Parents in the US are at a breaking point. Parents around the world are wondering why.
- Parents in the US are at a breaking point, with school closures and lack of reliable child care.
- In Italy, parents often have support from family members.
Navigating a worldwide pandemic has been stressful for parents across the globe, but parents in the United States are operating in perpetual crisis mode. With schools closures, a childcare crisis with many daycares closing for good, and a lack of reliable childcare, parents are having to do it all.
In fact, according to a 2021 survey of parents in 42 countries, parental burnout ranked highest among Americans. We talked to some parents in several countries outside the US who say they're coping well to figure out why.
Italian parents often have strong support systems
The Italian government requires everyone to mask up and vaccination is required to attend work or university, said Candice Criscione, an expat who lives with her family just outside of Florence. While the US only has 63% of the population fully vaccinated against
Many Italians also have an excellent support system when it comes to raising children, she said. "Here, you see grandparents picking up children after school and families trade-off with child care. If you need help, you won't have trouble finding it," Criscione said.
Even when parents feel depleted from juggling jobs and child-rearing, "there is a general consensus that sacrifices have to be made, and there's trust in what scientists and authorities are communicating," said Katherine Wilson, who lives in Rome.
"In the US, there is always pressure to do everything and at 110%," said Criscione. That includes being amazing parents, teachers, partners, employees, and friends. "Parents here are doing the best they can, but recognize that they can't be perfect at every role, every day," she said.
Some parents in Argentina pooled resources for tutoring
At the beginning of the pandemic, Mexican mother Diana Bueno Bieletto was on full alert like everyone else, but that fear has since fizzled. In addition to having the support of grandparents, a cultural norm in Mexico, Bieletto said parents often don't prevent their kids from interacting.
"You see kids outside playing at playgrounds, malls, schools, beach, parks. I think we value socialization in Mexico even more than
Luis Enrique Rodriguez, who lives in central Mexico, said there are moments when he feels tired, but not burnt-out. "I think culturally we have more support mechanisms than people in the US, and maybe we're not so centered on fear. The first six months we were very strict about isolating, but then we started venturing [out] more and more, just hoping for the best," said Rodriguez.
For Violeta Noetinger, a mom of four in Argentina, the beginning of the pandemic was exhausting. Living in a society that relies heavily on domestic help, which was suddenly unavailable due to limited transportation, she said she felt "completely abandoned." But as time went on, parents pooled their resources.
"We hired private tutors for small groups at home — even going against local guidelines — to ensure that our kids had some kind of safe, limited, and somewhat periodic learning and social contact. If I have to think what saved us, it was the small groups we formed with other parents in order to help each other out," Noetinger said.
An American expat in Switzerland is seeing more of a sense of collective responsibility
Per Ola Wold-Olsen, a father in Norway, said people in his country tend to have faith in their government and its institutions, something that hasn't changed during the pandemic.
Even with homeschooling and working from home, Wold-Olsen said he's seen families coping well. "Mostly, parents are frustrated over how little we can go to the office, travel, and meet in large groups," Wold-Olsen said.
Rachel Meyer, an American expat living in Switzerland, said she's noticed a sense of collective responsibility for public health in Switzerland that seems to be missing in the US. "The individualist spirit that drives partisan cultural divisions over mask mandates and vaccination resistance makes surviving the pandemic especially tough for American parents," said Meyer.
"Because of government-run weekly mass testing and student mask mandates, children here in Switzerland have largely managed to stay in face-to-face school over the course of the pandemic," said Meyer. She said this alone has been supportive both for both parents' and students' mental well-being.
Grateful to be riding out the pandemic in Switzerland rather than the United States, Meyer said, "It's hard to stay healthy when 50% of your community thinks COVID is a hoax."
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