Aside from replacing the "o" in that personal pronoun with a "u," being an LDS mother on a tiny island country on the base of our earth is very much like being an LDS mother anywhere else. Well, except for a few things, like the option of sending our children off to frolic with Hobbits, climb Ents, shear sheep, or play a jolly good game of rugby.
I know it may be difficult to reign in that lifestyle-envy that's come over you, so I've done my best to sum up some of the features of being a Mormon NZ mum (or "kiwi mum") in list-format; because bullet points are oh-so-digestable, after all.
- How am I meant to dry my clothes? Many homes don't have dryers, as occupants use a clothesline and lines over their fireplace. This question is often followed by, "And where is the dishwasher?" - another appliance many homes are without.
- You don't know how lucky you are. This is one of the most-uttered phrases by those arriving from other developed countries. Understandably, after observing our predominantly free healthcare (without insurance), the option to live on a rural section of land while still being 10 minutes-drive from a township, and then there's that lack of snakes/poisonous spiders/bears/alligators/most-things-scary). Most untravelled New Zealanders don't realise how fortunate we are to inhabit a space comparable to the island of Japan, but with a 30th of Japan's population (or to have only 16.1 people per km2, versus 337.1 people in the same space). With little corruption, interest-free loans for tertiary education (for all), and relatively low crime rates, those coming from third world countries are often smitten by how spoiled kiwis are.
- What are these types of buildings doing in a first-world country? It is only very recently that insulation and smarter heating options became standard for new homes; many New Zealanders live in 100-year-old homes with an open fire for heating. Central heating is very much a luxury in NZ. The word "primitive" is often bandied about when it comes to our heating choices.
- Wait, I thought New Zealand had a tropical climate. Wrong. That would be a maritime climate, and one dominated by our mountains and surrounding sea. While our year-round temperatures are mild, it still gets cold here...however, we don't have to shovel snow, nor do we often wilt in unbearable heat. In our largest (and northern) city, the average winter low is 4 degrees C, or 48 degrees F, while the average summer high is 24 degrees C (75 F). In Dunedin - where I live - deep in the South Island of New Zealand, we experience considerably lower temperatures. Regardless of where you are in NZ, everyone enjoys a lot of sunshine hours, year-round.
- "Natural birth?" Are you crazy? Or just a hippy? Many kiwi mothers prefer natural births, and the epidural and intervention rates are much lower here than in the US and Canada. Epidurals are usually reserved for planned and emergency C-sections, or births that are otherwise too complicated or lengthy; the general attitude about epidurals amongst NZ-raised mums - "Keep that needle away from my spine!"
- [In the supermarket] Where is all the good stuff? There are no cartons of eggnog, no rolls of premade cookie dough, and there is a virtual sugar-wasteland in the cereal aisle. New Zealand's junk food selection is fairly limited, and there is considerable emphasis on whole foods. But we make up for these two deficiencies with our creamy dairy products and fried fish'n'chips.
- [Scanning the pews on Sunday] Wow, there are so many cultures here! In the North Island, you will see more Samoan, Tongan and Māori faces in the congregation than you will immigrants and their descendants from the UK. All over New Zealand, you will find members who have immigrated recently (or in previous generations) from countries from all over the world.
- Wow, everyone really knows everybody. With a small church membership, pulling together and working towards unity is paramount. But it can make dating a little tricky...
- Things just seem more relaxed here. The New Zealand lifestyle (for the most part) is a simple one. Many families are more than happy to raise big families in small homes, and drive cars that hiss and sputter. Children are relaxed, and parents are often relaxed about their behaviour. Even without dryers, many homes opt for cloth nappies (diapers) to save money, and do something right by the environment - another choice that adds to the air of the "simple kiwi lifestyle."
...and gather around for a barbeque for tea that night (dinner), and voice a host of other eyebrow-raising names you've never heard, but all things considered, what we have in common with Mormon Mommy Bloggers far outweighs the things that make us different - we're mothers, doing what seems to be the best and truest fit for our families. And speaking for myself, I must say, New Zealand fits quite nicely.
Angela waved fare-thee-well to her previous playgrounds (the classroom, office and art gallery) in favour of drinking in every delicious moment of motherhood on offer. Now she juggles that privilege with her nesting instincts, design contracts, sales work, her churchy responsibilities, fertility treatment, and the need to straighten things – all with her cherub (Esky) in tow. You can read more from a Mormon Mum in New Zealand over at Angela Noelle's blog, Striking Keys.