With two religious backgrounds and two businesses, a whole lot of tolerance and humour define this family nearly three decades after the couple first met in South Africa.
My husband, Bill and I met in South Africa in 1986 and married two years later. We both built, and continue to build, our own businesses. I own and manage a pet care business and Bill and his partner share a consulting business focusing on building intentional teams. We both work from home. He describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic.” I am Jewish by birth only, not by belief. We are both disinterested in religion. We moved to Canada in 1992 due to what we perceived to be declining educational and employment opportunities and safety issues in South Africa and also for the good education and growth opportunities for our children here. We just celebrated our 27th anniversary on—yes, I know—Valentine’s Day.
Our cultural and ethnic differences were never a problem and in fact made life interesting for us. For example, my sister is religious and my mother prides herself as being an atheist. Inevitably someone gets upset or angry if we challenge each other about the reasons for our various strongly held personal beliefs. So, to be diplomatic, we tend to stick to safer topics like TV shows, our children and our pets!
Humour and forgiveness are huge factors in what binds us and keeps us together as a couple and as members of an extended family, too. Bill’s family lives in South Africa and the UK, so we are more removed from their day-to-day lives and we therefore have less turbulent, emotional relationships than we might have if we were together all the time. But we are still close to Bill’s sisters despite the distance.
We love doing basic domestic activities together, like watching TV, walking the dogs and chatting, cleaning the house, cooking meals together, chatting some more… you get the picture. Our sons, Kieran, 25 and Reuben, 19, are very close and seldom argue. When they do, they resolve their differences quickly and amicably. They still enjoy playing video games together!
We raised our sons on a vegetarian/vegan diet while giving them choices as they got older to eat meat when they went out to friends and other family members’ homes. Humanitarian values such as respect for each other and for the choices and opinions of others are the basis of how we do things at home and in the world generally. We encouraged our growing children to accept others on the basis of their actions and their values, including the respect they show towards others. We’ve emphasized the importance of not judging others based on things they can’t change about themselves—like skin tone, physical disabilities, cultural or ethnic backgrounds—and to see people as individuals, not as members of one group or another. Today we enjoy the ups and downs of sharing a home with two mostly independent adult sons and we look forward to continuing to be loving guides and cheerleaders for them as they navigate their way to independence.
This is #1000families post number 88. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.