Motherhood

Parenting Around the World

For the past five summers, we’ve featured a series called Motherhood Around the World

We’ve talked to mothers living everywhere from Japan to Iceland to Congo to Northern Ireland to Mexico to Sweden. As I’ve mentioned before, we decided to speak to American mothers abroad because we wanted to hear how motherhood around the world compared and contrasted with motherhood in America. It can be surprisingly hard to realize what’s unique about your own country (“don’t all kids eat snails?”), and it tends to be easier to identify differences as an outsider.

But! This year, we’d love to feature parents who grew up in each country and are now raising their own children there. We’re looking forward to getting their insightful takes on their home countries and what it’s like to live and parent there.

Do you know any parents who grew up and are now raising kids in South America, Russia, Eastern Europe or Portugal? Or any other places you’re curious to hear about? If so, we would love to hear from them. (To those parents: Please email hello@cupofjo.com with a couple surprising things about raising children where you live, plus a few snapshots of your life or a link to your Instagram feed.) Thank you so much!

Parenting in Sweden

Parenting in Kenya

Parenting in Italy

Here are a handful of favorite quotes from past interviews:

My kids attend Barnehage, the government-subsidized Norwegian daycare. They spend a ton of time outside, playing and exploring nature. They only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors — with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, “It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.” That’s very Norwegian — hard things are good for you. — Rebecca Zeller, 10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Norway

Namibia is a beef-obsessed nation; it’s like a national pastime. You’ll find many people selling barbecued beef on the street — the smell is intoxicating. Before I moved here, I wasn’t a big meat person, but I’ve been converted. They slaughter the cow right before they cook it, so it’s much fresher and tastier than anything I’ve had in the States. When my son was six months old, a relative gave him a beef bone to suck on. He loved it, of course.” — Kaylan, 17 Surprising Things About Parenting in Namibia

The people here are just so wonderful. One day, we were walking to a shop and it started to lightly rain. My husband Josh was carrying Aaron, and we didn’t have an umbrella. While we were waiting at a crosswalk, a young man walked up to Josh and held his umbrella out over him so Aaron wouldn’t get wet. He walked us all the way to our destination, keeping Aaron dry the entire time. When we got there he just said goodbye and went on his way — to him, it wasn’t a big deal, it’s just something you do. — Diane Zhang, 13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Turkey

Parents in Seoul typically take their kids’ educations very seriously, and the technology craze here has developed around that. Smartphone apps let parents track their children’s activities during the school day and see their progress in class in real-time. For example, many parents use KakaoTalk, the leading messaging app, to have instant dialogue with teachers, like “How did they do on the test today?” Also, on a reporting trip, I visited a high school study hall where the students do homework until 11 p.m. every night. — Elise Hu-Stiles, 16 Surprising Things About Parenting in South Korea

One great thing about raising a family in Rome is that people are so into children. Strangers on the street will go out of their way to be friendly. When Sabina was a baby, I walked past two soldiers very seriously standing at attention guarding some important embassy, and one of the soldiers glanced at her stroller and gasped in a high-pitched voice, “O Dio (oh God)!”, overcome by her sweet, tiny figure. — Molly, 15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Italy

Parenting in Guatemala

See the full series here, if you’d like. (We also talked to parents who grew up abroad about what surprises them about parenting in the U.S.) Thank you so much!

(Top photo of three kids by Rebecca Zeller. Photo of mother and daughter courtesy of Angelina Allen de Melo. Photo of girl running in Kenya by Tara Wambugu; photo of kids in Guatemala by Michelle Acker Perez.)

  1. Rachelle says...

    I love love love this series!! I always think that if you were to publish of these posts as an anthology in a book format, I would 100% buy it. Wouldn’t it make the sweetest baby shower/Mother’s Day/mom-friend gift?

  2. hi, cupofjo team. any interest in parenting in south east asia?

  3. I would love to hear about parenting in Morocco!

  4. Irene says...

    I love this series, too! It would also be great to do a parenting around the United States series–there’s so much diversity on so many levels even within our own country I think it would be eye-opening for your followers to read.

  5. I have a couple of friends that grew up in South America, Brazil and Bolivia and are now raising a child here. It’s fun to chat with them about their childhood and how it contrasts to America.

