What It Takes to Raise Children, Miles Away from Family

nayaweber

By Naya Weber, @LactivistNLoubs

As the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child“.

This holds especially true for South Asian culture, due to the prevalence of joint family homes.

Growing up, my own family consisted of my parents, aunt, grandparents, and younger sister; all living in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s and 1990s. As a young girl, it was how I always had imagined my own family would be – living close by and very involved with my family’s day-to-day life.

Even though I was born in India and lived there until age 4, I spoke only English once I started school in the US. My parents would speak to me in Marathi and I would respond in English. Once my grandparents moved in, they helped me learn my “matrubhasha” – my mother tongue. They would only respond to me if I spoke with them in Marathi. This sink-or-swim style of learning helped instill the language in me. My grandparents also talked to me a lot about living in India with all their siblings. Even at a young age, I enjoyed hearing stories of their youth and remember being struck by the difference of growing up in India versus the US.

Fast forward to 20 years later, my husband and I were living over 1800 miles away from my parents and sister. We decided to start our own family. This is definitely not how I imagined it would be happening! Moving back closer to my parents was not an option, so I was left to make the best of a less than ideal situation. During pregnancy, I found friendship and lots of support in a group of other parents to be I met through a birth class, and with a close friend who was also pregnant.  Technology played a large role in keeping my family involved during my pregnancy. I talked to them on the phone every day and we would even video chat a few times a week. My husband and I recorded baby’s heartbeat on our phones and emailed them the files so they could hear. We even sent them scans of the sonograms as we got them. Since my husband and I chose not to find out the baby’s sex, my family had some fun trying to figure out if the baby was a boy or girl from the grainy ultrasound pictures.

My son was born a few weeks early and no one was present for the birth but my husband and doula. Thanks to a speaker phone, my family got to hear my son’s first cries despite being 1800 miles away. It was truly an amazing moment. The hospital had great WiFi speeds and we were able to video chat a bit as well!  My mother flew in the day after he was born to help us adjust to our new addition. The first few weeks seemed to be about survival: lack of sleep, constant feeding, and breastfeeding issues really threw all of us for a loop.

I was so thankful that my mom was able to stay with us for the first three weeks of my son’s life. She took care of me, cooking lots of methi recipes and other traditional Indian foods given to new moms. She was there for baby’s first trip to the doctor, our first home cooked dinner as a family, and first trip to the temple.  Once she left, I struggled to figure out how I could involve my family in my son’s life, even though they were across the country. The answer was pretty obvious: since technology helped us keep in constant contact throughout my pregnancy, it would help my family be a big part of my son’s life. Thanks to tools like Skype and FaceTime, my son is able to talk to and see his grandparents. He knows their voices and their faces. He now waves hello and goodbye, and blows a kiss when they tell him that they love him.

Combine the daily online conversations with trips to visit each other a few times a year, and “Aji” (Grandma) and “Ajoba” (Grandpa) are very involved in our life.  My grandmother (E’s great grandmother – his “Super Aji”) moved in with us last summer. While living together has its occasional bump in the road, I’m very happy she’s here. She brings a lot of culture to our home – my son’s first foods were Indian foods and he responds more to Marathi than he does to English. He gets to know his great grandmother, but my village just got a little bit closer to home.

To me, family is everything. It’s why I work, it’s my biggest reason for making sacrifices. I don’t think I realized this until I got older. Growing up, I tried to downplay my Indian upbringing among friends to try and fit in. I would get uncomfortable when friends asked me to “say something in Indian”. A couple of quick words would be mumbled (my standbys were “pani” and “bhooth”), and then I’d try to change the subject. As I got older, I learned more about my culture outside of my family.  When I became a mom, I knew that I would want my culture to play an important role in my child’s life. He may not appreciate the culture as a child, but at some point, like me, I hope he will.

 

More about Naya:

Naya Weber is also known as the Lactivist in Louboutins on her blog  and is passionate about breastfeeding while also maintaining style and fashion in her role as a mom juggling it all.  Naya works at an engineering company by day is a full- time mom by night.  Her son E, as she calls him in her blogs is just over a year-old.

You can follow her on :Facebook: www.facebook.com/LactivistInLouboutins

 

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There are 4 comments

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  1. Michele Moynihan

    Great article Naya!! I think a lot of families are dealing with not having family close by. I struggle with it every day too 🙁

  2. Nadia

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m fortunate to have my immediate family locally however your suggestions will come in handy with my extended family members.

  3. Sheba S.

    Naya,
    Loved reading this and can certainly relate to much of what you write about. I live in a city with only one relative in it and often miss family as I consider family to be very important. You are right, skype and facetime are my saviors when it comes to keeping in touch and having my own mother see and speak with her grandsons.
    I LOVE that your “Super Aji” lives with you. How great for E to have that experience and be able to learn from someone with so much wisdom!
    Sheba


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