When Cultural Expectations Don’t Lineup With Reality

cultural_expectations2When my wife and I got married, like any other young couple, we had a list of things we wanted to accomplish which included having kids. We thought we had this whole marriage thing figured out during our courtship, and since we were not guaranteed tomorrow, why not get on with the program and have kids right away. I had always dreamed of a baby boy or girl running around the house getting spoiled by daddy. Whatever the challenges this little munchkin brings my way, I would be able to handle them as grown up men do. After our two-year honeymoon was over, I was more than ready to be a daddy. My wife always talked about being a stay at home mom, that was her dream before we even met.

Two, three, four, five years had passed, no baby. We had started to wonder if this whole children thing was for us.  Me being on the road, traveling with a music group did not help the situation. We felt time was not on our side. It seemed everyone around us was getting pregnant, even couples who were not ready to have children. We talked about adoption if we could not have children of our own. My wife’s work was getting more stressful, she wanted to quit her job, but her dream of becoming a homemaker was getting shattered, and I knew she felt bad. If she stops working, what would she become? A stay at home wife? It would have helped if we had a bunch of pets, she would have at least quit work to take care of them at home. Ha! 

Finally, we accepted the possibility that we might not be able to have children – and we were okay with it. But then what would she do? Her purpose in life was supposed to have kids and take care of the home–at least that is what culture taught her. And me.

During my time of reflection, I began to realize my cultural expectation of what marriage should be was getting a kick in the rear. I grew up in a culture where married couples were expected to have children. I remember even at a young age how people who had failed to conceive were isolated and ridiculed. In every case, the woman was to blame even though there was no proof that indicated the woman was the culprit. I couldn’t imagine how women felt who expected support from their husbands, family and friends, but instead got a slap in the face – a baby making machine that does not work.

We have literally created these cultural boxes where roles for men and women are stored. Everything expected of a man or woman is defined by the checklist within the box. My wife who was born and raised in Minnesota was challenged at one point by someone she knew. She told the lady that her desire was to get married and raise a family but she wanted to go to college to get an education first. The lady told her “why do you want to waste money getting an education when your desire is to get married and be a homemaker?”

That kind of cultural expectations hung over my wife’s head as she tried to figure out what she should do until meeting Mr. Right. So, she became a lady-in-waiting, waiting for prince charming to whisk her away to a castle where she will live happily ever after. Then she met me…LOL. In the following six years she remained childless. What was she going to do in the meantime? Be a housewife? No, she went off to college and discovered her true passion. Not that her desire for having kids lessened, but sometimes we have to face the inevitable. What if my wife never had kids? Was she supposed to work menial jobs? Or could we perhaps be called to more? Do we allow our culture to hold us back? To dictate certain expectation but only to find that these cultural demands does not line up with reality? Then what? Maybe we need to take a step back and think what we are teaching our sons and daughters.

Challenges we face now are definitely different from what our forefathers faced a century or two ago. There is nothing wrong with keeping up with traditions, but if our traditions become a source of strife and harm to our loved ones, then maybe we should think twice about holding on to them. I have seen families who hated each other’s guts get together for cultural  or traditional holiday gatherings because it is expected of them. At what cost? Perhaps we should spend more time mending broken relationships and empowering people to use their talents to their full potential. This world is full of pain and suffering, we can all use a little encouragement from loved ones.

What are some of the cultural expectations you faced that did not lineup with reality? How did you deal with them?

8 thoughts on “When Cultural Expectations Don’t Lineup With Reality”

  • Living cross-culturally, I resonate with your message. It is painful to see my friends who are barren being put away and shamed for something totally out of their control. I long to share with them about Sarah, Hagar, Hannah, and Elizabeth. And yes, I agree that it’s difficult to be placed into a cultural role that does not always line up with your core values. Living in the midst of a culture totally different from my own has made us reevaluate everything. What part of our beliefs belong in the “no compromise” column and which ones are imposed upon us by cultural prejudices. For example, dancing in my home culture was a big no-no, yet here, the weights of day to day are shaken off for a short time and you cannot help but dance. What’s wrong with that, I ask? Even David danced!

  • What a nice read James!. I have quite a bit to say about that topic but if only i could put my thoughts in order and then put pen and paper to it. Thanx for sharing though.

  • There’s the expectation to have kids, buy a house with a white-picket fence, work a job, retire someday – the whole nine-yards of the American dream. Well, we only just bought a house 2 weeks ago – after almost 11 years of marriage. And a lot of that other stuff – well, I think it is often secular standards set on storing up treasures on Earth instead of laying them up in Heaven.

    We just kept telling ourselves we were living the life God had planned for us, not what society dictated was supposed to be normal. I like traditions for the good memories they create. But doing something just because it is expected, unless there are very good and valid reasons behind them, has always made me want to do the exact opposite.

    • Thanks for some great insight Sparksofember. You bring such a good point about some of the cultural dictates that pushes us into we gotta have a lot stuff mode. That’s the reason why a lot of people are in debt because they cannot wait any longer to have things. A lot of the things we gather are wants not needs. My wife and I have been been married for almost 12 yrs and we just got a house about 3 yrs ago.
      We got a lot to learn 🙂

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