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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Raising Kids in a Car Seat Optional World

Last week I was talking with a Dutch colleague who has lived in Tanzania for the past 10 years. We were doing the typical mom-meets-mom thing and exchanging our birth stories. She was telling me about how she went home to Holland to have her first child and was originally glad to be there because he was born with a serious infection that the Dutch doctors were easily able to treat. However, a small bout of post-partum depression, and the fact that her son spent 3 weeks in an incubator unable to be held by her, resulted in a decision to not breastfeed her son. This decision caused a wave of shock through the hospital... and caused her additional guilt and depression. She never imagined that she would go home to Holland only to feel the guilt of the parenting world on her shoulders.

I was already thinking about this story when Liz (a.k.a. Mom-101) wrote a blog about CompetiMoms. You know, the kind of mom you meet out and about with a child about the same age as yours who proceeds to "compete" with you over the resume of their child vs. your child - even if they are only several weeks old. Well... I was wondering if I would be coming across many CompetiMoms here in Tanzania, or start to feel the guilty conscious of the DC Urban Mom who didn't manage to get in her application to the top pre-school in town on time, when I made a timely observation - one that I think speaks to the level of pressure on parents here in Dar. No one... not one person I observed while taking Jaden and Rowan to school today... not one family had their under 6 child properly strapped into a car seat. I think I may have been the only one!

And then I remembered... I met people like this on my trip here last month... but I wrote them off as unusual and irresponsible - like the guy who told me he worked for "the Agency" (otherwise known as the CIA) who picked me up so I could interview his nanny with his three beautiful, blond and tan under-7s in the back seat. They were perched high in their giant SUV upon top-of-the-line car seats, but not a single one of them was strapped in. And they weren't on the way back to the hotel either.

So if I was ever worried about parent competition or parent guilt here in TZ I think I can rest easy. I'm going to be the bizarro parent whose children are always strapped in. If the rest of them - all of them - want to feel guilty about that then let them. Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy this guilt-free parenting world for a few years.

NB: I was just observing the foreigners and upper middle class/wealthy Tanzanians dropping their kids off at J & R's school. While I'm sure that there are other Tanzanians who would like to have their kids strapped into a car seat - the price for even the cheapest seats would be prohibitive for the vast majority of families. Perhaps I've just discovered the need for a new NGO, CSI (Car Seats International)!


Blogger Mom101 said...

Ha, you learned to link. and to me! I'm honored, Hal. Next I'll teach you how to add your fave orgs/links in a blogroll on the side.

I love that you're continuing to look out for the safety of your kids, despite the fact that it's not mandated or even encouraged through peer pressure.

Now that you have a heightened awareness of CompetiMommies, keep an eye out for their more annoying cousins, the SanctiMommies! You know, the types who say "oh, you didn't breast feed. Well to each his own but..." Blech.

7:14 PM  

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