Being in an interracial marriage can have its challenges but it can also enrich the lives of children who are exposed to BOTH cultures in creative ways. Having a mutual respect for traditions, cultural milestones and philosophies can be educational for both families. For Canadian news personality, Angie Seth, that education is life-long and one she hopes will make both her daughters stronger women. Seth, a South Asian woman has two daughters, one from a previous South Asian marriage and the other with her current husband who is Serbian. Masalamommas spoke to Seth about how her mixed marriage impacts parenting and family life and how she balances both cultures.
1) What do you value most about your mixed family?
I love the fact that we have a home full of culture. Be it food, language, festivities, there is always an added spice to what we are doing. My husband is Serbian, Christian Orthodox, and I am Hindu and even though there are a number of differences from one culture to another, there are a number of similarities. For example fire is significant for both, as is music, the offering of blessed food, and the breaking of bread among family and friends. We have the luxury of learning from each other, and celebrating together. And our kids get the best of both worlds getting involved with the festivities and celebrations. We celebrate Diwali and Serbian Christmas, Christmas, and Christian Orthodox Easter, and of course New Years. And I think it is very important for one to learn about other cultures . I feel it makes us better people and we have a better understanding about the world and how similar we all really are. Some had said to me being in a mixed marriage might be difficult or conflicting for us and our children. But I have to say I wouldn’t have it any other way … we are a household of cultures and traditions … In my household, when we can, we speak both Hindi and Serbian to our kids. My older one, who is 16 years old, can understand some of it. My younger one, who is a year and a half has been able to retain a bit more … she will repeat words and often responds back, albeit in English, but at least we know she understands what we are saying. So in the end, our hope is if not the language, at least the culture and traditions will be passed on from generation to generation.
2) What challenges have come up in terms of religion? Parenting? Extended family? how have you dealt with them?
There are always challenges. And with two religions within one household, it can be a juggle at times. Basically we just go with the flow so to speak, ensuring that we equally accommodate everyone. Sometimes we have events that land on the same day … so our motto is divide and conquer, making equal time for each event as best as we can! On the parenting side we work very well together. We have the same values and beliefs, and so our parenting methods are rather similar. We also make it a point to consult one another before instilling the so-called rules of the home. Regarding extending family, well let’s face it, once you have kids, everyone is always telling you how to raise your kids, what foods they should eat, etc. You have to let some things slide, the little things that is. But when it comes to the bigger stuff, we just lay down the rules together. We know there is no one way to do things. And if our kids are happy and healthy, then culture aside, we go with our gut! Its a team effort and thankful our parents are very supportive of that. Regarding religion, we do our best to practice both. We respect each other’s beliefs and traditions, and we try to teach our children to value both. My husband respects the fact that a temple we remove our shoes. He also knows to properly bow his head in front of the various deities and accept the offering (prashad) from the pundit. I on the other hand light a candle for my family and lost love ones whenever I go to church. I cross myself during the prayers and participate in the religious festivities. We learn from each other and we share together. It is a happy medium.
3) What elements of your south asian upbringing/culture resonate resonate well with your non-south asian partner? (what about south asian values work well)
South Asians are extremely family minded. We put family first. My husband tells me that is one thing he really values in me. He knows regardless what is going on, the family will always be taken care of. We value our elders, our spouses, and of course our children. Their care and well being the most important thing. My parents always taught me to be kind to others, to not judge, to be giving, to not be judgmental, and to have an understanding heart. They also taught me how to take care of myself to be independent. Those values have made be a better person and a stronger women, and it is those values I hope to teach my children.
4) What elements don’t work well and why?
There can be a level of backwardness that can exist within some cultures. And by that I mean the inequality between boys and girls. I have two girls and I would never want to change that. A child is a precious, incredible gift, regardless of their gender. A boy is not better than a girl, although that mindset does exist among some older generation South Asians and many Europeans. It is just a old school way of thinking that is slowing dying out, but it does exist. I do not want my girls to think they are of lesser value because they are girls. Rather I want them to know how big a role they play in this world … as givers, creators, innovators, caregivers, and the glue that holds a household together. I want them to know that being a woman carries with it great strength and dignity. They should walk with their heads held high and proud. And I tell them everyday how blessed I am as does my husband. Boy or no boy, my husband is proud to be a father of girls. So that can be challenging, but it is not a major crux in our lives.
5) How do your children identify with both cultures, how do you if at all, expose both cultures to your children and why is that important?
Through food, language, and family gatherings in festivities. From my Mother’s homemade samosas and chicken curry, to my Mother-in-laws chicken cutlets and homemade chicken noodle soup, my kids soak it all in. We often speak both Hindi and Serbian at home, with English translation of course, so that our girls at least understand what we are saying. No matter what English will be the dominant language, but if they can at least understand either Hindi or Serbian or both, at least we have given them a little extra. We also take part in a number of festivities that reflect both cultures.. and that includes weddings, going to temple and going to church. My kids have their classic Indian outfits and dance to Indian music. But they also dance to Serbian music as well, specifically at weddings …I always get a kick out of doing the Serbian dances and getting my husband who loves to, shall we say, “change the light bulb” at Indian weddings! All fun aside, I think it is very important to expose our children to different cultures and traditions. Our society is so multicultural and diverse it is important to embrace that and celebrate it. I do not expect my kids to marry an Indian or a Serbian. All I want is for them to be happy with whoever they choose to be with in their lives. I did and it certainly has made me a better person who is more fulfilled and appreciative of what’s around her. I want my girls to feel the same way.
All photos by: Marina Shcherbina with Little Step Photo
About Angie Seth
Angie Seth is the lead news anchor for OMNI News: South Asian Edition. Here she has covered stories on everything from local crime, sports and entertainment, to politics, humanitarian issues and national security.
Over the years, Angie has had the opportunity to interview a wide range of guests including Prime Minister Stephan Harper, Deepa Mehta and Juno Winner, Kiran Ahluwalia. Angie received an Honourable Mention for her two-part series on “The Muslim Veil,” and in 2008, she won a Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) award for her feature story on the Ontario provincial election and what kids have to say about it.
Angie was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.Her parents came to Canada in 1971 with a dream to build a solid future for their children and to help those in need. Their hard work and dedication has always been a driving force in Angie’s pursuit to becoming a journalist. After graduating with an honours degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto, Angie began her journalism career at OMNI Television. She first worked as a reporter and news coordinator for the weekend newscast, South Asian Newsweek. During this time, Angie also produced two of OMNI’s diversity programs.
Out of the newsroom, Angie enjoys long distance running and has participated in five marathons including the famous Boston Marathon in 1999. She writes for the Canadian Association of Journalists and is often interviewed by other news agencies, such as the CBC, about various topics of concern to South Asians. She also hosts community events and fundraisers on a regular basis.
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