I came across this article recently and thought it was interesting, the idea that we express love (or any other emotion) in different ways depending on culture.
Culture can be individual, or that of our of nuclear family and then, of course, the broader culture in which we live. I think the most enlightened I've ever become in regard to my own culture is, of course, when it's been juxtaposed against another - when I lived in China, for example, or when I spend time with my husband's family vs. when I spend time with my own. It's easy to think of culture as these extreme outward expressions, but culture is very personal. It determines how we eat, what we eat, how we sleep, if we knock before going into our parents' home or if we saunter right in.
My husband goes in.
As mothers, it's often easy to think we should all get on board with parenting in the same way. I think back in the 70s and 80s, when my mom was parenting, there was a much more cohesive mothering culture. Also, my mother was part of the Mormon church, and she had a very close-knit culture within that world as a guide for parenting and family life.
Now, I feel that motherhood (and life in America in general) is influenced much more by other cultures and the idea that we have a homogenous way to rear kids, engage in family life or even be married is less relevant. This is likely a byproduct of technology, which enables a flow of ideas and culture in an unprecedented way, and which allows people to be more fluid in where we live, work and travel, so that we're all just exposed to more ideas, more cultures and more variety in just about everything.
So, when I see an article like this: Mothers Love Differently Around the World, it's hardly shocking. But I do find it fascinating.
The article is based on research conducted by Jennifer Landsford, a psychology and social anthropology professor at Duke. Landsford spent over 5 years studying mothers and infants from 9 countries all over the world. Some interesting contrasts emerged.
According to the article:
In the U.S., for example, a good mother is reactive, Lansford says. She responds to the child’s needs, feeding or changing him when he cries. In contrast, a good mother in Japan is proactive, attempting to anticipate the needs of her baby before he cries.
All over the world, mothers show love differently, discipling children differently, offering physical affection in various forms and expecting varying levels of independence/interdependence from their children.
In Sweden, for example, mothers expect and encourage independence among their children; while Japanese mothers foster a much more interdependent relationship.
In Keyna, children are expected to be obedient and compliant; while in Bangladesh, mothers will show love by taking extra time and care to peel an orange and present it to the child.
I find the whole thing fascinating, and the end point, I think, isn't so much the differences but the fact that in our own ways, we're all infusing these relationships with love - in all of our various forms, with our own cultures as the backdrop.
It makes me think of how I express love with my own children and makes me want to give another back rub to my son or sit a little while longer with my daughter while she tells me about her day.
There are so many ways to love, isn't it wonderful to hear about how it's done all over the world?