It is a not-so-rare occasion that Americans are accused of behaving as though we are above the rest of the world. We have certainly earned that badge and wear it well. We boast a strong enough economy. We are built on the American dream, after all. We propose that anyone can come here and make their dreams come true with some honest hard work. Those values tend to blend over into our family values.
We paint a picture of American families around the dinner table enjoying each other, but the reality is that most of us are eating on the go and feeding our kids food that other countries have banned due to its lack of safety. We talk about feminism, empowerment for women, and equal rights with men, but we have women lining up and choosing C-sections over experiencing childbirth.
We pretend we are among the healthiest in the world, when we are one of the sickest. We have the highest number of deaths each year from all causes. We have the one of the highest rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the entire world. Often, we boast skewed statistics and opinion pieces in highly reputed publications to defend our nation, but are we really better?
While Japan boasts the lowest SIDS rate on the planet and the European Union bans oodles of ingredients in the foods we Americans eat every day, it stands to reason that they might be onto something.
Still, most citizens of the United States wear their red, white and blue with pride and remain steadfast in their inaccurate belief that America the beautiful is really America the superior. What is this cognitive dissonance that makes us so blindly patriotic that we will ignore science and cultural development?
Just what do these other nations have on us, anyway, and where are they excelling that America is falling behind?
14 Epidurals En Masse
So, why are we lining up to opt out of the natural birth experience? Other nations where epidurals are not routine can’t make sense of it. In the Netherlands, home birth is ideal. In Japan, hospitals births are the way to go for most couples, but they still tend to say no to drugs. What gives, America?
Other countries often question why this is. Sure, it’s painful. It’s probably the most painful thing most women will ever experience, but it’s also a beautiful rite of passage that we are checking out of when we choose drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention completed a study in 2008 based on data reported from 27 states which showed that 61 percent of women chose an epidural or spinal block during childbirth to relieve their pain. Of course, this rate varies from one state to the next and even from one hospital to the next, but the fact remains that the majority of women opt to be numbed up for childbirth.
The science is clear on this. It’s not a matter of mommy shaming or being holier than thou. Women who use epidurals, spinals, IV meds and so forth during labor are indeed more likely to need interventions, have complications, need a C-section or Pitocin, have their labor slow, forget parts of their birth experience, have problems with breastfeeding, and be unhappy with their birth experience.
The studies confirm all of this.
13 Postpartum Hospital Stays
Here in the states, the rules and regulations governing how long a mother has to stay in the hospital post-birth are loosening, but not nearly at a fast-enough rate. While some hospitals are boasting shortened 24-hour stays, and many birth centers are up for sending women home as soon as four hours after birth, plenty are still insisting moms stay in postpartum care for 2-4 days following birth.
This is a long time in the eyes of foreigners. They are used to checking into hospitals to have their babies and going home later that day, or at the very most, the next day.
Since studies comparing birthing centers, home births and hospitals tend to result in hospitals having more interventions merely because of the intervention-inclined environment and staff on board, we question if postpartum infections and other interventions are more common in the U.S., too, merely because women are sticking around at the hospital.
Would they be less inclined to develop postpartum complications if they weren’t delivering in hospitals?
Furthermore, one must consider how likely it is that hospitals want to keep their beds filled and profits soaring. Birth has become one of the most profitable sectors of the medical industry in America. While many other nations have joined these ranks, plenty are still more geared toward supporting and fostering the mother-child bond and embracing childbirth for what it really is — a beautiful experience, rather than a medical procedure.
12 Blasé Breastfeeding Rates
When you stack America up against other countries and compare how many women are still breastfeeding their babies at one-year old, the results do not look kindly upon us, ladies. In Rwanda, 90 percent are breastfeeding their babies. In Sri Lanka, 76 percent are still exclusively breastfeeding at six months of age. It’s 72 percent in Peru, 71 percent in Malawi and 70 percent in Nepal.
Even here on our own soil, each region seems to present starkly different breastfeeding rates. While Californians are breastfeeding at a rate of 92.8 percent, West Virginia barely compares at just 59.3 percent. The good news is that almost 8 in 10 newborns are breastfed in the United States.
