Interview with a Mom on Dutch Parenting
Name: Louise (changed for anonimity)
Age: 40 years
Number of kids: 2
Age of your Kids: 3 and 1 years
No of family Members. 4
Share a small brief about yourself: I live together with my husband and two daughters in a city close to Amsterdam, and I work at the University of Amsterdam. I am native Dutch; my husband was born in an Eastern European country and speaks English with the girls.
Are you a stay at home mom or a working mother?
Working mother. Three days a week I work at the university, and the other two week days I am with the girls. For me this strikes the right balance: I love my work, and I love having my girls close to me. We are a very warm family and we know each other very well.
Do you believe in co-sleeping with your child? If Yes Till what age did you or will you co sleep?
I do believe that it is important for small babies to feel safe and close to their parents. When they grow a bit older they differ in their needs. When they were small babies, because of the nightly breast feeding, the girls often slept in our bed. The oldest one then already had the tendency to prefer sleeping with us in the bed, whereas the youngest one preferred –after drinking- to be put back in the crib that was standing next to our bed. The oldest was sleeping in a bed next to our bed until she was older than 1.5 years. Then we moved her to the other bed room, but she still often prefers to lay with us. We moved the youngest one to their bed room much earlier (when she was half a year or so), because she prefers to fall asleep by herself.
Share you thoughts about Dutch Parenting . How is it being a Mom in the Netherlands?
When I look at the moms around me, I am very impressed by how dedicated they are to their roles as mothers, but also as wives, at the same time aiming to express themselves in and through their work, and maintaining their social circle. The moms that are closest to me all spend quite some time on self development, yoga, meditation etc. At the same time, this implies that I definitely see around me that the life stage with small children is the “rush hour of life” in which the women feel they need to be perfect/good moms, wives, make a career, etc. Women ask a lot of themselves, that’s not always easy on them.
A Unicef Report in 2013 said that Kids in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world. What all do you think contributes to this achievement
See the answer to question 3: dedicated mothers :). Combined with dedicated fathers. When I look around me, I see loving parents who aim to spend time with their children and pay attention to them. Of course we do need to acknowledge that there are also parents who have their own problems (psychological, financial, painful divorces) that prevent children from having the carefree youth.
Do your kids help you with household chores?
Yes, in a playful manner. We live in an apartment, so they want to know what I am doing anyway. I involve them in it and the oldest one helps me with sorting the laundry, turning on the dish washer etc. We do it together and it is a nice shared activity. I hope that in a short while they will be fighting over who is allowed to do the laundry with mama, etc., haha. At the same time, their own primary activity is playing, both in doors and outdoors.
Do you have your meals together?
Yes, this is a clear yes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Fruit also at the table together. Although the oldest one wants to eat the whole day, also between meal times, so she would walk around sometimes by herself with something to eat.
How often you give gifts to your child. Is it attached to good behaviour?
I would prefer to give gifts only with birthdays and Sinterklaas (a Dutch celebration). I do give gifts sometimes besides that, particularly when the oldest one begs for it, and mostly small things. No, not as a reward for good behaviour. But I must say that I guess that I am far less materialistic than other moms or parents. Also, the grandmothers regularly have gifts for them, they get a lot of gifts from others at their birthdays as well etc. They have plenty of stuff.
Share some insights about the meal box at school. Do the kids carry the meal box or eat the meals provided by school?
My girls (3 and 1 years) go to the daycare three days a week, and the food is provided there. We chose a daycare that serves hot meals for lunch, mostly with biological vegetables etc. At the age of 4, school starts. There, the lunch is not provided. Traditionally, children used to go their own homes during the lunch break, now many children stay at school during lunch time. Parents give the children lunch boxes. I was quite shocked to hear that at the school where my children will probably go you have to pay about 2.50 per day to have some assistants watching over the children during lunch break while the children are eating their meal boxes brought from home.
What is the idea about healthy & nutritious foods for kids in your country? Share the composition of a typical lunch meals for kids.
Dutch lunch is famous for “broodje kaas”: sandwich with cheese, very sophisticated right? So traditionally I think parents gave children bread with cheese, peanut butter and maybe jello. And maybe also candy, I don’t know. These days a large share of the population is very conscious about healthy food, I guess they still give bread, but also salad, cucumber, carrots? I will see next year.
Do you take your kids to the park for a picnic occasionally or often?
Yes, when weather permits we go to a playground, park, or small lake.
Do you usually have joint families in the Netherlands which includes grandparents staying with the family? How do you teach your kids to value their family?
No, grandparents living with the family is very uncommon. Typically, grandparents live in their own home. That can be in the same town, but also a 1 or 2 hours drive away. Some grandparents have a fixed day, or more, per week that they take care of the grandchildren. My parents live about 1 hour drive away, and visit us regularly and play with the children. And through Skype we stay in contact with my husband’s parents and family. The girls very well know they have a family, and there is also a social circle around us.
How do you manage the me time and do you go out with your friends often?
I manage to find some me time every day, in the train to work, late in the evening etc. I meet with friends maybe every week or every two weeks; my husband is with the children then, that is perfectly fine. I find it harder to find time for me and my husband together, because the girls do not sleep over at my parents’ place, and I do not feel comfortable with leaving my kids with a babysitter (who are usually young girls).
How do you manage the spending related to the kids – Any special planning tips you can share.
As said, I am not super materialistic. One thing to note is that daycare is very expensive in the Netherlands.
One advise from the Dutch way of Parenting that you would tell the mothers across the globe.
I think it is very nice that the Dutch parents are really dedicated to their children: they clearly love them, care for them, spend time with them. This makes Dutch Parenting very special.
Share your top 3 things that you as a mother definitely want to teach your child.
1) I told my 3-year old that I needed to answer this question and she said the answer is: “Playing (very nice that she started with this), throwing (I don’t know why she mentioned that), running, jumping, eating, and sleeping”. Good answer!
2) Be the change you want to see in the world.
3) Take time for reflection and introspection; pay attention to spirit-mind-body-emotion, the full package. And celebrate life!
If you have to choose one behaviour that your kid can possess, what would you choose:
a) Competitiveness Or Kindness
b) Winning or being inclusive
I am not sure whether my answers to question 16 necessarily reflect Dutch Parenting or culture. I feel more that kindness and being inclusive are fundamental values, regardless of culture.
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You may also like to read about an article by Audrey Goodson Kingo published at workingmother.com