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Getting real with my mum and aunties about Asian cultural expectations in relationships

19 Apr 2018

My mum is one of my closest friends, my biggest fan and a head full of my secrets. She has prided herself on being an open, young, westernised mum who would rather I be honest than hide stuff from her, which already is a step different in my culture.

I am lucky enough to be able to ask the hard questions and have the open honest discussions with my mum that a lot of other young Asian women don’t get whatever their reason or familial circumstances may be. I often think how blessed I am to live in such an open household where my mum is ready to hear things that many other Asian mums might not be able to handle.

“At the end of last year, I introduced my mum to the last boy I was seeing…so all of a sudden it felt a bit more serious”

I’ve grown up trying to avoid keeping secrets from my mum. This meant getting real with her about my relationships. It began with her meeting the one serious boyfriend I’ve had, but since it was when I was 15 years old, it barely counts. Ever since then it’s been showing her pictures of boys I liked, talking about dates and her telling me if she thought they were good enough. At the end of last year, I introduced my mum to the last boy I was seeing, the difference now being, I was 21 years old. So all of a sudden it felt a bit more serious.

“Get married young, have kids young and most of all don’t be picky”

Obviously, a relationship between a mum and daughter in my culture isn’t all compromise and acceptance. It also comes with some seriously hard conversations. On my mum’s 50th birthday I sat at a table with her and my aunties and we really pushed the ideas that we were told were right and wrong in terms of how my sister’s life and mine are meant to go in terms of our relationships.

All of them had experienced different versions of love and marriage from arranged marriage to marrying for love and at all different ages. The scope was broad and wide but the conclusions between them all seemed the same. Get married young, have kids young and most of all don’t be picky. But this is where we couldn’t compromise. In a modern world where dating and relationships are incredibly different from my mum’s and aunties’ time, we had to be honest. We weren’t going to settle, we wanted to feel the magic and all the grand things that young women should believe they deserve. Because in an age like this settling felt like selling out on who we are. Plus most of all, we wanted a career, we wanted to build something for ourselves to say it was ours, to prove that we could have it all.

“Calculations say that by 23 I should have found the one, been with them a few years, marry around 26 and then bam, at 30 comes the first kid”

Then came the age old question that generations of Asian women have heard, and that’s “When are you going to get married then?” When am I? I have no idea. Calculations say that by 23 I should have found the one, been with them a few years, marry around 26 and then bam, at 30 comes the first kid. But I’m turning 22, and frankly there have been little to no options for people I would want to spend my life with. I refuse to settle. My mum found this hard to believe, the main concern being I will be too old to look after my kids properly if I don’t get started straight away. So, is the concern with having kids or finding a husband? But it’s easy to say the pressure comes down hard and fast on the women in Asian culture rather than the men.

What we seemed to agree on is that, most women in Asian culture face the pressure of finding someone sooner rather than later. Men have it a bit easier, if they choose to marry later, there will be a younger Asian girl somewhere for them and they can just get on with it, have their career and their family. However, not in our case. If we choose to marry later then we become old and unwanted and this is a issue women in my culture have faced for generations. You become written off by men and their families once you’re a bit too old because maybe you chose to take on a career or not settle for anyone.

I guess being able to talk to my mum and aunties about marriage and kids, I respect them entirely and? understand where they’re coming from. They want us to have it all but understand the pressures we face within our culture. However, with that comes the explanation of a different time and society that me and my sister now live in. Where finding love is much harder, and your career comes first. If there is any advice I can give to young Asian women out there trying to find their way, start with your mum. Just tell her some of your truths, you’ll be surprised what advice she  gives and how much she  wants to hear about who you really are. Because at the end of the day, she’s your mum. And mums really and truly are the best of friends.