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multicultural relationship, baby due, disagreeing about child's involvement in religious practices please advise me

(27 Posts)
TinyDiamond Wed 27-Jul-11 16:03:16

Really wasn't sure where to post this thought the most traffic would be here in relationships, I can always repost in other areas if anyone knows where...?

My partner and I are expecting our first child in 3 weeks (or before). I am a white British atheist and he comes from a Punjabi Sikh family (although he doesn't practice any aspect of the religion). We are mid 20s and not married which is controversial enough where his family are concerned, however, they have come round and are now supportive of our relationship and very excited about the baby.

When I was newly pregnant I had a conversation with my partner regarding his family's religion and expressed how I did not really want our child being brought up as Sikh (ie being given Kaur/Singh surname or being taken to Gurdwara etc). We agreed on this as he even said himself that he does not feel any affiliation with the religion it is his parents who are traditional-not him. I also asked if they would expect any sort of ceremony, Sikh version of a Christening or anything. He said no, they don't do anything like this.

We hadn't spoken about it in any detail since until last night. Conversation moved onto our respective families and their expectations after the birth (first immediate grandchild on both sides). DP then informs me that there is a version of a christening that happens and that we will be having it.

I'm afraid I do not know the name of the ceremony as it is a Punjabi word and I'm unable to find it online but from what I have managed to find out, it is a religious ceremony held at the temple or at home (if they can get people from the temple to come out and bring a copy of the holy book). It involves lots of prayers being said/sung and the baby being passed around to everyone involved (which would be alot of people- huge family plus others).

I am really not happy about this at all. I feel I was clear about my feelings regarding baby and religious stuff in the early days and don't feel like DP is not being respectful of that. He says that we should do it to please his parents but it makes me upset as it is not their baby it is OUR baby.

I suggested a big celebration with family/food at their house but leaving out all the religious rituals, he said no and that his family would not accept this especially the Gran, who lives with them too.

I know if I want to I can make the final decision and kick up a huge fuss and refuse it completely but I really don't want to rock the boat as they have been overall accepting of our relationship and are not bad people. It's just so VERY VERY different to my family and how we are.

Has anyone been in a similar situation? I'm looking for advice on how to negotiate this with both DP and also the family BEFORE baby gets here as afterwards I surely won't have the energy to fight.

So sorry it's so long

AMumInScotland Wed 27-Jul-11 16:19:39

I think the major thing here is his assumption that you'll do things his way, even though he previously agreed there would be no religion involved. And you need to nip that in the bud right away - his beliefs don't rate more highly than yours, and anything with a religious element needs to be understood and discussed thoroughly before you can make any joint decisions about it.

From a quick Google (I just put in Sikh and baby), it sems their leader/teacher would open their holy book at random, reads out a hymn, and then the baby gets given a name which starts with the first letter from that hymn. Which may be fine if you culturally accept that your baby's name isn't entirely up to the parents to choose, but is a very big thing for the rest of us!

Allinabinbag Wed 27-Jul-11 17:10:26

Very difficult as he's changing the goalposts, but you are also being very naive if you don't realise having a baby with someone from a different culture/religion (the two often go hand in hand, so traditional cultural ceremonies are also religious) is going to present these problems. I think you need to start talking about what you both think is going to happen, not just over this one ceremony, but taking the child to any other ceremonies/religious practices, schools etc. Personally, I would not mind about a naming ceremony, as these are common with or without the religious aspect, and I am happy for my child to be blessed and welcomed to the family in any religion (mine are christened in a particular non-Western tradition). If you don't feel like that, you need to let him know now.

Allinabinbag Wed 27-Jul-11 17:12:38

I'd also say there's a big difference between saying I'm not really religious/don't practice my religion, and I want to let go of all my cultural practices which make me who I am. Some people, for example, bring up their children Jewish (culture) and have the Friday night meal etc without being necessarily religious. How are you going to let him share his culture with the baby, as well as you share yours?

bejeezus Wed 27-Jul-11 17:20:01

WHY has he changed his mind?

I suppose what it boils down to is do you feel strongly enough about NOT having the religious ceremony to 'cause' a ruckus? Could you grit your teeth through it to keep the peace?

I am a devout athiest. I could probably live with this kind of naming ceremony as it means nothing to me that they would sing religious songs and pray. baby is probably going to get passed around and slavered on whether it is religious or not! As long as what I and my family wanted was incorporated too i.e. food mostly!!

It is a bit of a worry that the religious stuff might escalate? Have you asked him whether the child will be expected to go to Temple?