The problem doesn’t lie solely within starting to nurse, though. Instead, more mothers are giving up early on their breastfeeding journey.
At the time of birth, 79.2 percent of American mommies are breastfeeders, but only 49.4 percent are by the time their baby is six months old. At one-year, that figure drops to an alarming 26.7 percent. Still, many of these women are also supplementing with formula or introducing solids too early. At six-months old, only 18.8 percent are exclusively breastfeeding.
11 Dumpy Disposable Diapers
Many Asian cultures practice elimination communication and forego diapers right from the start in favor of teaching newborns to use the toilet from a young age. Yes, it’s possible. It only sounds crazy to us. We are the crazy ones — to them. Since we are throwing roughly $550 or more at about 2,700 diapers in just the first year of a baby’s life, they might be onto something.
Citizens of other countries are far bigger fans of cloth diapers, which are gaining traction again in the United States. Yes, it means cleaning up poop. It also means saving money. I can tell you personally that my entire cloth diaper stash for my third baby ran be roughly $300 and it will cover him from birth through whenever it’s time to potty-train.
But that’s not all. Cloth diapering also spares your child of the chemicals that disposable diapers are laced with, as well as sparing the environment from the damage these diapers do. From flips and all-in-ones to pockets and more.
10 Babysitters Replacing Mom
Each culture and country has its norms. There are things that your neighbors, friends and family will consider acceptable, and there are things that they just won’t. Get ready for the judgement. To many other developed nations, having kids means something. It doesn’t just mean your biological clock is ticking, that you’ve found the one, or that you got carried away one night last month. It means you’re ready to settle down.
Seriously, Americans, take note. There’s no judging coming from this Momma, because I fully believe parents still need to be people after they become Mom and Dad. It keeps the relationship fires stoked. It’s important to have time with other adults in the mix of all the toddler talk and diapers. But in other countries, they’re wining and dining, partying and playing sans kids way less than we do here in the states. Babysitters shouldn’t be on speed dial.
I can’t help but question if this is truly a parenting practice that needs to be tweaked, or if we merely think we need more time off from reality in America. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parents, and many of us are also trying to keep up with the Joneses at the same time.
In addition, many couples are spending time checking off that list (get the man, get the ring, get the wedding, buy the house, have the baby) and not nearly enough time making sure the man is the right man and the house is the right house and the wedding isn’t going to throw us into a pile of debt. Who wouldn’t want to escape that?
9 Preschool Pandemic
Did you know preschool isn’t even a thing everywhere else? Many countries don’t take part in this tradition at all. So, what’s the deal with Americans counting down the days until their little ones are sporting backpacks and heading off to school so early? Good question.
Many other nations are wondering the same thing about us. Why are we so eager to send them away from their home? Is it about childcare? Is it about learning? Is it just a rite of passage that our parents sent us on? Is it about doing what everyone else does with their kids? It’s probably, in part, a combination of all of the above.
In many other developed nations, children stay home with their parents until they’re ready to start grade school. Preschool is a bit of a joke and looked upon as glorified daycare centers we Americans ship the kids off to so we can get a break from the kids and their childcare bills.
8 Too Much TV
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Americans watch more television than the citizens of any other country in the world. We are the top consumers, after all. We want more, more, more, and we demand this of our media.
We are obsessed with celebrity lifestyles and neglect our own. We are hungry for cliffhangers and reality TV that paints pictures of lives that have nothing to do with reality. We just wish it was our reality. Alright, except for OITNB.
When it comes to the rest of the world, some countries aren’t too far behind us. For instance, in Japan, they watch about 262 minutes of TV per day per person, compared to our 274 minutes. But we have learned to expect this from the tech-savvy Japanese. Look at Sweden. They consume just 154 minutes per person per day.
The concern in America is that we rely too heavily on TVs to babysit our kids and entertain us. American kinds aged 2 to 5 watch roughly 32 hours of TV per week! Instead of reading a book, going for a walk amongst nature, meeting with friends to discuss philosophy, or volunteering at a local charity, we are watching Kim Kardashian have her stretch marks lasered off. Understand the concern?
