We all are trying desperately to impress our parents and for most of us many of our pursuits throughout life are a bid to try and make Mummy and Daddy proud. You try to start dating the perfect guy or girl, you try to land that dream job, you try to live life in the best way you can and generally even long after you’ve left home or even after your parents have passed on. You’re always wondering what they would think and trying to live the way you know they would want you to.
However none of this is quite so difficult as when you find your parents directly disagree with one of your choices. Particularly if you’re living at home, but even if you’ve left home being strictly forbidden to live your life in the way you choose can be highly distressing. In some particularly strict cases and especially in certain cultures, you may even risk being ostracized from the family altogether.
Perhaps you want to date someone outside your culture? Or someone who just really doesn’t fit the mold for what your parents had in mind for you. Perhaps you plan on leaving your job to do something new and less financially stable. Maybe you want to move away somewhere. Maybe you want to invest all your money into a venture that they don’t have faith in. In any of these cases you can find yourself at loggerheads. So what do you do? Is it worth losing your family over? Is it worth upsetting those who gave birth to you? And how can you best go about trying to convince them, make them see sense?
The problem is that parents are inevitably always going to be more set in their ways and more traditional than their children. This is partly due to the generation gap – things become more liberal and more varied as the years go on and there is no longer one ‘set’ way of doing things. While your parents will likely have been raised quite strictly, you will have been raised to question and think outside the box, and the internet and more diverse schools will have exposed you to many more points of view. At the same time it’s simply a matter of age – that over time you formulate opinions and the longer you’ve held these for the harder it is to change them. And finally it’s because they’re worried about you – most parents genuinely want the best for their children and this means a happy marriage and stable job. They would rather not see you take the risk with something that might not go right, simply because they are so very concerned about your happiness. When you have a child, so it is said, you will understand.
Does this mean that your parents’ views are necessarily ‘wrong’ or without value? No it certainly doesn’t, because parents have many other advantages over their children when it comes to making decisions. For instance they have much more experience and have likely lived many of the decisions you find yourself making. They even share many of your genes and so they will think in very much a similar way. When they see you making certain decisions they often see themselves making the same mistakes they made or nearly made years ago, and this can be very infuriating if blinded by love or optimism you do not heed their advice.
Should You Listen?
So the question is, do you listen to them and call it off (whatever ‘it’ may be) or do you go ahead and live your own dreams and forge your own path.
The answer is in the vast majority of cases the latter. While it’s important to respect your parents’ decisions and advice, at the end of the day it is your own life and only you have all of the information regarding the situation and the way you feel. While they might have a lot of information and experience that they can use to inform their decision only you are inside your own head. Only you know how much it means to you. There are some cases where common sense and tradition have little bearing on what your heart wants and you know in that moment that to do anything else would be to surrender your happiness. If we were meant to live our lives exactly as our parents told us, then there would be no progression and no change. You would just be smaller versions of your parents. Likewise it is them who are forcing you to make this choice, they are forcing an ultimatum on you when you should be able to have both – the support of your parents and a career you love/partner you chose. It is actually their duty to support you in their decisions. If someone poses you an ultimatum that forces you to choose between two things you love – then it’s the person/persons who gave you the ultimatum that should go as otherwise they will only stand in your way again, and why should someone else or something else suffer for their stubbornness?
You do need to make sure that you take their advice very seriously. Try to work out if there is a concrete reason for their concerns. If it is just tradition then that’s an inflexible set of views that is often largely outdated. If it is just their own narrow vision then again you would be better enforcing your more open minded approach on them. However if they see something you don’t, then you may well be making a mistake.
See how they react when you talk about the situation. Are they being reasonable or are they completely rigid and inflexible? Are they explaining their viewpoint or just repeating it? If they’re giving you solid reasons then you need to do some thinking of your own, and you need to decide for yourself if there’s any truth behind their concerns. Finally you should ask other people. If everyone is telling you you’re making a mistake then it might just be time to sit up and take notice, but if everyone else is telling you that your parents are being unreasonable, then they probably are.
This then leaves you in a highly awkward situation – rejecting your parents’ wishes. For your whole life you have likely sought out their advice and done your best to appease them. You have settled into a relationship pattern where they instruct and you say yes or no. Now suddenly having to turn them down on an important issue will feel strange and wrong and will be jarring for everyone involved. It means stepping out on your own and becoming a man or a woman. If your parents are particularly strict, then it might well mean losing their guidance and support from here on in.
How you go about this is very important. It’s crucial first of all to recognize that your parents are only so strict and offering this advice because they care. They’re not there to make your life miserable and it probably upsets them as much as you that your views differ so drastically on this point. So don’t punish them, and don’t shout – even if they do.
Instead simply tell them calmly that you respect their advice but that this is a decision you feel too strongly about. Tell them that you hope they’ll choose to support you in this path and that you still need them. If they should refuse to speak with you, then make sure that you keep the lines of communication open with cards and letters and try to understand why they feel the way they do. It’s incredibly hard not to take this personally or let it damage you, but you must try to focus on the fact that this is merely a clash of cultures.