I'm 23 and still living at home with my parents, mainly because they're convinced it's right for me to stay here until I'm married. I've got a job, can support myself, and really just want to live independently. I'm in no rush to get married, by the way. But I also don't see myself staying home for the foreseeable future. How do I break with tradition and find my own way without breaking my parents' hearts?
Ready to Fly
You've read my old diaries, haven't you? No? Ay, pues, I guess this is one of those issues that is so culturally specific that non-Latinas think we must be over-reacting while other Latinas are all, ‘I know, RIGHT?’
As a Latina, it's normal for us to grow up with our parents’ expectation that we will stay at home until we are married. While many of us are now encouraged to attend college and pursue careers, we still have to contend with old-school thinking. Your question, amiga, is a perfect example, and highlights one of the many differences in how Latinos and our non-Latino counterparts view the family unit.
Have you heard of the term "boomerang generation?" It's a term that was coined in recent years referring to the many young adults returning home after college due to the tight economy and stinging job market. Stay with me here because even if you didn't go to college or already graduated, the comparison certainly applies. The interesting part, though, is that while society as a whole sees this as a trend and debates how long it's acceptable for boomerang kids to stay at home, Latino families aren't even batting an eye because this is our normal. Take it one step further and we get to the meat of the matter: we girls may be expected to stay home and respect the authority of our parents, but our male family members have the luxury of choosing.
Yeah, I know. It's a double standard that pisses me off, too.
So what's an independent Latina such as yourself to do when your desire to live on your own conflicts with mami and papi's cultural expectations and your desire to avoid the world's biggest guilt trip? Well, you could make like America Ferrera's character in Real Women Have Curves and just go for it, consequences be damned. The last scene where she steps out on her own with the big city lights shining overhead? That one gets me every time.
The tricky part here is the very obvious fact that you care very deeply about your parents' feelings. Instead of telling them that this is how it's gonna be while packing your bags, you instead are hoping to gain their blessing. That's a testament to how they raised you, mi'ja, but don't let cultural expectations stand in the way of your happiness.
Maybe you can aim for meeting them halfway. First, do an Internet search for available apartments within a few miles of your family home and in your price range. Once you've narrowed your choices to your favorites, take a deep breath and sit your parents down for a heart-to-heart. Show them the listings, pointing out how close they are to home. Let them know how much finding your own way means to you and thank them for raising you to be the strong, smart, and confident woman that you are today. That, and weekly dinners at home with la familia, are sure to soften the blow, paving the way for a smooth transition all around as you spread your wings and fly.
—Rock your independencia,
Pauline Campos is Latina Magazine's #DIMELO advice columnist. Email her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on her blog, www.aspiringmama.com , facebook, and follow her on twitter: @pauline_campos.