I ran into some “mom culture shock” years ago when I moved from Los Angeles to Seattle with my kids, 4 and 2 at the time. On a nice July afternoon, I took them to a sandy Puget Sound beach, peeled down to my bathing suit and, as I was applying sunscreen, realized that I was the only one of a dozen mothers on the beach in a swimsuit.
It turned out that Seattle motherhood had its own rules, on matters both big and small. Take preschool birthday parties: In L.A., cakes were from a bakery and presents were deposited in a bedroom, to be opened after the guests left. The parents stood around and talked about movie deals. In Seattle, you’d arrive to pick up your child from a party to find toys and wrapping all over the living room and the crumbled remains of Betty Crocker or Safeway on the table. L.A. moms didn’t wear their kids on their tummies or backs; that was for dads only.
Another culture shift awaited when we moved to Orange County when the kids were 11 and 9. While mothers had filled the halls of my kids’ schools in Seattle – helping with art exhibits, international assemblies, and Books and Bagels clubs – I was usually the lone parent in the classrooms at my children’s school here. There was the PTA and fundraising, but the cultural norm didn’t include mothers on a daily basis at school. On the plus side, my daughter rocketed ahead in math at her O.C. school, filling out worksheet after worksheet. If a student at our Seattle schools had come home with a worksheet, parents would have organized a protest.
The terroir of parenting.