IWantWine Wed 27-Jul-11 18:04:51

amuminscotland "I think the major thing here is his assumption that you'll do things his way, even though he previously agreed there would be no religion involved. And you need to nip that in the bud right away - his beliefs don't rate more highly than yours, and anything with a religious element needs to be understood and discussed thoroughly before you can make any joint decisions about it." Precisely! I would be afraid that this is the start on a slippery slope. sad

TinyDiamond Wed 27-Jul-11 18:21:34

Thankyou all for your input. We would not be having the name selected from the book part as we already have a name chosen (which everyone knows and everyone perfectly happy with) it would be other prayers and songs etc.
I am not sure I care enough about this particular day to cause a massive scene but I do feel I need to find out at what age they expect it to happen.
You're right about the future things too this is my MAIN concern. That if I let this one thing happen it'll open up a whole host of other events/weddings/temple etc of which I am not prepared to personally commit to and as I will be Breastfeeding in the first 6 months (if not more) this could be a problem

Slambang Wed 27-Jul-11 20:21:15

I'm in multicultural marriage. Luckily both dh and I are strongly atheist so no disagreeents there. However there are certain traditions that I want to maintain for my children as they gave me joy as a child (the usual Christmas, Easter eggs etc) and likewise dh has a few family traditions that are Muslim origin that we've incorporated along the way.

I believe our dcs are genuinly enriched by experiencing the traditions of both cultures (despite none of us actually believing the stories behind them) and it helps the older generations of both sides of the family be involved and encompass our dcs in the whole family in the way that children for generations have been welcomed.

Could you view it as a plus that your dp's family are being as forward thinking and welcoming as they are to celebrate the birth of your baby in the way they have done with every other child in their family?

Slambang Wed 27-Jul-11 20:28:11

And another thing...

like it or not your dc will be partly Sikh (ethnically if not by religion). Try and put a veto on all Sikh activities and it will seem exciting and glamorous. Come teenage rebellion and your dc may well 'discover' their Sikh identities. On the other hand participate willingly and with an open mind but at the same time explaining honestly to your dc what you actually believe (or not) yourselves and they will grow up with a healthy respect for both their cultures but not necessarily be sucked up in the belief.

LadyLapsang Wed 27-Jul-11 20:38:19

If it is merely bessing the baby, could you just not participate in the ceremony and not attend. In the Christian faith a parent not attending and participating in the Baptism service would send a pretty clear message; could this be the case here? Might it be that the public loss of face would stop them going ahead; alternatively if they feel so strongly that they want to bless the baby in your absence would that be so bad? However, if it means he is seen as a Sikh against your will then I think that's a pretty big issue.

WillIEverBeASizeTen Wed 27-Jul-11 20:48:45

Hmm, tough one OP. My kids are half Turkish Cypriot (so Muslim by culture). However, nothing very religious Muslim (or CofE) is practiced.

There are a few 'occasions' that are followed ie; Xmas,Easter (if only for chocolate and money purposes) and Turkish 'Xmas' (bayrum).

I found that, as long as there was no conspiracy to 'pervert' the course of religion on either side, then I was happy to 'observe' the 'occasions'. Let's say, it kept the 'elders' quiet happy grin

bejeezus Wed 27-Jul-11 20:52:31

i remember an athiest friend of mine saying she didnt mind her kids being raised muslim because it made her dh [in large part] the lovely man that he is

AMumInScotland Wed 27-Jul-11 20:58:55

I think you need to talk to him (and possibly his parents) about what this particular ritual means - are they welcoming the safe arrival of the child, or are they saying this is the start of the child's involvement in their religion? What other cultural/religious things would they consider to be important, and what do those mean? And when do they happen?

I know so little about Sikhism I don't even know if this ceremony would be anything like a baptism (where parents are promising to raise the child in a Christian family) or more like a thanksgiving service (where prayers are said and the child is welcomed, but no promises are made).

If they want to say a prayer and bless the baby, I'd say that's not committing you or your child to anything in the future, and personally I would be okay about going ahead with it, even if it didn't fit my own beliefs. But you need to know what their expectations are for the future so that you can discuss and compromise as appropriate.

As others have said, your baby will be part of an extended family with all kinds of cultural "norms" from both sides - neither side has the right to ignore or belittle the beliefs of the other, but you'll need some give and take to wrk out which bits are most important to you.

TinyDiamond Wed 27-Jul-11 21:26:57

Arrgh just wrote a really long reply then had a phone call so it was lost. I'll see if I can remember what I said before...

Some more very good points made. I definitely do not want isolate my child from the religion or culture but I also do not want to immerse her in it either.

