Yes, I am an American Mom

For most of my life, “mom” wasn’t even in my definition. And when it was, I never considered that my nationality would play a big part in it. Good mom, bad mom, lazy mom, super mom… all possibilities. But many times I hear the phrase “it’s so American,” sometimes from my own lips, often referring to my parenting.

So here, dear Brazilians, are some of the activities that you seem to use to define me, and have forced me to define myself, as an “American Mom,” and my justifications. Though really, these things just make me – my daughter’s mom.

Yes, I like to bake cookies and cakes with my daughter. Yes, I suppose if I asked the housekeeper, she could do it for me. That’s not really the point. No, I’m not just trying to torture myself (I do that in other ways). No, I don’t want you to ask your maid to do it for me. No, it’s not that I “love” to bake, I like to bake with my daughter. She thinks it is fun. It’s kind of like how you won’t find me coloring on my own, but I do enjoy time with her filling in an outline of Dora the Explorer with Crayolas. (Yes, I do realize you can buy books with the colors already filled in.) Yes, the cookies you just ate were laced with four-year-old saliva and a little bit of sneeze.

No, I don’t want someone else to give my daughter a bath. I don’t know why, I just don’t.

Yes, I still cringe when I’m forced to buy an overpriced toy in this country. No, I’m not going to get over it. This is why on a return trip from the U.S. my suitcase will always be stuffed with reasonably priced toys. Yes, I realize that means I’ll have to wrap it on my own. This is why my suitcase will also be filled with reasonably priced gift bags. Kind of like the one I put your kid’s birthday gift in, the one you carry around, for some reason, like it’s a Fendi purse.

Yes, I’ve decided I don’t want someone lurking around my apartment every single day waiting to clean something I’m currently using. I mostly like it to just be us. Yes, I realize that means I might have to wash a dish or two. No, I don’t believe I’ve ever scrubbed a dish hard enough to ruin my manicure as of yet. (No, please, get those rubber gloves away from me.) I spent many years washing my own dishes. In fact, as a child, it was my responsibility to wash the dishes every third day. (Insert sad, frightened Brazilian eyes.) No, I’m pretty sure this doesn’t fall into the category of the “tough love” you’ve heard about.

Yes, I did make a picnic lunch to bring to the beach. Yes, my husband still has his job. I’d just rather she ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than cheese-on-a-stick for lunch today. And she thinks it’s fun to pack, and then eat, a picnic lunch. Sure, I guess she might have learned that from American cartoons, I don’t know, why does it matter? No, I don’t have an extra juice box for you.

No, I’m not planning on having another child. No, I pretty sure this is not going to ruin my daughter’s life. I understand that your cousin was an only child and she had a brain tumor, I don’t see how the two events are related. Didn’t I hear the other day that your first child tried to smother your second child with a pillow?

Sorry again American, you got me out there creating a stereotype for the Brazilian audience. (And in turn, I’m creating a stereotype of a Brazilian for you.)

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10 Responses to Yes, I am an American Mom

  1. Danielle says:


    I know it’s hard to have to justify yourself all the time, but know that you’re doing the right thing; you’re gleaning the best of both worlds to give your daughter a good life. You’ve just, unfortunately, got to do it in a place where people don’t always keep their opinions to themselves and where it’s socially acceptable to question someone else’s decision like this: “You do WHAT?!!?”

    I hope I can do all these things and be as good of a mother as you are!

    • You are so sweet! Yes, you are right, we are giving our daughter an amazing experience that will make her world very, very big and bright. But I can’t help being amused by some of it. All in good fun, right?

  2. Brasilicana says:

    You’re right, I never realized how many of those things (which my mom did with me) are “American” and would look odd to Brazilian eyes!

    My parents once told me, “We had kids so that we could have someone to play with!” Outsourcing childcare and home life stuff was not even on their radar screen (except for the occasional Friday night babysitter, of course). I plan on following a similar philosophy.

  3. I am struck by- first- how funny this is to me! Absolutely hilarious, and clearly culture clash. Not having a maid (yet!) has made everyone here think I’m really humble. Ha. But honestly, I do not want an employee lurking around, cleaning my coffee cup before I’m done and making high fat food and expecting me to eat it. (And ewwwww…why would you have the maid give your kid a bath?! I was a domestic employee for 10 years, and only did baths when I was on 24 hour duty.)

    Also, it strikes me that many Brazilians become parents, even though they don’t really want to be parents, but to fulfill a cultural mandate. That’s sad. I think another women’s movement is due.

    • Unfortunately, there do seem to be cases of this. I know one woman who (allegedly) kept her kids on the second floor of her apartment for the nannies to take care of and only saw them when need be for the first few years. But every culture has a bit of this. I was told my a Lebanese friend of mine told me that in Lebanon specialized nannies take the babies for the first six months and hand them back to the mothers “trained.” Even in the states you run into women who make you wonder why they bother giving birth. I knew a handful of those in the NYC financial industry. However, of course, I know a lot of loving, caring Brazilian mothers too. Within my extended Brazilian family, being a mother is #1 priority.

  4. Meredith says:

    As an American, you seem like the best kind of mom out there :).

  5. Marina says:

    Good for you for sticking to your guns! With my own career-oriented mother, the first few years of my life were spent as weekdays dealing with a nanny while mom and dad worked and weekends with over bearing Brazilian women (mom, aunts, grandmother, great-great aunt twice removed by marriage…etc) making up the familial child rearing portion of life. It wasn’t a fun time, but thankfully when we experimented with American life (my father’s worked for an American corporation his whole life, and at some points we’d have to spend a while in the US for his work. Then go back to Brazil…then come back to the US…) my mother embraced motherhood in the best of ways. She spent more time with my sisters and me, cooked delicious food, drove us to school herself, came on field trips with us, and years later one of the things I can appreciate about the American culture is how much time parents have with their children without an army of hired help! Of course she’s still incredibly Brazilian (and my father just as equally) but thanks to that little bit of American influence I get to know her as a PERSON, the fantastic, loving, strong, smart, yet still overbearing woman who raised me. The children you describe in your posts from birthday parties, etc seem to lack this, and it makes me really sad for them (as I can tell it does for you, as well).

    P.S. I HATED hated hated having babas give me baths! Your daughter will very very much so appreciate when she is older that you didn’t subject her to being given baths by near strangers, trust me! If you manage to keep a baba for years she could be like family to your daughter when she is older, but for now she is definitely not her mother with whom she’d much rather be.

    • Thanks so much for this!! Sometimes I doubt some of my decisions, but I’ve never looked back from the one that allowed me to spend so much time with my sweet little girl. I love that you’ve made me feel even better about it. What an incredible childhood you had traveling between the two cultures. So cool.

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