Carrie Jaxon, born and raised in Alabama, had lived in Madrid for almost ten years and believed that she had adapted quite well to the Spanish lifestyle.
But then the baby came along and with it a host of new challenges and cultural conventions that I have had a hard time getting used to. Here is your list of the ten peculiarities and advantages of having a baby in Spain to guide you through the pregnancy and the stage of the new baby in your adopted country.
For starters, it exists! Sixteen weeks to be with your newborn is the norm here. And if you want more time off, in many cases it can be arranged without the danger of losing your job entirely.
Paternity leave in Spain also rose to 16 weeks in 2021, equivalent to maternity leave, and now there is talk of new moms and dads who could soon be 24 weeks.
Prepare to be treated like royalty
A photo of a pregnant woman.: Shutterstock
Spaniards love babies. In general, you are regarded with the utmost respect when a visible pregnancy occurs and continues. People will be quick to give up their seat on the subway or bus, and if they don’t, expect to hear from someone standing and complain to them for not doing so. Even when carrying the newborn baby, people get up quickly, which is good news for the urban wrap mom!
Forget about covering up!
One of the best advantages of having a baby in Spain is the ease of breastfeeding. It is not an easy task to be a new mom and learn to feed your child in public. In fact, the first time I embarked on a public feed, a woman came up and commented on how cute it was, as it was glued to my chest…. because they don’t see shame, like they shouldn’t. It is quite amazing.
Random strangers will kiss your baby.
Friends warned me about this before it happened. And then one day when I least expected it, two middle-aged women stopped me to gawk at my two-month-old son hidden against my chest in a wrap … and then they both leaned in to kiss him on the head. I could literally smell her breath.
Tip: Add an extra 10 minutes to get anywhere due to the high probability of being stopped by a stranger, or 3 who want to catch a glimpse of the baby on its way and ask you a series of questions. And possibly a comment on how well they dress (or not).
There is a crazy obsession with shoes.
In addition to the need to comment on how the baby is dressed, there is the always urgent need to comment on the fact that a baby needs to wear shoes. Shoes … on a baby … who doesn’t walk? Baffling.
Baby poop. Much.
And it can be assumed that there won’t be a changing table at any nearby restaurant or bar. So learning how to become a “super diaper changing ninja” is a must. My personal experience has led me to change my baby on my lap, on someone else’s lap, in the stroller, on the bathroom floor, in a closed toilet, in the park. The good news? Spaniards normally don’t flinch when they see it.
Gender confusion is rampant.
Spaniards only seem able to tell if a baby is a boy or a girl based on whether they wear earrings or not. So if a girl’s ears are not pierced shortly after birth, even if they are dressed in pink from head to toe, they will be mistaken for a boy all the time. The gender confusion really makes me laugh, but just a warning: it’s very much present here.
Spaniards speak their minds when it comes to raising a baby.
Unsolicited passive and aggressive advice as well as forceful comments are by far the biggest quirk. Of course, we should all expect it from our moms, sisters, and close friends with children, but in Spain, be prepared to hear it from everyone! I once passed the line at the fish shop being lectured by the woman in front of me, a complete stranger, about why the Moby wrap I was using was not safe. Put a smile on your face and have an answer ready to stop them in their tracks.
Also, people are not afraid to tell you if they don’t like your baby’s name.
People keep their babies awake until after midnight.
A photo of a baby falling asleep in his crib.: Shutterstock
While my concern is trying to get the little one to sleep early, my Spanish counterparts are all sitting on the terraces with perfectly satisfied babies in their arms or even small children as they slowly sip a cane. How do they manage it? My half-blooded baby would certainly collapse if kept awake well beyond his normal 8pm bedtime.
Speaking of canes… a definite advantage here is being able to take your baby to a bar. No soul here would flinch at the sight. Marvelous!
Yes, you heard me right. Taking that sweet, freshly bathed newborn and sprinkling it with a fragrance made for babies is an obsession in Spain. It’s almost comical. Expect this as a gift from at least one person. And if you don’t receive it, you can keep mine unopened.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism