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.