Blindian Family by Summer Sinclair
“For being a foreigner… is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.” ~ Jhumpa Lahiri (“The Namesake”)
Strawberry Blonde + Indian = Blindian
My life is a bit of a fusion, or rather a clash of cultures, as my East Indian hubby and I navigate the new territories of parenthood. It makes me cringe every time he calls Native Americans "Red Indians." It's not his fault that he grew up reading dated history books under a mango tree, otherwise known as "school" (and to his credit topped all his classes and made it to the highest ranking university in India). I'm the one who probably epitomized "Red Indian" at our wedding, with my bright copper-auburn hair done up in a traditional "red" saree.
However, the struggle I'm having with our family fusion is not the un-PC jokes that arise, but more the way I want my son to grow up. I can't change my husband's Eastern thinking in every aspect of our relationship, because there are some things that he, as an Indian male, just can't wrap his head around. Like cooking... However, I know several Indian men living in America, married too, who are fabulous cooks! It's more about what are you willing to compromise to make your partner happy? If I don't feel like cooking, we eat Subway - his number one bachelorhood go-to, and probably his favorite food group. I’ve accepted take-out as his “cooking” contribution. Although I must admit, I was laughing out loud when the chanteuse at Catalina Jazz Bar sang her original song "I Just Want A Man Who Cooks" on our anniversary date. He, on the other hand, had a permanent smirk on his face, and couldn't wait for that one to end. But, we were both excited to be out of the house for the evening. Even though the food was terrible, the music was "top class" (a phrase he and his father use frequently). Romance is fleeting when you have a teething, growth spurting fifteen month old who wakes up every two hours for God only knows why. Extremely sleep deprived, and horny, we couldn't wait for a few hours to ourselves!
This huge negotiation has been going on in our household due to the following unanswered questions, "When am I so sleep deprived?!" And, "Why are you depriving me of sex?!!" Well, I'm still breast-feeding, mainly to soothe my toddler back to sleep, which I'm not getting much of. And, I can’t remember the last time we had date night! We are currently stressed to the max, undergoing home renovations, so we basically live with our contractors. When my mother in law from India announced she was to coming stay with us amidst the madness, I couldn't wait to have some help! However, this was not the case when she arrived… She's definitely an amazing Baby Whisperer, but unfortunately not a whiz with an active toddler. The minute we walked in the door from our anniversary date night, she immediately started lamenting about her excruciating headache. From the pounding hammers and power saws day in and day out? You would think. But, no- from her grandson crying himself to sleep, she claimed. Welcome to our life. What toddler, or baby for that matter, doesn't cry to fight going to sleep? It just takes more energy and longer to soothe a toddler because they want to stay up as late as possible for fear of missing anything new! The teething and growth spurts don't help either... Well, grandma gave my husband such a talking to, as mother's do, that he stormed into our bedroom with the third degree decree that we are “never going out at night again!” Excuse me? What do you think our son did with our previous nanny, or baby sitters, every time we used to go out? There’s no reasoning with him when the Indian blood gets boiling, because next comes a slew of, “You should be worried about our son!” And, “What kind of mother are you?!” Really? You’re going to go there? I’m a bad mother because I want a break to go out for a drink and hear some live music? I’m a bad mother because I should be worried about my son when he’s with his own grandmother? I’m a bad mother because I want to celebrate our anniversary, alone?!! In terms of relationship negotiations, this was going nowhere... A literal standstill. I need date night to feel sexy and fresh! I can't just turn it on after my son falls off my breasts to sleep. Mama needs wining and dining too! Besides, apparently our libido goes down while nursing, or when mother-in-law moves in for a month…!
I always lose my husband when she comes to visit. And, he complains non-stop about everything I say or do in her presence, as if the wrath of the Gods will come down upon me in offensive blasphemy. He is the interpreter, the only one among us who speaks both fluent Hindi and English. Of course he filters or embellishes at whim, and he's not always home, like she is, so there's bound to be some misunderstandings. Like her accusing me of "poisoning her" because I didn't notice that the grass fed organic milk, which I made a special trip to Whole Foods to get for her, had spoiled. I have a mild lactose intolerance to cow's milk. I drink almond milk. Stupid American, I should know every date on every carton in my fridge. Fat chance. Not enough room in this working mommy brain, so I prioritize. Even though she doesn't speak English well, I take it for granted she doesn't read dates. At the end of the day, we are two matriarchs from two different generations at opposite ends of the feminist cultural spectrum. Generation gap? More like chasm, or volcano. Dormant until - snap! Pow! Kaboom!!!
What might be a cultural norm in one country may also be completely rude in another. For instance, an American mother may annoy her own daughter by rearranging her entire kitchen when she comes to visit, but a mother-in-law would never attempt such a crazy thing! Mine does. In India, she probably does it wherever she goes. However, I'm the rude one for bringing it up in my own home, and get chided for insulting an "elder!" So, I snap!! I tell my husband why I snapped. I get verbally slapped. I am told to “behave as we do.” Ha! That is impossible, I am not like you, nor never will be. I hold my tongue. I simmer, I boil, simmer, boil - eruption! You get the idea. Truth is, I just don't want someone else rearranging my new kitchen I just unpacked, renovated and made to look ‘just so’ in my new home! Not selfish or crazy - just honest. Okay, maybe a little OCD.
What I need is lessons from a United Nations diplomat. That would be very helpful. I do know a U.S. diplomat, but he’s my hubby’s best friend. Is there a craigslist category for this? It's also considered unthinkable in my husband’s culture to ask any family member, for any reason, to shorten their stay or stay in a hotel. Things my family does without question. What we find an imposition, they call "extended family." It's like a lifetime Air B&B pass to the same house. Lucky me. Why did I choose this life? When you marry a person, you marry their family, right? I certainly did. However, my husband got off easy. My dad hasn't called in a year, hasn't even seen his own grandson. Just dropped off the face of the earth, like he's known to do. My mom lives only a state away and visits once a year; however, towards the end she is always missing her hubby (my step-dad) and "home." I've never heard those sentiments from my mother-in-law. I guess for her, home is with family, wherever in the world that may be. Her marriage was arranged. She never had "date night." She never got away from her role as housewife and mother. I crave going out for a night to feel human again, pre-motherhood. I don't think even my husband could translate that.
I honestly don't care at this point how others see me. Call me a bitch, call me selfish, but I am very confident in my new role as a mother. It feels very organic and natural. Living under someone else's microscope has never worked. However, trusting my intuition has never made me feel more self-assured. Self-care and self-love are so important to help us expand and love others even more fully and completely.
This Blindian Life? A blessed blended work in progress...
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of the “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep