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Papa Talks Francais

8 May
Early one morning a couple of weeks ago.
Leila: Where’s papa?
Me: He’s on a plane, going to Houston, in America.
Rahul: Like the pilgrims?
Me: Yah, to America like the pilgrims. But he’s on a plane, not a boat, so he’ll be there by tomorrow.
Leila: Can you be papa?
Me: What do you mean can I be papa?
Leila: Papa talks French. You talk French.
Me:  Oh. Tu veux que je parle en Francais avec vous?
They both look up at me, eyes gleaming. And smile.
Rahul: Papa talks Francais.
Me: D’accord, on peut parler en Francais.
Leila: Papa. Papa, I want to go to Etats Unis.
Me: On va aller aux Etats Unis bientot cherie. T’en fait pas…..
(Ten minutes of French later)
Me: Ok guys, come on, let’s go downstairs for breakfast.
Leila: Nooooo, you are papaaaa…you talk French.
Me: Ah, oui. J’ai oublie.
Rahul: No talk Francais mama. Talk Anglais. Waaaa. You are mama now.
Natasha is mum of 3 year old twins Leila and Rahul, recently moved to Koh Samui, Thailand after 7 years in China. Her husband travels between China and Thailand regularly. Catch her at Our Little Yogis –

Are you the Puppet Master or the Puppet?

23 Feb

Sitting here in my self-initiated, self led parental psychoanalytic session I frequently find myself pondering about a very fundamental yet tough question; “why do we have children?”

Relax! I am not looking for answers and come on let’s face it, is there one? To me it begins with one very selfish act of wanting to create that perfect reflection of you and your partner and of course wanting to keep that fabulous cycle of genetics going. Why not? My genes are great, some of them I secretly wish were a little dominant have turned out to be recessive but I know they exist. Maybe they’ll be dominant in my offspring, no harm in hoping. Reasons differ, generations differ, cultures differ but we all do it anyway for whatever reasons. Artistically speaking (I sense criticism, but I bravely pursue) it feels like I have been presented with a marvelous piece of raw material to work with. It comes pre-colored, pre-textured, has a few unique traits that I have seen in nothing else before and it is all ready and willing to be molded into whatever I want it to become. Really? That might be what I am getting at.

I am beginning to get a strong sense that parenting (call it mine) is beginning to feel like running a puppet show. We are all well aware that every child is unique but we still try to mold these little ones to who they should become and training starts very early in life.  I am so bound by how they act/behave at home which translates to how they do it outside home. My feeling only validates itself when I hear praises on how well my son adapts and adjusts at school or other environments where he meets people. And do I stop there? No, I push harder. Sounds merciless I know but we all do it consciously or sub consciously. My pride and joy is at stake here; I am bearing my soul here so please bear with me. You do realize it all boils down to you as the parent, good or bad you are responsible for all of it.

I think everyone one of us has run into the soccer coach/dad/almost made it to the NFL guy who might be pushing his 4 year old just a little too much on the field, or a mother who might be working two jobs a day just to pay for the private cheerleading lessons that she believes her daughter so badly needs. Sound familiar?

It is called ambition, problem here is that it has a snowball effect to it, give or take a few personal unfulfilled aspirations and before you know your child is being shuttled between guitar lessons, ice skating, the swim team routine and of course let’s not forget he does excel at school as well (my son doesn’t know it yet but he is going to be juggling around as a full time doctor let’s make that a neurosurgeon, who is also a pro ice hockey player when he is not competing for a swimming gold medal for the US) . Why shoot for mediocrity when you have a perfectly willing candidate who is pretty open negotiations about his future with an occasional bribe. Does it begin to feel like that puppet show as yet? But wait who is the puppet here you or your child?

I think the root of my analysis began with watching a show called “Toddlers & Tiaras”. My initial reaction was disgust, come on which mother would put her 2 year old in three inch heels, make-up and pretend that the pageant was a deal breaker for her child’s future. Like I said the reaction was temporary, as a mother I came to the very harsh but true realization that I do it too; I live vicariously through my children as well. Now now, it can’t be that bad right? It starts off pretty innocent; you want to dress your infant up like the Gap commercial kid, you try pushing academics early on in life thinking your son or daughter might be that genius mind and all he or she needs is that extra nudge. At our house we make subtle references to Doogie Houser and secretly harbor the hope that one of them might pick up on it.  Lots of us do it (please back me up on this one). The intensity differs of course, some of us live and breathe vicariously through our children and it begins to take a life of its own.  I secretly want my four-year son to swim like Michael Phelps, I did not learn to swim as a child so I over exaggerate my lack of the skill to make my son a gold medalist at it, aim high why not? My daughter has temporarily been spared because she is too young right now and we tend to focus harder and better when there is one target on hand.