Having a tough time getting anywhere talking to DP About it as he literally knows nothing about the ceremony anyway. He can't tell me what it's called, what age the baby would be, if it signifies their entry into the faith or whether it's just a blessing-nothing.
It kind of makes me a bit annoyed feeling as if well if he can't tell me even what it's about then why is it so important that we do it!
Trying to stay calm and not argue about it as that isn't going to solve anything but if he can't tell me himself I'm not sure where to get the relevant information from. The issue with asking family straight is the language barrier, their english isn't wonderful and my punjabi is worse so it would be a disaster. I will have to ask dp to ask them himself but I can see him putting it off as long as possible and this being quite drawn out.

Not attending the ceremony if it was to happen would not be an option as it would be a full day/evening and I'll need to be with her to feed her.

WillIEverBeASizeTen Wed 27-Jul-11 21:43:29

I found that it was XP who would always 'give in'. He just didn't seem to have it in him to stand his ground (despite having no religious beliefs whatsoever) against the 'firm'. Maybe that's a lot to do with it, they way they have been brought up to respect the older generation.

I found that my 'outlaws' who were uneducated (observation not criticism) just couldn't seem to rationalise an argument and it was easier to 'give in'. However, when the subject of circumcision was raised (after seeing my 4 year old's privates) I had to quite firmly state my opinion/decision on abstaining from such practice. Went down like a lead balloon, but I stuck to my guns, and actually XP did support me (mostly).

Men have a harder job as they always take the easier route (the quiet, head in the sand/under the carpet one)

Stand your ground OP, be firm but kind. I find this is really an older generation thing and that it is gradually being diluted as it is not quite accepted anymore even in their own cultures.

Allinabinbag Wed 27-Jul-11 22:02:22

I think you need to go back to your DP and say, I just don't know what you are asking me to take part in and what it means for our child, until you clarify that and write down what it is called and what will happen, then I won't be participating. I would also point out that he said he wasn't that religious and so you are surprised by this- see what he says.

YOu need to know if it is just a blessing and welcoming and naming thing, or a proper baptism. A very quick look at Wiki tells me that a full baptism does mean that the person has to live their life as a faithful Sikh, but it seems to suggest it happens later in life, when the person is ready, rather than as a baby or small child. But I just don't know, and neither do you.

I would have these harder conversations now rather than when the baby is born (if you have time). It may seem hard, but if you approach it with the 'I don't know much about your culture, what things are going to be important to you?' attitude rather than being very defensive, you might start to tease out what he sees: this as a one off thing to welcome the baby to his family and culture, or a start of a more religious path which is not what he first agreed on and not what you together decided would be right.

TinyDiamond Wed 27-Jul-11 22:02:47

It absolutely, completely is that. When it comes to standing up to them he just cannot do it. He says it's out of respect, which yes it is, but I also think he's quite scared of them. He has no reason to be they wouldn't do anything they are very kind hearted people. He just will not speak up to the elders at all.
I was obviously hoping that now he is becoming a father himself it may change things a bit ie he'd grow a set...maybe not quite there yet.
I always knew our cultural differences would be hard but I never anticipated there would be SO MUCH involved on so many levels. Hopefully it will get easier with time? Someone please tell me it does!
It does help that his family adore me and have accepted our relationship in the first place so I really don't want to ruin that. But also I don't want to be pressured into my child being a part of things I don't feel comfortable with. So tricky

suburbophobe Wed 27-Jul-11 22:19:51

Sorry, haven't had the time to read all the replies, but would like to let you know -

There is a topic "multicultural families" under Talk>Being a Parent

I would check it out, there are others there in similar situations, or you could open a new thread. There's a lot of support there, and recognition.

I am the mum of a bi-cultural-and-racial child (late teens), his dad (who I have split with) was very free in some aspects -religion (muslim) - and not in others - my independence.

Family was all abroad so that was an easy one to deal with really. They're not heavily religious, and some are christian anyway. (multi-faith country).

Don't let him or his family railroad you into doing only what they want! Sounds like your man has buckled under the family pressure. And given in to it. Without discussing it with you? hmm

Whatever, don't get stressed right now! You need all the relaxation you can get to prepare for the birth.
Wishing you all the best!

suburbophobe Wed 27-Jul-11 22:28:32

Oh, and him not knowing anything about the ceremony or what it entails, and therefore leaving you in the dark, I guess google and wikipedia are your friend there....

WillIEverBeASizeTen Wed 27-Jul-11 22:45:42

Hey Tiny...firstly, let's get it into perspective. Your child/children, is/are, multicultural, fact. Can you try to embrace the culture rather than fighting against it? (far easier). As long as it is safe and not extreme and doesn't go against any of the values/principals you have set out.

