Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Of Tigers and Mothers

As a university-postgraduate, white African woman, married to a German, who has lived in three different countries and speaks five languages, I should be wary of classifying people into categories, as I hardly fit in any myself.
Despite this, I find myself often trying to explain people's behaviour by their cultural heritage and attitudes attributed to their background.

I have recently met a Chinese mother who perfectly fits the tiger parent stereotype...

Siberian tiger  - Wikipedia
This mother has got three girls aged five, eight and ten. On our first encounter, she succinctly described their weekly after-school schedule:
Monday - Homework then Basket Ball
Tuesday - Gymnastics
Wednesday - Swimming
Thursday - Private tuition
Friday - Piano lessons
Saturday - BasketBall
Sunday - Chinese school
Plus daily piano practice after breakfast!

I then met a white English middle-class mother who enumerated her eight-year old daughter's after-school activities:
Monday - Irish dancing
Tuesday - Ballet
Wednesday - Irish dancing
Thursday - Piano and Gymnastics
Friday - Ballet

She did not tell me about the weekend activities, as she had spotted the look of horror my face betrayed. She immediately started justifying to me the gruelling schedule. She does not make her daughter do all these activities, her daughter asks for them. She also only has a much older son, so has got time to devote to her daughter's extracurricular endeavours.

On the other hand, the Chinese mother was happy to tell me how she makes her daughters do maths exercises while awaiting the beginning of their gymnastics lesson, how they do not need to watch TV, how education is most-important and how all her own "efforts and sacrifices are worth it in the end".

In essence, all these children have a very busy life, and they all seem happy with it. The difference lies in the image their respective mothers want to project to the outside world...