Look for Congo on any list ranking quality of life, poverty rate, violence per square meter, etc. and we don’t fare well. Great place to raise a kid, right?

Well, actually, for us, yes.

My friend Jill is my neighbor, co-worker and blogging partner on our blog Mama Congo. We raise our children, along with our husbands, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What we lack in first world standards, we make up for in mamas. Our children call at least 6 women “mama.” Maybe more depending on the day.

In the Congo every woman is called “Mama So-and-So.” I’m Mama Sarah, she’s Mama Jill, and the women who come to our homes everyday and help us raise our children are Mama Youyou, Mamicho, Mama Vida and Mama Nounou. That’s a lot of mamas between our two households.

My husband Adam and I moved to the Congo five years ago and Jill and her husband Johan moved in next door a little while later. Our children all run around together getting bit by mosquitoes while we call for them to return to their respective houses. It’s a great life; made possible mostly by our mamas.

Jill and I are about to travel back to the States to visit our families for the summer. We’ll spend time with the grandparents, show off the new tricks our kids can do, and indulge in all the food we can’t find in Congo. But sometimes it’s hard to leave our little “village” of women raising our children with us.

Sure we’ll miss their help, but what we mostly miss is how totally fun and wacky and sometimes completely puzzling it is to raise your kids with a Congolese woman by your side. For example, sometimes we’ll find the mamas up in a tree throwing fruit down to our kids. They yell in French, “Look out below!” As star fruit or bunches of bananas rain down.

Every now and then from my office window I’ll see them toting our children on their backs when their little legs are too tired to walk home from the playground. Even the smallest baby cries, “Au dos. Au dos,” (on your back) when she wants to hitch a ride.

I know that if my daughter hasn’t eaten enough of her breakfast, I’ll get an earful when Mama Youyou shows up. She examines the size of her belly, determines it’s not properly filled, and then coaxes her into eating more. Next she reminds me I need to keep my kids nice and fat so that if they get sick they’ll be okay.

When the kids do inevitably get sick, the mamas are the biggest worriers. I get that. Where we’re from in the States, children get sick and then they get better. Here in Congo, that’s not a guarantee. So everyone hovers and shakes their heads and carries them au dos all day while rotating cold washcloths on their foreheads. It’s a major production. And the children love it.

Sometimes people ask us if it’s hard to share that title of “mama” with others. It isn’t. It really isn’t! We feel like the luckiest mamas because our children are being raised in such a different and loving way. Sure, it took some time for everyone to adjust and learn their place in the household, but we’ve all got into a rhythm now. I hold this end, you hold that end as we wrestle their filthy bodies in the tub.

I think every mother can agree that raising your children with a lot of help, mixed in with doses of advice, and sprinkled with good old fashioned judgment to keep you on your toes, is a great way to be a mama.

Do your children have other “mamas” where you live?  Who are they, and how do they help you?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Sarah.  You can find Sarah blogging with Jill at Mama Congo.

Photo credit to the authors.

NEW JERSEY, USA: One Exhausted Mama

NEW JERSEY, USA: One Exhausted Mama


I made my first guest contribution to the World Moms Blog about two years ago. My article focused on being a “busy bee,” and managing working, motherhood and household duties. I wrote about energy, dedication to my career and “getting it all done,” even though I knew the workload was hard. At that point in time, my son had just turned one. Well, flash forward to 2013 and my son will be three in a few weeks and my daughter will be one in two months. There is only one word that comes to mind – Exhaustion! (more…)

Wall Street Mama (USA)

Wall Street Mama was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to NJ when she was a teenager. She fell in love with New York City and set her mind to one thing after college – working on Wall Street. She has spent the last 16 years working on the trading floor at three major banks. As an Institutional Salesperson, she is responsible for helping large corporations and money funds invest their short term cash in the fixed income part of the market. She lives in the suburbs of central NJ with her husband of 11 years, their amazing 21 month old boy and their first baby – a very spoiled Maltese. She has baby #2 on the way and is expecting a little girl in June 2012. She is a full time working mother and struggles with “having it all” while wondering if that is even possible. Wall Street Mama was married at the age of 25 but waited to have children because she felt she was too focused on her career which required a lot of traveling and entertaining. When she was finally ready, she thought she could plan the exact month she was ready to have a child, like everything else she planned in her life. She was shocked and frustrated when things did not go according to her plan. Fast forward four years later, after a miscarriage and several rounds of failed fertility injections, her little miracle was conceived naturally. She never thought in a million years, that she and her husband would be in their late 30’s by the time they had their first child. Since the financial crisis of 2008, she has endured some of the most difficult years of her life. The stress of trying to conceive was combined with some of life’s biggest challenges. She and her husband, who is a trader, both lost their jobs on Wall Street the exact same month. Her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she ended up passing away while she was 6 months pregnant. At times it didn’t seem like things would ever get better, but she has learned that life is cyclical and what comes down must again go up. Leaving her baby boy with a wonderful nanny each day is difficult, but at times it is easier than she would have expected. She still enjoys the seemingly addictive draw of working on Wall Street. The past few years have been dramatically different from the “good days” but she is focused on trying to achieve what she once had before. She is currently working on launching her own blog, Wall Street Mama, in an attempt to guide others who are focused on continuing their career, yet struggle with leaving their little ones at home. She is weathering the ups and downs of the market and motherhood, one day at a time.

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PHILIPPINES: Two Moms and A Baby

PHILIPPINES: Two Moms and A Baby

I grew up without a nanny. Here in the Philippines, a family with small kids without a nanny trailing after them is a rare sight. My mom, who is a housewife, was relatively young when she gave birth to me, so she was more than capable of raising me on her own. A couple of months after my first birthday my brother was born, and so my mom had two of us to care for. She continued to do this all on her own, without the help of a nanny.

Since I grew up solely under the care of my mother, I was determined not to leave any of my children with a nanny once I had my own.

It seemed simple enough when I was young and carefree. Then my son happened. At the time, my husband (who was still my boyfriend back then) and I were still in college. We had no steady jobs and no home of our own. And so it was decided that we would live with my parents. It was an ideal arrangement since my mom would be home and ready and able to lend a hand, answer any questions, or step in when I’d be too tired to function.

Throughout my pregnancy until my son’s first birthday, my mom and I worked in tandem caring for him every day. As if I couldn’t get any luckier, my husband has always been very hands-on with our child. Yes, he gave him a bath and changed his diapers, fed him and played with him. Name it, my husband’s done it. (more…)

Patricia Cuyugan (Philippines)

Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker from Manila, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching a K-drama series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs. 

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Saturday Sidebar: Following up on “The Help”

Mannahattamamma was struck by MamaMzunga’s post “The Help”.

“The help” can have different connotations in different parts of the world, so let’s hear about it!  This week we asked…

“What is your relationship to hired help?  Do you have any?  If so, what kind?  If not, why not?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Karyn Van Der Zwet of New Zealand writes:
“Most people in New Zealand do all of their own domestic chores. People with two incomes will sometimes have paid help come in to do the basics once a week, but this is not always the case. Full-time help or live-in help is rare and for the wealthy. It is my biggest ambition in life: to have a full-time cleaner!” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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VIRGINIA, USA: A Village of Two

It really does take a village to raise children. I am convinced of it.

In the beginning, I managed the twins with my husband and a 24/7 baby nurse for six weeks. After my husband went back to work, it was just me and a full time nanny for three months.

And when that didn’t work out, it was only me and a housekeeper who came around two, then three times, a week. This arrangement lasted until the kids were over a year old when I asked her to come everyday.

I stopped caring about the cleaning and only wanted her full attention on the children. (more…)

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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