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Parenting in a Foreign Land

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Today I am thrilled to be introducing my friend Vinma from A Momless Mom. Vinma grew up in India and now lives in Canada with her husband and children. One day a while back we got to talking about the differences in how children are raised in different cultures, and Vinma offered to share her perspectives with my readers, given that she has lived it! It’s truly a fascinating topic, and I am excited to have her guest posting here with me today!  

I was born in India and spent the first twenty six years of my life there.

My life as a child was very different there compared to the lives of my children living here in Canada. Raising my brother and I was pretty uncomplicated for my parents in those times. Adjusting to new rules and lifestyle approaches as a parent coming from a different culture has sometimes been a rough ride. The insights I gleaned from being a parent in a foreign land didn’t sit well with the rules that were already instilled in my mind from my childhood long ago. It took some time to adjust and may I say, tolerate some of the child care approaches observed here at home but I have crossed that bridge now, gracefully. I think it’s a good idea to share with you what I have discovered and learned in the process. I do this by taking the best of both worlds I inherit and using it to give the best shot at being a good parent to my children.

Parenting in a Foreign Land

Toys  “You can never have too many” seems like a fitting description for a child’s toy collection. Growing up, my brother and I shared a handful of toys between us. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a toy, nor did my brother. I still remember being amazed seeing the huge amount of toys my nephew and niece owned when I moved here initially. I couldn’t justify parents lavishing toys this way on their children and resented it strongly in my mind. But tide turned around by the time it was my chance to be a Mom after three years of my confrontation with this first dose of reality. After my son was born, in a blur of time, our house became piled with toys. Now, between my two kids, our whole house is like a toy maze, and we have to pick our way through it. In my heart, I still resent the excessive amount of toys in our house, but I guess there is no way our children will be sharing a small number of toys between themselves like their Mommy did years ago.

Letting your children have a say on ‘things’  It was surprising to me that grownups often asked their kids for their opinions on matters that affect them here in Canada.  For example:

“Do you like this outfit, bud?”

“What do you think of these cookies? Rather new…but would you like to give it a try?”

“What sort of Summer Camp do you want to go to? Any ideas?”

All these were unheard of in India when we were kids. For the grown ups over there, we were faceless without any opinions of our own. We did as we were told. After all, they knew what was best for us, right? Here in Canada, that is not how the kids are treated, as you all know. We include them in decision making as long as it applies to their age and trust that they will be able to make a wise choice. And this, I have to come to like, I must say.

Disciplinary Measures  I would have laughed at the concept of ‘Time out’ if I had heard of it when I was a child.  It would have sounded pretty unreal to me back then. We were treated harshly with beatings if we did something wrong back in India. Naughty corners and time outs did not exist in our world and if things got out of hand, we couldn’t even call 911 over there. I am not saying that we were beaten to a pulp daily. The difference was in how parents dealt with a child’s misbehavior. Kids were not disciplined with a ‘hands-off’ approach, but rather by manhandling. I don’t know if things have changed in this regard in my country these days. But it was true in my case as a little girl.

Food and Snacks  In India, we didn’t enjoy snacks or treats. There were nothing like kids’ snacks or kids’ meals (like the ones you get from McDonald or Swiss Chalet). We ate three times a day, with the family while at home. And we ate normal food. My parents didn’t have means to treat us to cookies or ice creams when we became hungry. It was okay if we were hungry. We just had to wait until lunch or dinner time. However, I do remember us going for occasional outings together as a family which included a fancy meal from a nice restaurant and a movie night in a big theatre. And that was it! But those were good times…I still remember how happy I was on those rare moments, and I am glad that I never took any of it for granted. I think that was exactly the point of my experiences. Never take things for granted. Just appreciate what you have and enjoy it. We didn’t have much but we sure enjoyed the little we had…

Mommy! I am bored!  There was a lot of downtime at our hands when we were on vacation from school during the summer time. We were not sent off to camps or play dates or slumber parties or anything like that to pass the time or have fun in a creative or organized atmosphere. If the kids found themselves with lots of time on their hands, so be it! I used to seek out other neighborhood kids and play with them. Other times, I would find books to read or watch TV (whenever my parents would allow me to) or make myself useful by helping out my Mom in the kitchen. Those were also the moments I started scribbling down poems and short stories to kill time. I think if I hadn’t had those free hours to myself, I would have never figured out the creative inspiration that was flowing out of me constantly. Downtime that was thrust upon me helped me with the evolvement of my character and personality.

