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What if you come from rural Mexico where your mother gave birth to you with a midwife and breastfeeding was so obvious and commonplace you never even thought about it…and you find yourself in a culture where births are in high-tech hospitals and babies are whisked away from you to be washed, eye-dropped, and wrapped like a Christmas gift…


What if you grew up in Japan where you and your parents shared the same bed and later the same room, as did everyone else you knew…and you find yourself in a country where the newspapers are full of articles about the dangers of sharing a bed, or you find yourself in a baby group where parents talk in shrill tones about why their baby STILL cries itself to sleep in another room...

What if you grew up in the U.S. where children are assumed to be special individuals with unique gifts just waiting to be discovered…and you find yourself in a place where children are expected to downplay their talents, and if at all, to practice them in the background and NOT shine within the group...

What if you grew up in a Middle Eastern Neighborhood where modesty and family loyalty were defining values…and you find yourself raising teenagers in a place where teen sex, alcohol, drugs and gang violence is commonplace...

Beng babies understand every world language

"Beng newborns have full comprehension not only of Beng but of every language spoken on this earth. … Beng infants are said to begin gradually to leave their previous existence behind. This includes gradually giving up their knowledge of languages other than the one spoken around and to them daily." [view source]

Gottlieb, Alma, "Do Infants Have Religion? The Spiritual Lives of Beng Babies," American Anthropologist, vol. 100, issue 1, 1998, pg. 122-135.

In sum, Beng infants are believed to do the opposite of what most people suppose. Rather than being born 'pre-lingual' and gradually learning languages, Beng babies understand all languages and gradually lose these until they can finally only understand the languages necessary for daily life around them. Intriguing worldview, as anyone working in multilingual settings knows, we can speak to a small baby in a particular tone in any language at all and it will respond as if it understands.


An enchanting documentary following four babies from Tokyo, San Francisco, Mongolia and Namibia. Wonderful to watch with your children, too! Try it, you'd be surprised how even your 'rambunctious' boys will love it...

Becoming a person

In the first three years of life every human being undergoes yet a second birth, in which he is born as a psychological being possessing selfhood and separate identity. The quality of self an infant achieves in those crucial three years will profoundly affect all of his subsequent existence. Oneness and Separateness






"Just being there when you turn around. That is the cardinal virtue of the perfect Mum."


[who said it?]

by Julia Glass, Three Junes, pg. 314





Motherlands is....

Parenting is a fabulous and wonderful and, at times, exhausting journey. No matter where you are.  For those who become parents in a different culture or surrounded by a foreign language, that journey dons even more colours and textures, questions and puzzles.  Not only are you confronting the challenging feelings associated with having a baby, or a toddler or a school child or a teenager … but also the dissonance of feeling ‘odd’ in relationship to the outside world.

What's New in August

This month is the first! I am looking forward to receiving suggestions from you about articles, books and videos that might belong on Motherlands. Look for news about additions every month here.

We all know the world is more 'global' than ever.  More and more mothers are becoming mothers far away from home. The reasons for finding themselves abroad are more diverse than ever: marrying a husband whose work takes him from India to the US, falling in love in China with a Brazilian exporter and moving continents, accepting a grant as a 20-year-old to South Africa and staying, moving as a Russian-trained programmer with a promotion to a company in Italy. And the situation most dire of all, being forced to flee war or actual persecution.

It is easy to say the world is a village, but …. all these women will give birth somewhere, send their children to school somewhere, engage with neighbors somewhere.  They will clash with the local culture, they will learn from it. They will take on certain attributes and pass them willingly onto their children. They will struggle against other local cultural values and rituals.  Mothering is a rich and complex tapestry of networks, social interactions and individual reflection.  It can also be very lonely and full of insecurity. So welcome to this internet source of reflection and information. Hopefully you will find something that will engage your feeling of mothering.

Data for Motherlands is drawn from social anthropology and other social studies articles, literature, journalism, television, film, YouTube, and personal experiences of contributing mothers around the world. It is starting out with an Anglo-American bias, not through intention but through accident of collection, but will certainly develop a more international flair as it goes on.


The loneliness of immigration

"What she missed most was people. Not any people in particular (apart, of course, from Hasina) but just people. If she put her ear to the wall she could hear sounds. The television on. Coughing. Sometimes the lavatory flushing. ... Everyone in their boxes, counting their possessions. In all her eighteen years, she could scarcely remember a moment that she had spent alone. Until she married. And came to London to sit day after day in this large box with the furniture to dust, and the muffled sound of private lives sealed away above, below and around her."Brick Lane


Stuff I overheard and loved, but would never dare say myself:

surprised woman getting news

"You can be a glamorous mother, OR you can be a good mother"


or at least not at the same time…

Social anthropologists have long recognized mothering as crucial to the transmission of culture, the development of enculturated persons, the constitution of kinship, family, and household, and the reproduction of society. Discussions in anthropology and related disciplines explore mothering from a wide range of perspectives, among them cultural, psychological, evolutionary, and feminist. Whether idealized in symbol and story, conferred as a right, privilege, or responsibility, or examined for its social, cultural, and psychological consequences, the subject of mothers and mothering elicits strong opinions, powerful emotions, and intense commitments. We enter these discussions to offer observations of mothering in cultural context as practiced in ordinary, everyday interactions. anthropologists on mothering

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