Parenting issues have been a particular touchstone, probably because as a stay-at-home parent this is my full-time job right now and a lot of the people I have been interacting with are also SAHMs. There is a spectrum of parenting styles even here in the reddest of red states, of course, but often parenting and discipline practices here are not consistent with my values and beliefs. Parenting here typically tends to the über-conservative, traditional, and authoritarian-- so much negative speech about and to children, so much spanking, so much cry-it-out sleep training for young babies, so little kindness, respect, and dignity. I've left at the end of playdates feeling so awkward and isolated, or sat in the middle of them feeling like I am an entirely different species of mother than the women sitting around me. I don't think it is so much that living in the Northeast changed my choices significantly (we were on the crazy hippie side of things even in Connecticut, and yes, I was in the minority there for breastfeeding Grace past her 2nd birthday and using cloth diapers) so much as getting accustomed to being surrounded by people with different perspectives and attitudes than is prevalent here.
Speaking of which, I'm sure part of this is missing my mama friends from Connecticut (Hi there! I miss you guys!) and I know that all this cultural readjustment is made more difficult by being pregnant right now and full of the crazy-making hormones. On a day-to-day basis I am still emotionally even-keeled but when something is upsetting, it REALLY upsets me. I can't listen to someone tell me she spanked her son 35 nights in a row with equanimity right now. Normally I think I would be more "everyone chooses their own path for their family blah blah blah", and no doubt that would be better, but right now it makes me all queasy and teary to be around people who talk volubly about purposefully hitting their child to the point of pain like it's no big deal.
The parenting issues have been at the forefront but what has really struck me is how different people's perspectives and worldviews are in general. As a whole, there really is less awareness and appreciation of other cultures, more anti-intellectualism, and less concern for social justice. And I am so afraid one of these SAHMs is going to come out as a global warming denier and I will flip my lid.
I was talking to Rob about this and wondered aloud why he wasn't going through anything similar (besides the fact that he is, you know, male and not filled with RAGING PREGNANCY HORMONES) and he reminded me that his daily cultural milieu has not changed that much. He is still surrounded by research-oriented physicians at a big academic hospital; the people he interacts with on a day-to-day basis are still this highly educated, culturally diverse pack of science-y geeks (no offense meant at all, seeing as how I am amongst the geekiest of science-y geeks). I'm sure there are subtle differences and a more conservative bent compared to being in the Northeast even among his fellow MDs and PhDs, but it's nothing like the mind-bending contrast between the people I was interacting with before our move and after. Women who are staying home with their children in Texas-- different from those doing the same thing in the Northeast. Hmmm, maybe this shouldn't have come as such a shock to my system?
So the last stage of reverse culture shock is adaptation, where one supposedly incorporates the positive aspects of having been away into one's current life. Although someone who has actually lived abroad for an extended time is probably mocking me right now, I'm still waiting for that; probably it will happen sometime in the sleep-deprived haze of the newborn months when I'll get less focused on myself and more centered on the absorbing details of a tiny new life. In the meantime, I have so appreciated some friends who have expressed solidarity or just encouragement when they've noticed me quietly flipping out. And I think I'll pull back from some of these social interactions that are leaving me upset and sad. And somehow I need to find a way to meet a few crunchy hippie moms to be my friends. Then I can get a taste of my own medicine when they judge me for vaccinating our children on the CDC-approved schedule.