In Russia, every infant sleeps outside in the carriage even in minus 10 degree Celsius weather. Pictured: snowstorm in Kazan.Maksim Bogodvid/RIA Novosti
Official maternity leave in Russia may last three years. It helps pregnant women calmly prepare for the birth of their babies; usually, future mothers stop working in the seventh month of pregnancy. Many women return to work when the child is one, or 18 months old. In fact, they are paid a part of their salaries until their child turns one-and-a-half. But there are also those who prefer not to disrupt their careers and return to the office just a few months after giving birth.
"The main difference between Russian grandmothers and grandfathers, and those in America or Europe, is in the idea that grandparents must help, sometimes even when they are not asked, and that grandchildren are their responsibility," writes Tanja Maier. Helping during the first weeks after birth, taking care of the baby while the mother is getting a manicure, picking up the child from the kindergarten – this is just a partial list of activities that any Russian grandmother has on her agenda. Most children spend the whole summer at the dacha with their grandmothers while the parents are working in the city.
Tanja Maier's Motherhood, Russian Style speaks primarily about mothers from large cities with good incomes, and yet hers is a rather objective view. Maier writes that future mothers thoroughly study the specialized hospitals; the level of maternity clinics in Russia ranges from comfortable ones comparable to Europe, to the outdated Soviet types. Also, giving birth at home and in the bathtub is becoming popular, and many women go to the U.S. to give birth, primarily in order to give their children American citizenship. In recent years, Russian women have become interested in various parenting models: Montessori kindergartens, Waldorf education, language secondary schools, and Philippine nannies.
Together with the desire to adopt the merits of various cultures, Russian women often turn to the experience of older generations. In Russia, every infant sleeps outside in the carriage or on the balcony even in minus 10 degree Celsius weather. The infant also must wear a hat, and regardless of the sex, wears tights almost until beginning school. Another Soviet tradition is a therapeutic massage for every infant until he or she is one year old in order to strengthen and develop muscles. The most important tradition is reading children bedtime stories almost until their adolescence. Tanja Maier writes that, "for the Russian mother, instilling a love of reading in her child is a matter of honor."
Archive photo of Russian babushka and a kid. Source: R. Netelev/RIA Novosti
Unfortunately, state hospitals in Russia are often relics of the Soviet past, which is why Russian mothers are usually also a doctor for herself and for others. Any recommendation from a doctor is checked over and over, and doubting parents usually consult with several specialists even about a simple cold. The only thing Tanja Maier criticizes Russian parents for is their frequent unwillingness to give their children vaccinations. Russian mothers often believe that a child's body should not be overburdened.
Maier points out that, unlike the U.S., where pregnancy gives a mother the so-called right to gain weight and eat as much as she wants, future Russian moms and their doctors carefully watch how many kilograms are put on during pregnancy. It's not a surprise that after giving birth Russian mothers quickly return to good shape. For the first six months infants are only breastfed; then baby food is introduced and mothers are careful to keep them on a proper and balanced diet. Children are given vegetables, fresh fruit, hot cereals, soups, fish, cottage cheese and yogurt, which they usually eat before going to bed.
Long, cloudy winters have resulted, as Tanja Maier writes, in Russians' "fanatical love of summer vacations." Taking the child on a seaside vacation for at least two weeks is a must for any mother. And if their budget permits, they will spend a month or even two by the sea. If such an opportunity does not exist, children spend the summer at the dacha, in a camp, but by no means in the city. The new trend in large cities is "wintering" in Asian countries such as Thailand.
Today in Russia, fathers are participating more in the rearing process and, according to Maier, "Russian husbands do not follow their wives' instructions; they themselves choose the level of participation in the child's life." Basically, Russian mothers do not expect men to carry out certain duties - they are happy if men just take the initiative. And, of course, it should be noted that in Russia women try to take care of themselves even when they are at home with their children. Therefore, the stereotypical tall blonde beauty with long legs, a designer bag and a good manicure can easily turn out to be a mother of two.
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