Cutting the Family Ties

I recently answered a question about the trade-offs of living at home vs. buying an apartment. A 20-something woman who moved here from Eastern Europe brought the question up again through the lens of “what happens when your parents and family don’t want you to move out?” Independence is in many ways a core value of American culture while nurturing the family ties is a strong trait of assimilating cultures. How do you manage having a foot in both worlds? Here are a few women’s point of view.

Q. Dear 40-somethings,

I am 21 and from an Eastern/Balkan European background. My family moved to the U.S. 11 years ago, and have not shaken out of the traditions. I live at home while  still in college but I’m not encouraged to move out at all.  Financially this has served me well but I’ve reached a point where I’d like to move out. I have some questions about whether to buy or rent, save or spend but the real issue is my family. I get a lot of freedom compared to women in my culture  but they worry too much that it’s not good for me to go out, to have so many friends, to not have a boyfriend (which they are picky about), to go traveling. There’s this assumption that I bring the family together, and that I need to focus on family first, and then friends. Because they won’t be there forever. I have two brothers as well but I can’t talk to them about this as they think I am wrong.

What is some advice from preferably foreign 40-somethings on this topic? It is difficult to relate to Americans about it, especially because it is part of the culture to move out young. Almost anywhere around the world I feel like it is more common to stay at home.

A. The answer today is in point counter point format from two 40-something women. Please weigh in if you are 40-something and have some relevant advice!

Stay at Home

I was born overseas, but have lived in this country since I was 6 years old. Unfortunately, my parents never changed their ways no matter how long we lived in this country. They held on to their way of life from the old country and tried to force us to do the same, even through we were living in this country for the majority of our lives. So, I can relate to your dilemma.

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself; first, are your parents treating you differently than your brothers? Meaning, do your brothers have different set of rules than you? Are you parents concerned about you moving out and hanging with friends because you are a female and will ruin the family name? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, than it’s probably best for you to stay at home and save money. If your parents are not bothering you or treating you differently because you are a female than be smart and take advantage of their help. If your parents are supportive then I see no reason for you to move out. Continue to live with your parents, continue to save money, and once you feel you are 110% ready to move on your own, then you will know it.

Now, if your parents are NOT supportive and they DO treat you differently because you are a female, then my advice to you is move out. You don’t want them from holding you back from your career goals. If this is the situation that you are experiencing and you are ready to move out, I would also suggest that you find a roommate. I say this so you can still save money and not waste all your money on rent. It’s very expensive to live alone. 🙂

Move Out

“I  would absolutely recommend moving out because one of the beauties of this culture is the notion of being able to stand on your own feet and being independent. And creating that environment for yourself. That is critical. If you are going to grow up here…if you are going to live here you need to be able to do that. The moving out and breaking that chain I would recommend but not to the extent that you actually completely break the ties. I think there is a way actually to actually marry the both.

I moved here from Iran when I was 10. My parents and had this  dance between the traditional culture of Iran and how they were raised and how I was being raised here as a teenager . It was constant push and pull. Spending time with family was always a premium.  There’s a lot of benefit to having a family that is that close, even intense.  It’s like your backbone.

You can nourish and feed it without sacrificing the other element. What you can do is really take the best of both worlds and create a new entity. You don’t have to reject your old culture you are just expanding it.  I still go at least one weekend a month to visit my parents. And I bridge the gap. There is the whole community of Iranian people that I grew up with…that are my friends to this day that are a part of me. Then I have friends  met in college and friends I met in NY after college and work friends. So you really create a 3rd identity that picks from all different sides. And it actually becomes an asset…you have a perspective and foundation that a lot of other people don’t have because that family is so strong. I have never felt alone or that someone didn’t have my back and that is because that roof of that family structure that covers every aspect of your life.

In many ways it’s great and in many ways it’s intrusive. You never feel alone in anything you do but at the same time you are in a culture that really reveres your independence and ability to make decisions so if you can mitigate both you do end up with the best of both worlds.

Of course…there are times when they make me feel guilty. Personality matters. I have a personality where I can have very open discussions with my parents and say…”okay I get it, I know this is what you want. But this is not what I want. It’s not always a simple conversation. We go back and forth on it. But it goes back to communication. The more you share and let someone see your perspective the more likely they are to have empathy to you situation. Who more than your parents and siblings want the best for you.?  In the end, be true to who you are. Listen to your gut…don’t sacrifice who you are and who you want to be but embrace all the things that made you who you are.”

on Twitter

on Facebook

on Google+