Amirah Ahmad Shah
CALD Family Matters in a Western Society: Women's Perspective
ABC News journalist, Christina Zhou, published a story on Australia Talks about What Australians think about Marriage and Children.
She interviewed 4 women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, including myself. Ms Zhou also draws insight from demographer by Dr Liz Allen from the Australian National University.
The article talks about the climate of marriage and family in non-European cultures, the pressures, and the current trends.
This story was also broadcasted on ABC News In-Depth on Youtube titled,
Love and Marriage in modern Australia:
My take on this?
CALD women in particular face various social, cultural and religious pressures around marriage and children.
While the idea of settling down with a suitable partner and having family is not contested here, the convention can be utterly distressing for CALD women in a Western society today.
One reason could be because the Western society supports women to have the freedom to settle down and have a family at their own accord, or have the freedom to choose otherwise.
However with the freedom for choice, enters more internal and interpersonal conflict and tensions. Interestingly enough, it never occured to me to think about this in relation to my cultural background, and how challenging it was to 'push' against such social norms and expectations for my entire adult life- until now.
I recall a conversation I had in my early 20s, with a friend with an Arab background, about how we were told by our fathers that we were "losing market value" as we remained unmarried.
Oh, how this angered us. How unworthy we were made to feel. And yet somehow, deep down, a small part of me also could not help wondering if it was indeed true. After all, what do WE know about the world as young overprotected and naive adults?
However, as I reflect further, I realised I was lucky enough that my parents saw the importance for myself and my sisters to complete a tertiary education, and in being contributing members of society.
We could study in whichever field we wanted to. And we were lucky enough not to worry about arranged marriages. We were lucky enough to have the choice to date people who are not from my cultural or even religious background! Now that's a big one. My parents were not entirely conservative and I TRULY am grateful for that. They supported our education and career paths, despite having relatively non-negotiable expectations around love, marriage and children.
For instance, my sisters and I faced numerous challenges in our intimate relationships as adults.
Our relationships were often subjected to scrutiny, criticism, coercion towards marriage, and pressures to religiously conform.
Through our 20s and into our 30s, our intimate relationships were fraught with familial tensions and interference. This resulted in a decline of mental health for everyone involved, frustration, anger, hurt, emotional blackmail, fractured trust amongst everyone, and instilled fear in our beloved partners. The drama.
Oh the drama...
It was like living in a soap opera- but without the glam and the fame!
Fortunately for us, we developed a certain type of resilience - built through patience, knowledge, psychotherapy, and support from each other, our partners, and our close friends.
Over the years, we gradually learnt to communicate with our elders effectively yet respectfully, as well as creating healthy boundaries.
Despite the obstacles I have faced around marriage and children, I remain respectful of the values that the institution of marriage holds. I believe that in a committed relationship, call it marriage or de facto or whatever you will, the social recognition of a couple committing to each other whether in the house of God or in court, carries weight.
Society deems the couple as united. That social commitment is not to be taken lightly. The commitment to each other, and the relationship in itself is fertile ground for stability, growth, and human flourishing.
When children are brought into the scene whether biologically or through adoption/ fostering, they have the right to be raised thoughtfully and responsibly. It becomes our grave duty to nurture and nourish them with morality and knowledge, so they can one day make a positive difference in the world.
And if we choose to remain unmarried or without children? But continue to be responsible and virtuous contributing members of society...? Who is to say that it is not ideal?
We all know that we cannot do a great job when our heart and soul isn't in it.
Anyway, enough about my reflections. Enjoy the article and the video!