinking tea (since I was probably 5) so both an electric kettle and tea pot are household necessities.

  123. I love this more and more each week, Joanna!

  124. Love this series! Was telling my friends about congo over the weekend. :D

  125. “Get over yourself.” Wonderful advice!! Thanks Tiffany. :)

  126. 3 Erikas in a row!

    Joanna, I love this series. I am 27 and no where near ready to have children but these entries are putting things in perspective for me. There’s not right/wrong way to bring up a beautiful, healthy, thriving child!

    Have you seen the documentary, Babies? This reminds me of that. Absolutely beautiful stuff.

    Keep it up, girl!


  127. H says...

    Well now I need to go Google Gaelic and figure out what that is!

    • Gaelic is spoken in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Google Mary Jane Lamond for another wonderful Gaelic singer.

    • Thank you amyray!! I was just going to point that out as well!

      Here is a link to an annual Gaelic Festival that is held in Christmas Island, Cape Breton.

  128. This is so interesting- because it’s both incredible similar and rather different to South West England, where I live. The “traybake” is actually a “Millionaire’s Shortbread”, and tea in a stainless steel pot in my opinion is sacrilege. But it’s really interesting to read what mothers from the States think of parenting in the UK! xx

    • Where in SW England? That’s where I’m from- also a place far flung from Pin
      terest Mum!!

    • Where in SW England? That’s where I’m from- also a place far flung from Pin
      terest Mum!!

    • I’m in Southwest England too! Bristol to be exact, but I am Canadian born and bred.

    • Bristol as well, born in Northern Ireland and grew up in the US! I’m visiting Chicago for the first time since I was a kid and I never imagined I’d have culture shock coming back, but it only takes a little time away to get very used to a different setting.

  129. This has been my favourite piece of this series, this mother sounds so normal AND lovely!!! As does life in Northern Ireland….and I really love that she is clearly appreciating it as opposed to comparing everything in a negative way to life back in the US, which is sort of how some of the other posts have come across.

    Loved reading about the pregnancy bits, I live in London & I too carried around my pregnancy notes throughout my pregnancy and lived in fear of losing them!! Our National Health Service & midwives are wonderful.

    Her photos are beautiful too, there is an awful lot to be said for a “simpler” kind of life, sometimes we should all get over ourselves a little.

    Great series :)

  130. Love how simple life is. It allows you to focus on what really matters. Human connection, enjoying humble meals, good conversation and tea! <3

  131. I adore this series and am not even a mom. This is another great addition to the series. Though I did have to laugh at the “pinterest mom culture.” I dunno; I live in the Rockies and our birthday parties (if the kid has one) is pretty similar. Store bought cards, if any sort of invitation is given at all, often a store bought cake or one out of box. Sounds stressful to be a mom in some of these other parts of America…

  132. PS I LOVE what she writes about “public tantrums” and people getting involved but in a positive way :)

  133. I now want to raise my son in Northern Ireland.

  134. I now want to raise my son in Northern Ireland.

  135. I never comment here but couldn’t stop myself from echoing others’ sentiments about the marvelousness of this series.

  136. Those landscape photos are just beyond! And I am so of the get-over-yourself school of thought. Great read, Joanna + Tiffany.

  137. Utterly obsessed with this series.

    • Me too! A book would be nice…

    • I couldn’t agree more! I would 100% buy a book on this subject

    • Yes! A book! I would buy it in a heartbeat. LOVE this series.

    • I would too!!!

    • Definitely! This is fantastic.

    • I love it as well, especially since I had a baby myself this year. Please let it go on for as long as posible Joanna! :-)

    • please do turn this series into a book, Joanna!

    • I’m from Argentina and I’m not yet a mother but I learn a lot from this series and, is so good to know that every country has its one ways and also the families. I told my boyfriend about it and he is really exacted to read it.
      Please keep this section up, it’s beautiful.

    • Yes, Joanna! Please transform this serie into a book!
      I’m from Brazil and I’m trying to get pregnant. :)
      This serie is very inspiring!

    • I totally agree. You’ve got to write a book on this.

  138. “sort of like pinning down a tornado with thumbtacks.”

    how beautiful is that?

  139. This my favorite series on your site. I love reading each mom’s perspective on the culture she’s living and parenting in… I’m a medical anthropologist who studies childbirth in cross-cultural settings so this is right up my alley.