7 Extracurricular Extraordinaires
Not long after the path is paved to preschool, parents start dreaming up all the ways their little one can be a great success. Maybe she’ll be the next Dominique Dawes. Let’s throw our three-year olds into gymnastics, and cheerleading, and ballet. If you’ve got a 99th percentile boy on your hands, thoughts of football have probably been looming in your mind since his first growth spurt.
Extracurricular activities are great. They give children the opportunity to find things they are interested in. They open the door to peer relationships outside of school. Hey, it’s also fun to be the parent that gets to cheer your child on along the sidelines. Still, American parents are accused of putting these extras ahead of education and family time.
Is it more important to foster football than family? Are too many U.S. parents pushing activities on their children when they aren’t even interested? Just because Mom was cheer captain doesn’t mean her daughter is necessarily down for following in her footsteps. A reported 15 percent of these parents admit their children’s schedules are too hectic, and most of them are white and wealthy that fall into this demographic.
It appears the more money you make, the more likely you are to want to offer everything extra to your child. It’s a nice thought, but are we trading extra time on the field and in dance class for time for family dinner? Other countries don’t make this choice so easily. If it’s going to interrupt the family balance or it won’t leave enough time for adequate performance at school and engaging with Mom and Dad, it’s out.
6 The Education Conveyor Belt
Here on the red, white and blue soil, we are all about that bachelor’s degree. The goal is always college. We want our kids to become well-educated and wealthy. We want them to be financially stable. There’s a catch, though.
If you don’t produce one of those kids that gets a full ride to a four-year university, and even the cost of community college is too much for Mom and Dad’s supplemental income to help, then they have a hard choice to make: no college, or take on debt.
Plenty of European nations don’t push college on their children. For many, it’s understood that they will go into vocational schools or learn some kind of trade that can produce a mediocre to average income. According to testing, Finland’s children produce the highest scores. These kids don’t even start to approach learning to read until they’re seven-years old, and they’re leading the ranks.
While they are a preschool-friendly nation, that doesn’t start until five-years old. They get three times as much time off for play each school day, and standardized testing doesn’t exist. They learn multiple languages and are encouraged to learn in the style that is appropriate to them. Despite starting late, they can opt out of high school and head onto a trade school at just 16-years old.
Guess what? This nation is thriving while American kids are struggling to understand common core math and failing miserably at completing college and finding lucrative careers to pay off that student debt. Maybe if we stopped treating our youth like they should all conform to the same mold, we should go back to cultivating children who present with different learning styles. Maybe we should let teachers teach the way they teach best, too.
5 Messy Manners
We’ve got people who eat while they drive. Our family units are being broken apart for Dads who work late, Moms who have LuLaRoe pop-up parties to attend, and kids who are involved in too many after-school activities. We don’t say we’re sorry when we bump into someone on the street. Instead, we glare at them because it must be their fault.
We don’t say thank you to service workers. We come to other countries expecting them to cater to us. Why not? We’re American? We’re supreme, right?
Wrong, and other nations want us to know it. We are no bigger, no better, no smarter, no more superior. We're annoying as far as they’re concerned. We spend a lot of time demanding courtesy from others not to give it back. How did we end up this way? It starts at home, of course.
If parents are present and on their best behavior, then children will model whatever comes next. That might come in the form of teenagers who run their household on the Disney channel, or tweens with their own YouTube channels. Frankly, other countries think our children need a lesson or two in etiquette. What do you think?
4 The C-Section Craze
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that the C-section rate in America just keeps rising. With it, it's bringing some pretty disastrous consequences. C-sections increase the risk of hemorrhage, death, blood clots, bowel problems, and even organ damage. It isn’t Cesareans in general that other countries hate, but the use of them unnecessarily.
The WHO reports 6.2 million C-sections performed in 2008 were not medically necessary.
