African moms living in the diaspora experience motherhood a bit differently from us living in the motherland. In a way, they are separated from their immediate families, and often have to do things on their own. I decided to have a conversation with Brenda Malinki to give us an insight into the topic.
We have entered the second week of the Afrobloggers #WinterABC2022 festival where the focus is on Stories of Africa.
African Moms Living in Diaspora with Brenda Malinki
Hi Brenda, welcome to Becoming a Mommy. I am so glad that you accepted to do this interview. First, share with us a little about yourself and your motherhood journey.
I am a working mom of two. I work in legal tech, play netball, and volunteer in my Malawian community in Nottingham. My motherhood journey started long before I had my own children. I was always around babies: cousins, nieces, and nephews.
How long have you lived in the United Kingdom?
Too long! Almost 30 years, I came here as a teenager.
That’s too long indeed. Do you still visit Malawi sometimes?
Oh yes! Not as often as I would like but I love coming back home. I went with the kids in 2019 for the first time. That was my very best trip back home. But for the pandemic, we would have been back for more.
Focus: African Moms Living in Diaspora
Q: In a lot of African countries, one of the things moms enjoy during their days of motherhood is the community and its support. Is that the same with African moms living in the diaspora?
African moms in diaspora perhaps enjoy more support than most because we look out for each other. But, by comparison, we miss out compared to new moms back home. I always try to resist speaking for Africans in general. However, in my experience, in the African communities, I have had the privilege of being a part of, there are recurring themes of supporting new moms.
That being said, lifestyles here and attitudes also mean that support offered in good faith can sometimes be unwelcome. An issue of traditional vs modernity. An issue of “Back home we do it like this” vs “The science says”.
Q: I was reading an article that influenced this question. When we are pregnant, we start thinking of how we want to raise our babies. Often, we read books, and magazines, and devour other media for influence. The article established that all those are filled with images of white moms which could manipulate black women to think that white women are the standard. What are your thoughts?
The normalized image from a medical and motherhood point is of white moms. When I was pregnant with my first born, not a single magazine mentioned pigmentation changes. My torse and neck became very black and thankfully, I had people who could tell me that was normal.
There’s a serious side to this which has life or death consequences. Professionals also view maternity care through the same lens, and black mothers die in disproportionately higher numbers, are denied pain medicine, etc.
I went off on a tangent. On a personal level, it is easy to feel like white moms are the norm but that’s the same with all mainstream magazines. Efforts are being made to improve representation. I stopped buying magazines in my mid-twenties because they just made me feel bad.
Q: Still on modernity, there’s an issue of “African” and “Western” parenting. Living away from home, how did you navigate the two?
My instinct is always to stick with what I know. What I saw growing up. I hear my mom and/or aunties sometimes when I say things to my kids. It is so deep-seated in my psyche.
That being said, I reflect on what I did not like and work on that. It is a work-in-progress.
Interestingly, as I journey in parenting, I am constantly in awe of what my mom and aunts managed. I am more forgiving. For example, the issue of communication. There is no issue my children will not talk to me, any. Now, when I share with friends, some say that is too much. Malawulo (shocking) etc.
Being able to have options is great. There are aspects of Malawian parenting that I absolutely could not do without. The shared responsibility with aunts and uncles. That’s an incredible resource.
Q: I remember earlier on you talked about bringing your children to Malawi for the first time. How have you been able to share the Malawian culture with them?
Firstly, if you are not living the culture, it is very difficult. They were born into a multi-cultural home. So, the teaching of culture can sometimes feel like “describing stories from a far away place”. This is why the trip was so important; not only did they hear about it, they saw it, lived it, and experienced it.
Respect. That’s the number one thing I teach them. How we address people. How we relate to people. How we support each other in times of need and in times of celebrations.
Food is another easy win on the cultural front. I try to make things as traditional as possible. I even cook pa mbaula and miphika ya dothi.
The area I am failing the most is language. I have failed in teaching the children Chichewa past a few words. However, I love teaching them songs. It is always hilarious when they ask me what they mean.
Chule chule iwe (chule means frog) for example always makes us laugh because I hate frogs and the kids do not understand why we’re singing about frogs.
Has there ever been a time when you thought the motherhood journey would have been easier in your home country than living oceans away?
Most of the time, LOL! One thing I am very envious about is having home help. I wish I had more help with domestic duties. This would free up more time for the fun things and important things.
Working full time, taking care of the household, managing the kids’ diaries, and also keeping on top of their school is a lot. I forgot to mention that I co-parent. So, for context, managing all of this on my own when I have the kids is intense.
My deepest fears are falling very sick to care for the kids. or being incapacitated for any reason. We develop hyper independence and try to rely on friends and relatives for support when absolutely necessary.
But we manage and do well.
Q: You did speak about volunteering for a community. Has it helped your babies in understanding their roots?
For sure. It is a way of immersing in our culture with other people.
Q: Lastly, please share with us some of the best moments you’ve experienced as a mom
It should be easy to answer this but there are so many. To pick one or two…
Watching my kids grow and excel is one of the best feelings. It does not matter what it is, watching them overcome the fear of the dark, for example, was such a great achievement.
Watching them come out of their shells to make new friends in new surroundings fills me with so much joy. My favorite time is going on adventures with them. Big or small.
Louisa: I have been in awe of you since I saw your son solve the Rubik’s cube.
Brenda: He drives me nuts with his “interests” but it keeps us out of trouble.
I hope you all enjoyed this conversation. Do not forget to like and comment down below.