My expectations v those of my parents

Hi, this is Hannah in the UK. I’d be interested to hear what you think of this.

I have recently completed a History degree, and have spent the past few weeks terrified of final exams, panicking over my dissertation and not getting enough sleep. I am proud that I have finished a university degree, and am on course to beat my parents’ university degree grades. In completing my degree I have fulfilled both my parents and grandparents expectations of me. I am raising the bar for my younger brother and sister since I will hopefully be going into postgraduate study.

My grandparents had very different aspirations for my parents. Although they both wanted their children to go to university, it was expected that as soon as they finished university they should go straight into work. My parents are more relaxed and have accepted my decision to go travelling.

What I would like to know from the WHYS community is if they feel they have met the aspirations of their parents, and what do they aspire from their children? My dad went to university and my mum went to a poly technique so I have always been pushed in the way of higher education. My parents would eventually like me to marry, have a high paid corporate career, work abroad for a while but ultimately settle in the UK. (Not too close to them since they don’t want to be nannies for all my children :-))

Is this the same for people the world over? Do people think that people have different aspirations for their children owing to their generations thinking?

12 Responses to “My expectations v those of my parents”

  1. 1 Nelson
    June 20, 2008 at 20:28

    The Normal Thing for any Parent to do is to inspire their children towards doing something tangible with lives, It’s a bit tricky because sometimes parents tend to foist their expectations on their children. I think some times, they never see them as being grown ups. My own parents wanted to study medicine but i told them i was going to take a different career path.Being I was seen as a rebel for a while, but i stood my ground and after a while, they came around. Parents should teach their kids how to decide right for themselves and they job stops there not actually making the choice for them. Living the way some one else has diplomatically forced you in to could be living hell. Trust me on that one. 😉

  2. 2 beavertonamy
    June 20, 2008 at 21:15


    Congratulations on finishing your degree. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling? Be proud of yourself! As for meeting the expectations of my parents, I guess I did. My mom never finished college and really wishes that she had. They expected me to get my degree in something that I loved even if it wasn’t exactly practical. My father had a degree in history with a minor in philosophy (that was in the 50’s) but didn’t want to teach. He was able to use what he learned in college while working in the computer and banking industry.

    All I want for my girls is to be happy and enjoy their lives. I do expect that they will be able to provide for themselves (and their families) but if they want to get a degree in underwater basket weaving and think that they will be able to use that talent, I’ll support them. Being open to new things can open all kinds of opportunities.

    Enjoy your travels!


  3. 3 Jacqui
    June 20, 2008 at 23:51


    Congrats on the degree. I am the only one of 5 siblings that did not manage to get one, much to my father’s dismay. My brother didn’t get his until he was in his forties, when he decided he should get one before my kids got theirs. I honestly believe I have been happier than my siblings., maybe because I lack ambition. I hope my 3 children know that I just want them to be happy, and, hopefully self-supporting. My oldest, now 26, seems to have decided that helping people would do the trick and has become a physical therapist. My middle child (24) likes travel and is rather “high maintenance, so is working on a helicopter piloting career, on the theory this will give him the resources and opportunity to travel extensively. My youngest (who has dyslexia) struggled with formal schooling, then discovered he could eventually get an engineering degree “from the other side” , and be self-supporting in the interim, so is now a journeyman carpenter.

    In answer to your question; I suspect that our aspirations for our children are directly related to our parents aspirations for ourselves, and how we perceive that to have affected our lives. For example, in my mother’s family each generation expected the next to get more education than last, and she really seemed to want that for us.
    I think mine is the first generation (late baby boomers) that don’t necessarily hope for our daughters to be married by the age of 30. My mother says she certainly felt pressure to get a husband along with a degree at college.
    I (perhaps naively) believe that most parents really do just want to see their kids happy. We just think “our life experience” gives us a better idea of how to make that happen, sometimes with disastrous consequences, as Nelson notes.
    Happy travels!

  4. 4 Will Rhodes
    June 21, 2008 at 03:19

    Congratulations on the degree!

    My expectation was not to die under a nuclear attack while at school – then get a job!

    Coming from a working-class family in Yorkshire that was about all you were expected to do. I left school in 1978 (Old) and there was still a feeling that a factory job could still be for life – how that changed when Thatcher came to power.

    The whole of the county was decimated by her policies – the steel, mines, wool industries all went.

    Middle-class kids were expected to do more and go into management – ironically in the same factories or go into ‘industry’.

    The world changed a hell of a lot in the 70s and 80s.

  5. 5 jamily5
    June 21, 2008 at 05:57

    Hi Hannah,
    Well, different families have different expectations about career, money, children and their own family.
    We all choose which expectations that we want to live up to and have to live with those consequences.
    Some parents are quite rigid about their expectatins.
    In these cases, children have to choose whether to be independent and follow their own path or adhere to their family’s expectations.
    I know that in the west, we are encouraged to follow our own path at any cost.
    But, someontimes, it does have disasterous results.
    Every decision that we make has good and bad consequences.
    For me, I want my children to live to their highest potential.
    This may not be college, but it is doing their best at a field that they enjoy.
    Each one of my children have been given certain gifts… … we all have.
    I want them to use those gifts responsibly.
    All that said:
    Yes, I would be disappointed if my youngest son became a rapper (spewing language that I find inappropriate), my daughter became a stripper,(even if she was quite successful at dancing and getting men to spend their money), my oldest son being a hitman(even if he possessed strength and wisdom about the kill) and if my middle son became a drug dealer(even if he was the most shifty and quite the salesman).
    So, there are limits.
    I do expect my children to keep a close family bond with me.
    I do expect them to “listen” to my advice.
    Note: I did notsay “follow,” but at least listen and consider.
    Afterall, it isironic when children think that the parents are “too old,” to give advice, then these children get “too old” and … …

    I think that a healthy discussion about expectations between children and parents is a good thing.
    A compromise might be in order to keep the family bonds, yet respect individuality.

