In one of the posts about Taiwanese women Kevin wrote that filial piety, one of the most important constructs of Confucian philosophy, is often used as means of control. In this case parents love their children not for themselves but only if they fit certain conditions and agree to be “instruments” for whatever goal parents want to use them.
About a week ago I talked with my friend from high school Zhou Xueshu and a little glimpse into her relationship with her mother immediately reminded me the concepts of filial piety and instrumental love. Possibly that day Xueshu was especially frustrated and used a chance to complain about her misfortunes. Surprisingly she agreed to get her story published in LoveLoveChina and the next day we met online again for a little interview.
Some background about Xueshu:
She is 29 years old Chongqing girl. After graduating from college she started working as an auditor in one advertising company.
In the past Xueshu lived together with her parents in the tiny apartments (about 20 square meters). It comprised 1 bedroom which had just enough space for a double bed and wardrobe, 1 sitting room in which Xueshu’s bed was constructed by her father in a way that it had to be unfolded from the wall every evening, kitchen and bathroom (just enough for a slim person to squeeze in).
Several years ago, their house was demolished and they moved into new apartments in which they finally could “breathe” (60 square meters).
Me: I remember that in the past your mother was taking all of your salary.
Xueshu: Yes. In my first job I was earning 800 RMB per month. My mom would take all of it and give 5 RMB per day to me.
Me: Are you kidding? How could you survive?
Xueshu: No need to worry. She calculated everything for me. I lived and ate at home. So, 2 RMB was enough for transportation, and 3 RMB to buy noodles or fried rice for lunch.
Me: Sounds crazy. But now it’s better, right?
Xueshu: Yes. We have a different arrangement now. My salary grew to more than 2500 RMB. So every month I pay a “rent” of 400 RMB.
Me: That’s a totally different story.
Xueshu: But that’s not all. Even though I didn’t ask for it, my mom bought a new car for me. Not only I don’t like it at all but now I have to return 10,000 RMB per year for it. And I turned into a private driver of our family. Of course, all expenditures for insurance and gasoline are also on me. Now I have to wait until next month’s salary to buy some clothes for myself.
Me: Poor you. Well, at least you don’t have to pay insurance every month.
Xueshu: Yes. But then there will be something else. My father needs to see a dentist. So, mom insists that I give 1,000 RMB. Now this is OK for me.
But then she comes and says: “Your aunt’s phone is broken. Accompany her to buy a new mobile phone and pay for it.” My God! I think it will cost me another 1,000 RMB.
Me: What? She didn’t even talk with you before promising something to your aunt? And why your aunt’s children can’t buy it for her?
Xueshu: I myself wonder why. She has two sons both of whom work in other cities. What’s the use to bring up sons [if they can’t take care of you]?
I don’t know – maybe my mom was emotional or cared about face things when she talked with her. She said this aunt treats me well. But I honestly have never felt it. When we had hard times and didn’t have enough money for my tuition, nobody helped me.
And I remember that in the past whenever I had fights or quarrels with cousins, it was always my fault and me to be punished. I really don’t understand why she thinks that my aunt treats me well.
Me: I am sorry to hear that. Do you think that somehow your aunt felt superior to your mom because she had sons? Whether your mom said that she wanted a son?
Xueshu: I think so. In the past my mom mentioned several times that the first child was a boy (aborted before I was born). But now it’s OK although I am still not good enough.
Me: What do you mean?
Xueshu: Now – when I don’t give her all my salary – she constantly nags at me or tells others that I am not a filial daughter and not as good as my cousin sister. I think mothers don’t usually say bad things about their daughters in front of others, right? I really don’t understand why my mother does that.
Once I said that in the future I want to do a small business and run a shop. Her immediate reaction was – “We will not support it. You want? Save money and do it yourself. If you lose, don’t come back to cry. We will not help.”
Me: So why don’t you move out? You are 29 years old.
Xueshu: Don’t even mention it. Once I told my cousin sister that I want to move out and rent an apartment, she generously offered me to live in her apartment together with her. But when I told my mom about it, she got extremely angry. She told everyone in our neighborhood and family what bad daughter I was, that I didn’t want to live with her and take care of her, that I wasn’t a filial child and didn’t love her, and that her health was bad and she would die soon. She just made me crazy.
You know, immediately after my graduation I wanted to find a job in another city. Guess what my mom did when she heard about it? She took my wallet and hid my ID card and all of my certificates!
Me: If I were you, I would just move out without letting her know. After some time she would accept it. What is your dad’s attitude, by the way?
Xueshu: Oh, no. Not her! You saw my mom and knew her a little bit, right? I can not talk with her in a reasonable way. When she wants something from me, she can do anything to make it or control me. It’s been for years. Moreover, now I have other things to worry about – such as job, new car and so on. After I get married, I will have a decent reason to move out of my parents’ house. She won’t have anything to complain about. Somehow, I already don’t want to fight against her. Nowadays, when I come back home, I seldom talk with them. And my dad most of the time just keeps silent.
Me: So how is your dating? Does your mom allow you to go out to have fun?
Xueshu: Yes. But she always calls me at 7 p.m. to say that it’s dark and I should go back home. Of course, I decide myself when to go home but she just continues calling me.
Me: I don’t understand, isn’t she worried that you are still not married? Does she try to find someone for you?
Xueshu: Yes, she does. But since she is already retired for few years, she has less acquaintances and her circle is limited to our family, neighbors and people in the market.
Besides I myself am very busy at work lately. Anyway, there were few guys with whom I went out. But somehow we just didn’t have anything in common and it didn’t go well.
Me: What do you mean?
Xueshu: Well, for example there was a guy from the village. Very hard working, studies a lot. But you know, he opposed me spending (my own) money and for that reason we wouldn’t go to this place or to that place. He was also somewhat awkward in everything related to social intercourses. One time we had a dinner with a friend. I introduced my friend to him. He just smiled and during the whole dinner didn’t say a word. And then – in the end of the dinner – it was me to pay the whole bill!
Another guy who said that he liked me very much, he would call me every day. But most of the time I just couldn’t understand what he was talking about. His favorite topics were what kind of pranks he played on his colleagues or friends and various video games. It just drove me crazy.
Me: How old were the guys?
Xueshu: About one year older than me [thirty years old].]
Xueshu: Yeah, that’s it. So help me to find a nice guy if you have some friends to recommend.
Me: I will keep it in mind. Anyway, I really think that you should move out. I think that when you start dating someone seriously, your mom could influence your dating in a negative way.
Well… I have nothing to add to what you already have read.
If you have any advice to Xueshu, you can either leave your comments here or even send her an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lucky to have sane parents, Crystal Tao