I never thought I would struggle finding or rather redefining who I was until I had kids.
Sure, being a teenager and later on a college student you try different fashion styles, change majors, travel and backpack and find what you are really into. Once you join the workforce, you’re lucky if you are able to work on what you love and find what makes your heart ignite with passion, or your mind wander. You strive to succeed. This is what it was like for me: I knew what I wanted to do with my life, how I wanted it to look on paper and what I wanted to say about myself when I introduced myself.
But then, I had Evan, my firstborn. And my perspective radically changed. My priorities shifted in a way I never thought possible, and what used to matter to me (or I thought mattered to me) didn’t even fit into my “spit-up-and-diaper” filled schedule. My resume, my fab “pick-a-new-friend line ” that I had mastered at the many wine and martini filled soirees I’d attended pre-kids: These were no longer on the menu.
When I became a mom, I wanted to be that picture-perfect mom portrayed in every old-school parenting book, in every story told by my older family members, and portrayed in every sitcom. However, whenever I made a parenting-decision I questioned myself and wondered if this was the right thing to for me to do. I often wondered if what I had just done would be considered rude or offensive in Mexico, where I grew up, or if it would seem too harsh and strict in the U.S.A, my new home.
Some of my Mexican friends overseas jumped at the sight of me being physical and throwing the boys in the air, or allowing them to eat by themselves even if they spilled half of their meals in the floor. (Or worse, letting strangers take pictures of them and hold them — that was just appalling to some people.) It is true, sometimes Mexican moms can be over-protective and controlling. But in the end, they manage to bring up children who are known for their impeccable manners and chivalrous ways.
On the other hand, my American husband sometimes thinks I teach them to say “thank you” and “please” too much. He often tells me that I’m too strict with my two-year old, and that I expect too much from him. Other times, he says that I don’t allow room for messes, both in our home and my boys’ faces and clothes. The U.S.A is, after all, the greatest hub of creativity and innovation, and I don’t want to hinder my boys creative ways by expecting order and perfection.
Now that we’re based in Indonesia, things have been a bit more difficult. I now have a whole new set of cultural norms dictating what parenting should be like. If I don’t have a nanny per child and am willing to carry my baby on a baby carrier through the mall, lots of people stare at me and ask why I don’t get a helper. But at the same time, the freedom Indonesians have to make a child laugh and get them to smile teaches me that I can be my silly self with my own kids and other children. I’m reminded that a baby’s smile can brighten anyone’s day, and that no matter where you come from, laughter is a universal language.
In the end of all this, I simply just want the best for my kids.
Not perfect, just the best mom I can manage to be. I want my boys to be family-oriented and have impeccable manners, but at the same time I want them to be independent, creative and encourage them to discover their surroundings and feed their curiosity. I want them to thrive both in Mexico, in the U.S.A and the world. I want them to believe that diversity enriches them, and that flexibility is key to being happy and finding their place in the world.
I pray to God for wisdom and play it by ear, hoping I do the right thing at the right time for the circumstances we are facing in every stage of our lives.
After all, we are as good parents as our minds allow us to think we are.
Have you ever felt like you struggle with what your culture (native or adopted) dictates parenting should be like?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ana Gaby from Indonesia. She can be found writing at Stumble Abroad.
Photo credit to the author.