Life and Inspiration

On Pleasing Your Parents at the Expense of Your Happiness

I sat beside my younger sister while she filled in the registration form for the upcoming Senior School Certificate Examination. She needed my assistance with the registration because there were some technical terms that she didn’t understand, and also because she wasn’t sure which subjects she should choose.

The little time I spent assisting her with the registration reminded me of the time I was registering for a similar exam (UTME) two years ago. I was fresh from high school at that time, and I hadn’t decided on which career I wanted to pursue yet. However, I knew for certain that my heart wasn’t in any of the sciences. I was sure that I would feel fulfilled with my life only if I pursue a career in the arts, but my father would hear nothing of this.

He wanted me to study medicine and surgery, or whichever science course that promised a respectable title and a huge salary. So I applied to study medical laboratory science, and to be frank with you, I didn’t know what the course entailed at that moment I registered for the exam. I only chose the course because I thought “medical laboratory science” had an exciting ring to it.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t successful at the first attempt – my application was refused because I didn’t make the cut. So I tried again last year. I applied to the same university, and this time, I gained admission to study biochemistry.

It wasn’t something I was excited about, though, for obvious reasons. I felt like I had been sentenced to four years in an emotional black hole; I was worried that I would lose my mind and go to pieces if I wasn’t careful. My parents, on the other hand, couldn’t contain their joy and excitement when they learnt that they now have an undergraduate in the family.

In a few years, their son and first child will be a biochemist. It was a cause for celebration.


It is reasonable to assume that seven out of every ten young adults can relate to my sad experience. I mean, this is something that the majority of us face today. Almost everyone of us have parents who either want us to follow in their footsteps, or achieve a dream that we have no interest in.

I haven’t been to a mortuary or a cemetery before, but I think the saddest place here in Nigeria (and perhaps on earth) is a UTME registration centre. It is there that I watched myself and many others sacrifice our happiness, our future, our dreams and goals so that our parents can be happy. It is also there that I witnessed the death of many talents, skills, and bright ideas.

I learnt that two of my students went there last Thursday to register for their UTME. I only found out yesterday. If I had known that they were planning on taking the exam this year, I definitely would have advised them against it.

I would have done so because I know those kids are confused about what they want to do with their lives. While most of them swear that they have a deep-rooted passion for the career they say they want to pursue, they are only deceiving themselves.

One of the two students who registered for the exam opened up to me yesterday when we were alone in the classroom. We talked for quite a while, and I learnt a lot about her from our conversation. I learnt that her parents, like my parents, want her to study medicine and surgery so that she can become a doctor someday, earn a huge salary, and sponsor her siblings through university.

And when I asked her if she was willing to sacrifice her dreams and happiness to make her parents happy, she replied that she had no choice. Now, a part of me wanted to reassure her that we always have a choice, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. If I had told her that, she probably would have asked, “If truly we always have a choice, why then are you studying a course that you have little interest in?”

I don’t know if I have an answer to that question.

You know, there’s a reason the movie, 3 Idiots, will always be one of my favourites. That movie opened my eyes to the truth, taught me many valuable lessons, and gave me the courage to stand up to my parents the next time they tried to dictate what I should do with my life. It is only a shame that I saw the movie after I had already signed up for the science department. Perhaps if I had seen it earlier, I would be telling a different story today.

I suppose it is normal for parents to want their children to follow in their footsteps, but parents should realise that it is also their duty to listen to their children. They shouldn’t wait till their children, out of depression and frustration, resolve to take a drastic action such as attempting suicide before deciding to let them follow their dreams. They shouldn’t push their children to the brink of collapse.

Naturally, our parents are expected to know better than us because they have lived longer than us, and they have learnt a lot from experience. However, when they feel that our passion for our dreams is misplaced, when they feel that our plans for our lives aren’t the best plans for us, they should tell us why they feel that way. They shouldn’t just order us to follow another career path, simply because they don’t like the one we had originally planned to follow.

If our parents explain their reasons to us, and they manage to convince us that pursuing our dreams is a terrible idea, that is all to the good. Likewise, if in the end we are unconvinced and adamant that we will pursue our dreams no matter what, then all the best to us!

Sure, we will probably make mistakes along the way, but mistakes are meant to be made. It is how we learn, and how we gain the knowledge needed to guide our children so that they can avoid such mistakes in the pursuit of their dreams.

I would like to share this message (directed to parents) that I picked up from Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet. It is what actually inspired me to write this article.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies, but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but do not seek to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

And with that, I think I’ll drop the mic.

