Meet Amy Albright, mom to two girls, ages 4 and 6. Amy talks to us about the joys and challenges of being in a dual culture marriage and raising bi-cultural kids.
JI: So you’re from the U.S., and your husband grew up in Mexico, right?
AA: Yes, I grew up in Denver and Rafael was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, a university town in the mountains. He lived in Mexico until he was 13 when his family came to the U.S. We met in graduate school at the University of Maryland and we’ve been married for 10 years. About 5 years ago we moved to Colorado for my husband’s job.
JI: Growing up did you ever envision yourself marrying someone from another country and culture?
AA: Well, I lived in Spain and Ecuador during and after college to study and work as a volunteer and majored in Spanish in college. And I’ve taught English as a Second Language and worked with Fulbright scholars and Peace Corps staff from around the world. So culture and an appreciation for it have always been a part of my life.
JI: What do you find most gratifying about being a bi-cultural family?
AA: We have a home in Mexico that allows us to share my husband’s culture with the girls in a very personal way. We try to go there once a year. It’s good for them to see that knowing Spanish is a valuable tool that allows them to communicate with people and make friends – that it is relevant even at age 4 and 6. They also get to see that it doesn’t take a lot of material things to make kids happy. Although our children aren’t fluent, they understand a lot of Spanish which is certainly an advantage. We enjoy celebrating holidays like “los reyes magos” when the girls put their shoes out the eve of January 6 and wait for the three wise men to visit. The kind wise men always leave a gift behind.
JI: As parents, what are the top challenges you face raising your kids in the context of two cultures?
AA: One of our challenges is how much to spend on our kids. Since my husband grew up with very little in Mexico and I grew up middle-class in the United States, our expectations on how much to spend on our children differ. We both want them to have the best; but having the best doesn’t mean having it all. Birthday parties, Christmas, clothes, etc. sometimes require some negotiation. At least we both agree that we want them to understand that things are not what matter most. When we travel to Mexico the girls also get to see that the rest of the world is not as privileged as they are.
JI: What’s one aspect of Mexican culture that you love to share with other people?
AA: We love to dance salsa and merengue. My husband is a great teacher – he taught me and sometimes we teach other couples a few moves so we can have some company on the dance floor.
JI: Any tips for other families who are raising their kids to be bi-cultural or bi-lingual?
AA: Communication is so crucial for any marriage, but it makes sense to prioritize communicating with your kids, too. Our kids have Spanish names, which can be confusing for other people, especially people who don’t speak Spanish. We’ve taught our girls that it is okay to respectfully correct someone who mispronounces their name.
JI: According to results of the 2010 census 25% of kids under age ten and 20% of kids in the 10 to 20 age group are estimated to be Hispanic. So it’s clear that multicultural kids will play a big part in the cultural landscape of the U.S. What hopes do you have for your girls?
AA: I hope they have a heartfelt compassion for people around the globe and that they feel an obligation to care about what is happening in other countries.
JI: Father’s Day is coming up soon. Any special plans?
AA: This year we’ll be traveling to Mexico and that’s probably the best gift we can give their dad!
Want more cross-cultural stories and ideas? Sign up for the free weekly email!
Read about another cross-cultural family here.