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From the moment you announce your pregnancy no matter where in the world you are living, as a new mother you will be offered tons of unsolicited and oftentimes unwanted advice. Every person seems to have an opinion on what to eat, how to birth your child, and of course, how to raise them once born. In many societies, in addition to the advice of others, you will also have a myriad of books to choose from, books on attachment parenting, books on raising independent children, books that tell you to breastfeed or to bottle feed. You will literally be inundated with information all of which you must filter through your own belief system and decide what is best for your child and your family.
A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Eight Societies, the fully revised and updated 2nd edition by Alma Gottlieb and Judy DeLoache, provides an in-depth exploration of this multi-cultural experience. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” crosses cultural, societal, and religious boundaries demonstrating that many of our childrearing practices are similar across the globe.
Many of your choices about childrearing will likely come from the ways in which you and your partner were raised, as most of the advice to new parents comes from their families and close friends. This is a worldwide occurrence and is prevalent in some societies more than others, depending oftentimes on the proximity in which the new parents live to their extended family.
If you are a pregnant mama interested in how other societies raise their children, a new parent looking to understand the different methods utilized worldwide, or a teacher interested in understanding how some of your immigrant students may have been brought up, this is the book for you.
This “manual” style book, written in a similar fashion to other popular childrearing guides, takes an in-depth look at the birth, care, and education of babies born into eight very different societies, cultures, and countries across the globe. Each chapter begins with a little bit of history about the society to give the reader some background before the semi-fictional “author”, a created persona, begins to explain to you how your pregnancy, birthing process, and child rearing will occur in said place and time.
Whether receiving advice from a young mother about raising Guinean Muslim babies in Portugal, a grandmother regarding childrearing in contemporary China, or a kindergarten school teacher offering advice to immigrant mothers in Israel, the underlying theme of this book imparts that we are all parents simply trying our best to navigate the cultural expectations of our families and friends in our ever-changing societies.
These stories touch on concerns that plague all of us as new parents:
- When do you announce your pregnancy?
- Do you use a midwife or hospital?
- Do you stay home with baby or is it safe to venture out into the world?
- Do you breast or bottle feed?
- Do you stay home or return to work?
- Who will care for your child if you return to work? A grandparent? A babysitter? An elderly woman in your community?
Interestingly enough as different as each society in this book is depicted, there are truly so many similarities when it comes to the questions and concerns of all of us as parents. The interconnectedness shown throughout the text to exist between humans, especially parents, because of the love and natural instincts to protect and care for our children is fascinating. Oftentimes we see and hear so much about different societies and we think we are not at all alike; we cannot begin to understand their beliefs, values, morals, or ideals, when truly on at least some level we are so much the same. In each story the reader begins to see how the babies from the differing societies will continue to be brought up within their own cultural norms, demonstrating how different populations continue to evolve simultaneously, yet so distinctively.
The chapters in this book touch on many important issues:
- Choosing baby’s name
- Sleeping arrangements
- Toilet training
- Sickness and death
Each of these stories address the trials and tribulations of new mothers, families, and babies in modern day societies which will likely come as a shock to the reader as the various cultures are so very different from our own. There is conflicting advice being given in several chapters between an older and younger “author” as many of the chapters have both a mother and a grandmother giving their perspectives on childrearing at that place and time. The grandmothers are attempting to convey and convince the younger generations (oftentimes their own children, the fictional parents in the chapter) to do things the way they did, while the younger more modern parents see things differently, yet want to show respect to their parent’s wishes and ways of doing things.
Several chapters also include a religious component, including advice from a diviner, rabbi, or priest, as many societies turn to their religious leaders for advice. This book exemplifies the similarity in the respect of all cultures and societies, whereby the older and younger generations are often at odds regarding many childrearing tactics which can create tension in the family, especially when including extended family members such as grandparents are in involved in the childcare process. That said, the text also subtly looks at the ways in which new parents really want the advice, assistance, and assurance from older generations, whether parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or the village diviner.
As each chapter starts you on a new journey into a different society and culture, you will be intrigued, and by the end amazed at the different child birth and child rearing options seen as standard throughout different countries and populations in our world. The stories in this book will engage you as the reader, forcing you to contemplate the various childrearing decisions you are making and to consider where those methods are coming from; they may give you a few ideas you as a parent would like to consider while raising your own children, and they will certainly give you better insight and understanding of those we are sharing this planet and this life with. The incredible diversity of our human population and this world in which we are ALL raising our children is clearly depicted in this story and is something to be celebrated.
For more tips on childrearing, breastfeeding, and sleep suggestions, visit our EXPECT section to hear from some of our own Daily Moms.