scorecardI'm a mom living in the Netherlands. I wish American parents knew that some of their problems are global ones.
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I'm a mom living in the Netherlands. I wish American parents knew that some of their problems are global ones.

Olga Mecking   

I'm a mom living in the Netherlands. I wish American parents knew that some of their problems are global ones.
LifeThelife2 min read
  • I live in a country with a generous social-benefits system.
  • I don't have the social-support network many parents have here and sometimes feel isolated.

"Have you applied for emergency childcare?" asked a friend, one of the few people we were allowed to have over after the pandemic started and the government announced school closures in the Netherlands, where I live. Our friend's wife is a teacher, and their children got accepted into an emergency childcare program.

This was not an option for us. I raised my hand and said, "I am the emergency childcare."

I love reading stories in which parents share their hardest moments. They give me the feeling that I'm not alone. Sometimes I want to write about my struggles, too, but I know the what the reaction would be if I did that.

"But you live in the Netherlands! The country with the happiest children on Earth! Where parents enjoy parental leave and can work part time! We don't have these things, so what are you even complaining about?" some American parents would imply, if not tell me outright. But when the pandemic struck, I was left scrambling like many mothers and fathers in the US.

I'm an immigrant here

Just because I live in a country that offers amazing benefits to parents does not mean that I can't struggle. As generous as the Dutch welfare system is, it has specifically targeted families such as mine for suspected misuse. I'm an immigrant from Poland, and people from my country have been accused of abusing the welfare system when, in fact, they were victims of fraud.

When I first arrived in the Netherlands with a 6-week-old baby, I was just as lonely, anxious, and isolated as many new moms in America describe being. Before I became self-employed, I relied on an allowance my husband's workplace paid him, which he then transferred over to my account.

Before the pandemic, my husband worked long hours while I was taking care of the children and the home. While it's true that other countries have safety nets, women all over the world are still doing the majority of domestic and childcare-related tasks.

When the pandemic struck, I was just as frazzled, overwhelmed, and angry as many parents in the US. Since my husband I aren't Dutch and our families live in our home countries, we don't have the support network that many locals here enjoy.

Life here is not perfect

Like many people around the world, parents and children here increasingly struggle with burnout and depression, and the pandemic has affected the most vulnerable here as well. While living in the Netherlands is good, it's definitely not paradise.

An unstable economy, the sky-high expectations put on parents, and the gender inequality that leaves women to shoulder more childcare responsibilities are not just American problems, but global ones.

While I believe that things like parental leave — for all sorts of caregivers — a childcare allowance, and free education are a must, these things are just the beginning. Americans seem to think that those things are whole house, but they're just the foundation.

While I empathize with the many moms in the US who have to return to work mere two weeks after giving birth or pump milk in toilet stalls, please don't minimize my very real struggles because of my geographical location.

Parenting is hard, no matter where you live. We're all in this together.




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