Same, Same but Different

Guest post by Silk Chen.

I recently read “Big Little Lies,” by Liane Moriarty, which explored some interesting and sticky parenting issues. Overall, it’s one of those books that made me angry and indignant on behalf of the three main characters, Madeleine, Celeste and Jane.

I couldn’t put it down.

What stayed in my mind afterwards is the way Madeleine satirised some of the mothers at their children’s kindergarten. In particular, she ridiculed, ‘The Blonde Bobs.’ She describes these women as ‘fundamentalist mothers,’ who sort of regards motherhood as a new-age religion.

According to Madeline, these mothers did things like: chaired all the parent-teacher meetings, constantly killing germs with spray-and-swipe and read lengthy reports from the Department of Education.

I chuckled along with Madeline, thinking I don’t fall into this or any of the other stereotypes she mentioned.

Yet when I thought about it some more, I gasped.

I may not fit any of the descriptions Madeline cited, but that did not mean I wasn’t a stereotypical Chinese mother. In fact, I’ve already committed many of the parenting offences that I swore to avoid so that I won’t end up like my mother.

Here is a list of some of the beliefs that betray me as a typical Chinese mother:

  • I’m delighted that my baby girl is as fair as tofu because the Chinese consider it as a sign of beauty, and a pretty girl has a much better chance in attracting a successful husband who would provide for her family and allow her to be a lady of leisure.

In fact, according to a Chinese proverb, fair-skin is so desirable that this single trait could excuse/hide up to three other imperfections in a woman’s face.

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  • I’m worried about my 3 year old son’s interest in music and acting since he must grow up to be the sort of established man who nice girls ought to marry. We all know that a job in the arts doesn’t pay the bills…right?

  • During a conversation about schooling, my husband (who is Croatian) thinks getting a ‘C’ in any subject is okay, as long as our kids tried their best. I scoffed and declared that a ‘B+’ is barely satisfactory, except if it is a grade for Physical Education, Art or one of those fun but trifling subjects.

I could go on, but it’ll just be more of the same. I know, I know these beliefs and attitudes are not only politically incorrect and unhealthy, but most likely damaging for my children’s psyche. So I try my best to keep them hidden from my son and daughter.

I even try to change my point-of-view, desperately wanting to get rid of these old-fashioned ideas that my parents have embedded in me.

But it’s a daily struggle. The scary truth is that most of us will probably turn out to be a lot like our parents. What do you think?

Silk Chen is a aspiring writer of stories set in exotic Chinese locations in Old China and aboard. She loves historical dramas, beautiful clothes, needlework and desserts.

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