Sikhs in my opinion ( I did live and still work in a highly Asian populated area) are lovely folk. Normally quite open and broadminded and certainly respect other cultures. I do really think that your DP, as you say may be 'scared' (although I would really prefer to use respect) of his elders. Hugely cultural among Sikhs/Hindus/Muslims. I have seen so much of this among these ethnic groups.

If he is a loving DP/Father and is fair (and lucky you that his family adore you) then can you try to understand his position to a degree? The children will, at some stage in their life make their own choices. In fact, thinking back, I wish XP had taken an interest in his religion and shown our DC parts of his culture. I would have encouraged it as long as it was not brain washing or extreme.

BTW Bhangra music is FAB smile and they have such good parties grin

TinyDiamond Wed 27-Jul-11 23:01:44

Willieverbeasizeten you make some great points. Sikhs are generally great and very accepting this is true but also at times the family can be very overpowering and I feel quite suffocated sometimes with their expectations of me. For instance visiting them constantly, not for any particular reason just to 'be' there. I also come from
A large family and have other things in my life I enjoy doing too so I am already feeling torn and that I cant be in enough places at once and baby isn't even here yet!
I really feel that I need to maintain my own lifestyle somewhat but also keep them happy so things stay calm.
They just won't take no for an answer alot of the time if I am busy or have plans are still calling/turning up to ask us to come round at least 3 times a week.
My worry is if I 'embrace' the culture wholeheartedly and go along with everything they want then what if I end up losing myself a bit? They really do have certain expectations, going out and being completely independent and doing my own thing-they just do not get it as all they do is sit at home. (I do not mean this to offend, it really is what they do).
To give an example, in my manic nesting phase of the last few weeks I have pretty much painted my entire house including the nursery, bought and assembled various flatpack items, built shelves, cleared yard, sorted all the baby stuff washed, put away- sorted. I like to get stuff done you see.

They were positively horrified when they came round and saw everything. MIL saying something about how I should be resting all the time and staying indoors and stop going out so much. It makes me feel a bit ARRGGH.

WillIEverBeASizeTen Wed 27-Jul-11 23:23:19

Tiny No No No! Embrace the culture NOT adhere to it! You are overwhelmed by it because it is only you in your corner. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you are doing, both you and your in laws have differing views. They, as much as you need to respect this.

When we used to go to the outlaws (in which I don't use the term loosely) the men would be in one room (having a ball) and the women in the kitchen! This was not met kindly by my very liberal upbringing hmm. Unfortunately everyone else just accepted this so I was kind of out on a limb. However, they were all certainly aware of my opinions (albeit ignored) and I never ever got used to it, my daughter and son would never practice such behaviour shock

Tis a toughie, but, by being kind but firm (and always eating copious amounts of foodstuffs proffered) you will get to a nice comfortable position. BTW the child will be adored smile Be yourself OP, absolutely nothing wrong with that (and DP loves you anyway)

Tryharder Wed 27-Jul-11 23:59:09

The way I see it: it's one day and you may even enjoy yourself! It may not mean much to you but it will mean a lot for your DC's GPs and extended family. I think it would be churlish of you to make a fuss, if you want my honest opinion.

Your inlaws sound OK really. A white, English friend of mine married a British Sikh man and his parents disowned them.

bejeezus Thu 28-Jul-11 00:06:32

do you feel so suffocated by it when you are not pregnant?

I dont mean to insult you and paint you as a crazy hormonal pregnant thing. The religious ceremony issue needs bottoming out

But do you generally 'feel like you are loosing yourself a bit'? Hormones could be exagerating your feelings. Your child is your child and of course you dont want to feel that people are trying to make decisions that you are not happy with. Are you extrapolating a fear of that into the future, when it might not be necessary? You might just need to sit down and discuss it with teh in-laws to find out wHat are their expectations

TinyDiamond Thu 28-Jul-11 11:35:22

Bejeezus yes I may well be over reacting I am very pregnant and hormonal feeling like an uncomfy hippo so yes I may be taking things a bit seriously.
I still felt a little suffocated by them before the pregnancy I suppose but it has definitely increased since. Possibly partly because they are concerned about me.
It is just hard when you come from such a liberal background like mine and then all of a sudden have a family of inlaws who would clearly prefer if I lived my life quite differently.
I will stick to my guns about anything I feel very strongly about ie our daughter will not be given the surname kaur. She will however have their family surname and not mine.
In terms of the ceremony DP has agreed to talk to them asap to find out exactly what the deal is and then we will make our decision together.

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