What type of parent are you going to be?

“In Lebanon, a country where most people under 30 still live with their parents and are financially dependent on them, it’s hard to properly define the youth segment.”

This quote appeared in a March 2011 article in Communicate Magazine titled, “Children’s best interest.  Lebanon’s financial institutions are targeting younger consumers.  We find out why.”

..It also serves as the perfect introduction to this post.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about Lebanese culture/society in general, is how dependent young people – and when I say young people..I mean between the ages of 20 – 30..and sometimes older – are on their parents. But what’s interesting about this phenomenon, at least for me..is that this is usually at the behest of parents, not of children. Since (from my understanding), parents’ ability to provide for their children (even if their children are well into their 30’s) is very much a part of what Lebanese society considers “good parenting.” As well doing their “adult child’s” laundry, waking up early to prepare lunch and pack it in tupperware, making all of their appointments, etc etc the list goes on. I mean, after living most of your life in this type of environment, it must be close to impossible to move out of your parent’s house for two reasons: 1. you don’t know how to fend for yourself 2. you feel that you owe it to your parents to stay at home until you get married especially after all they have done for you throughout the years!

Over-parenting

source

I know what many of you are going to say.. “Well, in America..parents kick you out of the house at 18!!”  And I’m here to tell you that that couldn’t be further from the truth. (But at the same time, I can’t blame people for thinking that, especially given the way American society is portrayed on TV and in movies.) Just as a point of reference, 90% of people I know who are around my age (24) still live at home.  That being said, they’ve also had part-time, or even full-time jobs since they were in University (and sometimes even in high school!).  And not because their parents forced them to get a job..but because it’s just “the thing to do.” (Hell, at 15 I was working two part-time jobs! And loving it!..) I like to think of it as a preparation of sorts..for the challenges of the real world.

And as you start working, your parents gradually give you responsibilities (both household as well as financial) so you can learn the value of money and hard work.. This couldn’t be more opposite from Lebanese society (well, most of Lebanese society as I understand it. I know I’m making a hasty generalization here). For example, I remember asking one of my girlfriends if she worked during her University years. She went on to tell me that her father explicitly told her, “No daughter of mine is going to work during University!”..as if it’s something that people of a certain social standing “just don’t do.”)

Over-parenting

Parents need to cut the strings!

source

I thought about this during a conversation with a recently married friend of mine.  She was telling me that it’s only since she’s married that she understands how much life “costs.” Having lived at home for over 30 years, it was a very hard adjustment for her,,and I can see why! I mean, going from a household where you’re treated like a princess and don’t have to lift a finger to having to work full time, run errands, cook, clean, raise kids, and manage a household budget must be sooo overwhelming! (Hence my argument in favor of working and having responsibilities when you’re young, as well as living with someone before you get married! But the latter is definitely an argument for another day.) ..Yet still, I have heard many cases of Mother’s still sending food for their daughters even after they’ve gotten married!

Hearing stories like that of my friends” really make me wonder whether parents in Lebanon are actually doing their children a disservice by treating them like little prince and princesses. How is doing everything for your children preparing them for the harsh realities of today’s “real world” (whatever that means)? Writing this makes me think of yet another story of a friend of mine who had an opportunity to study in France when he finished High School in Beirut, but decided not to because he had been so sheltered all of his life that the mere thought of having to fend for himself was too overwhelming!

over-parentingsource

So, all of this to say..I’m really interested in hearing what type of parent you think you’re going to be? Do you think societal values are changing in Lebanon? Do you plan on raising your children the same way your parents raised you? What do you think about family dynamics in Lebanon? Agree? Disagree? In need of revision?

I’m all ears.

Come to think of it maybe I’m just jealous that you Lebanese got it made!

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32 Comments

Filed under life in Lebanon, Social Issues in Lebanon

32 responses to “What type of parent are you going to be?

  1. You know what being that i spent most my life in Canada and that I have Lebanese parents- I’ve lived in the in-between. I’m so independent but yet so dependent. LIke you said part of it is guilt and part of it is culture. The fact is I work, I make my “own” money, I book my own appts, I make my lunch/buy it etc. but if I want to move out- just the discussion causes a fight in my house. The fact that I want to leave and expand on my experiences is just not part of the agreement for Arabs and the fact that I want to live on my own to my parents is like betrayal. Any decision I want to make while unmarried always has to have my parents taken into consideration. Most the time, it sucks especially seeing that in Canada most people don’t live that way. But in Lebanon they do apparently.

