A Korean Mum’s Experience: what is it like raising a biracial baby?

The world today is truly a dazzling array of cultures. From the gorgeous Victoria skyline in Hong Kong, to the turquoise blue waters in The Bahamas or the wild jungles in the Amazon Rainforest, people have created unique cultures and histories that bind them to one another and the places they’ve lived in. It is increasingly common to meet intercultural or multicultural people and families, and more important than ever to appreciate the cultural diversity of one another.

I’ve the opportunity to meet with Jae, a female entrepreneur, mother and a firm advocate in diversity and inclusion who shares with me her story of being in a multicultural family, and raising a biracial baby in South Korea.

Can you tell us a bit more about you and your family?

Hello, my name is Jae and I am a fashion designer in South Korea, with my own range of shoes and accessories called Acrobat. My husband, Sheriff is from Liberia and is a fashion model here.

Our story started when a friend of ours introduced us at a Christmas party on Christmas eve, and it was really love at first sight for the both of us. We have a beautiful baby girl called Bomi who was born in midst of the pandemic crisis last year. It has been such an amazing journey so far as a mother and business woman, juggling work-life balance, and also raising a baby in a multicultural family.

Would you tell us a bit more about your own experience raising a biracial baby in Korea?

Being a mother has been a wonderful experience with many fun firsts with Bomi. I remember seeing her for the first time in the hospital, and I fell in love with her beautiful eyes, head full of dark curls and her gorgeous butterscotch skin.

I would say that our family dynamics is somewhat different to that of a normal Korean household (or one that I grew up in). One of the main challenges of raising a biracial baby is to ensure that we are able to balance Bomi’s cultural identity and also the way we bring her up. It definitely requires teamwork on both sides.

My style of parenting is considered fairly ‘Korean’, which is usually more structured, sheltered and protected. My husband prefers a slightly more free-range parenting style which encourages Bomi to be more independent. I believe that Bomi is in a very unique situation, being exposed to two different ways of parenting and cultures, and being able to celebrate both of them – I think it is so important to maintain that balance.

Due to the pandemic situation, we’ve not had the opportunity to travel much outside of South Korea. I think that by constantly exposing Bomi to multiple cultures (not just Korean and Liberian), is a great way to ensure that she is accepting of difference in others, and in herself when she is older. We are a strong advocate in family travel, especially as my husband has grown up in multiple countries since young, we believe that exposing Bomi to different cultures while she is young is so rewarding. In a funny way, I am also learning and adapting to new cultures at home while raising a baby in Korea.

How do you expose Bomi to both cultures in your family?

We use a mix of languages at home, I sometimes joke that Bomi will be so confused when she first learns how to talk as my husband switches between French and English, while I mainly use Korean when I talk to Bomi. 

Most story books these days are very culturally inclusive and you can get a whole range of books and stories targeted towards mixed children and their lovely families. We read a variety of different language books to Bomi, and even sing the same songs in different languages. Right now, her favourite song on repeat is Baby Shark, definitely one that is not on my playlist in my shop (haha).

We also try to expose her to some of our favourite music and dances from different countries and cultures as we hope this will help her be more culturally sensitive in the future.

Food is also a big part of both of our cultures. As Bomi is still quite young (a little over 10 months old), we have first started off with more baby-friendly Korean recipes, opting for more natural ingredients and less stimulating dishes. We are looking forward letting her try authentic Liberian and Korean dishes when she is older, and also at home as we are currently incorporating different elements and dishes of both of our cultures in our daily meals.

What are your biggest concerns for Bomi when she grows up?

Bomi is a little too young to understand or have an identity crisis at the moment. I feel as parents, our responsibility is to show respect for each other’s culture and celebrate our differences. Sheriff and I are very open about this, and we are also learning together while raising Bomi. We hope to equip her with values and all aspects of both of our cultures so that she may be able to embrace her own uniqueness and identity in the future. My hope is that she will grow up to be a child who embraces diversity and pursues her own freedom.

What are your hopes for their generation?

In this globalised world, it is now more and more common to meet multicultural families. Particularly in South Korea, where it used to be quite a homogenous population, nowadays you do see many foreigners who live and work here. I believe that the next generation will be able to experience an education and lifestyle that will be more tolerant towards the ethnically diverse population. My hope is that they will be able to embrace diversity and respect each other’s cultures, and for biracial kids like Bomi, to wear their mixed-race identity more easily and openly.

What advice can you share with us, and other mothers raising biracial or multiracial children?

I think multiracial children who grow up under the influence of different cultures of their parents and family will be able to embrace diversity more readily, be more tolerant and inclusive. I feel it is important to talk and normalise the topic of race, particularly if your child has any issues, it would be good for it to be an open topic at home. This can help children develop coping skills to handle any questions about their background, and for them to deal with any potential racism without feeling personally offended in the future.

I believe in immersing children in a culturally diverse environment - at home, school, the community or even through books, TV show and movies. Even if the community you live in isn’t too diverse, there are always opportunities to find groups online or through travelling. This way, they can be exposed to diverse cultures, and hopefully this can empower them in becoming more tolerant and inclusive individuals.

If you would like to reach out to Jae for any questions, to connect or to follow their multicultural family adventures, please head over to their Instagram page.

We would love to share stories about mothers and babies, if you have an interesting story or would like to bring more awareness about a cause to help mothers and children, feel free to reach out to us over email: support@cottonpigs.com.

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