We asked Minnesota Mama Melissa Haigh to share a few tips she's picked up about the transition from parenting in Minnesota to parenting in Singapore! To keep up with Melissa's life follow her blog here. And without further ado...parenting from Minnesota to Singapore!
Since moving to Singapore from Minnesota a few months ago, I've come to realize that in many ways I'm in a completely different world. My husband, two-year-old daughter Linna, and I, sold our Minnetonka home, our cars, put our furniture into storage, and said goodbye to our Minnesota family and friends, to go live as expatriates (person living outside their home country) in Singapore for two years for my husband's job. I am a former TV reporter and producer, who now stays home with our daughter, while also doing some freelance work in Singapore. As I'm still learning the ropes of our new life in Singapore, I thought I'd share some of the biggest differences in parenting "styles" that I've noticed here on this island... 10,000+ miles from our home in Minnesota!
1. Language: Singapore is a melting pot of so many different cultures, religions, races, and nationalities. We have made friends from all over the world, including Australia, the UK, India, Germany, France, Sweden... you name the place and we now probably know someone from there! English is widely spoken, while Chinese is also an official language of Singapore. You'd think my biggest challenge would be understanding people speaking different languages, but it's actually quite a learning experience trying to understand my friend's thick British and Australian accents! I find myself asking my mom-friends to repeat themselves when we're having a conversation, and they have to ask me to do the same. They say I have a strong "American" accent, which is quite funny actually (I thought I had a Minnesota accent)! Other moms (or "mums" as we're referred to in Singapore) have different words for baby products that all parents are familiar with. Here's some fun examples...
- Cribs are called "cots"
- Diapers are called "pampers" or "nappies"
- Pacifiers or Nuks are called "dummies"
- Strollers are called "prams", "pushchairs", and "buggies"
2. "Helpers": This is a term I had never heard of before I moved to Singapore. However, having a full-time, live-in helper is something that is very common among my expat friends. Families in Singapore can hire a domestic helper (or "helper" as they are commonly called), and this person lives with the family, and helps with the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and babysitting. When I lived in Minnesota, it was generally the wealthier people we knew who had full-time nannies or house-keepers, as it would cost tens of thousands of dollars a year to employ someone like that. However, it is MUCH more affordable to hire a full-time live-in helper in Singapore (by affordable, I'm talking like $600/month). I never understood why parents in Singapore could possibly need this type of help, but the longer I've lived here, I'm starting to understand it. Imagine being a mom, living thousands of miles away from any family members, raising your children while your husband works long hours, and trying to keep a household in order. Although most of the moms that I know (including myself) live what many would consider to be a "privileged lifestyle", it can get very lonely being away from family and close friends, and when you're running a household basically on your own, a woman can really lose her sense of self (not to mention sanity). In my opinion, if a mother needs help with her day-to-day responsibilities, she should ask for it. While we do not have a full-time helper, I do understand why families here in Singapore have them. It's probably something that many Minnesotans would consider to be "ridiculous" or "unnecessary", but it's easy to have an opinion about something when you haven't actually experienced this lifestyle.
3. Car Seats: This is something that I'm still getting used to, but when we take public transportation we don't have Linna in a car seat. Horrible, I know, but we don't have a car in Singapore (it's VERY expensive to own a car in Singapore), so we rely on the bus, train, and taxis, where it's just not practical to bring a car seat. Needless to say, Linna and I do a lot of walking!
4. Schooling: Schools in Singapore are SO expensive! Not only that, but a lot of parents send their children to school at the age of two. For most parents in Minnesota, we send our kids to daycare, pre-school, and grade school. In Singapore, they have nursery school where kids start as early as 18 months old, and that can cost thousands of dollars a month, just to send your little one there for a few hours in the morning! When children in Singapore (especially expats) get into grade school, parents will spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for their education. There's the option for expats to send their children to a "local" school in Singapore, but then you have to consider that your child isn't learning the same curriculum as your home country's school system. So, if you move back home, your child might be "lost" in the school system. We are so lucky to have a "free" or "inexpensive" education system in Minnesota! Can you imagine spending $30,000 to send your 5-year-old to school each year?! The schools in Singapore are amazing and very advanced, but you definitely pay for it!
Overall, we have been given an incredible opportunity to live in Singapore... especially in terms of raising our daughter. Linna has little friends from all over the world. She has Muslim friends, friends that speak many different languages, and every day we talk to people that look "different" than us (the white Minnesotans). My hope is that these "differences" in race, religion, and cultures that she's being exposed to now, will become a normalcy for her. I was born and raised in Minnesota, and never really had the opportunity to see just how big and diverse our world really is! While Minnesota will always be our home, I feel it is incredibly important for Linna to learn about and experience diversity, in hopes that she'll grow up to be an open-minded and educated young lady!