    My family has actually headed abroad to South Korea next month!!! We will be living there for a year and can’t wait to raise our kiddos in a different culture for a time. I’m eager to learn as much as I can

    http://www.katelynryan.com

  6. I’ve just come back from 10 days walking and hitch-hiking (solo) around Iceland. It was an amazing trip and I’d happily write about it for you if you were interested – it was my first experience of travelling solo as a woman and it was completely different from how I expected. One of the joys of solo travelling and hitch-hiking was that I had the opportunity to talk to people who I would never have come across if I’d stayed to the more tourist-based routes and trips. In particular, learning about Icelandic parent and childhood was super interesting. I’d love to see a Parenthood Abroad entry from an Icelandic parent. I’d also highly recommend Sarah Moss’s book ‘Names for the Sea – Strangers in Iceland’ which is a little bit like an extended and lyrical version of one of your Parenthood Abroad pieces. It’s a gorgeous read!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that sounds so incredible, josie! what an amazing experience!

      i’m happy to say that we did a motherhood around the world post with a mom in iceland, i hope you enjoy it:
      https://cupofjo.com/2016/07/parenting-in-iceland/

  7. angela says...

    I love this series, and I’m happy to see that it’s coming back with a twist! I’d also LOVE to see a series about people who grew up in other countries, and are now raising their children here.

    • Lauren says...

      Agreed – I love this series, but I have to say the most interesting part is the cultural differences. Is it bad to say I’m a little less excited to hear about people raising kids in their own native countries?

      The “parenting in the US” section was just one post, I think it could easily be a whole series :)

    • Agnes says...

      Agree with Lauren.. I’m a little confused.. I’m sure it will be a great read regardless, but nothing would be that surprising if you grew up in the place already yourself, no?

    • Rachel S says...

      I agree with Lauren and Angela. Reading about someone raising their child where they grew up sounds kind of bland. I’d much rather hear about the difference in cultures that someone has experienced.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for the feedback — and don’t worry, this is our job! we will make the subjects and interviews compelling either way, i promise :)

  8. Stephanie says...

    This is my favorite series that Cup of Jo does and I look forward to reading the stories every year!

  9. Natalie Shear says...

    So so excited that this series is coming back! I’m not a mother myself (yet!), but I am engaged to a man who is from another vastly different culture & country. He is from Tunisia, and reading this series always gives me a little glimmer of excitement for what’s to come for us as parents who will surely be visiting his home country often, if not living in it for some time to be near his family. I would love to see a post on parenting in Tunisia, or anywhere in North Africa for that matter. The cultures there are so lively and warm and family focused, I’m sure something like that would be a great read!

  10. Jaspreet says...

    It would also be cool to hear about the experience of kids raised in the US by parents who immigrated from other countries. For instance, I was born and raised in the U.S. My parents immigrated to the United States from Indian and my childhood was a constant pull and tug between American and Indian culture. Now, that I have kids of my own, I am trying to raise them with appreciation and awareness of both cultures. I also wrote this on your instagram :)

    • Julia says...

      I second this! I was raised by Brazilian parents and I’m always looking for stories and insights from fellow first-generation Americans, but it’s surprisingly hard to come by.

    • Hi Jaspreet! I have a similar story, I was 6 when we immigrated to the US from Poland so the constant push/pull of both cultures is something I’ve struggled with as well! I also now have children of my own and am learning how to integrate the culture I was raised in into their more American existence.

      I actually launched this very series on my own blog qnd I’d love for the opportunity to interview you regarding your experiences!! Please email me at themotherlandblog@gmail.com :) I’d love to hear from you!

    • Dani says...

      Yes! Wonderful idea. I’m a Filipina-American raised by parents who immigrated from the Philippines. Like many other Filipinx immigrants, they raised us to be fully assimilated into American culture (Google “colonial mentality”). I’m raising a kid born in the US whose dad is Japanese- and Chinese-American, and we think it’s important for her to appreciate all her cultures.

  11. Natasha says...

    Ever thought of doing a series comparing urban parenting vs. rural parenting in the USA. I live in the rural west and am AMAZED at the parenting style differences between my rural vs. urban parent friends. I do not have kids myself but find these posts interesting and it makes me want to visit several of these places and soak up some of the qualities mentioned.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea, natasha. and different areas of the country. my friends in california have such a different approach to my friends in NYC; and my friends from the midwest (and myself, since i grew up there) have some very different philosophies to friends i have who grew up on the east coast, etc.

      would be so fascinating to hear!

  12. nicole says...

    I think this is my favorite series ever.

  13. Callie says...

    Joanna, I saw the credit for the top photo is you and your sister–is that right or am I missing something?

    On another note, I looooooove this series and can’t wait for the first one of this summer to be posted!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Haha, thanks for catching this, Callie! Just updated :)

  14. Carla says...

    Oh hooray, my favorite series ever is coming back! Can’t wait to read more stories. Please hurry. :)

  15. Mara says...

    Just to clarify – are you looking for parents who were born/partially grew up in the U.S. but moved abroad and are now raising kids in the same country?… Or, born/raised in a country abroad and have kids of their own (so fully native to that country)?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Either way!

