“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!
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.”)
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!
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!