Let’s not forget the peer/parental pressure on how many after school classes a child can handle in any given week day. Whatever happened to just finishing school, coming back with a pile of homework that gets done on time to spare those few extra hours to actually run and play outside? Or just picking out an activity that both kids and parents enjoy once a week and do it together. I am not against keeping a child busy after school, but why decide what he might like when he is perfectly capable of telling you what he might like to do. As a child I badly wanted to learn to play the guitar but my parents thought Indian classical music was the way to go, so guess what even though I might have actually enjoyed learning it I detested going to lessons every week because I had no choice in the matter. Ok excuse the cynicism. But I am sure you are witnessing what I might be leaning towards. I pin a lot of my hopes and dreams that might have gone unfulfilled for me on my children but I am beginning to draw a line on what they might have the potential for and more importantly what they might be interested in doing. There is a vast difference between brainwashing and presenting opportunities so that children can explore their options.  Choices might be a key word here, preparing us for possible change of minds and preventing those disappointments that they are entwined with. All of us want success for our kids and we might just support them even if they do not choose the career path we have in mind for them. I have several arguments about the issue with my husband I strongly believe in children finding their own niche’. He believes in the “grooming early theory”. Which basically means if kids are told what is expected of them every so often over a period of time they get so tuned to it and the choices I was mentioning about earlier seize to exist.

I know parenting comes with the responsibility of leading and directing. That might be the trick to it as well, trust yourself as parents to give your kids the responsibility to make those important choices in life. My key to parenting lies in my role to channelize and be that chauffer who they so badly need to take them places. But let them pick the places and the adventures they are willing to take. I am always there to steer the wheel.



And That’s How He Learned His Colors

14 Nov

You should have seen the look on my face when my four-year old walked into our house after school one afternoon and loudly exclaimed, “Mom guess what I am, I am brown!”

I was expecting him to come home and tell me what book he read at school or how many time outs he got at school but this I was not ready for. I quickly put on my curious cap on and began questioning him about what he was talking about and tried underplaying the comment by asking him if he ate chocolate, or dirt at school that probably made his mouth brown. But he quickly geared the conversation back to what he exactly meant to say which was, “Mama look at my hand and my face I am not white, I am brown.” I was surely not ready to have this conversation with him at 4. I had no fall back plans and no possible logical explanations for the future of where this conversation was heading.

In retrospect I might have overreacted a little in my head. My initial reaction was anger of course as to why and how this could have been introduced to him and who might have told him he was brown. But then of course I had to put on Mommy gear on and pretend like I was a grown up. I began doing some research on the how’s, when’s, where’s of introducing this very touchy matter of race to children. I have to admit that I went in with a lot of skepticism, but after reading a few very eye-opening articles on the matter I am happy to admit to myself and you that I am not as closed as I was when I my son accidentally forced me to visit the subject.

The crux of my initial reaction is rooted in my philosophy that children are colorblind and any initiation to the matter is environmentally derived. But you see I was wrong, there are tons and tons of research in the area, which disprove my theory. Children see differences around them from as little as six months old.  What made it take a positive spin for me was looking at it as just another social category. Imagine it just as a label to categorize people like we do with any other aspect in society. Children like to form patterns to fit into their life-learning puzzle. They see differences in hairstyles, heights, looks etc within their family members but they are all the same color, they make similar associations in other settings as well. When something does not fit the puzzle they notice the difference and move on. This is where our crucial role comes in as parents, the ability to let them move on without muddling their little heads with more differences and prejudices that we have as adults. It gives parents like me a positive spin on it. Not every aspect of race or color is negative.  Psychologically the word race prompts an immediate sense of discomfort. We as a society have dealt with so much history based on race that it only seems logical to be a little wary of it.

