For moms in the US, it’s hard to imagine what mothers in other parts of the world do. In general, women in the US are expected to birth their babies when it’s convenient for their careers, handle primary childrearing duties, and accomplish more in their lives than “just” raising kids. But moms in the US are also very different from moms elsewhere in the world.
And while some of their habits are self-motivated or stem from how they were brought up themselves, other things US moms don’t do are influenced by their life circumstances, society’s expectations, financial status, and more. Plus, dad’s influence—if there is one—can also affect much of mom’s goals, lifestyle, and parenting. Not every mom is the same, either, so there’s plenty of variation among moms from the east coast to the west. Then again, there are many things US moms do that would have other countries pretty surprised.
From how they raise their babies to when they send them to school and when they kick them out of the family home, US moms have their own ways of doing things that might not match up with other cultures’ expectations. Here are 20 things that only moms in the US don’t do.
20 Nurse ‘Til Baby Quits
Worldwide, most moms tend to turn to breastfeeding because it’s the most accessible form of nutrition for new babies. And globally, women in other countries make it a habit for longer than US moms do. One study from Paediatric Child Health noted that the natural weaning age worldwide is between ages two and four.
Here in the US, though, most moms are thankful to make it to one year—and society judges them harshly for feeding their babies breastmilk past that point.
And while breastmilk makes up a substantial percentage of a nursing baby’s calories per day, moms in the US don’t tend to wait until their toddler—or preschooler—is done with breastfeeding.
19 Sleep Nearby For Months (Or More)
While other countries—particularly lesser developed ones—don’t have handy baby products like bouncy sleeper or bassinets, that doesn’t mean moms aren’t getting enough sleep. Unlike most moms in the US who put their infants to sleep separately from them, often in another room altogether, moms across the globe overwhelmingly choose co-sleeping for their families.
Moms in the US don’t typically look at co-sleeping as the ideal arrangement for babies, though it has become more popular in recent years.
As Fatherly notes, Americans are the minority in declining to sleep near their babies and young children; one study found that out of 186 “nonindustrial cultures,” 67 percent of tots slept with their parents.
18 Delay School A Few Years
Although plenty of parents in the US have to send their kids to daycare so that they can make a living at work, we also seem to be a country that is focused on academics. Kids in the US start preschool as young as age three—some programs even younger—and many moms are eager to get their kids into academically rigorous schools that begin teaching reading and more at that age. And while the compulsory attendance age, the age at which the government requires kids to attend school, ranges from five to eight years old in the US, most moms want their kids in preschool far earlier.
17 Stroll Without Strollers
Babywearing has come back into fashion recently, and today’s moms mostly have millennials to thank for its popularity.
But in comparison with moms in other countries, US moms tend to rely on strollers and other baby transportation devices instead of wearing or simply carrying their infants.
Not only do we have strollers, but we also have infant car seats that are easy to move from the vehicle to a stroller frame, and that means babies spend less time in moms’ arms. The rest of the world, though, is more likely to forgo the stroller in favor of someone carrying the baby or strapping the tot to themselves.
16 Make Dad Man Up
Moms in the US might be surprised to find out that in other parts of the world, dads are expected to be more active participants in their kids’ lives. Not only do many other countries offer better paternity leave packages for dads (many US employers don’t offer any at all), but there’s also the societal expectation that dads will be active caregivers, too.
In Finland, for example, the government has launched a campaign to encourage dads to take their paternity leave and spend time helping to shape their babies’ crucial first weeks and months.
In the US? Moms are lucky if they can get dad to change a diaper in the first six months.
15 Stay Home For Months Postpartum
While the United States has an abysmal rate of maternity leave for new moms—the federal law doesn’t mandate an amount of paid leave. That often leaves employers to deciding just how much paid leave moms get—if any at all.
And moms who don’t have any time off saved up will often have to return to work in as little as six weeks post-birth.
That means moms in the US don’t get to stay home with their babies as long as many other countries’ moms—like Canada, where mothers get up to 12 months of paid maternity leave.
14 Stay Home At All
Though it often comes down to a woman’s personal choice, many US moms don’t stay home with their babies because they have to work instead. In fact, the majority of moms in the US work full-time, even though most people there think that moms shouldn’t have to work full-time or even at all, Washington Post reports. Plenty of moms would likely rather stay home with their kids, but they find it financially impossible or societal pressure dictates that they have to do something “better” than stay home.
Of course, plenty of moms are also single parents, meaning they have to take care of themselves and their kids on a single income—and there’s no option to cut back on work hours.
13 Leave Babies “Whole”
Though globally, most countries leave newborn babies as they were born—entirely intact—the United States is one country where moms regularly opt to have their babies undergo the snip shortly after birth. While the rest of the globe leaves surgery on babies’ private parts up to the babies themselves when they come of age, it’s not the default for moms in the US. In fact, US moms can choose to have their babies undergo a painful procedure that changes their bodies permanently—and it’s often done without anesthesia.
In contrast, most other “developed” countries opt out of the surgery.
12 Stay In To Cook
Being a mom is stressful, so it’s not surprising to most US moms that tons of us order in (or go out) when supper time arrives. But in other countries, moms rely on takeout far less often than US moms do. It’s partly due to finances, of course—less wealthy families simply can’t afford to order in a few times per week.
It’s also because there’s an understanding among moms that when you’ve worked a long day at home or on the job, keeping up with healthy meal prep is exhausting, so it’s okay to eat fast food every so often.
