Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reconciling Cultural Differences

Yes, that is me when I was about 4 years old. So stinkin' cute, wasn't I? lol.

I rarely really talk about my home life because I'm notoriously private about it (as well as my relationships) but I've been wanting to write about this for a while.

As some of you may know, I'm Mexican-Spanish American... with just a smidge of Irish thrown in for good measure. (side note: if you didn't know, there's quite a large number of Irish Mexicans still living in Mexico to this day, especially in Durango where my paternal family is from.) Though I will admit that I identify myself as Catholic first and Mexican-Spanish-Irish American second, it's still obviously a big part of who I am. What I eat, how I act, what I say... it's all influenced by my heritage. For the record, what I write it based on how I was brought up and does not mean it's like this for everyone.

I raised with very traditional Mexican values. Family comes first. The eldest member of the family takes care of the parents as they age. Women typically stay with their parents until they marry. You obey your parents and you do not dare disrespect your elders. To this day, I still call those who are older than me "Mister", "Missus", "Sir", and "Ma'am"... and never by their first name (unless asked and even then it's weird for me to do so). Up until I was 19, I had to ask permission from my father to go out. Sacrifice for the family is second nature to us. The seven years and three battles with cancer that my father had, I helped take care of him. Minutes before my father passed away nearly three years ago (I can't believe how fast that's flown!), I promised him that I would take care of my mother. Because I am my mother's only child (she lost a son and daughter before I was born), it is my unspoken duty to take care of her. Since I am still unmarried, I obviously still live at home. Whatever income I have goes into helping pay for the bills and food. I have the traditional "house maker" duties since I'm currently studying and don't have a full-time job and because my mother does work... a lot. I don't mind. Lately though, I've been struggling with a couple of things regarding what is expected of me.

Without going into a lot of detail, I have been having trouble reconciling the American and Mexican parts of myself. I like living at home but sometimes I want my space... and I don't always get it. If you have a Hispanic mama, it's almost guaranteed that you will always be treated like you are still a young child. In our American culture, as soon as you are a teenager (or at least 18), you gain some independence. It's a little harder to do so when your parents are from a different culture. My mother grew up here in Los Angeles so she is a little less strict than my father was but still... what she says is law in this house.

As I head into my late twenties (next month... can I stop getting older now?) it's getting harder for me to be okay with certain things. Being kept track of when I'm out? Not a fan. Having moments where I am told not to do something because it's "too hard" for me... and thus making me feel like I'm being underestimated? Not a fan. Having "well, I'm your mother and I know what's best for you"... when you know it's actually not the best advice? Not a fan. Having my mother bring up the fact that I'm the age that I am and that I'm still unmarried and without children... on a daily basis? REALLY not a fan. Yes, this is also a typical Hispanic mama thing to do -- asking your grown children (especially daughters) when they'll settle down and make them grandmothers. On top of that, and bringing in the biggest part of myself (the Catholic side), I am trying to figure out what's worse - not doing what I am asked to do by my mother and thus disobeying a parent (i.e. lying - which I have an absolute hatred toward) or doing what I am asked knowing that what I get asked is a horrible sin.

Before anyone starts in about how I'm a grown woman and I should be making my own decisions without my mother's interference, blah blah blah... yes, I know that. But, unlike some of you, I've both grown up faster AND slower than the majority... and I've had two different cultures tell me different things at the same time. I didn't have much of a childhood in the sense that I've had to take care of my parents from a young age (since I was about 11 years old). I grew up quick that way. I taught myself how to cook and wash dishes when I was a little girl. I pulled my weight around the house because it was only the three of us until my father passed away. After my father passed away, I assumed some of his responsibilities. The Hispanic side is okay with this. Then we have the American side, which tells me that I should be more independent and that I have a "right" to have my own space since I contribute to this household. That is followed by the criticism by others that I am too dependent on my mother and that I have been too "over-protected" and that I'm too "innocent" for my age. I think this is simply because they don't understand that I was raised with values from a different culture nor do they know what's really going on.

The problem for me is that I look at both sides and I get where each side is good... but I still can't reconcile them. I love how I was raised. I think my parents did a great job with me, especially considering that it was in a low-income, crime infested neighborhood where I had no real role models outside of the house. I think I turned out pretty decent. I love the Mexican side of myself (which I identify myself with more than Spanish and slightly more than Irish). I love the culture and the values. At the same time, I prefer some things that are more prevalent in American culture... mostly, being treated like an adult as soon as you're of age and being more independent. I GET that I'm a full grown young woman and that I can make my own decisions, but I feel like that would be too selfish of me (on occasion) and that it doesn't feel right because it wasn't how I was raised.

See, there we are. I keep going back and forth on this issue. I've talked to some of the girls of the #Cathsorority and I've found that this is a surprisingly common issues, especially amongst us who have Hispanic families, so I wanted to share my dilemma. I don't think either side is right; I just have to figure out how to make sure I can successfully incorporate them and use them for good.

Okay, I think that's enough divulging. lol. I still have to read to prepare myself for tomorrow's classes. :)

Anyway, I hope y'all are having a great week thus far. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!


Alicia Therese said...

Hey, girl! ¿Que tal? You always encourage me by your strength and your will to do what is God's will. I can't imagine having to grow up as fast as you did, and to have to have dealt with some of the stuff you've dealt with. But, I think it's made you stronger, mama! i'm also glad to read your post because I've struggled w/ (and have struggled with) a lot of what you do.

I know EXACTLY what you mean by Hispanic moms (in my case, dad and abuela). As I think I've told you, my family is Argentinian and Spanish. I've also struggled w/ my identity and living up to expectations. I won't write another blog post in your combox lol but...for a long time I kept these parts of my identity as two separate parts of me, if that makes sense. What's helped is I feel like I've finally brought them together. I'm just a child of God. I'm a Latina, and I'm an American but mostly, I'm just me. And, yeah, my parents still bug me about the dishes and I see my peers living differently but this is how my life is. I'm thankful that I'm like this. And, even though it annoys me, I know it won't be exactly this way forever. Okay, I'm stopping myself now!!!

Che, let me know if you want to chat some more!! I'm praying for ya! *hugs*

Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer said...

I know the feeling. Even though my mom isn't really strict I still live at home and have to do things I really don't feel like doing. Since my dad passed away also but I was 8 I had to also "grow up fast" and learn to cook and take care of myself at a younger age. It sucks. It's really hard because on one side our parents think we should all be married with 3 kids by now but on the other hand not a lot of our peers are doing that. There are days I wish I had my own car so I could just take off and go somewhere and not have to answer to other people. It's not as bad anymore since I'm working but man I'm an introvert when i get home from work i don't want to talk to people i want to be left alone to recharge.

Maria said...

It's so funny to hear this as a Latina mom, because I'm totally that way with my 3-year old daughter. I expect her to help out even at a young age, and I always know what is going on with her. I'm sure I'll be just as eager for her to have children as your mama is :).

Don't worry though, this will pass.

Come to think of it, I didn't feel like I was treated like an adult by my comadres until I had a child. I think that's what it takes :)

Manny said...

My parents were Italian immigrants and they were exactly the same. I think it's an "old school" approach to raising children. It may seem strict, but you certainly benefitted by it in the way you grew up. So you have to take the bad with the good, and I don't think the bad is that bad.