The Experienced Mom
Three teenagers, one roof
I always planned to have three children and when I had the third, I knew that was enough. I was exhausted! I didn’t originally plan to have them so close together and it wasn’t easy having three children back-to-back, but I wanted them all born in France. Our children were born in Paris, but we’ve lived in the United States, the United Kingdom and now Beijing.
I would say that having teenagers in general is more difficult than any specific challenge of raising children in Beijing. It’s hard having teenagers no matter where you live. Children seem to have more freedom and purchasing power here than, say, in France. They can go here and there with 100 kuai. I don’t give my kids any more freedom than I would in any other country but I worry about this becoming a problem because their friends have more freedom. With teenagers, it’s important to pick your fights carefully and not to worry about the little things.
I think I was more relaxed and carefree before motherhood. I was very anxious with my first child; he was born prematurely, and I couldn’t even drive a car because I was scared of having an accident.
Motherhood is different from what I had expected, and I am a different sort of mother than I thought I would be. I’m not as fun as I imagined I would be because there is so much responsibility that comes with having children. You have to think about serious matters very early on like schools and saving for colleges. Education is something you can’t leave to chance. You need to plan for your kids and not give them too many choices – at the end of the day, they are still kids.
I am the third of seven children. My mum had five girls and two boys in 12 years, with the first three girls in three years. My siblings all live around Paris, but my parents returned to Algeria in northern Africa about 20 years ago. Having so many siblings is great. If one is not available, there is another to talk to. And I can always go home to my tribe in France. Perhaps if I’d had the courage of my mother, I would have had more of my own children. I don’t tend to ask my mother for advice. She is from a different generation. When I was young, she just had to look at us, and we knew what she meant. And I live in a different situation to my siblings. I think you move on with life much faster when you leave your country than if you had stayed. You grow differently. As told to Sonia Cahill.
French-Algerian Rezika Jalali is the mother of Mauni, 14 (not pictured), Shireen, 12, and Jasmin, 11.