Amanda van Mulligen reviews the book Stuff Dutch Moms Like, an insight into motherhood in the Netherlands.
Do Dutch moms have it all? Surely not – with only 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, an antiquated home birth system, and a maternity system run by midwives it’s hard to imagine why Dutch moms are so darn happy. But happy they are, if international studies and surveys are anything to go by. Colleen Geske (Stuff Dutch People Like) sets out to separate the fake news from reality about Dutch mothers in her book Stuff Dutch Moms Like (A celebration of Dutch parenting and why Dutch moms have it all).
Colleen shares her findings on topics from pregnancy to birth, and from postnatal care through to returning to work – and reveals why the wisdom of grandmothers and the three R’s (regelmaat, rust, and reinheid) are so important to the Dutch.
She states in the book’s conclusion: “I’ve closely observed how the Netherland’s prevailing values of freedom, independence, and egalitarianism have truly influenced all levels and domains of Dutch society – including that of motherhood.” They are certainly themes that run through all the different elements of Dutch motherhood that Colleen tackles in this book.
Stuff Dutch Moms Like kicks off with pregnancy and describes the choices around giving birth. It talks about affordable maternity care, an accessible and welcoming midwifery system, drugs and the pain of childbirth, and the expectations and the traditions around a Dutch birth.
The book then moves on to postnatal care. My favourite part of giving birth in the Netherlands (aside from the actual baby, of course) is covered: the kraamzorg, a maternity nurse who comes to your home after the birth. Once the kraamzorg has left, the baton of care for the baby passes to the Consultatiebureau. Is the maternity and postnatal care system the reason Dutch moms are so happy?
Before the baby is sleeping through the night it’s time to get back to work (the length of maternity leave certainly falls short of expectations). Colleen explores the ingrained culture of part-time working in the Netherlands, the now world-famous papa and mama days, and the support many Dutch families have from opa and oma when it comes to child care arrangements. Are the family-centric work policies the key to Dutch moms’ happiness?
The author also looks comprehensively at the ideas of regularity, rest, and cleanliness – the three pillars of Dutch parenting passed from generation to generation. Can we attribute Dutch mothering bliss to the wisdom of grandmothers?
En masse, Dutch mothers have said nee to being helicopter parents, instead opting for a more relaxed manner of parenting; the Dutch are determined to let children be…well, children. Colleen also explores the way in which Dutch mothers feel less guilt than other nationalities. Less guilt, more happiness?
Take a read and make your own mind up. One thing is for sure, reading Stuff Dutch Moms Like reminds us that we could all learn a thing or two from the Dutch when it comes to parenting.
Amsterdam Mamas received a free copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.
Amanda van Mulligen
Amanda van Mulligen is a mother, writer and expat. In that order. She is British-born but has called the Netherlands home since 2000. She is 'mama' to three boys, and blogs about her expat way of living, loving and parenting over at Turning Dutch. You can find out more about her on her Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter.