Things Our Parents Want For Us That We Don’t Want

Members of the Editorial Board set off to find out just how far the gap between our immigrant parents’ expectations for our lives and our own expectations are. Here’s what we found.

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Members of the Editorial Board set off to find out just how far the gap between our immigrant parents’ expectations for our lives and our own expectations are. Here’s what we found.

Laurent Doan, sophomore

My mom is really opposed to the whole idea of the assistant part of it. I mentioned it to her, and she immediately said, “Why assistant?” She wants me to be a physician, not a physician's assistant. In a general sense, the concept of me wanting to go into the medical field...is in line with what my parents want, but they want more of me. They always want the highest possible place that I can go to, even though I’m not sure I can reach that place.

Jasmine Xiao, sophomore

J: My mom wants me to be an accountant, but I don’t want to because accounting is boring.

Q: Why does she want you to be an accountant?

J: My dad is an accountant, and he makes a lot of money.

Q: If you were to be something other than an accountant, would she support you otherwise?

J: She’d be disappointed in me.

Q: Because you didn’t choose the path she wanted you to and you are happy?

J: Because I didn’t choose the path that she wants. She’s uneducated, too, so...

Q: How does it feel for your mother to impose, or to suggest, a possible future dream for you when you’re so conflicted?

J: It puts a lot of pressure on me. I just remembered: maybe I’ll be a world history teacher, maybe at Stuyvesant, like Dr. Berman. I like his class. But [my mother] and my grandpa were both like “You should teach something like chemistry or physics.”

Q: So other than humanities, do something STEM-related?

J: Yes, because that makes money, even though my grandpa was a teacher for humanities.

Samantha Lei, sophomore

Q: How much do you think your parents have had an influence on what you are and what you’ve done?

A: I used to think it was so unreasonable that my parents made me go to sleep at 10:30 p.m., like how would I survive in junior year? But I realized that it was necessary, in a way, because I see a lot of kids in Stuy who don’t sleep, and they crash all the time. And they’ve agreed to give me some leeway in junior year, so overall, I think it’s a good thing.

Moududur Rahman, sophomore

At least from my perspective, my parents definitely make me do unreasonable things. Occasionally, they will suddenly become interested in something and force it on me. For example, they went through a phase in which they tried to force me to learn how to cook. Sometimes they are even more forceful, making me sign up for a program for writing speeches in Bengali, which I absolutely despised. However, I don't feel that they are completely unreasonable. I believe they have changed their expectations of me since middle school. I really appreciate that they seem to have gone from wanting a son with a 4.0 GPA to one who's a balanced human being.

Anonymous, sophomore

My parents want me to have kids in the future, but I don’t want kids. I want a very successful career and kids can get in my way.

Alex Lin, sophomore

My parents don’t think that art is something I should pursue, but it’s not something I would seriously have a career in. I like to do it as a hobby, but even as a hobby, my parents think that it’s a waste of time.

Sharon Zou, sophomore

Recently, my mom really wants me to become a computer scientist because she thinks that girls will earn a lot of money that way, and she also thinks that I don’t have to go to school for a long time. But ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and now she’s telling me to be a computer science major and I don’t know what to do.

Anonymous, sophomore

Q: Can you tell me about your parents?

A: They’re super nice, but they’re kind of overbearing at times. They want me to keep my grades above 97 on every assignment, which is hard to do for anyone. This is especially because I’m trying to balance volunteer applications, helping my siblings with their work, and going to my extracurriculars after school. It’s definitely hard to manage.

Q: Do they care about extracurriculars?

A: They do, but they care about grades a lot more. That’s like the number one thing that should be prioritized in their minds, so it gets difficult when I want to stay after school, and they say I have to study, but I think both academics and extracurriculars are equally important. It’s certainly difficult to keep everyone happy.

Q: Is there anything they want for you that you don’t want?

A: What they want for me in terms of grades is really hard to achieve for anyone, but they believe it’s achievable. They don’t understand the amount of pressure that puts on me sometimes, especially because my personality is much more carefree than they want it to be. I often just filter out what they say. They’re okay with me being passionate about out-of-school activities, but they voice their opinions on my grades often and make it known what they think. But at the same time, they don’t stop me from following my passions. They aren’t coercive ever, but have very strong opinions on what they want me to know.

Q: Are you guys emotionally close?

A: I’m close with them, but not extremely, emotionally close. I will often talk to them about funny things that happen, but sometimes I keep how I am really feeling to myself or tell my brother because we’re close in age.

Taylor Choi, junior

Q: How is your relationship with your parents?

A: My relationship with my parents is weird. My parents and I have never been very “close,” in that we don’t really talk about personal things, with much more focus on schoolwork, friends, and extracurriculars. Lately, with my busy schedule, I sometimes don’t talk to my parents for whole days. Asian parents typically are more reserved than most parents, so I don’t expect them to directly tell me they love me, though I know they show it in other ways. In my case, my mom always makes sure to take care of me and my two sisters, and my dad provides for us not necessarily by “talking,” but always making sure we can afford to do the things we want.

Q: What do your parents want for you that you don’t want?

A: It’s hard to answer this question when I don’t even really know what I want for myself. My mom used to be super strict about grades and college, but has grown more lenient over the years, probably because of me and my sister’s incessant breaking down of her strictness over the years. All she wants for us now, after all 3 of us getting into specialized high schools after Mark Twain, is to go to a decent, affordable college, and pursue something that will support us in the future. Of course, like any Asian parent, this should be a STEM field, ideally a doctor, lawyer, or pharmacist. My sisters and I do want to go into the STEM field, though not necessarily those professions, but, my mom is okay with it. My dad, on the other hand, really wants us to get accepted into an Ivy college. I personally do want an Ivy education, but not the price tag attached. My dad would take out loans for me to go to an Ivy if I were to be accepted. My sister got into Cornell [with] very limited financial aid that would’ve cost $50k a year to attend. My dad was willing to pay it off, but I don’t think he considers the cost of 3 kids going to college, on top of the very little we already have.

Q: How has this impacted your relationship with them?

A: Regarding college, I appreciate how my mom realizes the financial limitations of our family and also respects our wishes in our college decisions. But I hate my dad for not even trying to understand what we want. Because our dad is generally quiet and doesn’t talk to us that much, he holds unrealistic expectations for us because he hasn’t taken the time to get to know us. I know that this is also our fault for not trying to improve the relationship ourselves, but cultural limitations play a role. He also justifies his actions, like basically forcing my sister to go to Cornell because it’s in her best interest, as just parents knowing best. So, the relationship has become even rockier than it had been before.

Q: What do YOU want?

A: Like I stated before, I don’t really know what I want. Because of my Chinese upbringing, I have been pursuing STEM, and so everything I do has become oriented around it. On the side, I do have a talent and hobby for art, but I never think that I will eventually make a career out of it, nor do I want to. For now, I’m thinking I will do something related to chemistry in my life, mostly because it seems like the best option for me right now, thanks O’Malley and AP Chem. I feel like my choices are guided by wherever life takes me, and if I don’t hate it, then I’ll probably do it. While I admit that I don’t LOVE chemistry, I also don’t hate it, so that’s what I’m going to do. In regards to college, I would like to go to Cornell, although the situation looks bleak after my sister’s situation. But I also know that I would rather afford my college education than go to my dream school with a huge debt looming over me, so I would be fine going to any place that offers a quality education and substantial financial aid.

Junior, anonymous

Q: How is your relationship with your parents?

A: I’m really close with my mom and my dad is your stereotypical laid-back father who’ll do anything you ask and will keep quiet about things you do. My mom and I talk about really personal things and she gossips about her friends to me, and I tell her a lot of things that’s going around in school. I feel comfortable talking to her about girls and my mom feels comfortable talking about puberty and all these teenager things. The thing is, Asian culture treats love as a taboo thing, but that doesn’t stop us from talking about girls.

Q: What do your parents want for you that you don’t want?

A: My mom has lately been getting flustered over SAT and grades because of college, duh. The thing is she says that she wants a high SAT score and that she’ll be fine if I show effort but don’t get the grade I want. But I know that’s not true, let’s be real here. It’s not that I don’t want it, it’s just that it’s something I’m not focused on like 110 percent. Honestly, because my mom and I are close, we don’t really have any disagreements on what I see my life to be as. I’ve been wanting to become a doctor since I was a kid and that’s the direction she wants me to go in. If anything, we might have some disagreements on my style. She might think that I look good with a certain shirt or something, but I’ll look at it in disgust and tell her that it’s ugly.

Q: How has this impacted your relationship with them?

A: Aside from also being a tiger mom, I love my mom with all my heart. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I do. If we fight over anything, we’ll slowly but surely become BFFs again. We’re so alike that we have the same tastes for food and clothing.

Q: What do YOU want?

A: I want to be rich! Just kidding, I honestly don’t know what I want. Do I want to live in a city, a suburban neighborhood, in a place where I can have a whole field right before my eyes? I don’t know. What i want is to live comfortably with no worries and to look forward to the next new day, unlike this wretched student life I’m living right now. I want to have a job knowing that I’m helping people, even if that sounds cliche.

Junior, anonymous

Q: How has what you wanted for yourself differed from what your parents wanted for you?

A: I want to be a doctor, but my parents don't want me to be a doctor because they say that it's gonna take too long, and they just don't want me to be in school for that long.

Q: Do you think there’s any other reason as to why they wouldn’t want you to become a doctor?

A: Yeah, well, there's this whole stigma about, like, marriage and stuff. And they're like, “Oh if you become a doctor, you're gonna be in school for so long, and you're not gonna find anyone to marry, and then you're gonna be too old, and then you're never gonna get married.” So, that's part of it.

Q: Have other people in your family influenced your parents’ views on this?

A: So, all the guys in my family are doctors, but all the girls are pharmacists or PAs and stuff like that, so my parents want me to follow that kind of route, but I don’t want to do that.

Q: Have they directly affected your decisions in any way or prevented you from doing things that pertain to the career path of a doctor?

A: No, not really, because most of the programs for PAs and other jobs in the medical field generally follow the same path, but they’re encouraging me to apply to more dentistry programs and stuff like that rather than a doctor program.

Q: Do you think your parents would forcibly make you major in something else?

A: I don’t think they would forcibly make me major in something else because they already know I really want to do it, so worst case scenario, they’re gonna try to really push me to apply to some schools. They’re probably gonna make me apply just to see if I get in or something like that, but I don’t they’d forcibly make me not go to a certain program or a certain school.

Q: Are there outside influences as well? Are your relatives also gearing you toward a different path?

A: Some of my relatives are, but like I said before, most of my family is in the medical field, and as the newer generations come along, some of my younger cousins are on the doctor path, so I think it’s kind of changing.

Junior, anonymous

Q: What do your parents want for you that you don’t want for yourself?

A: So in a lot of cases, my mom veers from the norm and she’s told me she values my happiness, so when it comes to college, it comes down to my aspirations and my choices. But in other aspects, she is extremely traditional and close-minded. [With] clothes, for example, she really just wants me to wear clothes made for women and clothes that will cover me. And sometimes, I fear that this exposure to these thoughts that she feeds to me all the time has transformed me and my personal identity or thoughts. As for bearing children, I really am against that idea. When I brought it up to her this one time, she played it off as a joke because, I don’t know, she just thinks that it’s so obvious for a girl or a woman to want to do these things. She thinks that it’s just natural for a woman to have children and carry on that tradition. And as for homosexuality, this one frustrates me the most. She doesn’t even like speaking of the idea. I don’t even get the chance to experiment or know for myself who I am, and it’s frustrating because we’re living in 2018 and in New York. She just glares at me when I question her [about her questioning] my sexuality. For instance, this relates back to the clothes because I ask her why I can’t wear clothes that are gender-neutral or for men. They’re comfortable! And she just glares at me, and she starts to question whether or not I’m gay, and it’s just really frustrating.

Junior, anonymous

Q: Being half Korean and half Russian, how do those two cultures interact in your household?

A: We mostly follow the Russian culture and a bit of Uzbek culture because I was born there. The Korean is incorporated in the food though. My grandma cooks a lot of Korean dishes as well as Russian [dishes].

Q: How does your Russian culture dictate your parents’ expectations of you?

A: Russians put a lot of emphasis on family and community rather than individuality. The girl of the household has to do chores and help out around the house as well as keep up her grades. School is important, but they still put my home responsibilities and family relations above a lot of other things.

Q: To what extent does that conflict with your own goals and wants?

A: It conflicts to a huge extent sometimes. I understand I have responsibilities, but very often, they cut into my time and I end up losing a lot of sleep over seemingly unnecessary things. A lot of their beliefs I don’t believe in myself, so conflict often arises. Their emphasis is on family while mine is a bit more on individuality and my success. I want to go to a good college I will be happy in, but they only want me to apply to those close to where we live. They do not want me to leave the state they are in or move out of their house. It seems as if trust is lost because I don’t believe in the things they do. A big conflict is that they don’t understand my intentions and get mad when I don’t understand theirs. I want to be on a different path in life.

Q: What degree of awareness and respect do your parents have for these goals?

A: A lot of the time, not much. Russians usually tend to have a strict household. Lots of respect for the parents, and you have to follow every word they say even if you disagree or don’t seem to have the time. Often, there is disregard for the work I have because they want me to do what they want me to do. Maybe they are not aware of my other responsibilities because they did not grow up with the same values as I did. It is a little hard to find an agreement, but I’m often the one [who] has to give in and give up the things I want to do.