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3 Big Mixed-Heritage Family Compromises

Photograph by Ruby Wright

When I met my husband, I knew I was going to start a family with him. Our conversations from the very beginning were about our life goals, and soon, our future family. As our conversations grew more serious, discussions about our mixed-heritage family became a compromise and a promise to each other. We knew we had many challenges ahead, and even more statistics going against us, but we were in love and determined to raise our family as a team.

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Still, raising a family is not something you can learn, accomplish or even plan overnight. You continue to learn what works for your family and what doesn't. However, we both believe communication, understanding, and compromise go hand in hand when making decisions that affect everyone — especially when you're a mixed heritage family because cultural differences exist. There will be times when you might agree, but one or both of your families don't like the choice you've made. Having more than one opinion, tradition, and culture will get in the way of peace. It's important to maintain a team and to compromise.

1. Religion
I knew that if I wanted to get married in my church, that my husband would need to convert to my religion. It's an awkward discussion to have while dating, but I wasn't trying to waste any time. It made a huge difference to compromise on religion in the very beginning because it put us on the same page about what we wanted out of our relationship and our family. My husband was understanding and asked all the right questions such as, "why is it important to you?" "How would this change our relationship/family?" "Could you deal with our kids not being religious?" The religion compromise also comes into play if you aren't religious, but your spouse is. Split religious families exist, but it's also more challenging and a decision you need to make together on how that will play out in raising your kids.

2. Parenting styles
We ultimately wanted happy and healthy kids, but what about communication and authority? We knew this would be different from how we were both raised because we wouldn't have much family chiming in and helping while my husband was in the military. Still, we wanted to be a team our kids could trust — but also know we meant business. While we are open to communication and hearing our kids out, we also know the responsibility and consequences that come with the real world.

Parenting styles need to be discussed before children are brought into a family because the tension, frustration, and heartbreak that come with making decisions on the spot can really tear a family down. We've seen it happen to friends. It gets ugly when one believes in punishment and the other doesn't. Kids quickly share who becomes the "mean" parent and the "nice" parent. We're thankful we discussed and compromised on how we'd raise our kids early on so there were no questions or last-minute decisions.

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While it was fun for me to walk around with my hands in my pocket, skipping, and even yelling while my parents shopped at stores, these were things my husband said he could never do. I soon realized how race and skin color would have a huge role in our parenting decisions.

It wasn't always so easy to discuss, though. My husband believed in staying indoors for play time because he was raised in a rough neighborhood. Although his family soon moved when he entered grade school, the kind of childhood play time he had compared to mine was very different. I was raised in a house with a huge backyard and loving, friendly neighbors. If we weren't playing out in the front sidewalk, we were usually building mud pies and climbing fruit trees. I wanted the same freedom for my kids. I soon realized that not all neighborhoods were as friendly as the one I grew up in. My husband was quick to turn on his protective mode when it came to discussing how freely and out-of-sight our kids would be. After all, there are huge differences being raised in New Jersey versus California.

We also had to discuss what my husband calls "things kids of color can't do." I never heard or thought anything like this existed. While it was fun for me to walk around with my hands in my pocket, skipping, and even yelling while my parents shopped at stores, these were things my husband said he could never do. I soon realized how race and skin color would have a huge role in our parenting decisions.

3. Language

Language was another huge compromise for us. It was the one decision I had the hardest time with because it meant my husband would sometimes feel left out because he didn't speak Spanish. We were determined to raise our kids bilingual. Being bilingual myself, I felt my kids needed to know the language a majority of my family understands. My husband understood the importance of teaching our kids a second language not only because that's what I wanted, but how beneficial it would be to our kids' futures as well.

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We compromised that their first language would be Spanish. My husband even compromised about having a Spanish-speaking nanny to help us since we'd both still have full-time jobs. I still remember getting phone calls at work. my husband and our nanny traded phones back and forth as I explained and translated to them what the other was trying to communicate. It wasn't easy for me during working hours but I knew it also wasn't easy for my husband to call me feeling helpless. He was determined to make this work for our son.

Having a Spanish-speaking nanny worked for the first nine months, but life happens and situations caused us to change plans — and soon a compromise we loved and had our heart set on wasn't working for our family. It's important to know that the decisions you make early on can evolve and change, but it has to be a decision both you and your spouse make together when life throws a wrench in your plan and you need to make adjustments.

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