Modern rural parenting? It’s complicated.

Pregnancy and birth, biologically, are the same for humans everywhere in the world. It’s parenting that differs so wildly.

And I don’t just mean between North America, Finland and Uganda.

I mean even within our own country. Even within each province.

I’m talking about parenting advice as broadcast in national magazines, newspapers and online. All these writers and editors seem to assume everybody has equal access to, well, everything.

Lets complicate the hell out of parenting, shall we? Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve come across recently that are completely out of reach for me, and most people who live outside urban centers without unlimited funds.

1. Find a pediatric dentist for your child’s first dental checkup.
Um, there are TWO dentists within two hours’ drive of our house. Do you think either of them specialize in pediatric dentistry? That’s a negative. Also? The earliest available appointment is six months from now. Thankfully, they’ve been around a while and seen just about every dental problem there is. Unfortunately, they are too damn busy to spend 40 minutes on a toddler’s first cleaning. This is not a criticism of their work, but a genuine acknowledgement of their workload. I would love to take Sylvia to a pediatric dentist, but she’s just going to have to suffer through the regular kind… just like I did! (And look at that! Straight, white teeth. My, what good genes she has!)

2. Compare daycare options to find one that works for you.

You want me to shop around between the one daycare servicing an area of 25,000 people, and… all those other daycares that I must have overlooked in my four years in this town? Because at last check there was one – count ’em, ONE – daycare. With a two-year waitlist. That only takes kids aged two and up. And that daycare was a 45 minute drive from home. So when I went back to work when Sylvia was a year old, I had two options: private daycare, or staying home myself.
Private daycare is equally impossible to find. Thankfully I had a good friend who was staying home with her daughter, and agreed to look after Sylvia as well. I still turned over half my salary each month. Did she get craft time, song time and outdoor time every day? No, but she was safe and cared for and thank goodness it worked out as well as it did because ultimately, it was the only option.

3. Choose an OB/GYN or midwife that you trust. Decide whether you want a home birth, water birth, attend a birthing center or a hospital.

HA! Here’s how it works: Your family physician refers you to the local hospital where, if you’re lucky, there is a permanent OB/GYN. That OB/GYN might see you two to three times over the course of your pregnancy, more if your case is complicated. On D-Day, you’ll check yourself in at the hospital. Nurses will tend to you while you labour and if your baby decides to show up at a convenient time for the doctor, he or she may answer the call and arrive in time to scrub up and catch the placenta.

Your OB may also blame your sciatica on “being naughty in the garden of Eden,” and boast about stitching up your bits nice and tight “to keep your man at home.”

I wish I were making that up.

Choose an OB/GYN or midwife I trust and feel comfortable with? That’s a choice reserved for city dwellers.

4. Find a lactation consultant that will work with you.
This is right up there with the OB/GYN question. Want to know how many certified LCs are available in my neck of the woods? Zero. That’s right – there are NO certified lactation consultants available to nursing moms and wannabe nursing moms within a three-hour radius. Instead, public health nurses follow up with home visits to breastfeeding mothers. And those nurses? Are saints. I owe one particular nurse a dozen roses for her sage advice over the course of Sylvia’s first year. Yes, thank goodness there are wonderful online resources – but they all say the same thing: “get thee to an LC!” Living in the sticks, that’s complicated. Get an LC to come visit you in your home? Not unless you have big, big bucks to shell out.

5. Research pre-school and kindergarten options:
Public? Private? Montessori? Waldorf? Say what?

… You see where I’m going with this. Sylvia’s public school is a 45-minute bus ride away. We’ve discussed homeschooling, but that decision is still three years out. I love the public school we’re zoned for and I wholeheartedly support a public education. We’ll just have to wait and see what works best for us in 2015. In the meantime, I wish the parenting mags would stop flaunting all the pros and cons of other schools because quite frankly I’m just trying to make the best of what I’ve got. And your handy comparison chart only makes me feel crappy for somehow not giving my baby only the best*.

6. Add ground flax, hulled hemp, goji berries, chia seeds, quinoa, spelt, blackstrap molasses, agave syrup and [insert latest superfood trend here] to your family’s diet!
I would love to add the latest trendy superfood to my diet, but the reality is unless that superfood grows in my backyard ( and surprise! Many of them do, including blueberries, raspberries, codfish – just think of the Omega 3 content! – and Labrador tea), it’s not going to make up a significant part of our nutrition unless I plan a trip to the city for some Bulk Barn shopping. Or I ask friends and relatives to pick up the specialty items. Or I order them online to be delivered.
In reality I do all of those things, but it is not as easy as stopping at “any well-stocked grocery store” or specialty food store.

So let me be perfectly clear: I don’t expect Eastern Health to make four OBs available to me just so I can pick the one I like best. If I wanted these kinds of choices, we wouldn’t be living where we do. It’s all about choices, yes – and we choose to live in a town of 85 – so I will continue to make the best of what we do have, ask tonnes of questions and educate myself when local experts are not at hand.

Still, it would be really really nice to see some parenting literature that applies to the 20 per cent of Canadians who are geographically classified as rural dwellers. (Although I’m going to bet not many of these options are available in towns of 1,000 either…)

Like all aspects of country living, rural parents just have to be more creative with the resources at hand. And learn how to brush our own toddlers’ teeth. If I had to choose one single piece of advice for any parent it would be this: Ignore the advice and listen to your child. You can be a successful parent no matter where you call home.

*Best, as determined by who exactly?

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5 responses to “Modern rural parenting? It’s complicated.

  1. Laurie Runs Life

    I grew up in a small town of about 4000 and the options weren’t all that much better than the rural options you are talking about. We had many doctors, but not many specialist types (whether in dentistry or ob/gyn, etc) and we usually got sent to the “big city” for anything that needed specialized care. There was/is public school or homeschooling, no other choices. I have plenty of family members who still live in towns of that size and choice is definitely limited. And let’s all be thankful that not everyone wants to live in the larger centres, there is so much to be said for living somewhere that’s a bit out of the ordinary 🙂

    • I get a kick out of the fact that StatsCan considers towns of 1000 people or more “urban.” Like, really? Have you not lived in a town of 5,000? Even 10,000. I don’t know what the cutoff should be, but I certainly do intend to write a follow-up post on all the joys of rural parenting – access to wild blueberries and secluded beaches top the list!

  2. ha, this is awesome…I can so relate, in a town of 3,500, the problems were the same. Doesn’t matter, paying into the “shrink” fund regardless;)

  3. Pingback: CHANGE: Crib-to-toddler bed, a How-To | Laura Bee Dot

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