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Blended baby: Learning to love your partner’s family background

One of the best things about having a baby with someone you love? Your little bundle of joy is lucky enough to be half you and half your partner—whether by nature, nurture, or both.

When you look into those big twinkly eyes, you may just catch a glimpse of your better half. Of course, your little one won’t just inherit beautiful peepers…every cultural custom, tradition, and practice of your partner and accompanying family comes with the decision to have a baby with this person.

Whether you share the same cultural background, or are from different sides of the world, every family is different. Every family is “blended”.

Having two families involved in caregiving can be wonderful. Our little ones are exposed to new ideas, learning opportunities, and of course, twice as much love!

That’s not to say that melding two unique family perspectives is always a walk in the park.

As mothers, we usually have an internal sense of what cultural traditions will or will not work for our families. However, we may not fully understand how strongly our feelings are on these matters until a cultural discrepancy occurs and our inner “mama bear” revolts.

Since every situation is brand new for first-time mothers, the learning curve is steep.

We may have images in our heads about baby’s first holidays or first birthday traditions, and when we have a culturally blended family, there may be unexpected bumps along the road.

For instance, you may find yourself screaming internally as you watch your mother-in-law spoon feed your infant rice porridge at the tender age of two months because that’s what she did when your husband was a baby.

Try not to reach across the table and slap the spoon out of her hand, even though that’s what you really want todo. But, as the protective mama bear, it is okay to be firm in your stance.

In most cases, family members (of any culture) are not maliciously going against your parenting wishes, but are simply doing what they did during their days as parents.

When you blend cultures and backgrounds ,there will likely be some misunderstanding, miscommunication, or conflict surrounding child rearing practices and customs.

Just remember, as the parent, whatever you say (no matter how crazy it may seem to others) is the final word.

You are the boss!

If you don’t want your child to eat porridge until six months, stand by your decision—no matter how unpopular.

Say politely but firmly, “I’d really appreciate if you would wait until six months to introduce rice porridge. It is very important to me and I hope you’ll respect my wishes.”

Everything is new (and often overwhelming) when you are a new mother. Your new role as mama is like putting on a gorgeous pair of new shoes that you have lovingly, achingly anticipated for nine (okay, ten) months.

When you put them on for the first time, these exquisite shoes are a bit stiff and slightly uncomfortable because you haven’t walked many miles in them yet. Over time, they will see rain, snow, hills, and off-the-beaten-paths as your children take you places you would never have dreamed.

After a few years, your feet will slide effortlessly into your “mama shoes” without a second thought. They become lovingly worn-in, comfortably soft, and ultimately your favorite thing to wear every day. 

For any co-parenting partnership, I would recommend that you fiercely protect any cultural custom that is critical to you and be flexible with the rest.

In my family, if something is crucial to me or my husband and the other parent doesn’t care, we always respect the wishes of the parent who has the strong preference. If there are two strongly opposing preferences, we will compromise or may decide to celebrate both customs.

Being faced with new (or seemingly unorthodox) family traditions can be challenging even for the most open-minded mama.

One thing to keep in mind? Your little one is fortunate to be showered with unique customs from diverse backgrounds and will grow to deeply understand two family backgrounds in relation to one another—and more importantly, how two individuals from different backgrounds can come together to love each other because of their differences.

Lisa Ferland is a US citizen who has lived abroad in Sweden since 2012, working as a public health consultant. Her greatest adventure, parenting, combined with the often challenging foreign environment, has led to some of her most exciting discoveries about herself. Her new book, Knocked Up Abroad, centers on stories of pregnancy, birth, and raising a family in a foreign country.

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