A Google tangent.

Someone left work at 2pm on Friday to go and do DIY and housework in preparation for guests. This led me to think – of course – about myself and whether this would be normal behaviour in South Africa, and somehow, with the help of Google, which led me from Communism to gay adoption, I ended up thinking about bringing up kids.


Before you think I must be getting all broody and whatnot now that I am oooold, think again. I am not broody at all. But I do think about having children sometimes, more in a business planning kind of way. Is it feasible, is it affordable (is it ever?), is it advisable for a woman with a family history of mental illness and plenty of it herself? Is it advisable for a woman who feels that if she had been through what her own mother has survived, that she would be dead from grief? Could it be the worst mistake of her life?

So I think about it in a logistical way now and then. And I was thinking about the logistics of bringing up kids here in the UK.

I tend to vacillate between thinking there are hardly any cultural differences between my own white South African life and British life, to thinking there is a black hole of difference that can never be crossed.

I don’t have that many friends, and most of them are not even British, so my understanding of friendship protocol is a bit hazy at best. I spend most of my time trying to understand the basics of interaction with Spanish, Chilean, Chinese, and Polish people to name a few. But from what I understand of the British way, things are more formal here than in South Africa.

In SA from what I experienced, guests were pretty much welcome whenever and wherever, so long as they fitted in with the household and didn’t mind whatever chaos might be going on at the time. Of course things in South Africa are much easier in this regard because many people have domestic servants.

Here you usually need a formal invitation to go to someone’s house because they are going to be cleaning and preparing like mad the day before. They take hosting very seriously here. Everything needs to be spotless and perfect. My family and friends in SA were way more casual. As in: just park there on the couch, if you want anything, the kitchen is over there, please excuse the mess.

So I can just imagine me and the BFG (both oddball freaks to the extreme) hosting some British kiddies, little Timmy or little Bessie (my understanding of British children stems from Enid Blyton), sending them off to play lego with a sandwich or a cookie, and getting sued by their parents for child neglect or something. Is it obligatory to cook a meal for child visitors here? Must they be supervised? I just don’t know how kid playdates work here! I forsee a terrifying mine field of cultural faux pas.

So far I have come up with the following scenarios:

1) It would be better to bring up kids in SA – BFG and I know how things work there

2) It would be disastrous to bring up kids in Britain – we would make mistakes daily and humiliate our kids with our countless cultural and social failings.

3) It would be disastrous to bring up kids in SA – BFG and I have NO idea how things work there. We know how things were in our own families, but we are both oddball freaks and have no idea how normal social interaction happens, especially in a larney place like Cape Town. They have Standards down there. Cape Town is very different to ole Durbs. Durbs had a Standard once, but the Durbanites forgot it out in the garden and it got swallowed by the foliage in all that fecund humidity.

4) It would be better to bring up kids in Britain – we can pull the foreigner card. We shall be excused of everything forever more because of being ignorant immigrants.

And my final conclusion to this mental exercise:

5a) It doesn’t make any bloody difference where in the world we bring up our hypothetical kids so long as we love them and retain a HUGE sense of humour to deal with the daily idiotic faux pas that we shall commit. And make them we shall. For we are both oddball freaks.

We will definitely fit into the category of “very embarassing ballies, best left at home”.

5b) an evening with Google is  an adventure. You never know where it will take you.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. damaria senne
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:09:24

    I completely agree with your point 5a. I raised Baby in South Africa, and i still had no idea of the rules of social interaction as it related to parenting ( and a whole lot of other stuff). Humiliated Baby quite a bit, but then her school mates decided that my being different was actually cool rather than social disaster. And suddenly, invitations to my house, where I’d clean, prepare meals and completely ignore them unless someone was screaming/crying, became a must-have:-)


  2. Helen
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:29:30

    Another reason why I don’t plan on having kids… waaaaaAAAaaay too much thinking involved!

    Cool tangent though!


  3. tiah
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:42:20

    LOL!!!!! Um, I accidentally had kids in the UK. We were all logical about it and then HELLO, we’re here. The GOOD part is that given the way UK culture works, first time mums do not know other first time mum friends – their friendship base was at work / old uni friends. Since maternity is at least 9months off – there all are these women whose friends are at work, or are from their Uni – and they don’t know anybody that actually lives near them. It is the biggest equalizer for a foreigner. Trick is learning where the mums hide – midwife and health visitors help with this, but the best tip I got was through my driving instructor – go figure.)

    In my experience, must offer tea and lots of it, and healthy snacks (bread sticks, raisins). People usually do clean like mad, I sort of did. The foreigner card is very useful. “Sorry, house is what it is -come on in” as admittedly a number of my friends hoovered every day. I did not. People tend to schedule play dates in advance. Parent stays until they are much older, then there are after school things, usually a cup of tea is required at pick up before leaving. Rather social and pleasant.

