So as many of you know, I have lived here since 2004, which means I am coming up on my 10 year anniversary here. Wow. I feel old. Yeah I said it. Those of you who know me who are older than me can poo-poo this statement all you want, but that’s how I feel. Oh, and I also feel FAT. FAT FAT FAT!
Parenting is tough wherever you go, and I’m not sure that there is a net positive anywhere. Some people I know would argue that Argentina has many virtues that lend more importance to family than, say, in the USA. I do agree with some of these things, and in general think that Argentina is a more family oriented place than the USA is, but it depends on exactly which city you are talking about and other such details.
One thing that is tough wherever you go is the lack of sleep and constantly being on duty (so how are you writing this blog, Dan?? funny you ask, I have child care! And in Argentina this is really quite amazing, but more on that in a sec) which makes you tired and makes some of us fat (ME!).
Fortunately after year 1 with my gorgeous boy/girl twins, some of these trends are starting to reverse as they are more consistently sleeping through the night for example, although they still get up plenty.
So what is a distinct advantage in Argentina for a parent over the USA? The cost of a nanny. Now keep in mind, although costs are accessible, the low price comes with, in the initial phases, a lack of trust and perhaps ever a certain degree of incompetence. So you really have to search and interview and test before you make a long term commitment to someone. The thing is that what would cost you $30,000 usd or more (probably much more, I am just guessing!) in the USA, would only cost you 7000 or 8000 usd in Argentina. I do know people here who pay much more and much less.
So what do you get for that money? 45 hours per week or so of child care and perhaps some cleaning of your house as well. This is amazing.
In addition, the jardines infantiles (child care facilities) are very accessibly priced.
So where is the downside? If you have American sensibilities (you want to measure how much milk your child drinks per day, what time they eat, sleep and poop, etc) it will be very difficult to adapt to things here, which are in essence, simply much more accepting of variability and lack of structure. Many Americans here cannot deal with that, and need to rigorously train the people they hire to abide by certain “rules” and regulations so to speak.
This became apparent to Lourdes and I when we went to the USA last August/September for an extended stay. We were desperate for child care and fortunately my parents contributed plenty of their time as well as some financial support. At the gym, for example, it cost $10 usd per hour per child, which is astronomically more expensive than in Argentina. But, for this money, you get a whole slew of other extras. First, this particular place had a 2:1 policy for infants. So our twins had one person who only looked after them. Second, they would count, to the half ounce, the amount of milk consumed by whom and at what time… exactly. After they informed us the first time of the twins consumption, they asked “is it ok that we let them drink that much?” To which we replied “um, yeah, they know when they’re full! Let them drink whatever they want.” They looked at us…. woooowww… you guys are the most relaxed parents we have ever seen! Are you on xanax? What is up?!?!
And the interesting part, to me, is that while we are maybe the most relaxed parents within the context of professional child care in the USA, when in Argentina, we are likely among the most rigid. For example, when visitng the pediatrician, he informed us that our kids could eat noodles now. We said, yeah, but we will probably stay away from that (Ojo, they have had noodles, we just don’t like using that as a staple as it is 100% processed flour, and spikes their insulin levels, etc) and will probably use brown rice more often, to which, this MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL made a face. “Seriously”, he said. Why would you not give them noodles, he asked. Well it is full of processed flour and that spikes their insulin levels and both my wife and I have diabetes in the family. Oh right, he replied, forgetting this very basic level of hormonal responses to food intake.
Sometimes it is amazing how much influence culture has over us humans. Where you grew up, and the messaging that your culture reinforces, dominates your world view, to an astounding degree.