On Tuesday, 19 July:
We started with a bit of each person’s family background and why the topic appealed to everyone, and then let the conversation evolve. A broad spectrum of topics were discussed, and here we lay them into loosely defined categories along with takeaways:
On realities of growing up, aging and mortality:
For many Asian families, where 2 generations still live under one roof, family expectations are changed in a drastic way when issues like health, insurance, retirement etc become very real aspects that will be faced eventually. How do we prepare and deal with the realities of aging and mortality on a day to day basis?
What can parents expect when kids grow up and start to craft out their individuality and need “space” to become their own persons? Stereotypically, as children, it seems like our parents will never grow tired of “parenting” us, but it is observed that the way we express concern is also evolving, as relationships cross generations turn into something that resembles friendship, and the language we use to stay in touch is also changing with the proliferation of group chats on messaging platforms, where short message texting allows us to use less formal, and more colloquial expressions.
Parents with adult children are trending towards living their retirement lives in a meaningful, eventful manner to stay healthy mentally and physically. But some are lacking in social networks. A reminder for everyone to make an effort to stay in touch with social groups and maintain friendships!
On defining success
Adjusting expectations from parents who have a different interpretation of what defines success is one common topic that came up several times. While some are lucky enough to have parents who do not try to interfere on big decisions like what major to take in college and what career path we decide to go on, for families that set a high bar in academia, a constant negotiation comes into play when a deviation from the norm happens. In these cases, trying to understand where the expectations come from may help to bridge the gap.
The “making sure” of one’s happiness, success and fulfillment takes a journey to realise, and expectations usually come from the perception that certain tried-and-proven paths will guarantee that. Of course, nothing in life is guaranteed, and a dialogue on what counts as a “real” job is therefore necessary – for example, it may take a while for “digital advertising” to sink in as a respectable career as opposed to being in the legal, medical or engineering profession!
On how technology is changing dynamics within families
Access to information for the younger generation through technology is causing parenting and schooling to become more challenging as parents no longer play the role of having authority on imparting knowledge (when there’s Google for that). Is parenting transitioning into mentorship where children and parents can learn together, while the latter provides guidance on navigating this crazy world of click-baits and limitless content available in the palms of our hands?
Technology has also helped families stay in touch more frequently and differently, for both families that live apart and those who live together. Will we be able to express ourselves better when we have time to craft the language we use when replying a WhatsApp message, commenting on a Facebook post, or saying sorry through an well-thought out email, as opposed to having the white elephant in the room even as we have daily or weekly meals together?
It’s now also easier to say “I love you” in a family not outwardly affectionate, with a heart emoticon as an easy workaround. Sometimes, all we want is just to make sure our family members are ok, so what easier way than sending a quick text to let everyone know you’re safely home after a night out?
Finally, on that very pressing (or not) issue of marriage.
For singles, there were a few anecdotes on negotiating expectations and managing questioning, awkwardness and frustrations experienced with being unmarried (either by choice or by circumstances), including having frequent and honest conversations as well as using humour to ease tensions.
Expectations, either imposed by members from our families or from ourselves as a member of a family, mostly always come from love / care / concern. Some conversations may start out tough but if we have more honest communication with our families, we may help them understand how, and why expectations may need to be adjusted, redefined and met in the middle.
(Written by Amelie Tan)