  16. This is my absolute favorite series you’ve done. So glad you’re continuing it!!

  17. Lisa says...

    Can’t wait to read more of this series. I don’t even have kids, but I really enjoy the content.

  18. I love this parenting focus! Thank you..I will be moving to France (from Canada) with my three young children for 16 months and I am so inspired by these amazing stories.

  19. Jenn says...

    How about including parenting teens?

    • A says...

      Love this idea!

    • Karen says...

      ohhhh sounds like a great addition/twist to the series!

  20. Amy says...

    One of my absolute favorite series. So happy it’s back!

  21. Christy says...

    Really happy to see more from this series. I discovered your blog while I was on maternity leave with my eldest son and this series, for some reason, gave me a TON on confidence in my parenting skills that nothing else did. Seeing how different cultures and people raise their kids in all sorts of ways– and still end up with awesome little humans with loving relationships– gave me confidence that even when I made ‘mistakes’ or did something differently, it was okay. It’s hard to be a confident new mother, especially with tons of different books, websites and people here in the U.S. telling you there’s one way to do it correctly. In reality, all kids need is food, shelter, and love from their parent/guardian.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i feel the same!!! so glad to hear your comment, christy xoxo

  22. Daisy says...

    Yay!!!! LOVE this series! I started following your blog in college and now I have a baby of my own. This time around the series will hit much closer to home.

  23. Isabelle says...

    My favourite series! But I never qualify (French born and raised, but I’m raising my children in the UK – can’t win!). I concur with the previous comment, I’d love to see more of the foreign mums raising their kids in the US as well – partly because I come from such an over-analysed country myself (French kids don’t do that! French women do this! – all the while, I’m like, do we?!)

    • I think that would totally qualify!

    • Juliette says...

      Totally agree! French born and raised living and raising my kid in the US. Everyone assumes I have total control over her behavior, that she eats everything ! Not true at all! But I blame her american dad for that ;)

  24. Maggie Jones says...

    This series is amazing! Maybe also a series about some mothers in the US but who’s parents/ grandparents or themselves who are immigrants and how they are trying to keep their cultures alive in America or what they gladly left behind? Maybe some parent from different socio economic backgrounds?

    Thanks again for always providing such interesting and thoughtful content!

    • Sarah says...

      Oh, yes! I’d love this. I’m second generation Iranian, and my son knows nothing about Iranian culture. It’s so hard to figure out if and how to address that.

    • Yda says...

      I’d love that also! I am Peruvian/American, moved to the U.S. when I was 35. I am raising a bilingual daughter (Spanish/English), married to an American, and trying to keep my cultural background alive at home.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this idea. we actually have a house tour tomorrow where the brazilian homeowner (who now lives in the US) talks about keeping that culture alive with her sons. and i’d love to do more in the future, too!

    • Jaspreet says...

      YES! I posted the same comment on instagram and tried to post it here, but I do not think it showed up. This would be awesome!

    • I love that idea! We’re raising a Jewtino family and it is a lot sometimes , especially around December. Chanukah is not nearly as big as other holidays, but with the Xmas competition, the Jewish and Colombian grammas go into overdrive. The sounds in our home are English, Spanish, Yiddish and some heavy Queens, NY-native accents. I would love to hear about similar homes.

    • Hi Maggie! I have a series on my blog addressing exactly that! I was born in Poland but immigrated to the US at a young age and my husband is a first generation immigrant also, so keeping our culture alive for our children is super important to us! It’s not easy especially as we both tend to default to speaking English for example but we’re determined to raise our kids with a passion and pride for where they come from :) I’d love to hear other stories as well! My email is themotherlandblog@gmail.com :)

  25. Marilyne says...

    Such a pleasure to read these posts! I’m french and would love to read one from mothers living in France ;-)

  26. Cristina says...

    Would you be interested in Northern Italy? Milan and around? I know you covered Europe, but I love your blog so much, and this series in particular, I thought I’d offer :-)

  27. Tone Almhjell says...

    Norway was one of the first countries featured here, and that post always makes me sad. It’s good to freeze on your fingers? Yeah, no. We don’t think that. Later, I think this series hit a better stride, with a more interested and positive attitude toward the country where the American mother is living, still while pointing out differences that are surprising. But I don’t the American mom in the Norway text had the benefit of reading the others beforehand and seeing their approach. And I don’t think she felt comfortable here in a way that to me feels equally surprising.