11 Let Kids Stay Up Late
In other countries that are more kid-centric, children tend to have later bedtimes and spend more time with the influential grownups in their lives. Moms in the US, on the other hand, don’t let their kids stay up past bedtime!
Of course, we have our reasons, right? Like having a bit of “me” time, spending time with our partners, or just cleaning up the house after the kids have done their Tasmanian devil routines all day.
In places like Spain, along with other Latin countries, kids get to stay up late and enjoy plenty of attention from their parents before it comes time for lights out.
10 Land The Helicopter
Parents in the US are practically famous for being “helicopter” moms, except for a select few who’ve seen the inside of a jail cell for letting their kids walk to the park alone.
But in other countries, kids are seen as capable and able-bodied even from as young as age four.
Kids are tasked with getting themselves dressed, fed, and on the way to preschool by themselves—something that US moms likely wouldn’t dream of allowing. US moms are usually hesitant to let their kids grow up—preferring to baby them into the safety of the teen years before letting them run free!
9 Hold Their Kids Accountable
So many parents today are raising kids who turn out to lack responsibility and the willingness to take ownership of bad behavior. And moms in the US seem particularly reluctant to hold their kids accountable for their behavior. In contrast, consider countries like China, where kids are taught that parents and teachers are the bosses—and they are more reluctant to act out. Of course, it’s not always a bad thing to help your kids out, since US moms are just hoping to help their kids develop a strong sense of self and navigate the world without getting hurt.
8 Allow Kids To Overstay Their Welcome
In the American society, it’s common for kids to leave home at age 18 or so to head to college. And for parents whose kids don’t leave, it’s definitely not considered to be normal. But in many other countries, it’s more accepted for kids to live at home while studying in college, and plenty of kids stay living at home post-grad, too. It’s all about parents helping their kids get a good start—while moms in the US seem to feel like their job is mostly done by age 18 since their kids have reached the hopefully responsible age of adulthood.
7 Wait For Baby Before The Party
If you’ve never heard of a baby shower, then you’re probably not from the US. Most US moms enjoy at least one baby shower—etiquette says moms shouldn’t have more than one unless their babies are spaced a certain number of years apart or if they’re the opposite gender from the last child—and it’s apparently a truly American tradition.
In other countries, moms wait until their babies exit the womb to celebrate. And while other countries see it as bad luck to celebrate pre-baby, moms in the US tend to mark twelve weeks as the go-ahead for party planning.
6 Make The Kids Shed Their Shoes
Moms are typically the keepers of the house—hence all our grumbling and groaning about who made this mess and why is the floor sticky. But most US moms still let their kids wear shoes in the house… Even though it’s positively unsanitary and often pretty messy, too. In countries like Japan, for example, people shed their shoes before going inside the home. Not only is it cleaner, but it’s also a sign of respect when you’re visiting someone else’s home.
US moms though? We prefer to complain while wiping, sweeping, and mopping for the third time today.
5 Encourage Bilingual Babies
While the US prides itself on speaking “English-only” for the most part, countries all around the world focus on making sure kids are at least bilingual, if not trilingual or better! Plenty of other countries teach kids English in addition to their native language. It might be more common to see kids in Canada learning French and kids in Spain learning English than it is to see kids in the US learning anything other than English. Of course, with the growing Hispanic population in the US, Spanish is a helpful second language, but the country overall has a severe lack of diversity when it comes to language.
4 See Midwives By Default
Surprisingly, moms in the US have pretty low statistics when it comes to childbirth and postpartum recovery. Not only are more moms than ever having health issues related to childbirth, but they’re also struggling with depression after the baby is born. But the main difference in the birth experience with US moms versus moms across the globe is their L&D support. Moms outside the US might automatically see a midwife for more personal and responsive care, but moms in the US don’t see midwives by default. It’s usually an OB in a hospital for many mamas, unless they seek out an alternative.
3 Feel Good About Me Time
While plenty of US moms talk about needing “me time” away from their kids, especially moms who stay home with their tots, we don’t normally feel good about taking it.
And while other countries have built-in support networks where moms can feel okay leaving their kids with extended family or relying on the community to help raise their kids, moms in the US are mostly on their own, and they mostly feel guilty about it. Therefore, they don’t necessarily feel good about hiring a babysitter or leaving their kids in a daycare so they can get some gym time in or run errands in peace.
2 Having Babies Young
Although you would think there was a baby-birthing craze among teenagers in recent years, American shows like MTV’s Teen Mom were, thankfully, the minority. As a whole, moms in the US are having babies later than ever before—in their 30s rather than their 20s, Market Watch reported.
With the availability of IVF and other fertility procedures, women in the US are becoming moms on their own terms and timelines.
While plenty of other countries see moms birthing their first babies much younger, moms in the US even keep having kids—or start having them—in their 40s or later.
1 Depend On Family Help
So many cultures across the globe encourage moms to ask for help with childrearing, insist on helping out when the baby is brand-new, and offer to give moms a break when necessary. But in the US, it’s mostly a go-it-alone mindset, with new moms struggling to figure things out by skimming social media and Googling their pressing questions. In other countries, extended family is there to help out, and grandparents and other relatives often have more say in how the kids are raised than the moms themselves.
Of course, US moms are also super independent—which could explain why they’re not overeager to depend on family help.
References: Paediatric Child Health, Fatherly, Market Watch, Washington Post