I had a long, two-hour chat with my colleague visiting from the Amsterdam office yesterday. She’s Chinese-American, originally from Queens, but has pretty much decided that she’s never leaving Amsterdam (or really, Europe) ever, and wants to live there for the rest of her life. She loves the high quality of life, the cleanliness, the affordability and relatively low cost of living, the relaxed attitude of the Dutch and all the expats she’s met there. And her husband, who is also American, feels the same way and wants to stay. She misses her family and friends here, but she says every time she comes back, she realizes how much her friends are changing, how different they are than her, especially in a time when her last good friend has had a child (she’s the only person in her friend group who hasn’t had a baby yet).
She told me how frustrated she gets each time she comes home at the American attitude around parenting and children, especially among her friend group, and how many of her own friends speak condescendingly to her because she “doesn’t know what it’s like” to have children, because otherwise she’d behave very differently. “It’s like Americans just don’t understand that you can actually have a life when you become a parent,” she said. “You can still travel and eat out and roam the streets. In Amsterdam, people are just so chill about babies and still have fun and have lives and don’t think their lives have to be all about their child. Here, people are just so high strung and think they have to give up everything for their child. The way it is in Amsterdam is just so much healthier.”
That’s so true. We really do think our lives end when we have children in the U.S. I can feel it myself. Things change a lot, though. I don’t want to be the type of person she complains about. We all still need our own sense of selves even after becoming a parent.