Motherhood and culture

For several months now I am a member of World Moms Blog. This month Jennifer’s idea of connecting mothers from around the World has it’s 1st Anniversary. To celebrate it her website is hosting link-up for posts about motherhood and culture. If you have an interesting story from your own life, feel free to join.

I’ve thought what to write about for a really long time. I wrote about two pages in Polish and I decided it’s too personal (and I was too lazy to spent the extra time to translate it to English). It was more about what kind of family I grew up with than about the culture I grew up in. I’ve decided not to go that way. So now I’m going to just ramble a little bit about my family and a little bit about my culture.

When I left Poland several years ago I didn’t think I’ll end up marrying an American and having a child (or two) before I hit 30.

And here I am. Trying to balance between two worlds and languages. Knowing only Polish way of cooking I went through a period of frustration and anger. In our relationship I am the one who will eat (or at least try) almost anything.

I grew up eating pork or beef tongues in horseradish sauce and livers sautΓ©ed in onion and tripe soup and tatar (steak tartare). Once in my entire life I even tried the most disgusting dish that exist on our Polish menu: Blood Soup. To make it more interesting I witnessed the entire process of making it including killing that poor animal. I was about 6 or 7 years old.

My husband has very particular taste and it’s been a challenge in the kitchen. If I cook Polish food I cook it for myself. My daughter will eat almost anything these days (if it’s not a milk) and I hope it will stay that way. I would really like to be able to cook Polish food for somebody else than myself. I am in a process of convincing my husband to stop saying that some foods (dishes) are gross because I do not want my kids to copy him. Kids do that all the time. They learn from us and I do not want them to be so limited with foods as my husband. I am not criticizing my husband for that. Of course, sometimes I wish he was more open but… he is how he is and I do not want to work on changing that. Knowing how different food could open your mind and help you to get to know new cultures or just simply make your life more interesting it would be shame to rise kids who are mostly pasta, beans, mash potatoes and chicken breast eaters.

As a kid I knew how to milk a cow and I used to drink raw milk. Back then in Poland people didn’t know what pasteurized milk is. That milk would never go bad. It would simply turn into buttermilk which we would eat sprinkled with sugar. These days you can’t do that with milk, even in Poland. Today if I ask for a raw milk people think I want to kill my kid (but that’s a subject for separate post). I get really frustrated at the grocery store because I can’t find yoghurt which are not “low” fat, “0” fat, “2 %” fat. In the country where obesity rates are the highest in the world with 74.6% of Americans being overweight I can’t find “whole” yoghurt… and sometimes I have problems with finding whole milk.

From my childhood I remember how real bread tastes like. The one made on real sourdough not on yeast. That was the way breads in Poland used to be made. Not anymore, though.

For almost my entire life my family have had an allotment garden outside the town. These days my parents use this place mostly for grilling, hanging out and growing a few fruit threes, herbs and veggies (just a few, really). Back in time we grew much more veggies and fruits and we used to can it. While most of my friends would play on the playground after school me and my siblings had to go and help my parents around that garden. Sometimes it was fun. Most of the time I was really bored (and angry). Sometimes we worked in cold or rain (rain means cold as well), sometimes in heat. These days I appreciate what I’ve learned working out there.

Here where we live now, we signed for a spot in a community garden. That spot is about 1/10 of what my family has back in Poland. When we had signed for it about 4 months ago we were 72 on the waiting list! Unbelievable! With so much empty land around us… . In Poland you see those allotment gardens everywhere!

Now something else. If you’re convinced that having at least two kids requires having a minivan – I can prove you’re wrong!

For many, many years we used to drive, all 5 of us, in this kind of cute little car:

… and we would get wherever we wanted to on time. In this tiny car we would travel through Poland (5 people) packed with our clothes for a month and with a dead pig in the trunk πŸ™‚

I grew up with parents who thought dogs are good only for guarding the house but only from the outside. It was a miracle they let us keep a dog my sister got as a b-day gift on her 18th birthday. We cried and cried and they finally let us keep him.

All three of us, on the other hand, grew up as a loving dogs people. These days we all have dogs. In my case the bigger the dog the bigger my love towards it and I have a feeling that our daughter will be the same way.

This isn’t a cultural thing, I would say. It’s rather a personal difference we all grew up with. But looking from my parents perspective it was a cultural thing. They both was raised in Polish village where dogs weren’t domestic animals. They were kept for protection. Outside. Period.

Btw, I grew up in a culture (and in times) where for 16th b-day we wouldn’t be given a car or anything a half that fancy. Parents didn’t throw for us anything like “sweet 16”. It’s a b-day like every single one before and after. Instead of that my middle class working full-time parents were able to send all three of us to college and gather big account of savings in case if any of their children would need some financial help starting a family. That actually doesn’t count in my case as we wouldn’t get much US dollars for Polish zΕ‚ote.

Anyway, I hope I’ll be the same kind (in this matter) parent to my kids. I hope I’ll have the wisdom to choose between what’s necessary for my kids and what they can live without (even if they don’t agree with me at the time).

