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Saturday, March 20, 2010

US woman on Kuwaiti mothers

For 65-year-old American Susan Thomson, what strikes most in her recent visit to Kuwait is the family values upheld here. "Before I came here, I looked in the bookstore about something on Kuwait society like those books on Saudi and even Afghanistan," Susan said.

Her book hunt was in vain. "I don't think there's any," she said, after visiting a number of bookshops in Kuwait. "Or there may have but nothing caught my eye," the avid reader on culture said, adding "What actually caught my attention was outside bookshops: Families walking together.

Susan is in Kuwait to be with her son and his Columbian wife and their two-year-old child. Her family back in Florida is an 'international community', as her friends say. Her second son is married to an African-American and her daughter-in-law's brother is married to a Vietnamese who is a frequenter at their house.

For me, family is what makes my life full and it only makes me happy when I see the large families here. Parents with a lot of children and all living under one roof! Wow!" she exclaims. Susan discloses her 'envy' at the women in Kuwait who are well taken care of the family. "In the US what we've is a nuclear family with two children, and the poor children have to accept the absence of a parent if they are divorced.

Familial bonds
Susan, who divorced her husband when her youngest child was four, had to work all her life long to support the family. Working as an administrator for research at the University of Pennsylvania, it was her dream to explore on culture and family in different parts of the world.

My visits to various parts of the world have unbolted a world of family values to me in one way or the other. In Spain, a friend of the family member becomes part of the family; in Thailand, they teach young children to place palms together, bow and greet 'Savaadi'; in Kuwait you are invited to dine with the family and the big rooms in Kuwaiti houses, I guess, is for being together.

In Kuwait, if a woman is divorced she can always go back to her parents' place. All lifelong, women are protected by the family circle. I'm amazed to learn that just like the men who gather at diwaniyas, women and children also have a weekend gathering at the grandparents' house. Well, in my part of the world, we see our relatives once a year perhaps for Christmas.

Susan thinks it is a myth that American and Kuwaiti cultures are poles apart. A black and white world. She sees shades of grey. There are many US women who are into blogging and it's not something alien here.

It's economy that liberates women wherever they're. In the US, true, women are more for standing on their own feet whereas here they're always in the security ring, she argues. Culture and religion are so intertwined here, she says.

Susan also has this to add. What is common between American and Kuwaiti society is the materialistic culture, wanting more and more. Interestingly in the US, we are becoming aware of what we can afford to have. But what is so optimistic is both in America and Kuwait, more and more women are entering into the workforce, in many ways becoming the backbone of the family.

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