  28. My favorite series! Can’t wait to read!

  29. Geta says...

    I’m a mother of two wonderful boys in Romania. If you eant to hear about our experience let me knoe

  30. Cate says...

    I LOVE this series, and the new spin on it sounds fabulous! Can’t wait!
    (Also, is it just my computer, or is the first photo of “my sister and me” looking more like a photo of… lunch?)

  31. Renee says...

    Jo! Would you consider featuring Korea again? My brother and his newly minted wife (with twin girls!) are Korean-Canadian-kind of American family who were born and raised in Seoul, but with a twist:

    We are “been on the boat”s, aka expats who repatriated back :) My brother grew up (from 2-10) in Toronto, then went to a french school in Korea, and then went to US, then came back! It was a normal childhood (i guess) for me to pick up the phone and have someone speak english to me in seoul in our french neighborhood :)

    His wife was born in Korea and was adopted to US GI family, but mostly resided in US. She tutors and teaches Korean kids English. Let me know!

    Let me know!

  32. Lelit Segal says...

    I won’t be reading these anymore, after the hate filled comments to the mother and her children in Israel. The hypocrisy was so blatant towards Israel vs. other countries featured in this series. When it comes to Jews, your readers suddenly become experts.

    • Allison says...

      Echoing this. Especially when the discriminatory comments came from my fellow progressive Americans (who, despite living on Native land under a problematic leader, consider themselves progressive yet can’t extend that reasoning to Israelis, who hold more indigenous rights to Israel than Americans hold to America). And especially when the discriminatory comments came from Europeans, some who probably live in homes that were stolen from Jews who were either murdered or forced to emigrate to Israel as homeless refugees. I support autonomy and justice for Palestinians and Israelis, and I hope this blog is a place where both groups can be humanized.

    • Leah says...

      YES it put a bad taste in my mouth. No matter how you feel towards Israel/Palestine, it’s a real place with real people, who live there for many reasons. She’s a citizen in a complicated country – just like the rest of us.

    • sasha says...

      But your response, despite your seeming very open minded, just shuts down any dialogue that may happen. That post was full of the stories of very real people, who simply want to be heard and not forgotten. And you’ll be missing all of the wonderful insights from other cultures in new posts.

      Part of the reason Americans speak out on this issue is because our government is so wrapped up in Israeli government policies, to a much greater extent than other countries. We are interested because our government has tied our interests to those of Israel, for better or worse, and one can oppose the policies of the state of Israel without being an anti Semite, one can protest an unjust action of another government while living in a government that also participates in Injustice, across the globe and at home. And being the descendents of those who bought and enslaved African slaves and their descendents, murdered indigenous peoples and stole a continent, and oppressed minorities as well as women for our entire history just means we have an even bigger obligation to speak out and try to right wrongs, wherever we see them. Please don’t try to silence those who disagree with you. As an American I know corruption and injustice when I see it.

  33. A Martin says...

    I LOVE this series! Parenting in the US is such a lonely sport. Reading about parenting in other countries gives me hope and ideas on how to make things less lonely.

  34. Well, my favorite series! Can’t wait to read it em.

  35. Erin M says...

    This has been one of my favorite series over the years, so glad to hear that it will be back for the summer.

    • Same!!!!

  36. Ivy Farias says...

    Hi Joanna,
    My best friend has a project called “Mães no Mundo” (“Mothers in the World”). She and her friend, Cintia Cardoso- Delautre, are journalists from Brazil and had their children abroad. Renate´s babies were born in Deutschland and America and Cintia´s in France.
    Renate had travelled in a motor home and live in Egypt with her two litlle girls. They write in Portuguese.
    A friend of mine, Fabi Mesquita, also has a project called Brasileiras Pelo Mundo (Brazilians in the World) where they share all kind of experiences in motherhood far away from Brazil.

  37. Danielle says...

    Have you ever thought about doing this as a book? It would make such a lovely present for new moms.

    • a says...

      I totally agree!!!!!

    • Colette says...

      Yes, yes, yes!!!

    • Elizabeth says...

      I love that idea!

    • Ray says...

      Yes please!!

    • Me too, I love this idea!

    • Rosa says...

      Agree! I would buy it

    • Valentina says...

      I would preorder that book in a minute!

  38. This series is such a favorite of mine, and I love that you’re opening it up to native non-Americans. However, almost all of my friends that are mothers don’t fit this criteria either, we grew up going to international schools in different countries, and many of us are attached to more than one nationality and homeland, and move around a lot. Some are already on their third country with their kids! Maybe one day you’ll open it up to them as well? :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, we are open to them, too!