***

Did your parents ever try to force you to pursue a particular career?

What are the reasons you would force your child(ren) to pursue a career they have no intention of pursuing?

Your comments are ALWAYS welcome!


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47 thoughts on “On Pleasing Your Parents at the Expense of Your Happiness”

  1. I know and like the quote. It is thought-provoking and beautiful.

    I totally understand your anguish, since I come from a strict family myself. I sympathize.
    However, when it came to higher education, I did have a free choice. But I think that was because my parents never attended university, so they knew they could force me. I’ve been reminded many times that in the end they might have been less than satisfied with my school choice, though.
    In the end, it IS your decision. Going to school only to drop out because you are terrible at it, or don’t like it is not the way to go. Why waste the time and money?

    On the other hand, I understand the thought process of the parents. You don’t want your kid to get a useless degree. Life is already tough enough. Not being able to find a well paying job and supporting yourself can be devastating. They are trying to prevent that. They are trying to make your life more “comfortable”. It’s not always what the kid wants/ needs, though.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I totally get that. Every parent wants the best for their child. And with the way today’s job prospects are, following your passion might not be a good idea. Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. I get that in the nearest future, some jobs will be a thing of the past (since we’re keen on replacing ourselves with robots.)

      I want to study English Literature. I told my uncle this and he sent me a video talking about everything I just mentioned (passion, job prospects, robots.) He told me that it would be a waste of time and money if I studied English Literature in the university because I have a flair for writing, and that I can learn everything I wish to learn online. I saw reason in what he said. It sort of made sense.

      It’s already too late for me to switch to the arts department. That would mean retaking my Senior School Certificate Examination and UTME. And I would have to attend tutorials so I can become familiar with art subjects before taking both exams. I don’t have that time.

      So, yeah, I have no choice but to stick with the science department.

      I just wish my parents were as understanding as my uncle. I told my uncle about my dreams, and we had a normal conversation. He helped me see why studying my choice course might not be a good idea, and he managed to convince me. If every parent were THIS understanding, life would be so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, there’s two parties in this equation. Your parents and you. By telling me that you managed to discuss this with your uncle and that he was understanding, you also showed how mature and understanding you are. Some parents don’t bother because their kids are far from understanding. But that’s another reason why we all should TALK. Communicate.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My father is the one forcing me to take this and that. Ever since I was a kid, up until now. If I didn’t follow, he wouldn’t mind not giving the education I needed. Although my mom did ways of her own to prevent that, I still ended up taking a course that was only available at a particular university, simply because it was home-schooled. I didn’t get the course I chose, simply because I wasn’t trusted enough to handle myself, alone. I never got to talk to people my age for almost 7 years now. And they complain why I don’t. College was suppose to be my chance to chance stuff I couldn’t before. To think outside the box. To explore. Yet, I was prevented to get experience all that. Now, here I am.

    My point is, other than getting the course of your choice. College is where you start your path to adulthood. Some might disagree, probably many would disagree. But if you knew what I went through, and going through right now, you’d understand why its important to me. Maybe you’d even tell me that its only a stage, skippable if possible. But for me, it probably will be the only part in my life that gives me a glimpse of freedom and independence.

    Btw, Obi, I’m gonna share this, okay? Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Actually, many people would agree that college is the defining stage between one’s teenage years and adulthood. 😊
    I agree with you. I’m not a people person. I never was… I’m a complete introvert and I’m not big on socialising with people, but college helped me open up to people a bit. I’m so sorry that your dad had you isolated and denied you the opportunity to do the things people normally do at college
    But you know what, Anne? I believe everything happens for a GOOD reason. You might not see it now, but in future, you will.
    Thank you for the share! If you ever decide to become a parent someday, please don’t make the mistake your dad made, okay?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My parents never imposed my career on me, it was all my choice and I don’t plan on forcing my children into something they don’t have passion for.

    It’s terrible, most times it affects the child. When I was in secondary school I had a friend who joined science department in S.S.S TWO second term. It was very hard for him to cope but he had to because his father wanted him to become an engineer while he wanted to major in history. His father didn’t support him because he believed history wasn’t lucrative (this is mostly the cause).

    It’s best to let the child choose. Passion really matters, he/she would be happy about it. I always wanted to work in the medical line because I saw medical professionals as very respected people. I pleased myself, now I’m very happy studying biochemistry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucky you, Titi! 😊
      I’m sorry about your friend. I just hope that wherever he is now, things are going well for him. Our parents have lived their lives; it is only right that they let us live ours the way we want.
      We were brought up and taught to think for ourselves. It’s for this same reason that we were sent to school – to develop a sound mind that’s capable of making smart decisions.
      Why then would they teach us to think for ourselves, and yet make the most important decisions for us. Am I the only one who finds the irony funny?

