How to Successfully Raise an Interfaith Blended Family
I believe that life is built on second chances. And my second chance at love after divorce came in the form of a Caucasian, Irish, Catholic man: Brian. The problem was, I was Pakistani, Muslim, with a toddler son, Qasim, from my first marriage, and I grew up in a culture where you didn’t fall in love, let alone marry anyone that didn’t look like you or wasn’t of the same faith. Especially, if you were a Muslim woman. The double standards in the culture and religion forbid a woman marrying outside of the faith.
I also believe that faith is a very personal decision and your relationship with God, the Universe, higher power, whatever you want to call it, is yours alone.
Having this fundamental belief about second chances — a core value that I developed after my divorce — allowed me to be open to love and companionship outside of my faith and culture.
Brian and I decided to take our relationship to the next level and got married, regardless of any cultural and religious backlash, because we knew that what we had and have is a very special gift. He became an instant dad to Qasim, and their relationship is absolutely special. You’d never know Brian was his stepdad. We decided to grow our family, and I gave birth to Aidan shortly after. We are officially a blended, interfaith family practicing Islam and Catholicism, while honoring our Pakistani and Irish heritages.
3 Tips for Navigating Cultural Differences
What’s helped us successfully and openly raise our children in a multi-faith home without conflict was created with intention and love. Here are three things that have helped us embrace our cultural and religious differences:
1. No Right or Wrong
Agreeing that when it comes to our faith, there is no right or wrong, better or worse. Faith is meant to connect us to a higher power, to help us stay grounded, and be better human beings for all mankind. Even though each religion has different rules, fundamentally, the goal is the same: to be a good person. That is the mantra that we live by and instill in our home. We make it a point to celebrate all of the different holidays between Easter, Christmas, Eid, Ramadan, etc. Outside of holidays, I’ll join Brian at Church for Sunday mass, while Qasim continues his weekly Quran lessons and Aidan learns Urdu.
2. Not Listening to Doubters
Deciding that what other people think we should believe or how we should live our lives is not important to us. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but we get to decide how we want to raise our family. Those opinions include our parents at times. Although we love our parents, we are the ones responsible for raising our kids in accordance to our belief system. Our goal is to instill a culture of acceptance. This mindset has made a big difference in limiting conflict in our relationship.
3. Being Curious About Each Other's Culture
Exploring our faith and cultures with curiosity. There is something extremely liberating when the goal becomes exploration rather than explanation. Brian and I ask each other a lot of questions about how we grew up, what religion taught us, and how our culture impacted us because we are genuinely curious about what makes us unique. The goal isn’t to explain why one religion is better than the other or defend our cultural upbringings. There is value and richness in our differences and that’s what makes our blended interfaith family so special. We especially love celebrating our different cuisines — I’m a huge fan of shepherd’s pie while Brian loves Pakistani chicken karhai (chicken & tomato dish).
Raising an interfaith blended family seems guaranteed to be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you’re aligned as a couple, on your family’s goals, values, and how much power you assign to others’ opinions, things start to become a lot easier. At the end of the day, we were all given the gift of one life each; it’s important to live it according to the ideals that speak to you the most, rather than what other people expect you to believe.