Like many new parents, I have to say that the first months with a baby I did not have a clue of what I was doing: everything was new, you are getting to know each other, getting used to this new rhythm (or actually, complete lack of rhythm) and basically just do something. Of course, there are a lot of how-to books out there but I did not belong to the category of pregnant ladies who fanatically start reading everything there is to read about how to pass your days with a newborn.
Apart from the fact that I did not have time for it, when people started recommending me books I also realised that even if I would have the time to do some hardcore baby-studying I would first have to decide which side I was on… Because opinions on how to raise kids are a world apart between the Netherlands and Spain.
I guess every culture has some kind of one-liner on what is important when educating your offspring, and in these, you can already see the immense difference between both countries. In the Netherlands it´s all about the 3 R´s: Rust (peace&quiet), Regelmaat (regularity / consistency) and Reinheid (cleanness). So tight schedules, consistency and strict routines. On the contrary in Spain, they have the 3 C´s: Cariño (affection), Calor (warmth), and Calostro (food, lots of food). Or, a lot of clothes (even if it´s really warm outside and you walk around in a T-shirt, babies are always overdressed: sweating away with a hat and packed in a winter sleeping bag), loads of eating on demand and lots of time in your arms. In summary, it´s basically choosing between “cold/distant and efficient” and “warm/close and spoiled”. Or choosing between no schedule at all and not being able to plan your own day versus a strict daily planning with consistent eatin g and napping times (but, complete stress when something or someone comes and screws up your schedule. E.g. no more spontaneous trips, visits etc.). Choosing between letting your baby cry in her own bed until she falls asleep “so she learns how to sleep on her own” versus having your “baby” sleep on your chest or at least in your bed until she´s 18 (ugh, I don’t like either of them). Choosing between a strict visiting limit in the first weeks of 1 visitor a day between 14h-15h or having a party in the hospital just hours after giving birth where even all the friends of your parents show up and loads of other people you did not invite.
As mentioned above the first months we just did something and went with the flow. However, after a few months of n0 rhythm whatsoever, I decided it was time for some Northern-European influence, or at least some sort of a schedule for eating / sleeping (so we could also have a little bit of our life back). This decision was not always well received here in Spain (“babies are not robots, th is is not science”) and the most extreme input we got was from the nurse during one of the monthly check-ups: “but a pregnancy is 18 months, 9 months inside and then 9 months outside. You should see yourself as a kangaroo who walks around with her newborn in her pouch”. A kangaroo, really?! Also, if a pregnancy is supposed to be 18 months, can someone please tell the government that a maternity leave of 16 weeks might be a bit short… Or should I just take him to work in my “pouch”? I have to say I also got a reaction from the other extreme, one of the directors at work claimed that “kids are like dogs, you can teach them anything”. Ok….
Anyway, at that point I started reading a few books and of course the famous Gina Ford was recommended by friends as the bible amongst baby books (guess which country this book recommendation came from ;)). After just a few chapters it was clear that this was not my thing: Gina sounds like some sort of arrogant baby-Taliban with her super strict routines and schedules (actually very much in line with the dog comment, it´s like training animals) where feeding / sleeping can´t be 5 minutes off, where no travelling or spontaneous outings are allowed (or only if you can schedule them in nap time) and everything that might seem off with your baby is due to the fact that you don´t follow her routines to the letter (Yeah right!). Also, her whole pro-letting-them-cry-alone-in-the-dark approach did not appeal to me. (Last week a U.K. colleague told me Gina doesn´t have kids of her own…Ah! That explains something!)
Honestly, after 7 months we´re still just doing something (so for fellow newbies out there: don´t despair, it´s normal!) but we did find some sort of rhythm / flexible routine that works for us. As for RRR vs CCC, I am still in an identity crisis and can´t relate completely with either of them. Many “experts” claim that you need to be 100% consistent with whatever route you choose however, I think we´re doing quite fine with our mix of cold/warm-Dutch/Spanish style parenting!