I grew up in a country where we were all brown and we were all Indians, but if you can imagine a whole color spectrum of shades of brown that is how many shades you had within that one country. A fairer shade of the same brown was considered supreme.  There is a whole cosmetic industry dedicated to creams that would make you fairer than the skin color you were born with. I am not condemning it.  My point of sharing this is that I am no alien to it even though I grew up in a country where everyone around me was the same race as me. An interesting incident comes to mind when I speak of India, a very close relative of ours remarked the minute she first laid eyes on our newborn son that he was not as fair-skinned as his parents were and that was alright because he had other beautiful traits in him that masked the lack of color. I was angry at that time, a mixture of new mom hormones and immaturity on my part I tried defending his color to her. But looking back I have to laugh at myself and wonder.

Why do we have such a love/hate relationship with the subject? Why do we cringe as a society every time it is brought out in the open? Why is it not polite dinner conversation? Why do we fear it so much? Is it because we harbor underlying prejudices of our own that we are too ashamed to face ourselves?

Lets be honest we all have opinions some strong some not so when it comes to this subject. I considered myself very liberal and often thought I was born in the wrong decade. I secretly live in the Hippie era and would love to have been raised a flower child but I am diverting.  As a parent you are put in very sticky circumstances that force you to reevaluate your foundations and what you stand for.

After several conversations with myself and reading a lot of material on it I have come to the conclusion that I will not whisk the matter under the carpet when my son wants to know more.  I will not give him reasons as to why it is OK for him to be the color he is or is not. I think we are what we are and the way we were intended to be.

Being brown or being white or being black or being yellow is all beautiful, we are just like the rainbow in all its glory, we live it and experience the beauty around us. If we were not all different imagine how dull life would be. And that, he needs to know as well.

I understand and am truly apologetic if this post caused any discomfort to any of you readers, but this is reality for me. I know we all have issues that we face as parents but I think an outside perspective on subjects like these make the job easier.

References: Children Are Not Colorblind; How Young Children Learn Race by Erin N. Winker who is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Renu Venkataraman: I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I lived in Dallas, Texas for almost 15 years and worked as teacher for special needs kids for 10 of those years. I moved to Chengdu in September 2011 with my husband, two kids and our miniature dachshund Zen. I’m looking at motherhood under a very different light here in Chengdu. It has brought a sense of positivity and purpose to my life in many ways I can’t wait to experience and share with all you other Multicultural Moms.

The “Grand” Magic

25 Aug

There is much to be said about raising kids these days in our nuclear set ups. We are so wound up in the rights and wrongs of our parenting styles. But take a look back at just one generation before us and see how much help our parents had raising us. They did not refer to forums, blogs, manuals, educational toys and billions of other resources that we have at our disposal today. They did have one very important tool though their parents. Yes our “grand”parents. Would it sound very presumptuous of me to make an observation that we had many more interactions with our grandparents than our children today do? Well if so then speaking strictly about myself, I had the rare opportunity to be primarily raised by my maternal grandmother. Both my parents had full-time jobs and my grandmother spent most of our waking hours caring for us.

Grandparents have an insight about child rearing that we as parents do not. I see my parents reacting so differently to the same temper tantrums that my children have than they did when we were younger. Their patience levels are higher, they are keen observers of every little aspect of my children’s development, and they point out qualities about my children that I overlook. I love watching them interact with my kids….it is pure magic.

Why is this so magical you may wonder? We as parents are so caught up in the moment, we are rarely are able to take a step back and wonder at the marvels we created. But our parents are able to do this, they have the time the patience and most of all the experience to watch and enjoy. This might be the key to why raising kids around grandparents is crucial. Keeping them involved and close is essential. I see so much positive in my kids around my parents, I take more pride in my kids when I see them around my parents. There is of course one down side to this in my case especially, my mother cannot hide her joy seeing me lose my cool around my kids, she secretly chuckles to herself thinking of the hard times I gave her when I was their age. But all that is in good humor.

I know now why I am here in China so close to home in India. A year ago I might not have believed the theory that everything that happens has a solid reason behind it. I have had days and days of pondering, brooding and sulking about being away from home in Dallas and stuck here in China. I have had depressing days about my stay at home status but slowly and surely I have come to one conclusion. I am here because it is close to where my parents are, my kids have spent quality time with their grandparents and their great-grandmother (who is still creating her magic at almost 90) l. Together they are creating their own magic much like I did with my grandmother.