    I’ll be the kind of parent that encourages my kids to move out- I’ll support them surely but moving out and seeing life is healthy- that teaches responsibility when its most needed. I’m 22 right now and I feel like I’ve missed out on much while living at home.

    • Thanks for the comment Mariam! I can only empathize with your situation! It must be frustrating! But it is the reality you are living and one that you will have the ability to change in the future and with your children!

  2. You’re assessment is spot on.

    There is one more thing to consider though: “It is a matter of pride for fathers to care for their children for as long as possible.”
    Now just as with any society, there are all sorts of parents, however, for the most part, yes, children stay with their parents virtually until their marriage. What they do not realize is that this is the cause of marital problems… Young men who do not understand the meaning of living on your own; young women (like your friend) without any proper preparation for life. And NO… working does not count as life experience, when you are still living with your parents.

    Most Lebanese would justify it by saying that it’s too expensive to live on your own in Beirut… Most Lebanese expats, such as in Dubai, either are willing to share the rent with someone, or spend most of their salary on rent (at least prior to crisis… I hear prices have dropped since).

    Personally, I believe in Choice and dealing with the consequences of these choices. And that is the one thing, above all that I will want my children to understand… for after all, this is what independence means… what adulthood or maturity means. Freedom of choice, and taking the responsibility for them.

    I will not digress into a discussion of this situation, although it would be a pretty interesting conversation…. but there wouldn’t be enough space here.

    As always, wonderful article. Thanks for sharing!

    Marc.

  3. Totally agree with Marc beyond the shadow of a doubt; and yes there definitely is a pride factor involved when it comes to parents (overly) looking after their “kids”. It is also a cultural and societal thing though – besides the economic hurdles that need to be overcome – sometimes it is perceived as a bad thing to move out from your parents’ house, whether it is due to it being a sign of not valuing all that they have given you over the years, or people thinking that you have no family values… most of it is just a load of crap though.

    Having moved out of my parents’ place over a year ago (unfortunately it took this long), I still do love them more than ever, but the whole process – even though it started with massive debates and arguments – really funneled down to me explaining to them that I’m not doing it out of spite or hatred; I just need my freedom, I need my space, I need my control of my surrounding, I need MY house, I need to learn how to look after MYSELF… talking about a typical “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario. 😛 Eventually they finally understood what I was trying to say, I just had to really simplify it to them, be consistent with my reasoning and show them what it is that I meant. Now, I must say that they have recently come out and confessed that they are pretty proud of me for being able to take it out on my own, living my life, keeping up with all the other factors in my life and still managing to keep things going smooth; it’s not easy though in this country, the money factor really is a big issue.

    But then again, this is one of the reasons why I believe that companies tend not to pay such high wages to their employees round here; I’m talking about large multinational companies. Such a company will be paying an employee around $10k in the US, while here they’ll be paying an employee with the same position more around $2k to $2.5k, and I have proof of these numbers. However, since the average person is not expected to be living on their own, or rather just not under the shelter of their parents’ financial umbrella gives these companies the excuse to lower their wages and say to themselves “they don’t need the money; they can ask their dad if they need any more”. That was actually a response I got from a high level manager in the company I currently work at, while we were discussing a certain financial issue; he literally told me “your father can definitely afford it”, my response was “yes, my father can, but I can’t!”… I don’t think it really computed with him.

    All I can say is that there are so many factors that play in as to why you still find a 30+ year old still living with his/her parents in Lebanon; the list just keeps going on and on.

    • Well, I’m really happy to hear that with enough effort you were able to convince your parents that moving out was the best thing for your development as not only a man, but a fully functioning member of society! And about your wages comment, I really believe that Lebanese employers REALLY take advantage of the fact that most of their employees are still living at home. Even as an expat living in Lebanon, I was forced to survive on a Lebanese salary..Making exceptions for foreigners who are clearly not living with their parents is still not the norm! This puts so much money in employer’s pockets that it is definitely not in their best interest to revise their compensation strategy. I know it’s a pipe dream, but there needs to be legislation reformation concerning wages in Lebanon! But seriously, I will never understand how people can come out of AUB or LAU after spending $50,000 (or more) on their education..only to make $1,000 a month!?! Seriously? What is that! Thanks for the comment technode!!!.