      Like

  5. I totally understand. My mom was kind of the kind who would want to choose our career but thankfully she changed.
    There were a couple of things I had interest in but she didn’t let me because they were risky and believe me they were. 😂
    Let’s attribute that to my risk taking, wanting to be the hero, curious side of me.

    Anyways I’m glad she changed and let me choose what I wanted in the end but it’s crazy how even family relatives can attempt to dictate what you should do in college, as in my case.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your mum should let you take risks jare. After all, no risk, no reward, abi? 😂
      I’m also glad your mum changed for the better. It would have been a shame if she had asked you to study something you don’t want to study. The world would have lost a doctor if that had happened.

      Yes, family can be crazy at times.

      Like

  6. My parents never had a say to what career I wanted to take, and the problem was, I didn’t know which one to take! I took Mass Communication, focusing on Broadcast Communication just because my teachers in elementary said I had a good voice and I could pronounce words really well, I might as well be an announcer or a news anchor someday, but opinions from the past weren’t really that updated.

    With my parents, they didn’t want to be too controlling when it comes to choosing majors (they just wanted to give me half of my salary once I’m earning). The problem was, since I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, I had no choice but just to follow my past teacher’s suggestions. I actually thought that my parents would at least know me and at least suggest something if they see some potential in me.

    I must admit that my situation is much easier than you guys since you have your own dreams but you’re forced to do something that you don’t want to do. Mine is that I didn’t know what I really wanted and I was just forced to take whatever there is because others thought that’s the best for me. I think parents shouldn’t be too forcing or too suggesting, but at the same time, they should also at least contribute and inspire their children to know what it is that they really want as soon as possible, even before graduating high school.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I want to frame your comment and hang it on my wall, Camille! Especially that last paragraph! You’ve said it all. Parents should be the people our mind goes to whenever we come across the word “support”.
      Do you feel fulfilled taking Mass Communication?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t feel fulfilled at all. My job, teaching English as a second language to Korean students online, isn’t really related with my major. For now though, I should just be thankful that I met my friends in college, and was able to enjoy some courses. Things would have been different, maybe, if I chose another major, but all I can do is live with it, maybe pursue it in the future, and just avoid regrets.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m truly sorry that things didn’t work out the way you wanted, Camille. I can understand how you feel.
          I sincerely hope that you live a life without regrets, and that you find fulfillment real soon.
          Thank you for sharing your experience with me. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow..
    Reading through the comments has opened my eyes to a lot of things..
    Right from primary school, I was exceptionally good at science subjects..
    So,when the time came to choose a department In the senior class..
    There was no question of which department I would be going to..

    My parents wanted me to study the “lucrative ‘ medicine and surgery..
    Fortunately for me and unfortunately for them 😂I get skirmish at the sight blood..
    This gave me the free pass out of medicine..
    Currently, what I’m majoring in isn’t what I wanted to do but I’ve got plans to change that very soon..
    But I’m grateful my parents were considerate enough not to have forced me into medicine..
    Though they did their best to CONVINCE me I could get over my Skirmishness,
    I’m glad I was still able to choose..

    I think that’s the best way to handle “career issues ”
    Meaningful conversation between the parents and the child where both parties listen to what the other has to say before a decision is made..

    Nice write up. BTW..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you agree that parents shouldn’t force their children to follow a path they don’t want to follow. A dialogue usually would have prevented most of the problems that we face today. Especially this problem we’re discussing.

      When parents have a problem with the career choice of their kids, they should have a normal conversation. Both parties, like you so rightly said, should listen to what the other has to say before a decision made. And if I must add, the decision making should be left to the child in the end.

      Thank you for your contribution, Dunni. I wish you success in your endeavours. 😊

      Like

  8. Quite the opposite. I had no one to sit with me to help me decide my future. Well no one care to do it. But I am learning my parents only knew what they knew and did their best. I can’t change them, they can only choose to change and see a different perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you had no one to advise you and your career choice. I guess it’s left to us – we who can relate to this experience – to become better parents to our children when we become parents.