So this one goes out to all those grandparents and their magic. Keep doing what you do because it works.


Renu Venkataraman: I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I lived in Dallas, Texas for almost 15 years and worked as teacher for special needs kids for 10 of those years. I moved to Chengdu in September 2011 with my husband, two kids and our miniature dachshund Zen. I’m looking at motherhood under a very different light here in Chengdu. It has brought a sense of positivity and purpose to my life in many ways I can’t wait to experience and share with all you other Multicultural Moms.

What about the Children?

23 Jun

What is happening in Greece right now is a real tragedy.

People often ask me to talk about the country I was born in nearly 33 years ago, and then left in 2004. My sister, my father and my friends tell me how they try to survive, how they no longer believe in the future, and how it is hard to explain what is going on to their children.

The other day, my friend’s 7 year old daughter was waiting for him when he came back from the bank, “What did the bank say daddy? Are we going to lose our house?”

My father fell into depression when he realized that although he’s been working since he was 15 years old to build his own business, he’s lost everything. He can’t pass on anything to his children and he can’t help my younger sister and brother, who still need his support.

The despair has brutal consequences for some.

In June, the Minister of Health presented a report  to the Greek parliament revealing that the suicide rate in Greece increased by 40% in the first half of 2012.

The Greek Association Klimaka opened a hotline for suicide prevention. They receive more than 100 calls daily, instead of the 10 before the crisis.

And then there are those who set themselves on fire.

There are also those families who, unable to send their children to school, or even feed them, have no choice but to place them in foster homes, and wait. For better days.

A friend who works at the SOS Children’s Village in Athens confirmed that children are fainting at schools for not eating. Physical education teachers prefer to cancel classes fearing that their students will pass out. Parent Associations are organizing and ensuring food distribution for their children themselves. “Illegal” markets are improvised behind toll stations and fairs. Places where families can find free food.

More and more people are feeding their families by picking garbage bins at night. Unemployment  is increasing constantly, hitting new records this year: 21% (54% in the 15-24 age group).

It is now difficult to be treated in Greece, hospitals are full. For a common cold, a father prefers to take his child to the emergency department at a public hospital where he will pay 5 Euros for consultation, rather than to a pediatrician who will charge up to 50.

Doctors of the World are asking for donations on television to help the poor.

Yes, the country is on the verge of an explosion. And how could it be otherwise? The obsession of draconian austerity plans  have plunged the country into its fifth year of recession. How can one live on 500 euros per month when rent alone is 300 euros?

“Did you hear about Ms Lagarde’s comments?” I asked a 36 year old friend who has been working crazy hours as an independent counselor and had to move back to her parents house. “Yes, I’ve heard, frankly I don’t give a shit anymore about what those people say. I haven’t been paid for the last 7 months and like most people here, I just hope they won’t cut my electricity so at the very least, I can keep on working from home. I don’t have enough money to put gas in my car.”

In a recent interview in the Guardian, the Head of IMF Christine Lagarde was asked of what lies ahead for the children of Greece: “Well, their parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their taxes” she said. She also admitted  having “more sympathy for poor African children than Greeks suffering under the country’s economic problems and austerity measures.”

This is certainly shocking rhetoric but symptomatic of how the world is looking at Greece. For the most part the media and governments are looking at the debt, the Euro, the market consequence of the default. They are not looking at the people, the children, and their real life struggles.

Born in Greece, I grew up in a bilingual French / Greek environment. I lived between Greece, Africa and France. My husband, “I”, French of Lebanese and Syrian origin is also multilingual: French/English/Arabic, and has lived in France, Africa and Canada. Our little girl “N” was born in China in 2011.

Family Stories

18 Jun

We’re both new parents in our 40’s. There aren’t major differences between new parents in their 20’s and new parents in their forties – both are learning as they go on the wonderful journey of parenthood. Perhaps there are subtle differences: finances may be in order, careers more established, and older couples are more settled. Most people are a bit more tempered and practical at 40 than they were at 20.

But one thing I do think is different is we seem to have an increased sense of urgency about researching family history. Maybe it’s because our daughter is “new”; maybe it’s because we are older and subsequently our parents are older. We think more about the possibility of caring for aging relatives than we once did. And I know our sense of urgency is amplified by the fact that we are from two different cultures. I was born and raised in the US; my husband was born and raised in Japan. We both live far from our families and there is the strong possibility that there are relatives she will never know. I sit here and I think, what will be our family story?