  4. Well for starters, I have been (even though still living with mom) financially independent from my parents for years now, had part time jobs during university, paid my own university, etc…

    Funny you should mention the question what type of parent you think we could be. Personally, I would make sure my children earn their pocket money by end of highschool, and if possible pay their own university (or at least part of it), study abroad for both the experience and to be dependent on themselves only. So yeah 😀 but that’s just me 😛

    • I can tell that you’re going to be an awesome parent Liliane! But the question remains, when are you getting married? LOL LOL..I know you HATE that question!! Especially in Lebanese society, I think you will be doing your children a big favor by encouraging them to strike out on their own from young. It will definitely equip them with a competitive advantage for the future.

  5. I don’t know how this really works but my experience hasn’t been exactly what you have described. I left home at the age of 17 when I took off to college. Since that day I have been in charge of my own. True that I started working much earlier than that, but I wasn’t pushed to. On the other hand, I was not to told to sit at home and forget about work as long as I keep focus on my studies. Having said that, I had three part time jobs during my university years and temporary full time jobs during the summer. I was later hired in by the same organisation I worked for during the summer. Don’t get me wrong, I still visit and welcome my parents any time, but I never had to stay under their roof for longer than I had to. Your statements were extremely general and don’t take into account that different people do things differently. Reading your article made me feel the same about the broad statement that Lebanese are good businessmen and can only work for themselves rather than for an organisation. Very broad statement again, I just keep hearing it from “shocked” Lebanese when they come to know I don’t have my own business. Sometimes it’s better to be more effective in a larger organisation were your actions can really change the community to the better than being your very own man/woman and care only for your very own benefits.

    • Chadi,
      We can not deny the fact, that “most” Lebanese have actually remained under their parents’ roof until late, and continue to do so. This does not mean there are no exceptions, or a rise in individuals seeking independence… simply that the odds are, whenever you meet someone in their 20-30s, specially women, 90 % of the time they will still be living in their parents house…
      There is no judgement being passed here… but rather a simple comparison… in fact, I think that the way you have lived your life is a very good example of how most youngsters these days should live… or at least aim for it!

      • Great response! And you’re right I’m not passing any judgement here! I’m just saying things as I see them! I’m always open to criticism as long as it’s constructive and in the same spirit as this blog 😀 Thanks Marc.

    • Youssef Chaker

      She says: “(well, most of Lebanese society as I understand it. I know I’m making a hasty generalization here)”
      You say: “Your statements were extremely general and don’t take into account that different people do things differently.”

      You either decided to stop reading after the first paragraph or with some miracle way just skip that line. thus failing to understand that this, just like most other posts on this blog are observations according to one person’s perception, who fully understands that it is just that. No judgement being passed nor any claim that is the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth.

      And for the rest of your comment I get that you are defending yourself against some sort of attack. is it personal? did this hit a nerve?

      • I did continue reading the article to the very end and although you quoted the one sentence that says it is just an observation of how most Lebanese live, there was a lot of generalisation all over the article if you took the time to read it fully. Nothing personal, just thought I’d present how I lived my life as a mere example of how wrong this generalisation is. Most of my Lebanese friends have lived the same way. Maybe your experience is different, hence why I presented mine to counter argue.

      • Youssef Chaker

        maybe if you read my reply to you fully and you read my comment below you’d understand that the point im trying to tell you is that she understands it’s a generalization and knows that it’s only what she sees or has experienced through living in Lebanon and from the experiences of the people she knows. But maybe you’re too envolved in your own self to step out of your own shell for a moment and see it for what it is: a sheer observation. How many times do you request she puts a disclaimer that it’s a generalizing in each post for it to suffice for you? should every word be followed by one? And you could have posted your side of the story just like the rest of us did without attacking her statement’s validity or what she did or didn’t do.

      • Thanks for always fighting by battles so eloquently! I will admit that I was generalizing..but it just so happens that most of the people I met during my year and a half in Lebanon fit the same mold! Hence why I felt it was ok to make such hasty generalizations! I didn’t mean to offend anyone tho!

