Parents of all cultures hope that their children will take care of them as they age, but Asian families – specifically Chinese families like mine, do it a little differently.
You might have heard of ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ (SAT), where Asians share memes, jokes, and discussions surrounding their Asian experience.
Members of the group have also shared their sentiments about Asian parenthood, such as an obsession with rice cookers.
There were also those which talked about stereotypical Asian parenting styles that seem common and normalized, such as guilt-tripping, but are actually toxic parenting according to some.
Now, they are also addressing the elephant in the room – the financial expectations.
Many think that our future generations are not our retirement investments. Here’s why.
The economy is bad as it is, and there are no signs of it getting any better.
We’ve heard stories of nasi lemak priced at 5 cents in our parents’ younger days. “They had it easier economically,” we often said when we heard the stories; our future generations are likely to say that about ours.
I work a full-time nine-to-five job, freelance most other hours of my week, and still barely have enough to make ends meet. I can’t picture myself having a child because I don’t think I can afford them, or provide a viable future for them.
How can I help my parents or my hypothetical children financially, when I can barely help myself?
Even if I do change my mind one day and pop a few kids, I firmly believe that they should be working for their future. Let them visit and take care of me when I’m older if they want to, but I won’t ask them to.
I know the pressure of just having decent financials to get through, so until things start getting better, I don’t want to impose the pressure and struggle on anyone else; especially not my own blood.
Financial love is not genuine love.
When our parents meet up with other relatives, they often say things along these lines:.
“Ah girl, study well okay? When you graduate you’ll find a good job and high salary. By then you can repay me with a nice car and big house. I’ll be the happiest mom ever!”
We have been conditioned to think that we need to provide them with finances and luxurious goods once we move out and start working.
We feel pressured to follow the deep-rooted traditions, and we get side-eyed if we don’t. The aunties start talking, and soon your mom will be wondering where she went wrong raising you.
For God’s sake, I heard of families who sneer and spit at their own kids for not being able to fund their shopping or dining habits! How can they call themselves a family?
The financial side of filial piety should be done out of our own will, not because we feel forced to commit to it. Give away your finances under pressure often enough, and you’ll replace the genuine love and care that you had for them with stress and disdain.
Worse still, your parents would start seeming more like a liability than a filial responsibility.
I want my children to see me as family, not a financial drain. I’ll be their support as they will be mine where it’s needed.
No pressure, no cash funds or credit cards required.
The Asian parenting mindset has been drilled to us since we were kids.
“Study hard. Get straight A’s. Get scholarships. Become a doctor / lawyer/ engineer (or anything else in the Science field).”
It’s understandable. In our parents’ times these jobs were truly prestigious and they paid plenty. Job opportunities were good as long as you graduate from the course.
What they failed to understand is that the situation has changed.
I’m one of the many wanted to learn arts but went for biological sciences under my parents’ pressure. Upon graduation, I found that my options were limited – further my studies and teach in a university, do more research, or be a lab technician somewhere underground in hospitals.
Long hours, low wages and poor support are all the jobs provide.
I have peers who continued working within their industry and are expected to support their parents financially the moment they start working. Lab technicians with a degree can only earn RM2000 for starter in most places, and they’re expected to help pay their parents’ mortgage by contributing RM1000 each month.
Said parents would also want their child to stay with the terrible working conditions, simply “because medical jobs are prestigious”.
It didn’t matter that it’s a lab tech job and not anything surgery-related; It’s science, so just stay in the lab, suck it up and hand us the money.
Let’s just say that I ended up working as a digital marketer. Enough said.
I did learn from this academic ordeal, of course. If I have kids one day, I think I’d focus less on academic grades and ‘prestigious jobs’.
I’d focus more on self-care, mental health and my children’s well-being more than their job designations and salary figures.
Their time would be one for more empathy for people around them, civic-mindedness, and learning to handle and express difficult emotions.
Spending to ‘save face’ shouldn’t even be a thing to start with.
I’ll be happy to fetch my parents to the clinics, cook meals and take care of them whenever they need it. I’ll visit them and treat them to a nice meal outside every other week. If they’re struggling financially, I’ll do what I can to help.
However, I’m not okay with giving them half my wages because I’m obligated to do so, or fight to pay for the entire extended family’s Chinese New Year meals to ‘save my parents’ face’ when my bank balance is fast approaching zero.
How can they say that they want the best for my future while asking me to spend like I’m a millionaire every time we meet?
Spending those money did not make me feel proud or prestigious. On the contrary, it conditioned me to dread meeting my extended family because I have associated family meetings with financial crises.
I will do what I can to take care of my parents, but I am not obligated to give them the resources that I will need to strive.
To be fair to Asian parents, this is the only way they know how to show love.
Imagine growing up in the 60s and 70s, having lived through a time of intense economic change in Malaysia. Having to scrimp and save to survive, their mindset is very practical (or materialistic, depending on who you ask).
What way of showing love could be more practical than by giving and receiving money in their times?
When our parents choose to uphold traditions by following what their parents did and told them about, they end up imposing it onto us too. It isn’t their fault really – Our traditions been that way for generations after all.
Nevertheless, times have changed. Now, millennials need a longer time to find their footing in the volatile job market, and it is harder to find a balance between providing for their families and themselves.
Maybe it’s time for us to show them love in different ways.
It’s not going to be easy, but we can probably bridge the gap between our paychecks and our parents’ high expectations by showing them love in other ways that we can.
I know my own mother would be less tensed when I verbally assure her that I’ll take care of her as they age. It does seem like most Asian parents worry about being sent to the old folks’ homes when they get old, so assurances like this would help.
I’d also help my parents around the house and video call her every night since I’m working across the state. Once in a while when they tell me about their medical concerns, I’d also pay for their medical bills!
What do you think? Are children unfilial if they don’t take care of their parents in their old age? Let us know in the comments!
For more stories about familial relationships, read I Used to Hate Having Strict Parents, Here’s Why I Appreciated Them as I Grew Older and You Shouldn’t Lend Money to Friends and Family, and Here’s Why.