Guest Blog: Unspoken Truths of Motherhood in an Asian Community
by Minaz (@xminzi)
For as long as I can remember, the question “what will people say?” was so part of everyday life, that it almost seemed normal to take into account what others thought of you. To base your opinion of yourself on what people thought of you. Reputation is king: you would do whatever it took to make sure your reputation was untainted. I might sound extreme but that is the present reality within the Asian communities.
Judgement and comparison are prevalent in all societies. Especially with the boom of social media. It is so easy to judge someone based on what they say, or what they look like, without ever knowing who they are and what they stand for. However, I personally feel that is especially more apparent in Asian communities. Criticism and judgement are so blatant and destructive because it is done with the perceived intention of “I am telling you because I care” and “I want what is best for you”. As if someone set out a list of invisible rules and has passed it down through the generations. You are meant to be married at a certain age, you are meant to have kids are a certain age, you are meant to raise them in a particular way because that’s just how it is done. I suppose it was easier for me to drown out the noise; mainly due to the way I was brought up. I was one of the lucky ones with a strong mother who challenged the notion of judgement and comparison. She encouraged me to choose my experiences in childhood, not to just follow the trends, but to follow my own path even if it was not the most walked upon. She shielded me from so much and I owe her my sanity!
When it came to mothering, I followed my intuition. I was so very ready to have my child, so sure about how I wanted to raise him. But I was somewhat unprepared for the avalanche that hit me. Swimming against the tide is something I had done my whole life but progressing through motherhood feeling hormonal, clueless and tired, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I fell into the trap of comparing my child to other children as well as comparing myself to others. At one point I second-guessed everything I did because “people” did it a certain way and were succeeding at mothering. I never felt OK about comparing my little one or myself but I just was so clueless about it all. I didn’t want to sleep train, my baby, because it wasn’t right for me but I desperately needed to sleep. I didn’t want to carry on breastfeeding because it just didn’t work no matter how hard I tried but it was the healthiest option for baby. I didn’t want to carry the baby all the time in the fear of spoiling them, even though I had waited so long just to hold him.
Knowledge is power. So, I immersed myself in reading and trying to figure out which sort of parent I would like to be. Slowly, I drowned out the sound and listen to myself again. I surrounded myself with people who supported me and the decisions I made with regards to my baby and my parenting style. The more I listened to me, the louder my voice got and pretty quickly I was back to feeling like I was in control and that I was me.
However, I realised that the more I did things differently to everyone else, the more isolated I felt. It was almost like school again where if you’re not a certain way you don’t “fit in”. It was as if I didn’t do it their way, I lost the membership to the group. Of course, that is not to say that I didn’t have some incredible friends to
support me. What I also realised after talking to several mothers, was that women, especially Asian women don’t talk about their problems or difficulty in coping, due to shame. The same question keeps coming back up: “What will people think?” “What if they judge me?” “What if they think I’m not a good mother.”
Over the years, this isolation that some women feel has created such a big void in the parenting community. A safe place is missing for mothers and fathers to open up and talk about their real problems. A place where they won’t be judged for what they say or the choices they make. Every parent should be allowed to bring their children up exactly how they want to. In their own unique way in their own words and actions. There is power in doing it your own way. It empowers you as a parent and as if by osmosis your child absorbs all that empowerment you feel only to become more confident and enabled themselves.
It all starts with courage. Going against the tide, doing it your own way takes courage. Courage for going up against the previous generation to say actually… I got this. Courage to be the first one to stand in front of other mothers and say ‘Wait, I’m actually not okay, I’m not coping.’ Courage to pick up the phone and ask your best friend to come over because you need someone to hold the baby while you have a massive cry. Courage to say, actually ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing it like that but I support your decision if it’s the right one for you.’ Courage to understand and be
okay with the fact that there will always be someone who will disagree, someone who will talk who will judge and compare. Most importantly, the courage to love yourself. The more people judge you, the more you should love and appreciate yourself …all those parts of you that they talk about are the parts of you that are beautiful. The parts that people judge and compare are the parts you need to learn to accept and love. Mothering comes with such a roller coaster of emotions, the last thing you need is to judge yourself too. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, we are weak alone but stronger together.
Creating healthy and supportive networks and societies isn’t the responsibility of others. Don’t wait for someone else to treat you how you want to be treated. You have to be the change you want to see in the world. The key is to be kind, to be mindful of yourself and others, and most importantly respect without judgement. Parenting is not a competition. We are all on the same side. The side that loves and supports our children by doing what we believe is best for them. Kids learn by watching. Let’s show them that we can support each other, accept the flaws of others, and foster acceptance of differences. This will allow them to grow into more understanding, compassionate, and happier human beings. At the end of the day, isn’t that the goal?