If you are an Indian Mom Blogger, chances are you already know Sushi Targett - The Mom Blogger behind beach.walk.muse.
I had the absolute pleasure of stumbling upon her stunning account on Instagram where I got to know about her life, her philosophies and her consistent adherence to living a natural life that does not hurt or harm another living creature in the name of food or fashion. This inspiring woman is also a mother to three and she babywears and homeschools. Over the past months, I have loved getting to know her through her posts and words and I believe the Times Of Amma community will too.
Growing up, did you ever think you would become a vegan, home-birthing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing Mom? Could you tell us a little bit about your journey?
Absolutely not! But I had always thought that I would adopt before I had my own children. So the fact that I am a full time stepmother to two beautiful children and have recently given birth to a lovely little baby has made that dream come true.
As far as veganism and my slight hippie-like approach to life – whether regarding birthing, lifestyle choices or parenting style – it was not planned but the product of an evolving consciousness I think. Since conceiving my baby, I started to connect to nature and all things natural at a very different spiritual level. And the more I dwelt on it, the more instinctual I became, which led to my choices – which were probably more products of social “nurture” than my own natural instinct.
You are married to a non-Indian. Where did you both meet? What is your love story?
I love answering this one in parties because we were quite scandalous when we first met. I met my husband on my 21st birthday party. It was a surprise party and so was he as a guest, having been invited by a mutual friend. Ed was the only guest I did not really know. I had seen him in an uni programme where his and my class coincided and I noticed him for all his glory but quickly told myself to look away because he had a wedding ring on his finger.
Anyhow, he happened to have been invited to my party by some mutual friend. We hit it off right away and danced all night long together. We both fancied each other but I was quite resistant due to his marital status nonetheless. He was estranged from his wife however and hadn’t seen her for months and our love started to blossom.
We were quite deeply and madly in love.
We were also fighting the whole world because obviously I was very young and he was married and trying to work out what the hell was going on. A lot of them were worried for me. But nothing really stopped us. Later, when his children came to live with him full time, I had a choice to make and the rest as they say is history. Seven years and going strong!!
What have been the biggest challenges as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
We are actually a multi-cultural family because my stepkids are half-Korean. So even though they don’t speak any Korean, we try and cook Korean food and their dad tries to encourage them to also be interested in their Korean roots.
In terms of my baby who is growing up to be a bilingual baby, the challenge lies in teaching the language itself. Because I have to speak in English to my husband and step-kids, often Bengali (my mother tongue) does not come to me easily when speaking to baby Roshan.
Apart from that, we used to have massive parental differences before I adopted the new gentle parenting approach, which is something we agree mutually upon most of the time. Both my husband and my family are quite open-minded, and so we are pretty adaptable to different cultural needs. My husband is a well-travelled man who has immense respect and understanding of different cultures and their needs. So there is no real insensitivity towards any culture in our household; we have friends from a host of backgrounds and everyone gets along.
You were in your early twenties when you became a mother to your stepchildren. Did you ever feel overwhelmed with the responsibility? How did you handle the transition?
I don’t think you can ever be old enough to not feel overwhelmed. You can have one child or three children, you will feel overwhelmed every single time, no matter how many times you have been through it and know exactly what to expect.
It was very overwhelming for the kids after separating from their mother, or for my husband to carry the guilt from his divorce or myself who felt very lonely at time as all the attention was and had to be given to those three – whilst also grappling with everything.
At the risk of not sounding very modest, I’d say I am a very selfless person when it comes to children. I have abundant love and time to give to the ones who need it the most. This attitude helped me carry on when the times were tough but I would also say my upbringing has a huge part to play as well. I had so much love growing up as a kid, I suppose I knew what to give and how to enjoy whilst giving love to my step kids unconditionally.
I have made mistakes and I have learnt. I grew from a young girl to a grown up woman in the past seven years and my parenting style has evolved with time into something more conscious and wise in my opinion.
You have recently started homeschooling your elder children. How has the experience been?
