Tuesday, July 7, 2015

American vs Mexican Mentalities: Living at Home

One of today's Verily articles (The Five Lies Twentysomethings Need to Stop Believing) got me thinking about something that I have to sometimes explain to others because they don't understand -- living at home. "Lie #3" on the article states that one of the lies that 20-somethings tell themselves is that they have to be completely independent and that moving away from move and dad is actually an American idea, which I agree with -- being an American idea and feeling the pressure to not live at home as soon as you're 18-21.

The idea of my still living at home at 30 seems wrong to an awful lot of people... and almost all of these people are American. People are legitimately horrified when they find out that I intend to stay at home until I marry. However, this isn't a big deal for me because of one big reason: that's not how I was raised. Despite being born and bred in Los Angeles, I was raised with a Hispanic mentality when it comes to many things, living situation included. Old fashioned Mexican father + modern (Hispanic) American mother = modern me with old fashioned values.

In Mexico (and I'm basing this on what I've seen from my family and how my dad was raised) a young woman lives at home with her family until she marries. If she doesn't marry or becomes a religious sister, she stays at home with the parents until they pass. It doesn't matter if she's well educated and has her own income, the family stays together until marriage enters the picture. That's the mentality I grew up with. Despite having enough funds to live on my own (or with roommates) at a young age, I chose to live at home because the importance of family was instilled in me.

My father was first diagnosed with cancer when I was 17 years old. He went through 3 battles of colon cancer from the time I was 17 until he passed a month after I turned 24. Out of those 7 years, he was in remission for 4 years. I could've gone to study in the UK (I practically had my bags packed to attend Bath Spa University when I was 20-21) but I chose not to because I know how much my parents needed me here. Despite having people encouraging me to apply to top universities (the idea of attending Oxford was briefly on my radar thanks to a literature professor), the sense of responsibility kept me here. After my dad passed away, I had an even bigger reason to stay at home.

There is one more thing that I've seen cause a bigger scandal: the fact that I fully intend to have my mother nearby after I marry. It goes back to the Mexican culture mentality that someone in the family takes in their parents as they age. Usually, either the oldest or the youngest child takes in the aging parents to take care of them. Being my mother's only child, it will fall on me to take care of her... and it's something that I have no problem doing.

Despite knowing my sense of familial duty (which I appreciate; I do believe it's important to treat your parents with respect, even when there are conflicts), my "American side" sometimes craves its independence, especially when life isn't exactly rosy. Living at home isn't easy, even if it's just mom and I. My very extroverted mother's ways often clashes with my very introverted ways. We communicate differently. She's very open and says what's on her mind, no matter how much someone will not like it. I'm very reserved and will be careful with how I phrase things to avoid hurt feelings. You cannot get more opposite than her and I... but we balance each other out and we love and respect each other, which is what matters. That's why I still get up at 4:30 a.m. to drive mom to work, even when we're not seeing eye-to-eye on something; love and respect for her despite tiffs.

There are moments when I think about the future -- especially about what will happen once (if) I marry since I do want to take care of my mom as she gets older. One thing I've noticed about this country is that older people often get stuck in convalescent hospitals (I should know; my mom's worked in them for over 40 years) or senior living if they're alone/widowed. You cannot imagine how many times I've heard of patients being forgotten about by their children at the convalescent hospital where mom works... only to have their children show up again once the patient has passed away. That seems terribly off and backwards to me because it's because it's not how I was raised. My paternal grandmother (the one whose temperament I seem to have inherited) lived until she was 98 years old. While she lived by herself, she often had one of my cousins at her house... which was a 2-3 minute walk from the house of one of my aunts. If she wasn't at her house, she was at my aunt's house or with someone of the family. It's just how it's done within our culture... or at least within my family. I'm not sure how much Mexican culture has changed in recent years since I haven't visited since I was a teenager. I anticipate something similar happening when I have a family of my own... which I already know scares a lot of guys. Hey, built-in way to weed out guys.

Anyway, the whole point of this blog post is to not only explain why I'm still at home (I know, some of you are disgusted with me but I'll live ;D) but to assure those who are in similar situations that you guys are not alone. Yes, we're told that we should be independent (which is not a bad thing; there's a fine line between between too dependent and being independent with familial responsibilities) and sometimes it feels like we're seriously pressured to be on our own or else there's something "wrong" with us. If your family values resemble those in which there is a great emphasis on the importance of family and staying close to home, don't let anyone make you feel like your way is wrong.

I'm not ashamed that I'm still living at home because I've chosen to follow the Mexican culture tradition of staying at home until marriage despite my American peers sometimes getting a little too into my business and try to persuade me to live on my own. It's not Millennial laziness nor is it me being too dependent on my mother. Yes, I know you're disappointed that the reason isn't much juicer than it being my choice. Sorry. ;)

Anyway, I have something coming up in about 8 minutes that requires my full attention so that's it from me for now.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


akosimonique said...

I can definitely relate to this article. Asians, like me, also practice this sort of things, living with your parents until you get married or your parents living with you when you get married. Ever since, filial piety is already embedded in asian cultures. Respecting and taking care of you parents when they grow old is one of the main responsibilties of the child/children. The western culture seems to lack that kind of virtue.

Marian Ninja said...

Thank you both for your perspectives on this! I never knew that other cultures practiced the whole "living with your parents" differently. Occasionally, you will come across Americans who live in a different mentality (some of my relatives who never married still live at home & they are in their fifties), but that's usually pretty rare. I really like how you bring up convalescence hospitals and senior living. I always am so saddened when I visit at one of those places and people tell me how lonely they are, because their relatives never come to visit. I think Americans can definitely work on building up familial bonds in many ways. I think it's fine if people don't want to live at home until marriage, but they need to build up those ties through loving communication, as other cultures do. Again, thank you for sharing your fascinating perspective!

Anonymous said...

I love this. Honestly, if I never marry, I will probably end up staying in my home helping my parents with my younger siblings (I'm the oldest of eight).
I actually was talking to one of my dearest friends today and we were both expressing how grateful we were that our parents didn't kick us out into the world as soon as we turned 18. I know that at 18, I was not in any way, shape, or form prepared to take care of myself.
I'm already a freak of nature, oldest of eight, homeschooled from fourth grade to graduation, not attending college, so not choosing to move away right away is really not going to affect me at all. ;)
But wonderful points you brought up. I'm glad I found your blog. :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

akosimonique - Yes! I'm glad that there are other people (from other cultures) who understand where I'm coming from. It seems strange that filial piety is not seen with more importance.

Emmy Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - Yes! Convalescent hospitals definitely make you have a different perspective after spending time observing the patients and even the workers.

Emmy Cecilia said...

aliceinbooklandbookreviews - my best friend is very much in the same boat as you are. She's the oldest, was homeschooled, didn't attend college, and she still lives at home. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like you, I was also nowhere near ready to move out at 18... and I suspect not many people are but have no other choice.