I used to wish for the day when I could discover some secret hidden diary that would reveal all of my families’ secrets. It is the writer in me that has a tendency for the theatrical. I have reluctantly come to terms with the fact that such a thing is not likely to happen. I will not receive a stash of hidden wartime love letters or stumble across the name of a grandparent in declassified government files. A mysterious stranger will not show up on my doorstep claiming to be a long lost sibling nor will the discovery of keys to a safety deposit box lead me on an intercontinental chase.

If my husband and I are lucky in our family research we will track down some birth certificates. Perhaps, we’ll find a yellowed piece of paper where someone had attempted to write a family tree or an old Bible with everyone’s names spelled correctly. We currently have two cardboard boxes of photographs with names scrawled on the back. We spend long afternoons trying to put names to faces that we barely recognize. I received several photos at a family reunion. They were left over from my grandmother’s things when she passed away. When I don’t know who is in the picture – which I am ashamed to admit is often – I make up little stories about them to whisper in my daughter’s ear.

My husband has photos stuffed in envelopes. Many of the people he cannot identify beyond “aunt” and “uncle”. Though, like most people, he does much better with cousins from his own generation. Japan has a complex system of record-keeping, so a few years ago, he decided to go through city office records and gather any information that he could.

There is a part of me that envies the ability to have such ample paper records. For most of my family’s African American history, those sorts of things are not possible. Slaves were not considered people. Even when slavery ended, most poor, ‘colored’ people were simply not considered important enough to register or have their lives recorded. If it were not for the work of dedicated scholars – like the late John Hope Franklin – the importance of keeping African American history would be lost.

I am fortunate my maternal grandparents’ hometown was one of the first freed “colored towns” – in the nomenclature of the time. Their town was the subject of a research project and though my family was not directly mentioned I was able to get something other African Americans do not often get – a peek into the lives of my forebears and the town they helped to build.

I end with this anecdote. I once attended a seminar on memoir writing. One woman was a particularly gifted storyteller. She delivered a grand tale about some long gone uncles and aunts. It was filled with picturesque descriptions, elaborate gestures, and lots of jokes. At the end of her performance, she confessed that she wasn’t sure if the uncle and aunt in the story were actual blood relatives. Nor was she certain that she had the correct year or the proper names of all the characters.

But did any of us care? Not at all, because it was a great story.


Winnie Shiraishi is a contributing author at Multicultural Mothering. She’s an expat American writer living in Japan. Her work has appeared in Tokyo Art Beat blog, Kyoto Journal, and other publications. She can be reached at wsinjapan [at]gmail [dot] com.


14 Jun

In April my daughter and I went to Greece to visit family and friends. I spoke to them in Greek but I continued to talk to my daughter in French, switching between the two. It was the first time she was exposed to this language as much. I have tried to speak to her in Greek but as I wrote in my post, Only French, I’ve never managed to do it properly. French had taken over for good.

On the third day at my father’s house, she repeated a few simple words like nai (yes), pame (let’s go), and papaki (duck). She showed interest in the language, and by time we left she was saying another 5-6 words clearly.As we were leaving Greece I promised myself I would introduce more Greek to her, read Greek books more often, and listen to more Greek music. I was highly motivated.

Only a few days after we arrived in China I took out one of the Greek books I used to read to her before our trip and I asked her, “Do you want to read this one?” She looked at the book and answered distinctly:


 I wasn’t expecting this. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but after reading that book, I picked a French one and asked her the same question, “Do you want to read this one now?” She simply nodded her head,  her usual way of saying yes. I took the Greek book once again, and asked the same question.

Again, she said, “nai”.

I was amazed. She clearly associated this particular book with Greek.

A couple of days ago, I needed to call a friend in Greece.
I usually wait until my daughter is asleep before I call him. Like most people in Greece right now, he’s going through a lot, and I want to really listen and focus on the conversation.

 I had to call him early for the update on his situation. I talked to him for less than a minute when I tensed up. Things are looking bad for him. When our conversation was over, I finally turned toward my daughter to try to understand what she wanted from me. Although I was focused on the conversation I could feel her following me around, repeating, “ek, ek, ek.”