I wish I could give them just a little bit of what I experienced as a kid. Being able to experience life in a farm, knowing nature and feeling connected to it. I’m not very fond of the strict and emotionless parenting style I had to go through but we can’t change the past. We can only try to do better for the future.

I know that the difference my kids will experience are not going to be the cultural ones only but created by time as it was with me and my parents, and as much as I can teach them about my culture I can’t predict how the future will look like and how big of a difference it will create between generations. I can only hope for the good.

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13 responses to “Motherhood and culture”

  1. Reading this, it’s pretty similar to my thoughts on parenting and culture. It’s not just different country culture, it’s different generation culture that I’m experiencing now as a mother. What I hope to achieve is a balance of what was good back then and what is good right now, for my son. It’s still a learning process!


  2. I loved reading this, especially the food thing, how the food you like and have grown up with isnt something that your husband cares for. I am also looking for whole milk and youghurt, and luckily it is quite easy to find here, I always seem to think that what I had as a child is the best, so that it was I would like to give to my child!


  3. This was a great read which put a huge smile on my face. Your tales of food are interesting and I’m still chuckling about driving around with a dead pig in the trunk πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for sharing


  4. Jennifer Burden Avatar
    Jennifer Burden

    Wow! I’m excited for your daughter — you are cherry picking the best of what you learned in your life to expose her to. She will learn about the farm life, garden with you, and have a more emotional relationship with her parents. As for the food, don’t stop cooking!! Write those recipes down, and put them in a book for her, and definitely keep exposing her to them.

    It is only when I hit my 30s that I wanted to revive the Lebanese cooking that my grandparents and great aunts used to do, but most weren’t around anymore for me to ask questions of. I am grateful for a book that was put out by a Lebanese church in the 1970s, where they did their best to document the recipes of the older women in their congregation. When I make some of the recipes, I know that the families and different geographical locations in Lebanon and Syria cooked similar foods very differently. Sometimes I don’t know if that is exactly how my family did it, but I wish I knew. I only have my history of taste buds to go off of, and I try to let them lead me! πŸ™‚

    I love your stories. So much. πŸ™‚

    Jen πŸ™‚


  5. Awesome photos! Love that little car ..and love your love of dogs!!


  6. This sounds like everything my parents had expected to give me when they had me but couldn’t but still tried their damnest to give anyway even though we live in the USA instead. And it sounds like exactly what my cousins got growing up. There are some things here I sincerely envy you on.

    And yeah, gotta say, what’s up with not being able to buy full fat real yogurt anywhere? Crazy! Xantham gum should NOT be in food.

    Oh, and ditto on the minivan. We had the American version of the Malusiek. We were fine. Now I own a smaller car and will not give it up without a fight! Although the 5 seater SUV is important for off roading and Chicago winters (4 wheel drive must have weather).

    I totally need to write a post for the anniversary too. πŸ™‚



  7. O Boze maly fiat !!!! Tyle lat juz go nie widzialam ze prawie zapomnialam ze istnieje !! moj Tata mial Trabanta: zazdrosc na cale osiedle πŸ˜‰ ! Ale to byly fajne czasy, z lezka w oku sie wspomina. A te pyszne komunistyczne desery jak budyn albo kisiel : niebo w gebie ;-). Moje dzieci uwilebiaja !!


  8. Thank you for letting me know about your culture and the way you were raised. It’s so interesting to learn how different yet how similar we really are. When I was still married, I cooked foods from both cultures (American + Indonesian) and my ex has curious taste buds so it worked pretty well. So, yes I’m with Jen, don’t stop cooking and that recipe book idea is priceless! πŸ˜€ PS: Those pictures are just so precious, love it!


  9. I cant tell you how much I loved reading your post. This sounds just like my life back in the sub-urband town I grew up in, in South India. Life was simple, straight forward and I did not receive anything for my 16th birthday either. I did not even want to receive anything. I mean I dont even remember what we did πŸ˜› πŸ™‚
    Oh, but I had the happiest of childhood.

    Like you said, our uprbinging of our children nowadays is more influenced by technology.


  10. Your childhood sounds much like my father’s childhood, back in the 40s. He remembers being sent outside to pick a stick to be whipped with…. as punishment for being whipped at school!

    I think that there are good and bad things in all cultures, and if you can raise your children to love the best of your background, they will be blessed.


  11. […] post by Polish Mom Photographer This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Planes, Trains and […]


  12. Very interesting! I enjoyed hearing about how you were raised. I love hearing about other cultures.


  13. πŸ™‚ I love your story, I am from Poland as well but I live In Ireland for the last 12 years,
    I remember my parents first car, it was the same “maluch”. once we were coming back from vacation and it broke down about 10 minutes before we reached the house, I think I was about 6 and my sister 4, myself , my sister and my parents had to push that little thing back home, took us a bit of time, but at least I have memmories like that πŸ™‚
    thank you for linking with Flowers on Saturday


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