      Are you happy with the career choice you made?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I define career now as more like a passion and a design purpose God has called me to do. I enjoy where I currently work in, teaching preschoolers. But this is not my calling, this is the prerequisite for something bigger God has in store. The blog has been the next level of where God is leading me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow! Just wow! This is exactly the way I see it, too. I believe things turned out the way they did for good reason. I’m trusting God enough to lean on His understanding, and not mine. I believe He knows best and has the best plans for me and you. The is just the start of something big for us.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. This is such a beautiful piece of writing and you’re so right – it’s our job as parents to guide our children but also to listen to them and to really see them and know them as they are – not the version of them that we want to see. In this way, children feel accepted and valued and are free to become fully themselves and live their authentic lives. I think it’s often a struggle for parents to let go of their own expectations and help their children to develop self-trust and autonomy. Wonderful post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just like the way you put it, Julie, and I totally agree with you. Parents shouldn’t be dictators to their children. Instead, they should be more of a friend, guide, and mentor to them. They should discard their expectations of their children and learn to see them as they really are. And above all, parents should support their children in the pursuit of their dreams.
      Thank you so, so much for your contribution, Julie. And thank you for the kind words. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I ended up dropping out of Nursing dept and finished in Transport management. Suffice to say, I was their greatest disappointment at that time.
    My niece came around and was always reading books , my dad noticed and interviewed her, she want to be a lawyer. So my dad told my niece’s father about it all. Just today, I saw some of my old novels then remembered my dad’s conversation with my niece and I began to wonder why he thought I was best for sciences. Because of high marks?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most parents – especially Nigerian parents – have this warped mentality that if a child gets exceptionally good grades consistently, then he or she is science student material. I’m so sorry your dad suggested that you go for the sciences. Some of us like to believe that everything happens for a good reason. I, for one, believe that every cloud has a silver lining. So, is there any good experience you can say you had as a science student? Any benefit, advantage, or opportunity that you got because you were a science student?

      Like

  11. My dad wanted me to study Journalism, but he didn’t force it on me. I told him I was not cut out for it and he let me be. He supports my choice of course study and he’s my biggest fan.
    I wish most parents will be like him. Even though, one the long run, they only want the best for their children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the kind of relationship you have with your dad and the attitude your dad has. It’s true that most parents only want what’s best for their kids, but most times, our parents’ plans for us aren’t the best. If today’s parents would listen to their kids more often — if they would build friendly relationships with their kids — things will be so much better.

      Like

  12. Hey! I came here from floatinggold’s blog and I’m so grateful that I did. Congratualtions for the nomination.
    What a relatable post! 3 Idiots is one of my favourite movies, too. And I’ve seen my elder sibling choose engineering because my father forced her to. I know our parents want the best for us but sometimes, their way of ensuring this, doesn’t seem right. It is only when we make mistakes that we learn from life. But most parents don’t want their kids to make their own mistakes because they don’t want them to suffer.
    Anyways, brilliant post! I agree with all your points…Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yippee! I’ve made a new friend, and it’s all thanks to Goldie!
      It’s so nice to meet you, Rashi 😊
      I’m thrilled that you also love 3 Idiots. It truly is a fascinating movie.
      I’m sorry your sister was forced to follow a path she didn’t want for herself. It’s a pity.
      Sometimes, when I think about it, I feel like the one good thing that would come out of all this is that the next generation, our children, will live a very happy and fulfilled life. I don’t think that we, after all our parents have made us go through, will have the mind to force our kids to follow a path they don’t want to follow. I feel like our experience will make us better and more understanding and supportive parents.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice to meet you, too, Obinna!
        Well, fortunately, she now knows what she wants to do and engineering is one of the ways to accomplish that so things are working out for her.
        Yes, that is so true, Obinna. Sometimes, this becomes a motivation for me. That if I go through this, our next generation won’t have to. We’ll learn from our parents and only extract the best from them. We’ll make better parents who support our kids no matter what and also give them the best advice we can. But in doing so, we won’t control their life. We’ll allow them to make their own mistakes. And learn from them.
        Wow! Today, I’m actually understanding how the Internet brings people together. It’s like most of us have the same problems. That we’re not alone. It’s a great feeling.🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The internet makes the world one global village; makes it seem like a small town where everyone knows everyone. I love how blogging brings people together.
          I’m very happy to hear that things are working out well for your sister. It wasn’t until recently that I developed a positive attitude towards the course I’m studying. I hope I find my sense of direction, just like your sister did.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, it is pretty fascinating how internet and blogging bring people together from all over the world.
            I think everyone finds their sense of direction in life, some find it soon while others take time. I hope you find yours soon!

            Liked by 1 person

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