She was holding the Greek book in her hands.

It had been almost a month since I read it to her or even since I spoke Greek in front of her. She wanted me to read it to her right then.

Ek for Grec; for Greek.

My daughter is associating the sounds of the Greek language to a book I read to her. It’s a sentimental association.
That’s how she has “organized” and labeled Greek in her mind.

How do your bilingual / multilingual children organize their languages and thoughts?
Is it only according to the person they are talking to, or are there other associations?


Born in Greece, I grew up in a bilingual French / Greek environment. I lived between Greece, Africa and France. My husband, “I”, French of Lebanese and Syrian origin is also multilingual: French/English/Arabic, and has lived in France, Africa and Canada. Our little girl “N” was born in China in 2011.

It’s a cat fight in the USA

31 May

by Janice Lindegard

This post first appeared on my blog, Snide Reply. It was written in response to an increasingly worrisome trend here: politicians and media creating and feeding a feud between working and stay at home moms and the concomitant denigration of feminism. It specifically addresses issues in the US only, as that’s my frame of reference. Please comment with your experience whether it’s in the US or elsewhere.

There’s a really ugly battle going on, one that I witness every single day. It’s a battle that’s been going on for years, but seems to have gotten particularly evil recently. It’s not in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Syria. It’s right here in the United States. It’s the one between the least likely set of combatants: American moms.

Every single day lately, I hear something hateful come from the mouths (or computers) of moms. Moms criticize moms for working. Moms ridicule moms for not working. Moms look down their noses at moms for using formula. Moms secretly envy moms who can breastfeed their babies. Moms hate moms and I’m freaking sick of it.

I’m particularly sick of the battle between stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home for pay. I call them Work-Away Moms. I don’t think there’s been a time when the battle has been so filled with vitriol. The Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen thing is only the tip of the iceberg. Recently, I read this from a SAHM regarding a WAM who asked what the SAHM does all day. “I wanted to shove my fist up her *ss.”

The Gallup organization recently released a study noting that stay-at-home moms are more depressed than other women, including work-away moms. Twenty eight percent of SAHMs report depression; only 17 percent of the work-away moms report depression, the same percent of women polled who have no children. The real news here though is that this is old news.

Betty Friedan wrote about stay-at-home moms and their unhappiness in 1963 in her pivotal work, The Feminine Mystique, which became a foundational writing in feminist literature. Nearly 50 years ago, Betty Freidan already knew what Gallup is reporting as the latest news: mothering is difficult work that is undervalued by our society and that pisses moms off. It’s not very PC to get mad about caring for your offspring, so Angry Mom becomes Depressed Mom. It was true then and it’s true now. Of course, today we’ve got a happy pill for Sad Mommy.

Let’s be careful when we look at these statistics, though. Most of the moms slinging mud at each other—staying at home, working at home or working away—are middle- to upper-class white ladies. When we talk about stay-at-home moms, though, we are most often talking about women living in poverty. Women who are at home because they can’t find work. Women who are the sole parent in their homes. Women who could work at Burger King, but then couldn’t afford the childcare. We’re not talking Ann Romney here, though I wouldn’t begrudge her a depressive episode, being married to Mr. Dignity Of Work.

Don’t be too quick to applaud Ms. Freidan for her prescience. Being a feminist is as uncool these days as being…well, I can’t think of anything that’s as uncool. Feminists are responsible for the bind we find our mothers in. If it weren’t for the stinking feminists, SAH moms wouldn’t feel so damn bad about themselves and we’d be celebrating the glory that is being home with your children 24/7. If it weren’t for the stinking feminists, all those women who chose their careers over their kids would get their butts back home where they belong.

Wrong. In fact, there couldn’t be a more twisted, deceitful interpretation of what the Women’s Liberation Movement attempted to achieve. Gloria Steinem and her feminist friends envisioned a society where “the American child’s classic problem–too much mother, too little father–that would be cured by an equalization of parental responsibility.” In other words, Mom and Dad share the parenting—equally. Think that happens already? Who signs the kids up for summer camp? Who makes the doctor appointments? Who washes the sheets the baby puked on?

Steinem saw a world where “there will be free access to good jobs–and decent pay for the bad ones women have been performing all along, including housework.”