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Ok, great!! :)

    • F. I. says...

      I was thinking the same. I’d love to participate but I have lived in many countries and I’m parenting in a country that is not my country by birth. Not sure if it’s possible to participate?

    • Di says...

      I’m a third culture kid too. Perhaps as a reaction to my nomadic childhood, I want to raise my children in one place (and my three sisters feel the same)!

  39. Eliana says...

    Hi Joanna! I was born, raised and am currently raisING my 3 kids in Uruguay, this tiny south american country. I,ve been following your blog for quite a while now and LOVE It! If you’ re interested in knowing more about parenting in the south , just let me know.

    • Jennie Utsinger says...

      I love Uraguay! Friends of ours lived in NYC for a while before returning home to Montevideo. We visited them and I absolutely loved your country.

  40. Lindsay says...

    Yay! Always one of my absolute favorite series :) Love to read about parenting in New Zealand or maybe…Switzerland?

    • Joy R Ackert says...

      I would also love a New Zealand post!

    • Leah A Klein says...

      Same! i’m traveling there in the fall, that would be great to read!

  41. emmie says...

    I love this series and agree with the notion that it’s easier to recognize differences when you aren’t from the region you are living in. This new perspective could be fun too!

  42. L says...

    Love this series and am excited for the new take. I also think it would be interesting to hear from people from other countries who are raising their kids in the US. What stands out about parenting in the US that may not occur to those of us who were raised here, and what do they miss about home?

    • Aneta says...

      YES!!!! I lived in New York when my son was a baby and then toddler and found the experience of parenting him in that city alien and incredibly lonely. I’d never before been told by total strangers that I was a bad mother (for letting him play with sticks in Central Park – because they are apparently ridden with germs…!). Having lived in seven countries (some as distant as Indonesia) it was the US that I found the toughest to adapt to as a mother (I had loved it as a student). Reading the Motherhood series I often wondered how other mothers perceived the city, how they navigated the parenting culture there, and whether they found it as isolating and tough as I did. There are so many beautiful things to love in NY and I have many wonderful memories, but I am very happy not to have to parent there anymore.

  43. Zara says...

    Oh, damn, I thought it was going to be a new installment! I’m not a parent (and may never be), but I have really enjoyed this series over the years.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the new posts are coming up soon! thank you so much, zara :)

  44. My favorite series is back!!! And you have a way of tapping into weekly thought process in an uncanny and telepathic way! I was just researching and list making for my bucket list life goal (conceive, believe, achieve theory I swear works to manifest goals…) to bring our now five year old for a year abroad somewhere by early middle school. Currently obsessed with the Green School in Bali if any readers know more about it…..this series inspires, informs and taps into the mama wisdom in such an authentic way!

  45. Kirsten says...

    I LOVE this series!!! So glad it’s back. I’m not a mother, nor am I married or even contemplating children, but I think this is such an interesting idea. I love hearing how cultures and norms elsewhere are so different from my own.

  46. Sarah says...

    I’ve been hoping you would do this!!

  47. Favorite series ever! Can’t wait to read this summer! :)

  48. Rebecca says...

    Love love love this series. I don’t have children, but I love learning about others cultures. So happy it will be returning.

  49. Jill says...

    This is my favorite series!!! I’m a toddler teacher in Los Angeles, a very culturally diverse city. I love when my students parents are from other countries and they have their own ways of doing things which we respect but also explain how things are done in preschool in Los Angeles. I remember some tiny students whose parents were from Thailand and did not speak much English. They sent their girls to school in the fanciest dresses everyday. I would tell them all the time that they can send them in old clothes to preschool. They were so shocked. Eventually they stopped dressing their daughters so fancy but the girls still were never allowed to fully sit in the sand and get their bottoms dirty!

  50. Jenn says...

    a couple ex-coworkers of mine decided to live on a sailboat after their baby girl was born, and I love following their adventures! their Instagram is @tightlittletribe, their youtube channel is at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSdxVVNlUriTA1Seb3PlxQw, and it’s definitely worth taking a peek. along with super cute photos of their adventures and the family at sea, they make posts about sailing how-to’s, maintenance and balancing life with sailing. it’s not *technically* ‘around the world’, but it’s certainly a uniquely mobile perspective on parenting!

  51. LAURA says...

    I’M SO EXCITED

  52. Lesley says...

    I am excited for this series to start up here again! It is one of my favorite series on Cup of Jo.

  53. This is one of my favorite series. It’s totally fascinating and heartwarming!

  54. Cynthia says...

    I absolutely adore this series!