Family is one of the essential components in my life. I was bounded by my family tradition and expectations. I don’t know how others define dys/functional family but for me it was a reality, just the way it is, and that was where I feel that I belonged to.
Traditional family structure of my ethnicity, we have a big families. Many siblings, all lived together under the same roof until marriage. Whilst girls will be married out of the family, meaning married into another family, boys are the belonging of the family who have obligations to look after parents, in particular the eldest son. Therefore, boys were seen as more important than girls and parents will do anything to raise successful boys.
My parents’ families were like this. As the eldest son of the family, my father was given an opportunity to study abroad. He was married to my mum then so after a year of studying abroad, he tried his best to bring the family together, living abroad in another country. Although my mum didn’t speak that language, she supported such decision to live as a family unit.
As a side, later in life, my mum told me that she nearly lost my brother, who was the only grandson to my grandparents. My grandparents refused to release my brother to be with my family in another country.
From big family structure, my parents have chosen to be a nuclear family in a new country. I wouldn’t say upbringing was easy because loosing that social network of helping hands. However, I will leave my family journey to another occasion.
For many years, I viewed families are extension of friendship. At the end of the day, we are individual human being and still challenging to understand what others are thinking. We are family because we happened to stay in the same household and share portion of same blood. That was my view.
Probably, following quote resonate with me.
Family isn’t always blood.
It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs;
the ones you accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.Maya Angelou
When I look back now, my parents tried their best to keep us together. They tried everything to provide us with ‘normal’ family. We had good times and bad times. Only recently, I started to question whether it was ‘normal’.
When we only evaluate their behaviour, they love us (children) so much but didn’t know how to appropriately express it. I can see now that no one was able to model to them an appropriate expression of love.
As other parents do, they had expectations, hopes, and wishes for us but they didn’t know how to allow ourselves to be. I can see now that for them being different was not acceptable. They tried their best to allow ourselves to express freely but it was too risky and fearful. So, to put us back on track, they could only suppressed our feelings and emotions. It was a survival mechanism in a new country.
Eventually, years later, I felt that family becomes a leash that chained me to the family. It wasn’t a choice, it was a forced decision. Similar to my parents, I was fearful to unleash it myself. I was scared to not belong to this family unit anymore. I was threaten to serve the family, bounded by family. I tried to explain my feelings to my parents. They tried to listen and take in but nothing changed. It continued to be it was.
I’ve moved out of my parents’ house. Still, I am leashed to the family. Only recently, I decided to free myself from family chains. It wasn’t a nice experience. It wasn’t easy either. It was a painful and heartbreaking experience. Obviously parents didn’t understand and got frustrated with me. They have distanced from me. They put the label on me that I am not their “good daughter” any more. Mum said that I am disrespecting her and I am disgrace to the family.
Unleashing myself from family, in particular parents, actually freed my life. I feel more grounded and standing tall. I have learnt strategies to not taking in/wear unnecessary responsibilities and being useful to others. I have learnt not to give into guiltiness when I am unable to help my parents. I finally standing as a sole human being.
In my perspective, family is a unit where I choose to belong to.
It is a place where I can be true to myself, interacting with people of my choice.
It is a place where I respect and treat each individual as equal human being.
It is a place where I can establish adult-to-adult relationship.
It is a place where I know I can freely express my feelings without judgement.
It is a place where I treasure every moment I spend with them.
It is a place where I will smile all the time.
It is a place where I recharge myself.
It is a place where I will protect with everything I have.
What do you treasure in the family?
What qualities do you seek in your family?