Meet Amanda of Maroc Mama
Amanda Mouttaki is a regular contributor and also writes on her personal blog, Maroc Mama and guest posts on a variety of blogs about Muslim & Moroccan life, including American Muslim Mom. You can find her on Facebook.com/marocmama and Twitter.com/marocmama. View all of Amanda’s posts on Multicultural Familia HERE.
What are your fondest childhood memories related to your cultural heritage?
I grew up in a really small town on the border of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There was no single dominant ethnic/cultural group but a mix of Italian, German, Swedish, Finnish and English cultures (of which my heritage is traced to three of those!) I think many of my childhood memories center around the holidays and especially food.
After Thanksgiving I can remember making gnocchi with my grandma and before Christmas the pizzelle irons would be hot making loads of these light, anise flavored cookies. There isn’t a single culture that I connected with and I always felt at a loss that I was “nothing”. It wasn’t until adulthood and marrying someone who could definitively say what he was, that I realized hey I’m American! That is a culture and that is what I am!
What was your family like when you were growing up?
As mentioned I grew up in a really small town with all of my grandparents close by. I think that having so much family support from a young age was a really great thing. My parents always encouraged me to follow my heart and never held me back from anything. One of the greatest gifts they gave me was the ability to travel. From a young age, they recognized my maturity and allowed me to do things that many young kids would not have been permitted to do. I flew alone to a conference for the first time at 14 and went overseas for the first time at 16. They gave me the ability (and funds!) to start on a lifelong love of the world!
How did you meet your husband?
I wrote all about this last Valentine’s Day on my blog! Check it out (http://marocmama.com/2011/02/
What is your family’s heritage, culture, language, faith, etc.? What is the key to successfully combining traditions and values in your home?
My husband is Moroccan and I am American. We are both Muslim (I converted 7 years ago). Because we share a common faith, many things that could be issues are not there. However, there are a lot of cultural attachments that we have. I have struggled with the idea of losing my culture over my husbands. Islam is not just a religion, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve felt at times that because of my choice to be Muslim I have had to divorce myself from aspects of my culture that I loved.
For example Christmas time is always difficult. I loved having a tree, the family feelings, giving gifts, etc. so when the issue of not celebrating came up, I was very sad. We however decided to do this. To us it’s a part of my culture and my husband loves it as much as I do!
What made you decide to become a writer/blogger?
I started my blog as a way to catalog recipes. My sister was calling me often to find out how I made things and I got tired of trying to remember what I used and how to make certain dishes. I began to blog them so that I could tell her to just look them up! It progressed into something much bigger a few years ago when we moved and I couldn’t find a job. I did a lot more cooking and writing with more free-time on my hands!
What is it that makes you so passionate about the topics that you talk about on your blog?
When I met my husband I couldn’t cook – at all. He only wanted to eat the food he was used to from home, so I had to learn how to cook Moroccan dishes to keep him full! I love the uniqueness of Moroccan food and love sharing it. I’ve also added to my blog more information about Morocco in general, cultural insights, travel information and photography. The tagline of my blog is “living and eating as a bi-culturual family” because that’s what we are and what we do! I know there are many others out there in similar situations and I hope to provide a little inspiration to them as well.
What is your personal mission? What do you seek to achieve in your lifetime?
My dream is to build a house in Morocco for single women and their children. The home would include job training and education for the women, as well as cooperative daycare and living facilities. Unfortunately having a child out of wedlock and/or divorce is not looked on favorably in Morocco.
Traditionally, women in these circumstances would go back and live with their parents however many parents refuse to take them in. With little education and job skills these women must resort to begging or other unsavory professions. I hope to show them that they can have a future!
I recently started this dream by helping out an orphanage in Marrakech. (http://marocmama.com/2011/10/
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? What would you do there?
There are so many places I’ve got left to see. I would really love to visit Indonesia and India but then there’s also Brazil, and West Africa, and Fiji, and Peru, and……let’s just say I want to see them all!
What advice would you give to other mixed couples/families?
Know who you are, but be willing to compromise. Your way is not the right way and your spouses way is not the right way. When you’re building a family you have to create a “right way” that fits for both of you!
What challenges and blessings have you faced in your relationship? In parenting?
I think our biggest challenges in parenting come from being raised in two very different ways ourselves. I was always very independent and encouraged to do things on my own. I also came from a small nuclear family. My husband was the baby of nine kids and raised in a much more community-style family and country. I think we both try to project these values on our kids and sometimes, I worry they get confused! In the beginning, it took us awhile to figure things out but we’re at a point now where we are mostly on the same page.
In our relationship with each other we faced hurdles because my husband moved to the United States and was at a loss for adapting and overcoming culture shock. Many times, I felt we would never get past that stage, but we did! This was a blessing and a challenge because it helped us grow closer. We had to depend on each other until we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Who or what was your biggest inspiration in life? What motivates you?
My mom for sure. She was always there for me no matter what. I know growing up, I always wondered why she chose to stay home with us and why she didn’t want to have a big career. But she was always, always there. She was the leader of our girl scout troop, she was the classroom mom, she could come and get me from school if I was sick, the list goes on and on. Now that I’m a mom, I see the sacrifices she made – willingly and happily! Without her being who she is I wouldn’t be 1/4 of the person I am today.
What’s your advice to newbie writers and bloggers who want to make an impact? How do you motivate yourself to blog when it seems like no one is listening?
It took me a really long time to see any results from blogging. I think for the first year or two I didn’t even look at (or know about!) statistic counters.
I think that first you need to know why you’re blogging and then harness that reason. Is it to be heard? Is it to make a difference? Is it to get things off your chest? Is it to get free stuff? Whatever it is, there’s nothing wrong with that reason! Once you know why you’re doing it then you can figure out a plan of attack.
Get involved in different communities with similar interests and write, write, write. Chances are, it’s going to take you 6 months to a year to begin to see results if you’re serious. If you are an occasional blogger it will take longer. But first and foremost I really believe that blogging should be for you. If you’re not writing about the things you care about, then no one else is going to care either.
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