“You’ve got to be kidding me!!!” That was my reaction the first time we spent the night at my in laws with our first-born infant!! Even if you don’t have to deal with a bi-cultural marriage, I’m glad you’ve joined me. I think there are lessons in this for all of us. Grab some coffee and let’s talk.
I was exhausted and anxious, as most new moms are. I put the baby to sleep so I could enjoy some adult time before I went to bed. A couple hours after the baby went down, David’s sister came home from work and headed straight back to where our baby was sleeping. She picked her up and brought her out to enjoy some time with her!! None of his family seemed at all surprised or bothered and immediately asked to hold her!! I was horrified!!! I had never seen this in all my years of babysitting, childcare, or with my extended family.
David took one look at me and excused us to the back of the house. Just as I was about to unload on how wrong and inconsiderate his sister was, he interrupted me. He gently said, ”I will support you 100% with how you want to handle this. You clearly disagree with what just happened. All I need you to know is my family loves this baby. They will care for her like their own. I will tell them what you want me to. You just need to know what we decide will influence the relationship they will have with our children.”
I took a deep breath and said, “OK. Can we at least say whoever wakes the baby up has to get them back to sleep?” David quickly agreed.
I never got up with any of our 8 children when we slept at my in laws. Our kids were deeply connected to and loved by their grandparents, aunties and uncles.
Here are 5 things that have successfully grown our healthy bi-cultural marriage:
1) Learn about the culture. Listen to the music; take in the art, the food, the celebrations, superstitions, religion, history, clothing, and views on raising children, marriage, birth and death. Think about what strikes you as really interesting and/or unique. Visit the country if at all possible.
2) Get in touch with your own family/country of origin. When you marry into anther culture, you can feel insecure about not knowing much about your own history. Marrying David helped me to ask more about my own roots and learn about where I came from. I sensed a new pride in my roots.
3) Talk about the cultures being different rather than right and wrong when compared to your own. This one practice prevented many an argument. I became aware of how I spoke, as I pointed out things I did not understand. My worldview not only widened but was enriched by living within another culture
4) Decide together to take the best of both cultures and incorporate them into your family. Ask yourselves, “What do we want to do in our family?”
5) Lastly, be excited, proud and happy to share with others who are interested in your spouse’s culture. It honors not only the culture, but your spouse and helps to contribute to a highly successful bi cultural marriage.
The fruit of this will be your children as they fully embrace their heritage and legacy. They will be richer and the world will be better for it. What differences did you have to work out in your marriage? What helped you both work through it?