Raising kids abroad can be liberating. In some ways, expat parents have the best of both worlds: they can adopt local family norms (insisting, for example, that their kids formally greet adults, as local children do) or they can chart their own course (homeschooling, for example), comfortable knowing their neighbors already expect them to act like outsiders.
But parenting in another culture can sometimes feel confusing. Last week, I published an essay in The New York Times about one such muddled parenting moment, navigating infant sleep training with baby Liam in India. Tim and I weren’t willing to share a bed with our child for years, as was the local norm, and yet we hesitated to adhere to the cry-it-out formula prescribed by the dog-eared British parenting book passed from expat to expat in our remote, mountaintop, South Indian town. So, instead we built a baby sleep machine out of an old sari, an ax handle, and a spring.
If nothing else, I hope my story brings you some good laughs. After reading it, you might get a kick out of this home video we took of the sleep machine back in 2007:
Please consider leaving a comment below about your experience parenting abroad. Has it been liberating to step out of your home culture as a parent? What local parenting norms have you adopted? Or have there been times when navigating parenting felt hard enough that you wished you were back home with your cultural peers?