How Being a Third Culture Kid Taught Me to Embrace Natural Parenting

A third culture childhood encouraged this mom be embrace natural parenting.

I am an American citizen, but I was raised in five different countries: the United States, Guatemala, France, Bolivia, and Austria. I lived outside of the United States from when I was seven years old until when I was eighteen years old, which I spent most of my childhood as a Third Culture Kid. After returning to the US for college, I spent another three years outside the United States, and my first child was born in Scotland. We moved back to the United States when Emma was nine months old, but my time living overseas – both as a child and as a new mom – have had a tremendous influence on my approach to parenting, particularly the way I have embraced natural parenting.

How Being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) Taught me to Embrace Natural Parenting

I was introduced to baby wearing when we moved to Guatemala. I was seven years old, and soon my siblings and I were using towels and blankets to strap our baby dolls onto our backs. Seeing children carried so happily in this way both in Guatemala and later in Bolivia was all the encouragement I needed to give baby wearing a try when my first child was born!

Breastfeeding in public is more accepted outside the United States, and this example made nursing my babies so much easier! I was always very subtle about it – my stealth nursing technique became almost problematically good, in that a couple times people tried to take my nursing child out of my arms, not realizing they were nursing – but that had more to do with my own fairly reserved personality (and, probably, US heritage) than anything else. I will always be grateful to women who feed their babies openly, because they are making it easier for all women to take young nursing babies out in public.

Seeing different parenting “cultures” has also impacted the way I parent. I believe that there are many different ways to parent well, and that different parenting styles work better for some parents and children than for others. The common thread I see among parents who I respect and try to model my own parenting after is that, while they are doing the best they can, they understand that they can always do better. They also see their children as doing the best that they can, and work to help their child do even better.

How has your parenting style been affected by the cultures you grew up in, and other cultures you have been exposed to?


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MaryAnne was raised in the United States, Guatemala, France, Bolivia, and Austria. Her first daughter was born in Scotland, and she now lives with her husband and their four children in Silicon Valley, California. You can find MaryAnne writing about family travel, parenting, crafts, and education at Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting.

4 thoughts on “How Being a Third Culture Kid Taught Me to Embrace Natural Parenting”

  1. Love your blog! I am an American citizen 1st generation Macedonian and my husband was born and raised in Macedonia. We are both raising our 3 year old here in Chicago right now. We are starting to view that the US may not be an ideal place to raise a child,do you find it easier to raise a kid in another country compare to the United States? We often think to move to Europe or even Canada,but afraid we might be making a mistake,but we will see I guess how life goes! I am not liking what I am reading about how the public education system is here in the US either. Big things to think about once you have kids!

    1. I did find Europe to be more family-friendly than the US, apart from the fact that the cost of living is sometimes (not always) higher. My kids are doing fine in our local US public schools, but we are in a “good” school district. My husband’s job is in one particular location (Silicon Valley), but I’m still hoping that we will be able to take our kids overseas for a few months at least at some point.

  2. Really interesting post. I grew up in Beijing, so I actually had the opposite experience, lol, but living in a multicultural city in Canada has allowed me to naturally develop my parenting instincts without fear or pressure.
    I also used to nurse walking around – shopping sometimes – with my daughter in her Ergo. People often had no idea until they came up to admire the baby, lol.
    However, I did stop nursing my daughter publicly at about 18 months, just to avoid any potential negativity. I still nursed for a while after that, and wasn’t ashamed or secretive, but I didn’t want to see if there were negative nellies out there!

    1. I have nursed a couple of my kids past 18 months, and I did eventually stop nursing them in public for the same reason. I really appreciate the women who brave it out, though – that is how things change!

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