  6. Youssef Chaker

    This topic has been the subject of many discussions between my friends and I. I had a friend in high school who worked as a tutor and made enough money to cover all his personal expenses in terms of going out, buying things, etc. He was still in high school, so he wasn’t expected to pay rent, or even buy his own clothes. Just pay for his own meal when we go out. YET, he got a weekly allowance from his parents (which was more than my monthly allowance at the time) and took many from his mom when we was going out. The money he made tutoring went into a bank account, and most probably every single dime is still there now. That to me was redonkulous! Then I have another friend who moved to Canada to finish his masters degree. But he didn’t do a single thing on his own. His mom sent him food all the way from Lebanon. His father prohibited him from working. I wanted to kick his ass!!!!

    I am going to allow myself to talk about me, myself and I to contrast the experiences. And to everyone who thinks (or might think afterwards) that I was brought up in the US, you are dead wrong. 100% Lebanese over here!!

    At the age of 10 I was taking taxis by myself, my parents had no time to drop me off at Dunes or Concord when we went out to the movies. I went on my own from Beirut to Saida. Spent a week by myself at my grandmother’s house in the south. At around the age of 12 I convinced my mom not to bring another house maid and that I would take on some of the responsibilities at home like washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning, etc. At that age I thought that the Lebanese model of house maids was too close to slavery. But also, living in a small apartment is suffocating enough with just your family, adding another person is too much. I earned my independence and I fought hard for it. Independence == Freedom. And I value my freedom more than anything else in this world.

    I inherited my sense for independence and responsibility from my parents, who both had to start working at an early age. My father had to work during the day while going to school at night during the last couple of years of high school. My mom has always been a free and strong spirit, she gets her own on her own and everyone else better get out of the way. All of this never took anything away from our family values. And this would be the model I would like to follow. A strong, Lebanese rooted, family oriented parenting style with a healthy dose of “I will throw you in the pool and see if you float”.

  7. I’ve been financially independent since last year of school, I pay my rent, my food, my make-up, my university fees…..
    It’s not like that with everyone my age, but it’s helps you mature & understand life!!

    • Most definitely! Obviously I agree! It’s very important to learn the value of money and the importance of hard work from a young age so that you aren’t hit with a slap in the face when you are left to fend for yourself in the future! Thanks for your comment! 😀

  8. Georgina Ishak

    This article is great! An accurate and well-written depiction of over-protective parenting in Lebanon.
    I lived in Lebanon for many years and not once considered moving out once I grew older. It was only when I moved back to Australia to study with my family that I considered it ok to move out before I get married and actually aimed to do so.
    Unfortunately I never got the chance to do so as I felt horrible leaving my mother alone. Even though she constantly reminded me that she didnt have an issue with it and actually strongly advised it as a good experience. But leaving her alone wouldn’t have made me happy.
    Ive been working since i was 15 also. I’m still a university student and I’m working 2 jobs. I still live with my mother and as she refuses to allow me to pay rent I regularly do some grocery shopping, I try to beat her to buying house essentials and buy her gifts to show my appreciation and help out as best I can. It also makes me feel more independent even though I still live at home. I spend on my-self and take care of my-self! In my opinion u can still be independent even if your living at home. There is no excuse! Definitely not as independent as u would be on ur own. But it is definitely better than nothing and worthy of respect!

    To answer ur question, I will definately like to give my children the option of doing what they’d like to do. I would strongly advise at least moving away to study which will give them some feeling of independence and experience of the ‘real life’. And I will without a doubt encourage them to work from the age of 15-16.

    • Thanks for the comment Georgina! I really admire the fact that you aim to do as much as you can to help out despite your Mother’s insistence that she does everything for you. Props to that! I can say with a lot of certainty that there are very few people out there like you. 😀

  9. annie

    Who cares about parenting ,it’s all a waste of time, A BIG HEADACHE ,ONE OF LIFE’S MISERIES WHICH I WON’T FOLLOW,LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE END ,PARTY EVERYDAY ,GET DRUNK EVERYDAY and move out all the little kids out of your way loool

  10. Miss Farah

    If you don’t mind I would like to share your post on my blog since my blog discusses parenting 🙂

  11. Firstly, I’d like to say that i really enjoyed reading this post and the comments as well.
    I hope you don’t mind me rambling about my own thoughts and experiences.

