Like many Indian American moms (“I Am Moms”), I grew up in the time before Gwen Stefani and Madonna popularized bindis and henna. We had to explore, by ourselves, what it meant to be Indian American with few cultural references to share with our peers from other backgrounds. What’s more, we didn’t ourselves know what being Indian American meant. We had, as our guides, our immigrant parents, who emphasized the importance of “retaining our culture.” They wanted us to absorb the best of both worlds –opportunities from their new, adopted country with values from the old. But without having grown up in this country, they couldn’t tell us how to reconcile our American selves with our Indian roots. They hadn’t had to explain to their classmates why they came to school with their hair in oiled braids or what that was in their lunchboxes.
Over time, though, we grew through adolescence and became comfortable in our own skins. Many of us learned to meld our Indian and American selves into one identity, or at least two identities that overlapped greatly. We became more comfortable with the question, “Is that a tattoo?”, when referring to our mothers’ forehead dots or our bridal henna. We also gained some cultural reference points that weren’t as cartoonish as Apu from The Simpsons, such as Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, The Interpreter of Maladies, which was widely read and explored issues of Indian American identity.
Just when we thought we knew who we were, motherhood came on like a second adolescence. Newly uncertain with our strange bodies (Why is that leaking?), moody and hormonal, we faced new issues of identity. We aren’t like the aunties of old, frying up samosas and prying into others’ personal lives with ease. But we know we have something in common with them. We want to pass along some of our Indian-ness to our children. We want them to understand the significance of Divali and the importance of family. We want them to take the best of their heritage and meld it with their newly forming identities.
Now that my son is past the newborn age, a time which gave me little chance to think about anything beyond the next diaper, feeding, and stolen moments of sleep, these issues of identity have begun to nag at me. And I feel a need to develop a forum where we can explore what it means to be Indian American moms. It won’t be limited to Indian American issues either. I chose “I Am Moms” as the blog title because motherhood, for any woman, is a time to re-explore identities. The title also affirms that this blog is party about giving Indian American moms a voice by allowing us to discuss topics specific to us.
Please comment on the posts. Also, you may send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.