How would that happen? How could it be possible? If we could get past our rugged individualism, we could get to a world where we put our money where our mouths are. You can yap about family values all you want, but a Family and Medical Leave Act that doesn’t include pay of some kind is a joke to the majority of workers who can’t afford to go without pay for six weeks. According to Forbes magazine, in 2009, the United States and Australia were the only developed nations without some form of paid leave. I’m Danish, but didn’t have my kids there. If I had, I would have been able to stay home with my son for a full year at full pay. Instead, I pieced together four months of leave by adding all of the vacation and sick days I had to my six unpaid weeks. I saved like a demon so we could get by while my husband worked on building a business. Then I went back to work so we could keep our house.

Feminists didn’t make the world worse for women. Do you like being entitled to half of your marital property? Thank a feminist; it wasn’t yours until 1969. Are you married and use the last name you were born with? Thank a feminist. You couldn’t do that until 1972. Did you use birth control before you got married? Thank a feminist; you couldn’t do that until 1972.  If your husband treats you like crap, you can divorce him. Couldn’t do that in 1969. In fact, until 1976 your husband could legally rape you. I was a senior in high school; we’re not talking ancient history here.

It’s hard for me not to see the trash thrown under the bed in the mom-on-mom battle. White moms—the ones who have the greatest access to political and monetary power—need to be kept busy with stupid crap like whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a pig. If we weren’t, we might get together and work toward healthcare coverage that recognizes hormones are used for more than just birth control.

I’m sick of hearing that work-away mothers chose their careers over their children. I’m sick of hearing that women who can’t breast feed just aren’t trying hard enough. I’m sick of hearing that stay-at-home moms sit around scrapbooking. I’m sick of hearing that work-away moms take advantage of the PTA moms. I’m sick of hearing how hard stay-at-home moms work. I’m sick of hearing how hard work-away moms work.

It’s all distraction, distraction aimed at keeping us from joining together to fight for paid family leave so moms and dads can be home with their kids. It’s a distraction aimed at keeping us from fighting for equal pay for mothers who work away from home—for whatever reason. It’s a distraction that keeps us from fighting for the right to make our own reproductive choices and not be humiliated because of them.

I, for one, am sick of being distracted. Are you?


Janice Lindegard is a writer, blogger and columnist living in Naperville, Illinois. She is mom to two children: a bio son with ADHD and a daughter adopted from China. She tries, often unsuccessfully, to follow the teaching of Buddha, is married to a Jewish man and was raised by Roman Catholics. She writes a parenting column for Naperville Patch and blogs about her life at Snide Reply.

Wemember Me

29 May

Our first day back in Chengdu after a month away.

Leila hesitates before descending a slope.

Leila: Mum. [Re] Member me, I fall down here?

Me: How the hell did you remember that? I remember Leila!  A few months ago, you fell down this steep slope.

Leila: I cry mummy.

Me: You’re bigger now. You can do it this time.


Maher buys bread at a bakery / café. We wait outside, with Rahul asleep in the stroller.

Leila: [Re] Member me, yesterday, I eat cake with you here. Inside.

Me: Oh yes now I remember! You and I came here one afternoon.  Many months ago.  We shared a piece of cake.  You chose it.  We sat there. (I point at the corner table.)

Leila: Big cushion, mama.

Me: Yes that’s right! We put a big cushion on the chair so you could reach the plate.

Leila: No Wrahul, No papa.

Me: That’s right, it was just the two of us.  You and I, together.  Rahul was at home with papa.  And before we left, you chose a cake for them.  And the ayi
(aunt – woman behind the counter), packed it in a box.


As we walk by our favorite Japanese restaurant.

Leila: Hey mum!  Wemember me, Wrahul, you, papa, Imad, Pascaline, Liu Yan, Marwan go here to eat.  We sit down. We eat a lot.

Me: Yes my love, we ate here many times.  We sat together and ate lots of noodles, fish, and spinach.

Leila: Many times.


Leila looks at the weighing scale.

Leila: Wemember me, I baby, I lie down here.  And Rahul also.

Maher: Oui, bien sur mon bebe, je me rapelle!

Leila: Wrahul cwy, Leila cwy.

Maher: Oui c’est vrai, quand vous etiez tout petits vous pleuriez quand on vous pesait.


