• Writer Angie Cui. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
I don’t dwell too much on ‘Asian’ or ‘Western’ parenting styles - I am a benefactor of both.
By
Angie Cui

1 Dec 2020 - 9:43 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2021 - 11:20 AM

When I landed my first job three months after arriving in Australia as a student, I couldn't wait to tell my parents. I had been hired as a waitress at a local restaurant that paid a decent wage for an 18-year-old. Something that struck me as impossible in China only months ago, where I was still living at home. And where household tasks like grocery shopping was considered way beyond my skill set. 

But what ended up being a bigger surprise was my parents' reaction to the news. 

"You are not making a wise decision," said one of them. "Working in a restaurant isn't suitable for a student. You should be focusing on your studies, and then get a job with a better status." 

Like many Asian parents, my own folks' parenting style is one of constant assessment and inquiry. How is your study/work/academic life] going? Why did you go out late today? And so on. And just like most parents, they were well-meaning and fed us a diet of high hopes. But growing up, they often left me feeling shut down. 

Like many Asian parents, my own folks' parenting style is one of constant assessment and inquiry.

In Australia, along with my new job, I also landed myself a new family. It's what's called a homestay - a local family to board with that my immigration agent from China had arranged for me. It meant that my rent was a bit more expensive than the average international student, but the experience was precious for someone like me who knew no-one in a new country. 

My homestay family are Caucasian Australians. My new 'mum' was a teacher's aide in the local secondary school, and new 'dad' was a minster at the local Church before he retired. They both helped me with my English. From them, I learnt about what it felt like to live like a local, and I was trusted with grocery shopping from the get-go. 

Funnily, the biggest adjustment was getting used to the way my homestay parents would speak to me. 

The day I started university, my homestay mum said to me: "You have done so well. I could never have done the same thing if I studied overseas." Her encouraging words would arrive without fail almost every day. Words I had never heard from my parents, but have quietly craved. 

Whenever I started to feel homesick, my homestay mum would urge me to be strong, reminding me that it was my choice to take a leap, to make a go of living in a new country.  

Whenever I started to feel homesick, my homestay mum would urge me to be strong, reminding me that it was my choice to take a leap, to make a go of living in a new country.  

Where my own parents were worried, my homestay folks had faith. 

I guess that was what made a difference - having loved ones extending not only stoic, meticulous care, but trust. 

My husband and I now have two beautiful children. From my own parents, I have learnt the value of handwork and perseverance. And years of living with my homestay mum and dad have taught me the comfort of warm conversation, quiet encouragement and the importance of well-timed praise. 

My children will be starting school the following year. For a while, I was worried if my parents would exert the same pressure on their grandchildren as they did on me. Surprisingly, they never seem to force them to do or learn anything. At one point, Mum even complimented on our relaxed parenting style.  

"You know what your children want, and you know what is best for them,” Dad once said to me, “You have changed so much since you came to Australia."

He was right. My mindset has indeed changed. These days, I don’t dwell too much on ‘Asian’ or ‘Western’ parenting style -I am a benefactor of both, without my Chinese parents, I wouldn’t be able to complete my academic studies; without my Australian parents, I wouldn’t have the courage to pursue my dream job. 

So now, instead, my husband and I focus on our action. Action that say to my children ‘you are good enough’, or better still,  ‘you’re perfect just as you are’. 

Angie Cui is a freelance writer.

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