Liberating. For all of us I think. We were a bit tired of being stuck in a rut and feeling quite at conflict with the whole schooling system. We needed a break and wanted to try home schooling. Kids seemed keen and so far it has been a great experience. We have been in India for six weeks, for example, which is something that wouldn’t have been possible if kids were in school and from just one travel experience, it seems they have learnt so much already.
Kids asks so many questions as they grow older and questions get tougher to answer. When stuck in a school routine and chores, we often dismiss curiosities that we cannot curb right away. I used to say, “I will Google it tomorrow” and tomorrow never came for us. Now that they are home schooling, I can stop and search or help look for answers right away. I don’t have to finish cooking on time, bed time can be a bit later and we can learn so many things together; rather than me simply catching up with workbooks coming from school.
How do you balance your other passions with attachment parenting?
I don’t have to because I chose attachment parenting because it is practical and convenient. I did not want to do a 9 to 5 job in the first place. I wear my baby so my hands are free for photography or writing. Attachment parenting actually makes children rather independent believe it or not. I also believe in slow living and minimum screen time and battery operated toys. So my kids can spend hours playing imaginatively with their lego, or wooden animals or read books, paint etc. I can get a lot of writing done which is my passion in that time
As far as evenings are concerned, the big children are fine with babysitters, and the little one often accompanies me if we are planning to go out, which isn’t that often to be honest. I don’t think I am missing out on social life. Most of my friends have small children so we often meet at play dates. And I also think that my baby, who is so dependent on me, will only need me for maybe the first four years of his life until he will also settle happily with a sitter. I chose to bring this little life into the world, out of his 70 to 80 years (hopefully longer) of his life, can I not give my two to four years being there for him whenever he needs me? My social needs are met during the daytime, I don’t really need evening out, though I understand that others probably do. A quiet cuppa once a day and sometimes locking myself in the bathroom for a bit of personal time will do – hey, we’ve all done it!
Do you think you would have been a different kind of mother if you were back in India? How different is your parenting from the way you were raised?
Yes and No. I think wanting to be a particular kind of parent and being able to practice that are often two different things in India. If I were in a neutral family, I would have been quite successful I think to be the kind of parent that I am now as opposed to if I were in a joint family.
In a joint family situation, comes peer pressure and crowd pleasing behaviour. I say that because right now I am holidaying in India with 12 other relatives in a joint family situation. And it is not easy to practice my “no TV”, “no flashy toys” and “let children be” type of parenting. We also believe in the big outdoors and spend a good chunk of our day outdoors in England but here the weather and lack of open spaces in Mumbai somewhat restricts that.
But then again here we have the joy of community here in India and that family warmth, which is not necessarily as organic in England as it is in India.
Having said that I also get a lot of questions from Indian mums who struggle to practice parenting their way due to family pressures. So I am aware it is not always easy in India.
The only thing I take away from the way I was raised was the love my parents provided me and the effort they put in to built the trust and respect we have for each other. Apart from that I struggle to compare my upbringing to that of my children, is because raising two step-children and one baby, living by the sea and being married to a firangi bring in it’s own facets that my parents did not have to go through.
Do you find raising third culture kids challenging?
Not really. Kids are kids. They all need love, attention and opportunity to grow and flourish. It is very interesting to raise third culture kids if anything. I had to learn a bit of the language because when they were tiny they could only speak Korean and I learnt to cook some Korean food.
The challenging part is to keep the curiosity for that culture alive in the kids when you know nothing about it yourself. But I have an agenda this year to learn more about Korea and it’s history, culture and lifestyle through home schooling.
Do you celebrate cultural occasions with your kids?
We do! We absolutely love celebrating everything from Diwali, Easter, Guy Fawkes night to Holi. We even celebrate sub-cultural festivals and practice small sub-cultural rituals as well. My husband loves to participate along with us and we made a big deal out of cultural celebrations. It brings a sense of belonging which is so important for children in becoming confident adults.
What have been your greatest joys as an Expat Mom of three?
My greatest joy as an Expat mom is being able to provide my children with such open spaces, beaches and woodlands. Something I missed out on growing up.
Sushi, thank you for your frank and inspiring words. We wish you and your family much joy and happiness.
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