A Different Kind of Mommy Culture

Parenting in Germany has been an adventure. Not only do I run into obstacles daily in learning to navigate a new culture, but the mantras about parenting and childcare I grew up with in the US seem like they are no longer valid. One of the biggest differences that I find myself struggling with here is this lack of competition in the mommy world. In the US mothers are fiercely determined to be Super Mom. I naturally want to be that parent that shows up to lunch dates with my hair styled, my make up completed, spit up free clothing, and an air of "I've got this entirely under control". When I go to BBQs I bend over backwards to make elaborate foods for the potluck, I run around like a crazy person picking up the house before company comes over, and I'm genuinely embarrassed if I'm ever caught without hand sanitizer or some obscure baby necessity in my designer purse turned diaper bag. It turns out, that obsessive need to be the perfect parent and not only be the perfect parent but look like it too, might be more of an American cultural trait than an instinct.

From what I've experienced in Berlin, mothering takes on a whole different attitude. My other "mommy friends" (at least the ones that don't come from the US) seem to get that, as new parents, we're all still trying to figure things out, and they accept that sometimes brunch will get cancelled, hair doesn't get done, and items get forgotten. The competition among parents its lessened and people are more forgiving.

On the face of it, it sounds like this culture of softer expectations would make parenting in Berlin immeasurably easier! The truth is, I'm an American, and I've been conditioned to expect the level of intensity that comes along with being a mom in America. This sounds insane, but I enjoy showing up to a dinner party with a beautiful plate of perfectly filled and frosted cupcakes. I somehow enjoy killing myself by walking 6 blocks on Berlin cobblestone in 4 inch heels. When I've done my part to show up as a Super Mom and that effort is met with a look of confusion, I'm never quite sure how to handle myself. Where I'm from, this is part of the mommy culture. Women pushing each other to fake the appearance of a perfect life, a perfect parent, and a perfect happy child, is actually not as superficial as it sounds. The American mommy culture does push women to be more than just an "I'm still figuring this out parent". It forces us to put in the extra effort to do something positive for our kids and it reminds us not to forget about ourselves. Mom's that are up at 4am doing Pilates in the living room so they can say they are back to their pre-baby weight are crazy. But those mom's get to look in the mirror and see their pre-baby body staring back at them. Mom's that manage to show up on time to events and tote around all their baby needs in a reasonably sized leather purse literally kill themselves to do that...but they don't forget what success feels like. They don't forget what self confidence feels like in the wake of baby.

Someday, when we go back to the US, I hope that I can experience the American version of mommy culture. I hope that I still have this competitive spirit and I hope that I have the energy and ferocity to compete.

What is mommy culture like for you? How does affect your self image and your parenting style?

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