    I will say this, while it is very hard to make UK friends, once you are in, they are the most loyal and wonderful friends to have. At least in my experience. It was hard at first, and I know I made many social no-nos due to not knowing any better. But by the time we left, I had the most amazing circle of people and I miss them dearly. It truly was “a village” helping me raise my family.

    Second day in my new SA rental, a plumber and his staff were sent over. I imminently flipped the kettle on and offered everyone tea or coffee. The looks on their faces – total shock. Then…”Well..okay..um….I’d like…”

    Realised this might be more of a UK thing…tea before work.

    Meanwhile, I actually have little clue how it works in SA. Now that the kiddies are in school, play dates are not as frequent, and I kind of take the other people’s lead. Seems it depends on who the parents are.


  4. Shannon
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:52:26

    Doesn’t the whole play date thing seem weird to you? I grew up with “go play outside and come in when the street lights come on.”

    It’s possible my parents were negligent. On the other hand, way less stressful than keeping your own schedule and your child’s. Parents FTW.


  5. DT
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 18:40:43

    Goodness Po – I think you need to go into politics – You have the most amazing ability to argue your way into every conceivable viewpoint. Hehehe I can only imagine what your pro and con list could look like! These things have a way of working themselves out and when the babies come – you will undeniably be the worlds coolest Mom, who will possibly never say no to anything! :)


  6. Paula
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 19:11:01

    And here I thought it was you had it and you take care of it and that was it. Oh emmm geee. I don’t think I’ve considered this mothering thing as much as I should have. Who knew?
    Plus I am pro-mother hood. Okay I admit a tad on the obsessed side. I think you would make a great mom based on your blog etiquette alone; you’re very understanding. But then I see your point about mental illness. I think about that too amongst getting scared of post natal depression. It’s just something that you really should be sure about when you do it.
    But then you never seemed keen on the idea and marriage (for real- how did you do that?) so you won’t need to stress. But should an accident (not mistake) happen: you’d be awesome and google yourself silly looking for ways to deal and to handle the baby and then you have some blog friends to talk to who have had.


  7. Paula
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 19:12:12

    babies and then all will be right with the world. Plus another Po would be interesting I would think.


  8. Po
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 20:19:04

    Damaria and Tiah: aha I think you guys are my heroes. If you managed then surely I can? But I don’t know, you both seem far more normal and balanced than me, no exaggeration. Tiah I will have to remember the tea thing, I realise now I have already failed miserably in this regard. I have never given the plumbers tea, poor guys. Anyway we only have rooibos. Come to think of it pretty much most of the people who come to our place are South African and demand rooibos. Not much use in cross cultural interactions.
    Helen: tell me about it. And that is just one tiny aspect. One of the more scary aspects though, because you are dealing with other people’s expectations and other people are scary when it comes to their kids.
    Shannon: well I did actually have playdates when I was young. Where I grew up there was no public transport and people got around by car so often we had to phone and make arrangements. But with my friends who lived nearbye I would walk.
    DT: well, I love talking politics! Well, armchair politics where you know very little about that which you are talking but you pretend you know loads. I couldn’t hack real life politics at all.
    Paula: maybe the less you think about these things the better you will be as a mom. Just go with the flow. But I really do struggle with social interactions so I try to mentally prepare myself for terrifying situations.
    P.S. I hope this doesn’t offend your moral code, but if I do have kids I plan to have them out of a traditional marriage situation. The BFG and I have been together for 10 years and that is as married as I need so although I am against formal marriage for various reasons, I would have BFG’s bebbies if it came to it.
    I would fit right into UK culture, so many people here have their kids as their bridesmaids, well the ones that bother to get married anways!


  9. tiah
    Aug 24, 2010 @ 05:35:00

    Ah, see, just like any SA has rooibos on hand even if they don’t drink it – in the UK you have a small box of this http://www.englishteastore.com/brands-pg-tips.html

    PG Tips – aka Builder’s Tea.

    Essential for playdates, do not give to children :-)


  10. tiah
    Aug 24, 2010 @ 05:35:43

    Um, balanced and normal – errr…no. But thank you.


  11. Tamara
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 09:43:51

    Ja, I am not broody either, but have these long conversations in my head about if I were to ever spawn kidlets, how would we handle logistics. But I was such a horrible teenager that most of my imaginings are about how on earth I would deal with my hypothetical kids in their teens, rather than as young-uns.


  12. Po
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 13:22:42

    Tamara: argh no don’t even get me started on how I was as a teenager. Actually I started my teenage behaviour at age 10 and was fairly civil (for me) by 18. It’s enough to make me get my tubes tied. In a biological way of thinking, once you spawn kids your job is to let them walk all over you and suck the life out of you because it is there turn now and your job is done. Nice. Cunningly, our instincts include motherly love to make it seem less painful. Apparently.
    I’m not a cynic or anything.
    Tiah: I’m telling you, compared to me you must at least be approaching normality!


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