    With each trip to Lebanon, I’ve noticed heaps of my friends are moving out of their parents’ homes into their own places or sharing. Reasons for this phenomenon are mainly one of two; tertiary education or employment opportunities. My village, Ardeh Zgharta situated in northern Lebanon, is practically empty of young people from the age of 20 to 30+.
    Even though they don’t live with their parents, most, if not all, are still dependent on them when it comes to cooking, laundry, rental, and even spending money!

    Personally, I stopped taking money from my parents at the age of 18 (had to finish high school and make it into uni before I was allowed to work). I was working part time as a laborer in the building industry (it was really good money and great exercise). That was the case throughout uni.

    This is the norm in Sydney, but every time we visited Lebanon my dad had to put up with a lot of ignorant ramblings from other Lebanese parents for letting his kids work during their studies. Most of these parents were struggling financially. Yet they saw the need to hide the truth of their financial saga from their children instead of sharing their reality. The kids mostly chose to ignore that reality anyways.

    Marc said it best; they looked at it as “a matter of pride for fathers to care for their children for as long as possible.” Luckily my parents encouraged us to be independent.

    I have no problem with parents wanting to provide for their sons and daughters. But what annoys me the most is when these sons and daughters still burden their parents financially with full knowledge of their difficult financial situation! So many times I’ve seen parents working long hours, multiple jobs, only to see their kids flushing their hard earned money down the toilet with designer clothing and partying on weekends!

    Currently I live with my mom. My dad passed away when I was 24 (6 years ago), and if he hadn’t been the parent he was, I’m sure the financial difficulties would have been so great, we would have lost our home.

    I think I’ll be the type of parent who will encourage my children to earn their pocket money starting from a young age by doing fun-filled chores. Thus building confidence and creating a sense of responsibility.

    • Simon! Wow…really appreciate this comment and how personal you got. I’m glad that my posts spark these types of responses..Most of my education about Lebanon and Lebanese cultures has taken place through comments such as yours!

      You touched on a subject that is also of importance here..for many Lebanese people to do whatever possible (even if it is beyond their means) to show everyone else in society that they are a good place financially..even if they are NOT! I mean, I never really understood this..throwing lavish parties, paying for their children’s every whim and fancy..all to be able to solidify their position in society. It really is quite shameful!

      On another note, I’m confident that you will turn out to be a great parent! Especially given your experience and values. Thanks Simon! So good to have you back! 😀

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  13. Leyla

    I study medicine, which is really hard. And my parents kind of insists that I should work too, but Im still provided when needed (Im the only daughter:P) because I feel like I deserve the liberty of focusing on my studies, and I don’t go looking for a job on purpose. However after reading your blog I feel so guilty and spoiled – Dilemma :/

  14. R G

    Excellent article! Granted there are exceptions but you successfully depicted the common rule there.
    I shared your post on my fb.

  15. Ali Harb

    As you beatifully stated in number 12 of the 40 things you have learned since moving to Lebanon, I mean the Lebanese breakfast of labneh (with olive oil, zeitun or sliced cucumber), foul, halloum, fetteh, zaatar mankouche (with cup of tea) that beats an American breakfast of cereal, pop tarts, eggo waffles or even bacon and eggs, the lebanese family style beats an American family style. I your article, you said: “well, in America, parents kick you out….” I like to point out that in America parents the we know it represent a small minority in the American family. Most kids live with one parent and a step parent if any. Not too many live with a parent and a parent. Heading in this direction of thinking, it is going to be a long subject. When American family court system give women the power to destroy their marriage and break families you are not going to have parents any more. As a result yes they can’t wait to kick their kids out by 18, if they can they would kick them out before. That is one big reason why I am thinking of moving back to Lebanon. When your kids grew up in America and it is time for college, more likely they going to move out to another state and you start seeing your kids on occasions. This is not the way in Lebanon, and when your kids stay with you longer, you as a parent end up staying with them when you become older not in a nursery home in America dying among strangers around you if any.

  16. Leyla

    Bitter, much? 😛

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