Dear Thelma: I resent my mum’s high expectations of me


  • Family
  • Wednesday, 29 Jul 2020

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Back when I was in school, my mother put a lot of pressure on me to achieve something that wasn’t what I was aiming for.

The expectation of every parent for their children to be doctors or pursue some high-paying career burdens me, as my mother is one of them.

I even once refused to come home from my uncle’s house because I didn’t want my mother to stab me with her hurtful words to force me to study. I was only 10 then.

It burdens me when she harps about how hard my father is working hard to pay for my education and how she misses her chance to pursue further education back in her youth. Somehow I felt it’s one of her ways to force me into something that I don’t desire to pursue.

I feel burdened that l’m unable to express my thoughts to my parents. I’m very sensitive to judgement and criticism.

I have a passion for cooking. Somehow this route seems to be “insufficient” for my mother.

I’m burdened because I have been hiding my anxiety and stress about how I ‘m going to pursue my career of choice when my parents scoff at it.

I feel so burdened all the time when people start to talk. I just want the burden to end. How do I make it stop?

The Burdened One



Dear The Burdened One,

Isn’t it awful when parents seem to think of us as extensions of themselves, instead of individual human beings? Lots of parents force their kids into study and career paths that they don’t like, and are amazed when they don’t do well or are unhappy. This need not be you!

Basically, you have three broad options.

If you are 18 and an adult, the nuclear option is to leave home and forge your own way. You can get a job and make your own choices. I don’t recommend it because making a career is very difficult, especially at present. You might work in a coffee shop or restaurant, but whether you’d flourish is a big question. However, should life be unbearable, it is an option.

Alternatively, you can talk to someone else in your family, and ask them to champion you. If you have an aunt or uncle who would speak for you, your parents may be persuaded to allow you to choose your training. I suspect you’ve already thought of that, but it’s worth mentioning.

Finally, consider there are more paths to becoming a chef or restaurant owner than studying at a college with a culinary programme. For example, you could study finance, business, accounting, advertising, or electronic commerce so that you learn the skills you need to set up a company and make money.

Once you graduate, you can apply to a restaurant or hotel and get the on-the-job experience and informal training that you need. Or, if you have a yen for starting a niche business like a bakery, you work for a year or two to save up and take short courses to learn specific skills like pastry-making before setting up your own enterprise.

If you do that, you will follow the footsteps of Gordon Ramsey who studied hotel management, Martin Yan who studied food science and Nigella Lawson who has a degree in medieval and modern languages.

So, don’t despair. You have options and need not live your life according to your mum’s design. Do your best at everything you turn your hand to, and focus on the big goal.


Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name, address and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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