For two months a year, Mary, her husband and two daughters, live in darkness because of a phenomenon called polar night. "We'll get only about 45 minutes of sunlight. The sun will actually rise about 10:45 and then it will set about 11:15," Mary says. "And then it's total [darkness] again."
Surrounded by water, the only way to get to Kotzebue is by boat, plane or snowmobile. Like most families there, Mary lives in a small home to save on energy and fuel, which is brought on a barge in the summer before the Bering Sea freezes in the winter.
Alaska's brutal winters last six months, with wind chills sometimes dropping to 100 degrees below zero. "If you threw out water outside in the sky, it would come down as powder. That's how cold it gets," Mary says.
"The groceries are so expensive because the only way that you could get to Kotzebue is by flying in or by boat in the summer, so a lot of our groceries and our milk, they're flown in daily," Mary says.
Mary says to keep warm and healthy, her family eats meat every day. The main source of protein for most Eskimos comes from their own backyards. "My husband hunts. He goes caribou hunting as well as moose hunting," Mary says. Two or three caribou will last Mary's family through the winter. The family also eats a lot of muktuk, a dish made from bowhead whale blubber and meat.
Despite the high cost of living and brutal winters, Mary still feels Kotzebue is the best place to raise a family. "The culture here is very awesome. Being a little kid here, they like to celebrate life. I love this close-knit community," Mary says. "I'm proud to be an Eskimo, and so is my family."
All that changed when 40-year-old Princess Akishino—nicknamed Princess Kiko— became pregnant with her third child.
In September 2006, with the whole world waiting in anticipation, Princess Kiko finally gave birth to Prince Hisahito!
When the news broke of his birth, celebrations erupted in the streets of Japan!
With free healthcare for children seven and under—and paid maternity leave that lasts a year—this Scandanavian paradise makes sure family comes first.
"It's a very family oriented society and the family is very important to the government," says Trine Grung, a mother of two, who calls Oslo, Norway, home.
Along with extended maternity leave—which can be divided between a husband and wife—moms and dads each get 10 days off with pay to take care of their kids if they get sick! Plus, during the first few years, families can get about $100 a month from the government to help pay nanny costs.
If your day care provider falls through? No problem! Trine says it's okay to take the kids to work for a day or two.
Norway also encourages moms to breast-feed, and there are even cafés designed for nursing moms. "We don't flash the boob out in the cafe, but you can be discreet. Everybody does it," she says. And Trine means everybody—99 percent of Norwegian moms breast-feed!
"When they come home from school, they're outside playing soccer, going in the woods. I want them to be active. I don't want them to sit down just being paralyzed in front of the TV," Trine says.
So what is her impression of American moms? "The impression we get from TVs and what we read in the papers, I think they should be more strict...the health issue and the eating and everything," Trine says. "I'm very strict with my kids. Like there's no peanut butter ever in the house...There's a lot of love behind a no."
Despite being health conscious, however, Trine says the best advice she gives her kids is about their emotional well-being. "To believe in themselves...like my little girl, for example, ... if she comes home and said somebody said something bad about her hair I said, 'Do you like your hair?'" Trine says. "That's the most important thing. To believe and be strong in yourself."
Married to well-known Brazilian actor Marcio Garcia, Andrea basks in the good life with their two children, Pedro and Nina. "I have a nanny. I have a cook. I have a housekeeper," Andrea says. "I think that Brazil is so [much] easier than America because the women [in America] don't have time for them[selves]. Just for the children. And for the house."
In Rio de Janeiro, Andrea says looks matter. "It's very important to be beautiful. I love to work out. I like to buy some clothes," she says.
But in a country with one of the world's highest crime rates, Andrea's top priority is keeping her family safe. "The violence here is terrible. I have security because I'm afraid sometimes. I have a bulletproof car."
Like every mother, Andrea hopes that she is raising her children right. "When they grow up, I'd like them to be a good person and to do everything in the right way," Andrea says.
Though she had no business or education training, Dina opened the Baby Academy Preschool for Children, which provides top-of-the-line facilities. "I wanted a place that would treat every child as an individual, that would help him to achieve his maximum potential," she says.
Now Dina has three schools, 1,000 graduates, and plans for further expansion!
Jill founded the International Breast Milk Project, which helps caring moms in the U.S. donate their highly nutritious breast milk—which is then pasteurized, packed in dry ice and shipped to undernourished children in South Africa.
Makha and her husband were living with their six children on a grain farm when their village came under attack by "Janjaweed," the ruthless mounted militias who have executed many of the atrocities in the ongoing genocide in Sudan. Janjaweed militiamen killed Makha's husband and two of her children, and raped her. She escaped and, with her surviving four children, fled 60 miles on foot.
When Jeff spoke with her, Makha had been in the camp for seven months. She was building a six-foot mud wall in a desperate attempt to protect her children. "Perhaps if the Janjaweed come here, they'll see that wall and pick an easier target," Jeff explains.
Despite everything the refugees of Darfur have been through, another mother at the camp named Fatima says she still has hopes and dreams for her children. "For me, life has no meaning. I just want my children to be able to live normal lives like children anywhere," she says. "Not as refugees."
Over the past decade, hundreds of U.S. companies have outsourced jobs to India. Over 300,000 Indians are employed as customer service phone operators. One of these workers is 29-year-old mother Bharti, who works from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.—literally through the middle of the night. Bharti rarely spends more than 15 minutes at a time with her husband or son. She says she hasn't spent a night with her husband in two months.
"My ultimate dream is to have our own flat, and Ishu [her son] have his own room, and I'm not working at all," Bharti says. "I would love to teach dance. That's what I want—a simple, very small life."
These jobs imported from the West are changing Indian culture, especially how families are structured, says The Oprah Winfrey Show correspondent Lisa Ling. "Their lives are in reverse. They adopt these American, Western lives at night and come back and try to live their Indian lives during the day," she says. "The mothers are still obligated, even though they're working all night long, to come and cook first thing in the morning, pick up the kids during the day. Their duties have multiplied."
Because they do not have the room or the money, Muhlee's 9-year-old son does not live with his parents in Bangkok. Instead, he lives in the country with Muhlee's parents. She rarely gets to see him, but they talk every day.
"She would do anything for her kids," says Muhlee's translator.
"Muhlee is actually very lucky because she talks to her son every day," Lisa says. "She's one of millions of women around the world who are from the countryside, but have to leave their homes in search of work. Some of these mothers in China, in Mexico, in Thailand see their kids maybe once a month. Some see their kids maybe two times a year."
As she raises these 40 children, Bakoko simultaneously lobbies to change laws that give men unlimited power over women. And she starts changing those laws at home...with her 20 sons. "In the future, when we have our wives, we must learn how to give them the freedom and how to empower them to look for their own survival," one of her sons says.
"Even if I am poor, even if I don't have what others have, I have fine young men who will transform our society," Bakoko says.
Congolese mother M'Sevumba, was widowed twice and left with 10 children to raise—ranging from 2 to 17 years old. In Congo, the deceased husband's brother is supposed to help the family after his death, but M'Sevumba was left on her own. To support her children, M'Sevumba works as a porter, hired to carry items such as mattresses up and down hills and long distances. In order to carry the weighty loads, M'Sevumba relies on balance, strength and endurance. For all her effort, a morning's work earns her just 25 cents.
With the help of International Rescue Committee, producers from The Oprah Winfrey Show recently found M'Sevumba. She continues working as a porter and has put four of her 10 children through primary school!