On Motherhood and International Diplomacy

Our decision to have a baby came about three years after we were married. Initially, we planned to do a whole list of things (including buying a house) and then start trying.  But on the night of January 5, 2002 while driving home from the hospital after visiting our friends’ newborn baby, I told him, “That’s it.  I want to start trying.” Exactly one year and four days later on January 9, 2003 we were blessed with twins:  a boy and a girl.

As much as we hate to admit it, we really do turn into our parents.  Their successes and failures become our instincts as we stumble through the uncharted territory of raising children.  Without even thinking about it we fall into those same parenting patterns–which can be good–but it also means that we need help breaking away from those behaviors if they happen to be unhealthy.

Because we rely so much on our own upbringing to define our ideas of parenting, it stands to reason that there would be some conflicts when two parents come from two cultures as different as Pakistan and the U.S.  This starts from birth, but becomes far more pronounced as they grow and we start talking to them about ideas like spirituality, sexuality, and social norms.  My kids are nine-years-old now and while some things have become easier (they can do their own laundry now), the lessons they are beginning to learn now make the stakes feel much higher.

My husband made the choice to emigrate to the U.S. and he sees a lot of value in our society, so he is not interested in keeping them in a cultural bubble, associating only with other Pakistani and/or Muslim children.  But at the same time, he has very specific ideas about how they should behave, what their education should look like, table manners, attitude, and appearance.  And so do I.  Sometimes, though, our strong opinions clash, and that’s when compromise comes in.

I think every parent has ‘deal-breakers’, or things they absolutely will not tolerate when it comes to their children.  Everything else, however, should be up for compromise, especially if it’s important to your spouse.  Over time, my husband and I have had to find a middle ground and find a way to let one another have the final say in discipline, rewards, or teaching things we each find important.

It’s been a challenge but not a hard one.  Regardless of our occasional differences of opinions on parenting, we are both united in the idea that we really want the best for our children.  Rather than pulling us apart, our children have made us to come together and find ways to work together for their benefit.  We relish our shared gift of parenthood, which is both humbling and empowering.

But sometimes I worry that my husband and his family will be disappointed because our children aren’t “Pakistani” enough.  And then, I worry that they will cling to their Pakistani identity and discount the value of their American heritage. I worry that my children will grow up and not fit in to either Pakistani culture or American culture, leaving them conflicted.  I worry that they will be ignored, laughed at, overlooked, or undervalued because they are the product of a mixed-race marriage.

Then.   I stop and watch them for a few minutes.  And they are so much more amazing than I will ever be: a perfect blend of two cultures, two people, two families:  confident, proud, and intelligent.  Their sweet eyes are honest, full of life, and they give me hope that differences in people and cultures don’t have to produce conflict.  They can produce something very, very beautiful instead.

And suddenly, I’m not worried anymore.

Amanda Quraishi

Amanda Quraishi is a writer, technology professional, and interfaith activist living in Austin, Texas.  Follow her blog, muslimahMERICAN, and her adventures on Twitter:  @ImTheQ.

  • mountaineermama

    JAK for a great post. Diversity is a wonderful way to teach children different perspectives. I think your children will be great team players for all of life’s journeys. Look forward to hearing more from you.

    mm

  • mountaineermama

    JAK for a great post. Diversity is a wonderful way to teach children different perspectives. I think your children will be great team players for all of life’s journeys. Look forward to hearing more from you.

    mm

  • Maha

    Lovely. I think there is great value in being not only an American, but also a “citizen of the world”, as I sometimes think of myself. Not totally fitting in anywhere, not 100% anything, but able to relate to a multitude of cultures and viewpoints and make deeper, more intelligent connections.

  • Maha

    Lovely. I think there is great value in being not only an American, but also a “citizen of the world”, as I sometimes think of myself. Not totally fitting in anywhere, not 100% anything, but able to relate to a multitude of cultures and viewpoints and make deeper, more intelligent connections.

  • Dove

    Salaam Amanda,

    I love the title :) I think inter-racial marriages/families are so important for advancing our emerging american-islamic identity. I pray that your message reverberates far and wide: differences in people and cultures don’t have to produce conflict. Lots of love to you and your family, and looking forward to hearing more!

  • Dove

    Salaam Amanda,

    I love the title :) I think inter-racial marriages/families are so important for advancing our emerging american-islamic identity. I pray that your message reverberates far and wide: differences in people and cultures don’t have to produce conflict. Lots of love to you and your family, and looking forward to hearing more!

  • http://www.muslimahmerican.com Amanda

    Salaams and JAK for your kind words, sisters. :)

  • Marwa

    Amanda,

    I hope one day to meet your wonderful family. Keep fighting the good fight,

    Love,

    Marwa

  • Marwa

    Amanda,

    I hope one day to meet your wonderful family. Keep fighting the good fight,

    Love,

    Marwa

  • http://innovatini.com Lisa Thorell

    Q, I so like your post. I agree with Maha – the future is in the hands of those raised as “citizens of the world” or as my own step-son, who has traveled in over 50 countries calls it, “being a global citizen”. I think your kids will be more prepared than most for the next more globally-balanced world. One of the more super-interesting things about Obama to me is that he is the first US president raised under both Eastern and Western world influence. It is my greatest disappointment that the US domestic audience does not appreciate this about him. Not to turn this into a political rant, but i am not sure the US political system, ruled so by encumbent Westerners, has allowed the value of his Eastern perspective to be exercised fully.

  • http://innovatini.com Lisa Thorell

    Q, I so like your post. I agree with Maha – the future is in the hands of those raised as “citizens of the world” or as my own step-son, who has traveled in over 50 countries calls it, “being a global citizen”. I think your kids will be more prepared than most for the next more globally-balanced world. One of the more super-interesting things about Obama to me is that he is the first US president raised under both Eastern and Western world influence. It is my greatest disappointment that the US domestic audience does not appreciate this about him. Not to turn this into a political rant, but i am not sure the US political system, ruled so by encumbent Westerners, has allowed the value of his Eastern perspective to be exercised fully.

  • http://www.hollyviagorski.com Holly

    This is beautiful. I think about your kids quite a bit, since I read your tweets and posts about them and was lucky enough to meet them in 2009. Before that visit to your house, I sometimes wondered how things worked in your mixed-culture, bi-national family and assumed it must be very difficult. On that short visit, I saw that it worked -duh- like any other family. (Except the food was better than the food at my house.) I think you and Mr. Q have given your kids a gift. They will be well-prepared for our future, because the world isn’t getting more segregated; it’s getting less.

  • http://www.hollyviagorski.com Holly

    This is beautiful. I think about your kids quite a bit, since I read your tweets and posts about them and was lucky enough to meet them in 2009. Before that visit to your house, I sometimes wondered how things worked in your mixed-culture, bi-national family and assumed it must be very difficult. On that short visit, I saw that it worked -duh- like any other family. (Except the food was better than the food at my house.) I think you and Mr. Q have given your kids a gift. They will be well-prepared for our future, because the world isn’t getting more segregated; it’s getting less.

  • http://www.motherful.blogspot.com Beverly

    Simply beautiful and honest- spoken from the heart. You’ve given us all the gift of a reminder of what really matters in this world; thank you. I can relate…and I do feel inspired!

  • http://www.motherful.blogspot.com Beverly

    Simply beautiful and honest- spoken from the heart. You’ve given us all the gift of a reminder of what really matters in this world; thank you. I can relate…and I do feel inspired!


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