~ 6 min
One of my goals going to Mozambique was to embrace the new culture. I remember being excited to know what being a mother was like there and now I feel like I kind of do.
Mozambique, as I said many times, felt like a totally different world. The pace of life, the climate, the traditions, the food, the houses, everything felt new for me. After 6 months living there I got to meet a lot of people, especially kids and mothers. Women that worked at the markets, at the school, for other families, etc. Women of all ages that had a thing in common: they were moms. Not all of them had husbands, not all of them had jobs, but they had little ones to take care of.
Mozambique is a very young country! There are kids everywhere, kids on their moms’ backs, kids playing in the street, kids walking to school on their own!
A few things that I realized quickly were:
- Kids in Mozambique had a lot of freedom and were much less supervised by their parents from a younger age. Kids play and go to school without any adult supervision. It was very normal to see a 3 and 6 year old walking together to school or a group of 4 year olds playing on the side of the road on their own!
- Mothers had more kids and from a younger age. Walking around you always see groups of women and almost all of them carrying a baby with a capulana. At the market every other stand has a baby crawling around. Kids everywhere, basically!
- Women live their lives, even with a baby! They go to work, to the field, to the market, carrying their baby (or babies) plus a huge bag of stuff on their head, breastfeeding on the go, … I always thought they were such “Super Mamas”!
To know more about the differences between being a mom in Mozambique and in Spain, I wrote a little interview, asking things like: “where did you give birth, at home or in the hospital?”, “how long did you breastfeed your baby?” or “where did the baby sleep, with you or in a crib?”, and I asked them to several moms I knew, ages between 21 to 40. That is what I found out:
- All of them gave birth at the hospital, by natural birth, no epidural.
- Most of them were not married. And the ones that had more than one kid, were kids from different father.
- They all breastfed their babies, some of them for 9 months, most of them for a year and a half up to 2 years.
- Most of them started giving solid food when the baby didn’t breastfeed anymore, or around 1. They fed them whatever they ate at home: soups, chima (a porridge made from white corn flour), rice, …
- All the moms said they slept with their babies in their bed, because it was easier for breastfeeding at night but also because they couldn’t afford to buy a crib.
- When I asked them if they remembered when was the first time they started sleeping through the night, most of them had a hard time answering (and I think that reflects how sleep may not be their number one worry…)! Some said they always slept well, only waking up to breastfeed and going back to sleep. Others said that sleep got better after they stopped nursing.
- They all had somebody to help them with the kids at home, either their parents or another relative that lived in the same house or very close by.
- I asked them when they went back to work after having a baby, and (among those that had a job), some went back as soon as 2 months afterwards, but they took the baby with them to work!
- Finally, when I asked what was the best thing about having kids they answered a variety of things like: the company, to know that someone will take care of them when they are older, that they become good friends of yours, … And they all agreed that the most difficult thing is economically, to not be able to buy what they need, to not have a partner supporting them, and to provide care when they are sick.
Even though this information may not be 100% representative of what Mozambican motherhood is, because I didn’t get the perfect sample, I do think it makes us reflect on how different societies can be, and how priorities change from one place to another. For us the most difficult thing about having kids may be to not sleep well at night, when they are worried about not having enough to feed their children!
For me, being a mother in the States and then moving to Spain, I realized that we worry about a lot of things like: childbirth options, which stroller will be best, co-sleeping vs sleep training, BLW vs puree feeding, … all those things we wonder and research about to do the best we can for our little ones! In Mozambique, the options are very limited so you give birth in a room with 4 other moms, without medication, you breastfeed as long as you can because it’s the cheapest, you co-sleep because that’s the most practical thing to do, you feed you baby whatever you have at home, you carry your baby because a stroller would get stuck in the sandy roads, …
I know that having more options is better but at the same time, I kind of envy the simplicity of choices. Two things I admire from the Mozambican culture, and I think we have lost in our societies are the sense of community and the normalization of having kids! Nowadays, when we are moms we feel alone a lot of times in our homes, stuck with a baby without much help - and that is not good. In Mozambique babies are taken care of by everyone. The older siblings help a lot, but also the extended family and the neighbors. And having children is not seen as a sacrifice or the end of your “young” life. You keep doing the same you were doing before but now with a baby tied on your back!
Here is a video of a few of the interviews I did (with subtitles in English).
What do you think mamas? Would it be harder to raise your children in a poor country? Wouldn’t you appreciate some help at the house? Does having so many options make parenting easier or harder? I would love to hear your thoughts!!