  6. 6 jamily5
    June 21, 2008 at 06:01

    I didn’t ask:
    Do you have parents of friends who have different expectations than your parents.
    Do you have friends who think that their parents are too strict or liberal with their expectations?
    How would you, as a teen, counsel your friends who might have unrealistic expectations about their future.

    On another question:
    We talked about teenage pregnancy.
    Do you think that your peers have unrealistic expectations about pregnancy, motherhood, work, responsibility, their own parents, etc.
    Teens also have expectations of their parents.
    Some of the teens believe that their parents should always give them money and bail them out.
    But, parents — at least some of them —
    feel that once a child is 18yo, they are on their own.
    Do children have unrealistic expectations about parental finances, even after they are suppose to be on their own???
    Just thoughts to ponder.

  7. 7 Katharina in Ghent
    June 21, 2008 at 08:20

    Hi Hannah,

    Congrats on your degree and on your own page!

    When I was a teenager, my father put quite a bit of pressure on me, seeing me as a bookkeeper in the finance department of some company, for him that would have been the perfect position for me… LOL!!! It just shows how little he knew me! Because of him I went to a specialized high school that trained business administration, and after doing summer jobs for three years, the last thing I wanted to end up doing was sitting in some office and pushing paper from right to left and back. Which then brought me to some decision crisis, because I had no real clue of what I would actually enjoy doing… I ended up going to university for 2 years, changing direction almost every semester, in the end studying French and Hungarian for translator (not the worst choice, since Hungary is about 60 km away from Vienna, where I’m from) and then dropping out because the level was too high and my father wasn’t exactly financially supportive, so I had to work on the side. After that I worked as a flight attendant for four years (my languages came in handy here!), moved then with my Canadian husband to Toronto, started volounteering in his lab, impressed his boss with my Hungarian (he was from Hungary 😉 ) and now I’ve been working as a technician for the last 8 years and loving it.

    I’m sure there were many, many moments where my dad thought that he will have to support me forever (horrors on my side), but in the end everything turned out just fine, it just took me a little bit longer to find something where I can use my hands and my brain, have to learn something new all the time, work with animals, move around a lot at work and far, far away from my parents – for me personally the best thing that could happen to me. I love them dearly but it’s more difficult for them to influence my life from the distance, so this way they can give me their 2 cents of advise and I can follow or not.

    As for my son, he’s too young to see what he will do one day, but as long as he stays within the law (I’m with jamily on that one) and is happy with his decisions, that’s fine by me.

  8. 8 steve b - uk
    June 21, 2008 at 09:26

    Hi Hannah

    Congrats. I’ve got a History degree, too. It helps right throughout life because you look at things from a more detached point of view, I think. Helps gives you a more global view, too. Just right for WHYS!

    Well, as regards parental expectations, I just wish parents would recognise always that, although their kids might well share certain characterstics with them, the kids are separate individuals and might well want to do things that their parents don’t understand. And that, within the law, thisis fine! I know, unfortunately, of several people who have had a rotten time trying to do jobs that their parents wanted them to do when they would have been much happier doing something else. Unconditional love, I think – just give that.

  9. 9 Shakhoor Rehman
    June 21, 2008 at 11:39

    When children have developed their intellectual powers to the extent that they can assert what they want strategically in their life, that is when parents should take a back seat.

  10. June 21, 2008 at 16:21

    Hi everyone!

    Thanks for so many fantastic responses… I found beavertonally’s comment especially funny, only owing to their note that their dad had a history degree, and like my generation people assumed that because he did a history degree he must only want to be a teacher! I had some great history teacher, but leading a class of children on the subject fills me with dread!

    I get my degree classification next week so I will let you all know.

    Now to answer all your questions.

    @Amy Yes it is a wonderful feeling to complete a degree, but it is also quite a hollow one since you realise that you no longer get to attend lectures or seminars and have to look for a 9 to 5 job. Although I can’t express how much I am looking forward to getting a free weekend! I should add that all my parents want is for me to be happy and would not have minded if I had done a degree in underwater basket weaving. They would have been a bit confused about it’s career prospects though 😀

    @Nelson you sound like you speak from experience. Do you think it is wrong for parents to suggest to their children a direction through life (e.g career suggestions) when it has worked so well for them?

    @Jacqui My brother also has dyslexia and has had problems with formal education. Do you think the west focuses too much on formal education as being the solution to all problems?

    @Will something tells me you dont like Mrs T 😀 Do you find that Canadians have very different expectations of their children in comparision to the Brits? E.g does the cost of university education disuade some parents from encouraging their children to go to university.

    I will answer more questions later.

    One final question does everyone think that the economic circumstance of a childs parents effects what aspirations they have for their children? So far it seems most comments come from a western capitalist point of view, I wondered what others thought? Lubna? 😀

  11. 11 Dennis
    June 22, 2008 at 15:45

    Hi Hannah:


    Congrats on your degree….

    Onondaga Community College
    Syracuse, New York
    United States of America


  12. June 23, 2008 at 04:28

    Yes to the first question. No to the second. You might want to check out Laurens post on http://www.sheseesred.com on this subject.

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