The Blog

Parenting in a mixed culture Relationship

Updated: Mar 2

It took me a minute to write this one but here it is.. One that I was asked about a little while back and I'm now answering.

Canvas art by Eye Am Africa.

Instagram: @eyeamafrica

(BTW we have these in our home, artwork I purchased and would highly recommend Eye Am Africa for some original pieces to help if you wanted to start bringing things like this into your home. Our daughter calls them dad and mom which I find so cute)

I have been very lucky to find a partner who has similar ideas to what I have when it comes to how we would like to raise our children. A lot of this we spoke about when we were still dating because I was not about to have any surprises when it came to my babies. Ofcourse theory and reality don't always look alike and you have to adjust when life throws you curve balls. However, the fundamentals never really change. We both knew we would raise our children to believe in God but allow them the freedom and space to decide for themselves, boys and girls would be treated similar (but not the same) in the house [comment below or message if you want to know more about this one], financial literacy is a must from a young age, classes and travel are also a must for our children. That's just me being vague because if I went into detail about EVERYTHING, this would be a 2 hour read so I'm hoping you catch my drift.

Another very important discussion was how our children would be raised to know both cultures. A lot of the time when you marry into another culture there is this expectation from the elder generation that you will take on your husband's culture and almost forget your own. It is not said out loud but is always implied by everyone you start to meet. Tan don't role like that! I have a deep respect for my husband, where he comes from and his culture but that does not mean I am going to forget my own. I am very blessed in that my husband is someone that encourages me not to! He actually encourages me to go out and learn more about who I am and where I come from because truth be told, I didn't know very much. So it's always been important to me that as I grow I learn more about my culture and my family traditions so I can pass that on to my own children.

The Struggle..

When my daughter was born, there was a lot that I din't know I didn't know about both of our cultures. The main struggle for us both was making sure that both of our parents (mothers) were happy and I will be honest, it was a little stressful for us both. In my husband's culture, when a child is born, it is the mother of the groom that would go over and help to take care of the new mother and baby for a period off time (no specific time frame). In my culture, it is the mother of the bride who does this. We found this out when arrangements had already been made with my mother... Miscommunication... What ended up happening was that my mother came for a week and throughout my mother-in-law was there and was always checking in to make sure I was okay. After that, my mother-in-law came and stayed with us for another week with my mother was checking in. I can imagine this was not what either would have expected but we had to make it work because of the difference in traditions.

The next 'big' challenge... In my husband's culture there is what is known as a naming ceremony which occurs on the seventh day after a child is born. In my family tradition, a child is not to leave the house for a few weeks after birth, a welcoming celebration would then happen after mother has fully recovered and the baby is older. Our families don't know this but this one actually caused a fight between my husband and I, not because we didn't want to honor family culture but because as a first time mother, there was so much I was scared of. I will be honest in saying, I did not want to do the naming ceremony. I didn't want anyone apart from our immediate families holding our baby and I was SCARED! This is how I was brought up and to me, having a baby being held by a lot of people that early in their life was scary to me. When we went to parenting classes it was always, "try not to have too many people holding the baby and definitely do not have people kissing baby"so that, coupled with what I knew from growing up, my nerves were shot.

The solution...

There are times when you just have to take one for the team and that is exactly what I did for the naming ceremony. I had to ask myself; "were they going to harm my baby" ofcourse not, "was I going to die" again no, so for the sake of peace in my family and in my marriage, I dressed up, smiled, took pictures and came home after a few hours. I was on edge and my emotions were everywhere but now I look back and I'm glad that I actually didn't fight it and went with it because it is a beautiful tradition. Looking back on all the pictures and how it gave my daughter a head start in life, I can only smile and be grateful.

We as a couple have now learnt how to compromise in a way that allows us to both be happy and for our parents to be satisfied. Our happiness comes first as a family always and we decide what we are both comfortable with (and this is in life not just with tradition/culture) then we will take into consideration the happiness of others after. We know that we want our children to be very connected to both cultures and so one of the ways we are hoping for them to have that is by making sure, time with both sets of grandparents is there regularly. Where we are unable to teach certain things, our parents can fill that gap.

Things like language, food and entertainment that may be consumed by our little girl at the moment are from both sides of the family. Our daughter may have sadza and efo riro as a meal, listen to Burna boy then some Jah Prayzah straight after, learn shona numbers with mommy one day and yoruba body parts with daddy the next. Yes it is a lot for a child to take in and it does mean her speech may come a little later than most because of all the different things she learns but it is not impossible for her. In fact, studies show she may actually be better for it in the long run.

In Conclusion...

It's all about discussing these things prior to you having your children and along the way, finding a balance that makes both of you happy. Speaking to your families about cultural expectations even in relation to their grandchildren is important because then nothing will come as a surprise and you can both come to an informed decision about how you would like to manage things. We didn't do this as much as we should have and it just meant we were ill prepared. Talk to your partner about what your expectations are prior to having those kids IT'S IMPORTANT! If you cannot agree on how you would like your children to be raised prior to having those babies, should you be having babies with that person?

If you are expecting and you haven't had that conversation yet, it's actually never too late, have it now and figure it out. Whether that means getting counselling if you're unable to agree then do it because it really is important for there to be some base plan that you can both agree on and build on as baby grows.

As always let me know what you think! Get in touch, comment, share and let's get talking :)

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