America is high on the list of countries who are delivering too many babies the wrong way. While C-sections offer the advantage of freeing a baby from harm when a vaginal delivery isn’t going as planned, they are used too frequently for non-medical reasons in the states. Common reasons doctors cite are scheduling conflicts (ahem, they’re going to be on vacation), Mom is overdue — no, this isn’t a reason to push C-section or inductions, and even estimated fetal size.
The risks stemming from Cesareans are kept the lowest when C-section rates start around 10 percent. Despite this, America’s C-section rate is towering above many other nations at 32.8 percent. In 2014, Guinea boasted a 2.4 percent CS rate, alongside Nigeria at just 2 percent. What gives, America? When did U.S. women start losing their voices and stop standing up for themselves against medical manipulation?
3 Maternity Leave
This one is tricky. The rest of the world isn’t exactly hating us, but hating our system. After all, America is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid parental leave. Finland lets mommies stop working 7 weeks before their estimated due dates and continues to pay them for 16 weeks after the baby’s birth. Dads also get 8 weeks of paid time off.
In Denmark, it’s 18 weeks for Mom and 2 for Dad. After that time has passed, Mom and Dad can split up another 32 weeks however they choose so that one of them is always home with the little one during the first year of life. Oh, they get their full salary, too. Mommies get 18 weeks of paid leave in Sweden followed by 480 more days at 80 percent pay that can be split however they like between both parents.
Here in America, most mothers get roughly six weeks of leave. For the majority, it’s unpaid. Paternal leave is quite rare in the states still. It is up to each individual employer whether they will pay parents who are on leave for a new baby or not.
Other countries are certainly curious as to why we Americans don’t push harder for reform that gives us a year off with our babies on our hips and our bills paid. Some of them question whether we really want to be at home with our children or not. Ouch!
2 Forward-Facing Far Too Soon
For American children, the landscape in the world of car seats is slowly but surely changing. Still, it’s taken an awfully long time. Up until the last few years, it was the norm for American kids to be turned around and placed into toddler-sized car seats after they left their newborn through infancy carriers at one-year old.
But this isn’t the norm at all in many other developed nations. Sweden leads the pack as the safest place to drive with children. In the event of an accident, these kids are the least likely to be injured. The Swedes keep their littles in rear-facing car seats until four to six years of age. Yes, that long. Think it’s crazy? Think again.
They’ve been doing so since the 1960s and their traffic safety testing statistics continue to prove it’s the best way for a babe to be. In recent years, American states have slowly started to turn their head toward Sweden and take note. Many have implemented laws mandating that children remain in the rear-facing position until 2-years old, but they seem hesitant to take the leap toward the same four and six years that the Swedish do.
Nonetheless, many parents are choosing this lifestyle change for their children despite the American regulations. Does this imply that Americans are more trusting of statistics than they are of their own government? Perhaps they should be.
1 The Circumcision Decision
There is nothing that ignites fury in the minds of parents from other first-world countries more than the debacle that is the American circumcision trend. Yes, it is most certainly a trend, because we didn’t even start doing it routinely to our newborn boys until the 1900s. By the middle of that century, the rate spiked from around 50 percent to nearly 90 percent. This was on the heels of privatized medical insurance becoming widely available and a highly-touted recommendation to do so by Dr. Benjamin Spock.
The evidence to support mass circumcision was lacking. It still is today. It’s just not there. Essentially, we start cutting off the highly-sensitive and erogenous foreskin on the ends of penises all over the country in favor of a myth that it would provide better hygiene and protection against cancer. Other countries have remained appalled and disgusted by American for this practice.
Many people opt for circumcision for religious reasons, but todays religious circumcisions remove much more of the foreskin than was ever supposed to be. In addition, Christian recommendations for the procedure come from the Old Testament. The New Testament professes many times that it is unnecessary.
Fortunately, many Americans are starting to see the issue of circumcision are one that is similar to car seats and vaccines. They trust the research more than the doctors and the government. What do the stats say? They say circumcision comes with serious risks and little to no benefits. They say 117 newborn baby boys die each year from having one. They say the majority of the rest of the men on the planet are intact and they aren’t dying of cancer or unclean. They say think for yourself.
Sources: The Atlantic, CDC, Washington Post, WHO