Have you seen the movie, Meditation Park, with Sandra Oh? If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend it. I really enjoyed it. Not only does it have a mostly Canadian cast and is set in Vancouver, it brings to life the complexities of an immigrant family. The difficulties of bridging the gap between the cultural and family traditions of the parents and the current day reality of the next generation.
In one scene, the daughter (Sandra Oh) is lamenting about how tired she is being a busy mom of two young children and having a career. She says she is thinking about quitting her job. The mom exclaims, “But it is freedom!".
Her mother has always stayed home and looked after her husband and her children. She has been a dedicated mother and a devoted wife. Now that her children are grown and have busy lives of their own, her world is small, limited, and lonely. She wants to emerge out of her world. She wants to earn her own money. She wants 'freedom'.
This makes me think of my own mother. We were nowhere near the traditional immigrant family set out in the movie. But, my mom was a stay-at-home mom with a Grade 8 education. She never lacked for anything. My father always provided well for us even though it was very tough at times. He used to give her money to do the weekly grocery shopping. If my mom ever needed or wanted something, she just had to ask my dad. He always gave her what she needed, but it wasn’t her own money.
Once we kids got older and could take care of ourselves, she went out and got a job at the Tuck Shop in the hospital. Of course, it didn’t pay much but it gave her some independence, her own spending money. I remember my sister telling me about the time my mom got a credit card in her own name. She was very proud of that. She never went crazy with it. She only spent what she had, which is a habit that has rubbed off on me to this day. But, it was her own. It represented ‘freedom'.
My mother saved her money and spent it wisely. She was never well-off by monetary standards but she had everything she needed and lived comfortably. And she always took care of us, kids. She hated for us to be in debt and pay interest. She paid off my student loans when I graduated from university and I paid her back without interest. Whenever I needed a new car, she would loan me the money and I would pay her back again without interest.
Long after I became self-sufficient, she would still insist on buying groceries when she came to visit. Even when I was married and we had a double income, she still wanted to look after us. My husband would practically have to arm wrestle her to pick up the tab when we went out for dinner. It got to the point where he would sneak off and pay the bill before it was brought to the table.
Now I am the mom and wife. I would describe myself as a devoted mom and dedicated wife but I have always worked, had a career. I have been independent for all my adult life. I have enjoyed the freedom without ever really thinking about it.
Early on in our marriage, my husband went back to school and switched career paths. So for the longest time, I made more money than him. It was never an issue. He had no problem with it. And to be perfectly honest, I liked it. Not in a “Na na nana na, I make more than you” kind of way but in a self-reliant, sense of freedom, ‘I can do this’ way.
When I got sick with breast cancer and went on long term disability, it was a huge loss. Not only was it a loss of my health, but a loss of money, my professional identity…my freedom. Thankfully, we were okay financially. My husband had worked his way up in the IT Security field.
Now, I am an entrepreneur. I own my own business. It’s really still in start-up mode. It’s growing…slowly. I don’t get paid. I put everything back into the business. Thankfully, my husband’s business can support us. He is very supportive. He’s my biggest fan. He never complains about being the bread winner. He’s confident my business will grow and make millions and he can retire in style…haha.
For me though, it is a loss of freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I love my business and the creative and professional freedom it provides. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But, there is a loss of freedom financially. I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I don’t bring home a pay cheque anymore, at least not yet. It will come, but for now it does weigh on my mind. I am careful of what I spend money on. I rarely go shopping. It’s a choice I willingly, and most days, happily make.
Getting back to the movie, Meditation Park, I think I enjoyed it all the more because I could relate to wanting that feeling of independence, that sense of freedom. I see it in my daughter. She has always been fiercely independent, craving freedom, even when she was a toddler. I remember she had a list of “Things I Can Do When I’m an Adult”. On it were things like 'use a knife' and 'drive a car.'
My daughter leaping for freedom
Now she is a teenager and that longing for independence and freedom grows ever stronger. As her mom, it’s hard not to rein her in, keep her under my wing as long as I can. But, I also understand that quest for independence and freedom. I recognize myself in her at that age. She is even more so.
I want her to be strong, courageous, resilient, and independent. But, does it have to happen so soon? Yes, it does.