Parenting outside the culture where you yourself were born and raised can be a tricky thing. I certainly do some things differently than the German moms around me. At the same time, I have the feeling that I don’t parent like a typical Latvian mother either. From outside naps to early potty training, I fail terribly at some things that Latvian moms excel at.
Disclaimer: this post is written with a glass of wine and tongue firmly pressed in cheek. Yes, I know that not ALL Latvian mothers are EXACTLY like this. But, judging from sources as varied as my family, friends, and internet forums, this is what many Latvian moms do and/or aspire to.
This is why I make a bad Latvian mother
#1 my kids don’t nap outside
Just like in most of Scandinavia, Latvian babies nap outside in the fresh air. My babies napped outside only if their sleeping time happened to coincide with running an errand.
I could always argue that outside naps are impractical since I live in a multi-story apartment building in the middle of a big city. But such trivialities don’t stop Latvian moms, they make it work. I could argue that the Hamburg weather with frequent rains and strong winds isn’t suitable for sleeping in the pram. But proper Latvian mothers are deterred neither by freezing temperatures nor heatwaves.
So I should probably just fess up and admit that I’m too lazy for making outside naps work. I much rather sit on the couch drinking tea and reading a book than take hours-long walks. And, frankly, here in Germany leaving a baby seemingly unattended outside of my apartment building would just result in someone calling the police.
#2 I don’t bathe them every day
According to most Latvian moms, an evening bath is a wonderful daily bedtime ritual. According to me, a daily bath is too much of a hassle and, frankly, a waste of water. Thus I’m more than happy to follow the advice of German midwives who believe that a weekly bath is the best for the skin of young ones. Of course, hands and faces are washed several times a day, and other body parts are covered as the need arises. But, at our house, a real proper bath doesn’t happen more often than once a week.
#3 I fed my babies store-bought food
Moms in Latvia don’t particularly trust baby food in jars. In fact, I have friends whose little ones never had food that wasn’t homemade. Moreover, chances are high that that homemade baby food is cooked from homegrown fruit and veggies. You see, many people in Latvia have a garden where they grow food their own consumption. And even if you don’t do it yourself, you usually have at least one relative who does. When it comes to introducing the first meat, Latvian moms like to custom-order their rabbits and veal (the top two choices) from local organic farms.
At the end of the day, in Latvia, baby food in jars is used very seldom. Lacking the exclusive option of using veggies and fruit from my own garden, I tried to shop at farmers markets and buy local produce. At the same time, I didn’t shun the convenience of baby food in jars. By my logic, in Germany, food sold for the under-one crowd is much more strongly regulated than the veggies I buy for making my own.
#4 I use wet wipes instead of water
“How do you manage to get Bamm-Bamm dressed after diaper change before he makes a mess again?” asked a Latvian friend when our sons were a few weeks old. “Wait, what?” I inquired feeling puzzled. Then I realized that every time her newborn poops (which, at that age, happens like 5 times a day), she undresses him, takes him to the bathroom to wash, and then dresses him again. Me? I use wet wipes 95% percent of the time.
Well, in the early days with our firstborn we used a combination of water and special paper towels but that didn’t last very long. I know that water is the best for cleaning the little ones. I’m also aware that disposable wipes are terrible for the environment. But wet wipes are a modern convenience that I’m unwilling to give up.
#5 I didn’t potty train early
Judging from online discussions and blogs, lots of Latvian moms start sitting their little ones on the potty around their first birthday. Lots of anxiety and insecurity follow if their little one is still wearing diapers by the age of two.
Potty training at this age is certainly possible, that’s what the generation of my parents did. Some even manage to do it earlier. Personally, I cheerfully subscribe to the more relaxed German approach. Over here barely anyone starts potty training before the age of two and most kids seem to go diaper-free only around their third birthday.