Episode#2: Social Function

In Episode #2: Social Function I share with you why I learned to ask for help and support from my community when I was a single mother, and why considering motherhood – and by extension parenthood – as a social function can help us close the gender gap. 

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What amazed me the most was that there was one advice repeated over and over and on top of every list…It made it clear to me that this – being a mother – is not a task or function that one can do on her own; and the first step is to realize and then accept that I need the help and support of others.

Hallo – This is Somaye Dehban, a loyal Dutchified Iranian who has curated her kin throughout the years.

I am the creator and host of Your Curated Kin, a podcast for anyone who has ever struggled with finding their tribe whether in their own native land or some other place on this planet.

Join me every 4th Tuesday of the month to hear about the every day challenges of life and how it has shaped my personality, my relations and my career.

Now grab your favorite drink and let’s unwind this episode of Your Curated Kin.

Welcome to the second episode of Your Curated Kin. Thank you for showing up and tunning in.

A couple of weeks ago my younger son, Robert Amin, who is about to turn 8 very soon, said something at our dinner which really impressed me. I had to get off my chair and go to his side of the table, kneel in front of his chair and hug him very tightly. We were talking about his biological father whom he has never met. Robert turned to my partner, Remko and said, you are my father because you are the one whom I meet every day and I can connect with.

What Robert said, is very simple, pretty straight forward and logical. The people we meet and interact with on daily basis build our community and our families. The blood-relations, the ethnic or religious backgrounds, are not the integral elements of our relations; the connections and the relations we make with each other are at the core of our Verbinding, which is the Dutch term for interconnectedness.

This is at the core of these podcast series. We may not be related to each other but we can definitely be connected each other and Verbonden.

For about 4 years, I was a single mother – I have no blood-related family in the Netherlands or anywhere in Europe; I was lucky enough to have my mother in the Netherlands when my second son was born. She looked after my older son for the first week as I had to stay at the hospital for a while due to some complications. When her visa ended and she left, it was me and my two sons on our own.

It was overwhelming, it was actually quite overwhelming. I thought to myself, I cannot be the first woman raising two kids on her own, away from her family; so I literally googled: “how to be a single mother away from home?” And there it was: tons of stories and articles written by women for women. I think that evening I did not sleep at all and in between nursing my little baby and caring for my older son, I read tens of articles.

What amazed me the most was that there was one advice repeated over and over and on top of every list. And that was building a network. A network of friends, neighbors and even colleagues who can help you and support you not just in time of need but also on regular basis. It made it clear to me that this – being a mother – is not a task or function that one can do on her own; and the first step is to realize and then accept that I need the help and support of others. This meant that I needed to ask others for their help and support.

Asking for help is not easy – at least at the beginning. For me, there was a lot of guilt associated with asking for help, because I felt guilty for being or becoming a single mother. I also felt that I have already failed in my life as a parent for not being able to provide what is considered as a “norm” in family constructs. And on top of that, I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed because I had failed in my relationship with the biological father of my children. And all these negative feelings, which were only feelings and not facts, prevented me from asking for help because I thought if I ask for help it confirms all those negative feelings. Yet, it did not take too long to take a different course of action, because the reality hits: it was not humanly possible for me to raise two small children all by myself, and I had to ask for help. And that was the start of a long journey for curating my kin in the Netherlands.

Are you familiar with CEDAW? CEDAW stands for Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discriminations Against Women. This United Nations convention was adopted by General Assembly in December 1979. It entered into force as an international treaty on 3 September 1981 after the twentieth country had ratified it, and this year, 2021, marks its 40th anniversary. I wrote my master thesis on status of CEDAW in Iran, my country of birth – this is a whole story on its own.

Aside from civil rights issues, the Convention devotes major attention to a most vital concern of women, namely their reproductive rights. The preamble sets the tone by stating that “the role of women in procreation should not be a basis for discrimination”.

The article 5 of this convention advocates for ”a proper understanding of maternity as a social function”, demanding fully shared responsibility for child-rearing by both sexes. I believe this is an element of this convention that has been ignored among women: maternity as a social function.

If we – the women – look at our roles as mothers more from a functional and social perspective then navigating ourselves and our roles would be a lot different and I believe much easier. We are playing a social function and not just a personal or natural or constructed one. We also have an easier time, much easier time, asking for help from each other and from the rest of the society.

I believe, if we further focus, internalize and advocate for maternity and by extension paternity – parenthood in whatever shape or form – as a social function, we are many steps closer to achieving gender equality and closing the gap. As a social function, parenthood has to be compensated fairly by the government, and through this approach, I believe, we provide a true freedom of choice to parents who decide to stay at home – full time or part time – to look after their children. We also provide equal opportunity for both men and women to function in the society as they fit for themselves without any stigma regardless of their choices.

Looking at parenthood as a social function enables the whole community to be each other’s safety net and back each other up not the time of need but on regular basis. This way, we make it easier for each other to ask for help and be each other’s network. No parent – single or otherwise – should ever feel guilty; no parent should ever feel that they have failed and no parent should ever feel ashamed when asking for help. We all are merely fulfilling our social functions to the best of our abilities and should have each other’s support. As the saying goes: It takes a village to raise a child – let’s be each other’s village. Let’s be each other’s community.

What was the aha moment of this episode for you?

Did you hear about something that resonated with you and your life?

I hope you felt connected with another human being who has experienced similar challenges to yours. I also hope you have some more head and heart space to absorb more from what life has to offer.

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Until the next unwinding – bedrood.