For myriad reasons, I don’t often talk about the fact that I live with my parents. But I do and I have done for most of my adult life, bar my University years and a stint working abroad. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that to be successful is to be independent, and so I’ve subconsciously hidden that part of my life in order to paint a better image of ‘how independent I am’.
The odd badge of honour
In Chinese culture, children traditionally live with their parents until marriage. Of course, yes, this feels outdated and anti-feminist and all sorts of other tirades. But it also feels very normal, allowing me (and my siblings!) to help our parents with their mortgage and bills, paying it forward where they’ve helped us so much. Filial piety overarches many of my choices as a first-generation British-Chinese ‘kid’, and it’s not surprising that for many years I may have adopted the ‘keep to yourself and don’t show your struggle’ mentality that my immigrant parents have.
Western society equates success to not asking for help. For some reason, not receiving help is worn as a badge of honour. Congratulations, you did it alone! But I’m firm in my belief that there’s power in asking for help. Help with carrying groceries into the house. Help whilst saving for bigger futures. Help if you’re struggling with a rough patch of mental health. Help if you’re feeling lonely. Help on a video game, for goodness’ sake.
Why asking for and accepting help is for me
Not asking for help and forging forth with a headstrong independence can be incredibly damaging. You’re held to individual account for anything that may go wrong; “It was your fault, then surely”. But maybe it’s the social constructs that are to blame. If we internalise self-sufficiency as the norm, we only push the pedal down and hit burnout faster. If we forcibly chase ‘independence’, we only circle around the veils of self-worth.
I’ve lived with my family since returning home from working abroad in Hong Kong. At first, I was desperate to take flight again. I wanted to quickly rebuild my savings pot, buy a place of my own, sit in that delicious independence I’d learned to love. Five years on from then, and I’m not much further, for myriad reasons. Surging house prices, a whole pandemic, a relationship that whittled my savings down without me noticing… And yet I’m thriving. I can contribute happily to our family household, help my parents with their bills and, importantly, enjoy their company when so many are unable to (with their own families). In turn, Dad helps me to bring the heavy groceries in, my sister makes lunch whilst I work from home, Mum reduces my housekeeping total so I can rebuild my savings (again).
There’s so much power in asking for help. I’m learning.