At a fountain in our housing complex.

Leila: You wemember me, Leila and Wrahul sitting here, on the step.  Wrahul stick. Leila eating.

Me: Yes I remember baby girl. You were sitting next to each other.  Rahul was playing with a stick.



Maher and I live in Chengdu with our two-year-old twins Leila and Rahul.   I was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until Our Little Yogis became the teachers.


Work In Progress

10 Apr

Parenting is a forever process; ask my mom she’ll tell you. Both her children are close to their 40’s and she still continues to parent. There is a fine line between a being a parent and parenting. Me, I am trying hard to parent, being a parent comes by default.

It took me all but a bunch of great articles and a fabulous movie about a great kid to get me thinking; what makes a good parent? I set out on a journey a very conscious one and it made me hit the reset button on my life. Imagine a day in any parent’s life; you go from being good, bad and ugly not necessarily in that order several times a day. You give your children unconditional love; the right value system (one that appeals to you), protection and hopefully some great DNA and set them free to venture into this vast universe. But wait there is surely something amiss here? So I ask myself if this really enough to prepare my children for what’s out there?

The theory of nature vs. nurture works it way around us only to a certain point after which there a billion gray areas that need deeper introspection. Behaviorists and Evolution experts may have very valid arguments on the how’s and why’s of these gray areas but there are scenarios that need a little more explanation than just those two points of view.

My tone might be laced with a dash of cynicism but I must clarify that is not the case.  The environment around us today is bombarding us with a fair amount of its own challenges and very often we are left with little or no ammunition to deal with them. Let’s not forget our children are their own being as well; they have their own interpretations of situations and this is where the theory of pinning down everything on nature and nurture fails. They make their decisions on how to react to these situations in their own unique ways and sometimes sitting back and being their patient audience is all you can do as a parent. You might feel helpless but there is a big lesson to be learned from this helplessness.

My children live in this universe with all its good and bad, they see fights on streets, they accidentally catch news on the television which show stories about wars being fought around the world, they hear their parents talk about politics or about the nine year old boy in Washington who took a gun to school and accidentally shot his classmate.

How am I to shield my children from these realities of the world? Or should I be shielding them at all? After all this is their world! Am I to turn off the television that brings home news about war crimes being committed all around us, should I close my laptop every time my son hovers around me when I am trying to catch news on Syria and all the people dying there everyday? I have often wondered how parents deal with issues like teenage pregnancies, sexual preferences, addictions and other such seemingly controversial issues. I say seemingly because I have to be ready for such possibilities with my own children. The world around us is changing rapidly, we read stories in newspapers and magazines and bury them away deep in our subconscious because these are stories happening to other people and things like this happen to other people not us. Think again! These stories are happening to parents just like you and me, these regular suburban parents are not raising children to be sexually active at 14, they are not preaching prejudiced ideas about other people’s sexual preferences, they are not practicing hate crimes in the name of race and religion in their homes everyday. These are “normal” parents with “normal upbringing methods” so to speak. Then how are we as a society able to raise teenagers who have so much angst and rage in them to enter their schools and kill an entire student body?

We have become a society that shelves issues, they bother us enough that we take the time to get on the computer and tweet about them or share them on a social network but we seem to lack the courage and the time to take action. Is this a personal parenting issue or is this something we as a society need to address as a whole?

This brings me back to my point that nature and nurture can take responsibility for only so much, there are things that are beyond our control. The universe has a plan for all of us. We can protect and raise our children in a bubble for only so long. The bubble does not stretch forever. The good news is that there seems to be a solution for this lack of control that we face; being conscious, keep trying, and knowing that keeping it REAL and POSITIVE for us and for our children always works.

I have often heard a passing remark “there should be a job interview on who can be a parent and who cannot” and I have to confess it has made me laugh, but then again I was not a parent when I heard it. Now that I am, I have to retort to that by saying, who am I to judge?


Renu Venkataraman: I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I lived in Dallas, Texas for almost 15 years and worked as teacher for special needs kids for 10 of those years. I moved to Chengdu in September 2011 with my husband, two kids and our miniature dachshund Zen. I’m looking at motherhood under a very different light here in Chengdu. It has brought a sense of positivity and purpose to my life in many ways I can’t wait to experience and share with all you other Multicultural Moms.