My family has always been very conservative. Growing up, my parents cared greatly about my grades, how I carried myself, who I was friends with, and how I spent my time. Back then, I often felt unlucky that I didn’t have much freedom to experience the world. However, despite having conservative roots, I’ve grown up to be (fairly) normal, and I don’t feel different because I was raised protectively. On the contrary, because my parents were strict, I learned responsibility, modesty, and respect from a very young age.
When I was younger, my parents were very strict about my academic standing – going out, how I carried myself, and even small things like sleepovers. Back then, I would get really frustrated and questioned my parents constantly. However, following my parents’ rules kept my entire life in check. I was able to better deal with my problems, and spent more time with my family. I learned at an early age that my family is the only group of people that will always be there for me, no matter what. There were a lot of people around me who were going through problems, mainly because they had so much freedom to do what they wanted. I was able to avoid all of this.
My parents haven’t remained as strict as before though. They recognize that I am now an adult and old enough to take care of myself. I have complete freedom to do what I want, study what I am interested in, and be who I want to be. Thus, when I went to the States for university as an international student, I fit right in because I adapted myself, and found people like me to spend time with.
I was curious to see how other girls from conservative backgrounds felt about their lives and their families.
Veronica Krishnan, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology CO’19, Indian
“My family background is a complete mix of liberal as well as conservative. Just like my name, which is a mix of the both Christianity and Hinduism, the level of conservatism in my family is just the same. My mother is very easy going and allows me to express myself in the way I dress and whom I date or talk to. On the other hand, my dad is very conservative. He has never known about my dating history and wearing shorts or even sleeveless tops is frowned upon by him.
When I go to my moms hometown, Goa, I am free to dress the way I like as this is how our culture is over there, with everyone being ok with wearing short clothes or drinking alcohol at parties. On the other hand, this takes a total 360 turn when I go to Kerala, my fathers hometown. I have to dress in traditional clothing and alcohol is never present at parties. Although it is sometimes very hard to adjust to it and mould myself to fit each cultures, as well as my parents requirements, I believe that it shows exactly how contrasting cultures can reflect the amount of conservatism in a family and how one family, just like mine, can have two opposite ends of the spectrum present.”
Nedda Sarshar, Syracuse University CO’17, Canadian-Iranian
“My family is what I think is most appropriate to call “traditionally progressive.” My parents were hardcore activists in the Iranian Revolution. I got brought up in a house that talked regularly about social justice, and about standing up to oppression. My grandma was among the first graduating class of women engineers in Iran and my mom was Chief of Medicine in her hospital – I grew up surrounded by powerful women. But I definitely felt the generation gap when I went away to school.
I get into frequent arguments on career choices; I get told that teaching and writing (my two loves) aren’t real careers, that it’s important that girls look pretty, that you’re not worth anything without a degree. My parents love me and they’re worried, so they provide me with advice that they might have been told when they were my age, or advice that might have worked for them thirty years ago when they were in my situation. I used to feel like I needed to show them that they were wrong, but I think the best thing you can do is just be yourself and get the results you want to get. I know if I’m happy, they’ll be happy – even if my definition of happy and success is not theirs.”
Bee N., Boston University CO’19, Thai
“Drinking has always been something like a taboo with my parents; both don’t drink. My father is an ex-monk and he believes in the Five Precept. On the other hand my mom never declared her standing/thoughts on this, but she still doesn’t drink anyway. I started drinking when I went abroad for university and wanted to inform my parents about it. I talked to my friends here and they all advised me not to, but I’m planning on telling my mom anyway. I was planning on telling her when I returned home last December but didn’t have a chance to, but this summer I will definitely do so. As for my dad, I’m still unsure how I’m going to tell him.”
Nashiya Piracha, Michigan State University CO’19, Pakistani
“People see my family and think that we are pretty modern, and we are. But at the same time my parents are very conservative. Especially in middle school I felt like because of that I couldn’t experience certain things. But now looking back, I realise why they did what they did. However, now that I’m at University there are always new things that we struggle to come to terms with. I’m not saying that growing up with conservative parents is horrible, but I’m not saying it’s the best thing ever either. It’s always a struggle to try and bring down conservative parents, but the best way to do it is to talk to them. And at the end of the day, I know they are my parents and the things that they do/say are for the greater good of myself. Even if I can’t see that at the time.”
We all come from different backgrounds, but learn to connect with each other on common ground. Although I was raised in a pretty conservative family, I was free to choose the career I wanted to pursue. I decided which university I wanted to go to. At the end of the day, parents are conservative because they care, because they have good reason to. If you’re from a conservative family, look for the silver lining – I assure you it exists.