It started as a random thought.
There was no obvious reason why this particular thought entered my head. But once it was there, it wouldn’t leave.
So I sat with it. Gave it time. Allowed it to simmer so I could understand its origins.
It didn’t take me long. Thoughts like this seem to have an inevitable trigger.
“She doesn’t ask about my job,” I thought to myself.
But that wasn’t the surprise. Since most people’s families don’t know what they do for a living.
Do they take an active interest in what you do professionally?
When you see them, are details asked about your day in the office and how that tough conversation with a colleague went last week? Are they interested?
That’s why they’re family.
It’s the same with mine.
But there’s more to it.
It isn’t that my vocation isn’t important. It is.
But it just isn’t important enough.
Nothing’s important enough. Not compared to that other thing. That thing that came to me in the thought that I now not-so-randomly had.
And the thought was this:
I could have all the accolades in the world. I could travel, create a global company, rule a country, do meaningful charity work and still make it home in time to clean and cook dinner.
But all that? Wouldn’t get 10% of the praise that having a man in my life does.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What I do professionally, and in my personal time, could change the lives of thousands of people. I could find the cure for a disease or go down in history as the first brown woman to fly solo to the moon.
But none of that would count.
Not compared to: “Mum, I’m engaged,” or “Mum, I’m getting married.”
As if having a life partner is akin to achieving the impossible. It hasn’t been done before. It’s an historical milestone.
But it doesn’t end there.
Because once the marriage has happened and the lives are still being saved. The moon is still being visited solo. And the country’s still being run. The expectations then change.
Now it’s time you had a child.
Then said child eventually comes along in all his newness and wonder. He’s celebrated.
Parties are thrown. Gifts are purchased. Congrats are shared and hearts are full.
Compare that to: “Mum, I’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize”, which is met with: “Hmm … Oh look, he’s drooling! Quick! Get a camera so we can take a picture!”
And once an heir to the thrown is produced, the expectation starts that he needs a playmate.
Shouldn’t you buy a house rather than rent it?
I really wish you’d start taking better care of yourself. You’ve put some unsightly weight on around your hips. It’s been there for far too long.
And on and on it goes.
It. Doesn’t. Fucking. End.
Not only is professional achievement not enough. The rest is never enough.
Not for them.
They don’t pay attention to what you’re proud of. They magnify attention to what you ‘should’ be doing and pile on the pressure to achieve it.
And once you have, the dust settles for the best part of three seconds, and they’re at it again.
With the expectations. The small digs. The judgement.
It doesn’t end.
So … what can you do?
In the face of your professional achievements being ignored and your personal life being dictated? What can you do to get them off your back?
There’s only one thing for it.
Get a fake passport, have your face surgically altered, change your name and make a dash for the nearest remote village with zero internet connection and a friendly goat named Zuma.
That’s one option.
Thank them for their concern and then get on with your life.
They want what they think is best for you. They’re family. They’ll do that (in whatever warped way they choose).
But your role isn’t to find ways to appease them.
It’s to find ways to appease yourself.
Because the one thing worse than feeling controlled by their expectations? Is hating yourself for allowing the control to happen in the first place.