Our kids here are constantly engaged. There is always soccer, hockey, camp or something else, and they hardly spend ‘any time with themselves.’ Now, if kids have some down time, we see them without fail in front of the TV or playing video games.

I wonder…are our children getting any chances to know themselves better?

Is there anytime for them to pause from what they are doing and see this world properly with the kind of attention that it deserves? 

 Do they really know what they want?

These are some of the thoughts that passed my mind when I became a parent. But now, as they say, I kind of ‘go with the flow’ and I put those thoughts away a long time ago.  My kids go to camps and all sorts of other social activities. They have a busy social life.

I don’t think circumstances essentially change their personality. It just merely shapes and refines their being through the life experiences they gain. I make sure that they don’t miss out on anything due to my oversight or inability to comprehend the cultural aspects of raising children in my adopted country through marriage.

What are your thoughts on these differences? What is the good? What is the bad? Do you have any new insights to add? What will you take away from here?


Vinma at A Momless MomVinma is a Mom of two little ones. She is an Insurance Advisor by profession and a blogger by passion. She mostly writes about her kids, her life as a busy working Mom and about her own Mother who left her and her family quite early on.  Vinma also finds time to sit down and write about her perspectives on raising children from a cultural stand point as well as she was born in India and lived there for the first twenty six years. She is now settled in Toronto with her family. When she is not working or blogging at A Momless Mom, you can find her on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest 


Wednesday 11th of September 2013

I just want to thank you, Vinma, for sharing your experiences here. I really enjoyed it. I am fascinated to learn about other people's stories, and cultures. It is clear through your words how much you love your children and you family that you would be willing to adapt. But I imagine your children will still benefit from your experiences, unique perspective, and values. Wonderful post.


Sunday 8th of September 2013

I'm always very interested in other cultures - particularly India. It's such an enormous country, yet we rarely hear much about it here in the US. I'm a little worried about how quickly things have changed. The way our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all somewhat similar, yet we've seen such drastic changes in just one generation! I can even see a LOT of difference between how I raised my older and younger kids. I don't know if that's a good thing and I wonder what kind of unexpected problems these kids will have as a result of it.

My childhood was frankly extremely boring. We were home every night of the week and most of each weekend. I had books to read and my cats to play with and the TV was on nearly ALL the time. But no one entertained me or made any efforts to build a social life for me. I've gone the opposite way with my kids - our lives are constantly BUSY and we spend a lot more time with other people, but also a lot of time on technology with computers, video games, smartphones, the works. Part of it is a little backlash from my own childhood because I felt like I missed out on some things and I don't want my kids to feel that way.

Michelle Nahom

Tuesday 10th of September 2013

I agree's really quite a drastic change the way we raise our kids today from how we were raised. Our lives are overscheduled. I try very hard to just send them out to do stuff on their own, the way we did. But it's not nearly the same!


Monday 9th of September 2013

At the time, when I was a kid I remember feeling bored occasionally. Not too many activities to keep us kids engaged or entertainments to participate in. It was okay to get bored and okay to be doing nothing :) Looks like our childhood were a bit similar :) Thanks for your perspectives and stopping by Adrian.


Saturday 7th of September 2013

This is a really interesting post! As an au pair, I find that even within Europe I notice a lot of differences in the way I was raised vs. french or german children (the two I've worked with so far). Although I have to say the strictest parents I've experienced so far are the French, it works well though!


Monday 9th of September 2013

Really? I had no idea French were strict Parents! I have heard that they were not keen on too many snacks for their kids.. And always encouraged their kids to eat healthy.

Chris Carter

Saturday 7th of September 2013

Such an amazing post here.... I can't imagine the living in India, and yet I have a certain disdain for life here in the states- the materialism, the internet, all those things that prove unworthy of true values and essentials of life. Thank you for your powerful perspective. :)


Monday 9th of September 2013

Thanks for reading Chris. Materialism is big but if we know how to balance it to the right blend, Parenting won't be that hard. As we know it, happy medium is the holy grail here :)

Grown and Flown

Saturday 7th of September 2013

My oldest is 21 and I feel that I have watched parenting change radically just in the time that I have been a parent. A big part of it is technology. But some part of it I think is our own reaction to the way we were parented. We ate what was served, we did what we were told, but many of us didn't like that and wanted to do things differently as parents. Wonderful Post!


Monday 9th of September 2013

You are certainly right there :) Two of the contributing factors in the evolution of Parenting are coming from Technology and also how we were raised as kids. I think the experiences that we were met with as kids greatly set some trends when the tables turned around and we became Parents. Very interesting.