The organised chaos

The good Asian girl

I was brought up in a fairly traditional Chinese family. All my life, I never had much problem with it. Perhaps it’s because I was young and I hardly questioned my mother’s authority. Maybe it’s because I accepted it as a way of life. But as an adult, I find myself feeling increasingly restricted, resentful and unhappy about the societal chains and expectations that bind me.

It doesn’t matter that throughout my life, I did all the right things. The good things. I never strayed from the obvious road: study hard in school, go to university, get a degree, get a job, support the family, get married, have children. I had good grades without going for tuition, went to good schools and received a college education. I don’t smoke, never took drugs and didn’t fool around with boys.

By the time I was 19, I was financially independent. I never took a single cent from my mother from then on, and took on the debt of my college education myself. I supported my mother financially from the day I got my first paycheck. Husband and I got married and bought a house without financial contribution from our parents. I was a good kid. I am a good kid.

But these do not matter. Now, I have to be the good, dutiful daughter-in-law because it would cast doubt on my upbringing if my mother-in-law finds fault with me. Never mind that I am polite to a fault and always greet my husband’s parents with respect. Never mind that the issues husband and I are facing are personal – I must respect the parent-son relationship and tell my in-laws our problems because I am part of their family now. Never mind that I attend all family functions and that both husband and I do a whole lot more for his parents than his brothers do.

And no, I am not a good daughter because my mother-in-law thinks that I avoid going back for dinner (not true); because she thinks that I have not assimilated well into their family (true to a certain sense – but it’s only because husband himself isn’t close to his siblings and we are all operating on different wavelengths and dialects); because our laundry doesn’t smell nice and our fridge is less than clean; because we have two feline babies but no human ones; because I am too thin to bear my husband a child (the right response to this is: what the fuck?)

It makes me wonder, why the hell did I try so hard to be a good daughter all my life? Are all that I have ever achieved not enough, especially given circumstances? What else to I have to do: produce a baby just because my mother-in-law desperately yearns for a grandchild? More importantly, why are there so many expectations set for me and when can I live for me?

I hate these feelings of entrapment and guilt, and the implicit accusation that I am not a good Asian girl if I do not do as my elders say and feel. I respect them as elders but it does not mean that I agree with everything they say or that I will do exactly as they say.

Call me ungrateful but I am a 29-year-old woman who wants to lead her own life. I’m tired of trying to do the right thing and now I just want to do my thing.

7 thoughts on “The good Asian girl”

  1. I totally relate to this post! There is joy in doing some of these things that we’ve always been doing, but yes there are days I wonder if I’m doing things for everyone else but me.


  2. Hey there, there are such horrible MILs out there, who will always have something to comment about, no matter how good you are. And most of them behaves this way, because they went through the same thing when they were at this stage. It is a vicious cycle, which a lot of them fails to break out from, coupled with their traditional mindsets. The thing to remember is that you are not alone or wrong in your thinking. It is your life and no one is entitled to tell you how to live it. So continue to be nice to your in-laws, but don’t stretch beyond it especially if it compromises with your ideals/ goals. You don’t need to get their stamps of approval if they possess such shallow mindsets.


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