Every country, every culture will look at parenting differently. Whether that’s sleeping, feeding, dressing your baby or the care you receive when giving birth, there will be as many different ways of doing things as there are cultures in the world.
Certain things are done differently here than in Slovakia. Living and raising children in the UK means that I can have the best of both worlds. So, if you want to know what I like about it and what I don’t, then stay tuned, and I’ll explain.
Parents don’t overdress their babies
To be honest, this one took me a while to digest. When I first came to England, I was shocked and horrified when I saw a baby with no hat and no socks on. This would never happen back home. Babies need to stay warm. The more layers, the better, right? Hmm, maybe not. Maybe we are overdressing our babies in Slovakia a bit.
Over the years, this once unusual sighting for me wasn’t unusual anymore, and it became kind of normal. At the end of the day, those babies looked perfectly normal and healthy.
So, when I had my baby, I found myself dressing her more British style than Slovakian. Ok, not entirely British style, I still put socks on, even in summer months. When my baby was born, my family came to visit us, and it was my mum this time who was horrified when she saw how I dress her. ‘Put the hat on’. ‘Cover her ears properly’. And other stuff of this nature.
I think that being exposed to the British way of life for over ten years, it just came naturally to me not to overdress my baby. It just doesn’t make any sense to me to put a hat on when it’s boiling outside. Yes, we used sun hats if we had to but that was it.
When I came to Slovakia, seeing babies covered from head to toe was now so unfamiliar to me. It was September, relatively warm (18 – 20 °C) and my daughter, all of a sudden, looked like the odd one out. No hat, no thick coat, no sheepskin liner or footmuff. Just a cardigan or a light coat and a thin blanket.
Funny how the roles have reversed. I was now the horrible mother people looked upon for not dressing her child appropriately.
I’m still not as relaxed as many of the British mums are about dressing their babies. When I see a barefoot child in the middle of the winter, it still amazes me to this day.
So, I think, when it comes to dressing my baby, I stand somewhere in the middle. Not too many layers of clothing but too little isn’t good either.
They don’t give babies tea
It took my mum few months to understand and finally accept that I won’t be giving my little girl a baby tea to drink. Yes, that’s a standard practice back home. In fact, my auntie looked at me a bit funny when I told her my daughter, at the age of three months, isn’t drinking any tea yet and I’m not planning on introducing it anytime soon.
In summer months when my baby was only a few months old, I was constantly told by my mum to give her at least a tiny amount of tea or water because she must be thirsty. In Slovakia, babies are given tea to kill the thirst as well as to help them with an upset tummy. Both of these reasons are just a myth. Babies get all hydration they need from milk, and anything extra will just be a burden on their immature digestive system. Took a while for my mum to accept this, but
Both of these reasons are just a myth. Babies get all hydration they need from milk, and anything extra will just be a burden on their immature digestive system. It took a while for my mum to accept this, but she did eventually when she saw my baby was doing ok with ‘just’ the breast milk.
They send you home a day after you give birth
When you give birth in Slovakia, you typically stay in the hospital for five days. In the UK, in some cases, you could be discharged the same day as you give birth. That’s just mad in my view, especially if it’s your first baby.
Yes, you have nine months to get ready for your baby’s arrival, but boy, no amount of planning can really prepare you for what’s coming.
I had to stay in the hospital for five days with my baby because of some health issues. And I was glad I did in the end. When the reality of becoming a mum finally sinks in, all thoughts are going through your mind. Will I cope on my own when I take her home? How do I know if she’s eating enough? Planning to breastfeed? Ouch, that hurts like hell. Not part of the plan. It’s not going the way it was supposed to go, even though I attended ante-natal classes, read and watched videos on Youtube.
In fact, nothing in those early days, weeks works like you imagined it would. It’s a lot, and I mean A LOT harder.
You have so many questions. I know you can call your midwife or health visitor, but some questions are so silly, daft and trivial that you just wouldn’t bother to dial the number. Whereas, if you were in a hospital, you could just ask anything and everything there and then.
They don’t do baby ear piercing
This is a big no no in the UK. They compare it to child cruelty, by inflicting unnecessary pain on your child. In fact, there was a petition back in 2015 to make it illegal.
While in Slovakia many newborn girls leave the hospital with their ears pierced, in the UK it’s very rare to see it. Luckily, it’s also common practice in Albania, my partner’s home country, so we didn’t have any disagreements here.
My daughter had her ears pierced when she was six months old, and I don’t regret it. That’s the way it is back home. It would be very unusual if I decided not to do it. I got earrings as a Christening gift from my sister.
In the UK, when people see my baby’s earrings, they always comment. I’ve only had positive feedback so far. But, given the fact that it’s such a divided topic, I’m not sure whether those comments are genuine, or people are just trying to be polite, while deep down they think I’m the worst mother ever.
Breastfeeding in public
There is a law in the UK that protects breastfeeding mums from being treated unfavourably in any public places. How does it make you feel if you are a breastfeeding mum?
I’m naturally quite a shy person. So, when it comes to breastfeeding in public, I was always a bit wary of my surroundings. Knowing, that there is actually a law protecting the woman’s right to breastfeed in public, made me feel a bit more brave about it. After two or three times of breastfeeding in public, it got easier, and now it feels natural.
There is no such law in Slovakia and breastfeeding is still a bit of a taboo subject. It’s not unusual for health professionals to refer to breastfeeding as intimate act and advise mums to feed their babies mainly at home unless absolutely necessary.
What’s your attitude towards raising your kids in the UK?
These are just some aspects of parenting which vary from country to country. I could go on and on about the differences. I’d like to hear your views. What do you like and dislike about raising your children in the UK? How are things different in your home country? Please get in touch.