different parenting philosophies

Even within a similar culture, there are countless opinions on raising children. So it should have come to no surprise to me that a culture half a world away would have different ideas from my own on how a baby should be treated.

The main thing I've noticed deals with crying. Most of the South Asians I've talked with won't let their child cry. If a child cries, he must be picked up or fed immediately. Last week, I went to visit D*, a lady I met in our prenatal classes. Her baby boy was born 5 weeks after our girl. She says he wakes up every 2 hours all night long, and she has to pick him up and walk him around the house until he falls back asleep. Curious, I asked her if she ever let him 'cry it out.' She looked almost horrified and said no. She told me that even when she goes to the bathroom, she tells her house helper to come get her if he starts to cry! It's no wonder she told me she's considering not having any more kids. I think I'd go insane if I couldn't even go to the bathroom. Later on at D's, baby girl needed her diaper changed. As I changed it, she fussed. D and her husband came rushing to see what was wrong with baby girl and asked repeatedly what I was going to do to stop her crying! It made me very nervous.

Even more drastic, we heard a slightly disturbing story about some friends of ours who are raising a child in the mountain town we used to live in. Their baby was crying in the middle of the night, and it seems the parents had decided to let her cry it out. Apparently, the neighboring family didn't approve of this method, for they showed up at their door, asking why the baby was crying. If I heard the story correctly, it was the whole family who came a-knockin'!

The traditional South Asian family lives in a multiple family home, with several generations under one roof. D and her husband live on their own, and I think part of the consequences with that is she feels pretty clueless about raising her baby. I don't mean to imply that she's a bad mother or that I have it all together, because neither is true. D just peppered me with questions about baby development, from when they start solids to poopy diapers to sitting up. She even asked me if my 3 month old baby was saying "mommy" yet. I hated to disappoint her hopes that her baby boy would be telling her what he wanted in a few weeks. My guess is that elders help out tremendously with South Asian mothers, and poor D doesn't have anyone to consult.

Some other funny questions we've been asked by adults:

People are very curious about the baby sling. I can't tell you how many have seen her snuggled up, sound asleep, and asked, "Is she comfortable like that?" They seem to think babies should be flat and straight at all times, forgetting that for 9 months, the baby curled up comfortably in tight quarters.

When we took her to the office at 6 weeks old, a grown man asked in all seriousness, "Are her eyes opening yet?" As in like puppies.

"Where is her hair?" Many, many people find it very odd that she doesn't have a full head of hair.

"Does she speak Hindi?" I guess only time will tell. :)


SouthAsiaRocks said...

Does she speak Hindi? Seriously? haha!!!

I get the hair thing all the time too - it's hilarious!

Poor D... she emailed me with a bunch of questions this week... I think she's freaking out... she asked me when Aash was a month old if she was eating solid foods yet - haha!

It is crazy how they don't like babies to cry... it makes me nervous too... they all think i'm a terrible mother b/c my baby cries :) haha!

Kelley said...

We used to say their kids were in a food-induced coma because they fed them every time they cried- even if they just ate ten minutes before!

I was nervous about the crying thing too- and Kiran would cry when she went to sleep even when we were holding her, rocking her, etc! Thankfully no one in our building ever said anything to us.

are her eyes opening yet? funny.

I think you are on to something about living away from family. I think those are the couples who take the birthing classes in the first place. And I do think that the grandmothers take care of the babies! But I also think you are asked questions because they respect you and think you are doing a good job.

Deanna said...

GREAT POST!!! Thanks for sharing some interesting cultural things. I can imagine it must be somewhat stressful, trying to adapt, but at the same time, doing what you think is best for your baby. And I wish Abby were speaking German - at 8 months we're still only getting cooing and burping!