London Vs New York
Written by guest Stokey blogger NYCMom, February 2014
Returning to the ancestral homeland of New York City over Christmas, the little chicken and I noticed some glaring truths: New York moms aren’t like London mums. Indeed, whatever the vast differences between Americans and the British, New Yorkers and Londoners, these seemed to pale in comparison to the pitched stereotype of oneself that one becomes when one is raising another human being. New Yorkers, bright and confident beings that they are, are brightly confident about their ability to rear little rugrats from scratch. English women made an unlikely commercial sensation out of the slogan "keep calm and carry on."
Having gone on a skiing trip, for example, at breakfast all the children from New York sat happily in their highchairs, which the mothers had brought with them, along with 40 other tonnes of plastic and primary coloured kit, and ate their breakfasts either daintily with their little fingers, or with their mouths wide open like sweet, expectant birds.
The little chicken, meanwhile, roamed about on the floor like some feral dog, while I from time to time forced a Cheerio into her mouth. The mothers had a discussion of what sippee cups were best, while the men put on their ski gear. We’d catch up with them later. I, meanwhile, bided my time, waiting for the conversation to get to the inevitable point where we all admitted we had no idea there were so many stages in pre- and post-sippee cup weaning (sippee-straw cups? wtf?) so I could cathartically tell my sippee cup story of having lost five sippee cups in one day. The opportunity never arose. Instead, the conversation moved on seamlessly to what toothpaste was best, as the mini-Americans glided from their chairs and into the multi-generational playpens that were arranged like candy fences in a very, very expensive allotment.
You see, in New York mothers go back to work after three months, and most of them get nannies. Nannies are cheaper than they are here, and childminders don’t exist. The babies are too young for even good nurseries at that stage. So, to be slightly unfair, the mothers play at being mothers on weekends. At the offices, perhaps guiltily, they read up on the different things to buy and the different stages at which to buy them. Their nannies discipline their children, and on Saturdays and Sundays they leap into the mommy role with total and unrestrained relish.
They don’t have the luxury – and slog – of the nine months of daily nap-fights, food-fights, amazing cognitive developments, coffee meet-ups, singing classes, Gymboree free trials and the yawning boredom of 5pm that their counterpart mothers in the UK have. This isn’t to say one or the other is better, but the difference is marked, and accentuated by the natural inclination of New Yorkers to say how well they’re doing, and the natural inclination of Londoners to say how crap they are. My god I love it when people say how crap they are! My friend forgot to put a nappy on her baby when the baby met the in-laws for the first time: dress and stroller were soaked. I cling to this story like the chicken clings to her teddy. It’s so great to remember that other people are also struggling from time to time, even if we are fortunate enough to have a whopping nine months to a year of maternity leave.
So, Londoners, your hair might not be so glossy, you might really need to start using some wrinkle-cream, and it’s not really cool that you start drinking at 5.05, but for better or worse you’ve made peace with the craziness of motherhood (and you’ve got your partners on board in a way New York moms, swathed in some idea of the 1950s, still don’t). I feel badly for my abdication of any attempt at perfection, but ultimately I can’t help thinking it’s for the best that the goal is no longer swingeing above me. Pass me a gin-and-tonic in a sippee cup, and let’s hope the chicken doesn’t drink it first.