A Response to “Familial Obligations”

We're a close family.
This is one of those random-piece-of-paper posts I talked about earlier.  I wrote it back in March after reading fellow blogger Zoya Patel’s post and really connecting to it.   Originally, it was just gonna be a comment on her site, but after some thought, I realised that leaving a comment of THIS size would be like forced impregnation, so here it is as a post in its own right.  Now, note: some of the stuff I wrote back then has changed a bit – turns out I 
can’t resist watching random movies with my parents, and, also, who was I kidding?  I haven’t weeded the garden in years – but the rest of it is still pretty true.  Geddonnit!

Zoya’s post is really great.  It so accurately depicts a part of what I call “diasporic-child-of-immigrants-in-Australia-mindfuck-situations” which, hilariously, make up a lot of my life.

Interestingly, I’ve been pondering the same thing about my Serbian family recently. Having spent all of last year away from them in Europe, living independently and, well, rather successfully (in that “I didn’t die” kind of way), I wondered how it would be coming back.  Last year was the first time that my parents lived without their children (my brother was coincidentally in Europe the whole time, too), and it was kind of tough on them – especially at the start. I personally loved living independently. Sure, it was a drag having to pay rent and buy groceries and do my own laundry, but to be honest, I relished in my new ability to be selfish (and not feel guilty about it)!  Finally, I could spend my weekends reading books and going to the movies without having to clean the bathrooms or make dinner first.  Or even STUDYING without having to help in the garden or go with them to X Balkan family friends’ place.  And even though that sometimes meant I left my breakfast dishes unwashed until the evening, guess what? It didn’t kill me!  I was in control of my time and I loved it.

Now I’m back in Canberra and I’m kind of back in the family-obligation zone, but I’m happy. I’m happy to be back with my parents, baking with my mum, weeding on a Saturday morning, and all of it.  But coming back, I’m aware of not getting back into that rut I was in before I went to Europe.  Now, when I need to study, I just refuse to clean the bathrooms.  When I need to relax, I refuse to take the dog for a walk.  When I want to catch up with my friends, I just refuse to watch that film my parents wanted us to all watch together.  A big part of me feels *too* selfish for doing those things at times, but I just realise it’s necessary to for my own sanity.  I still love my parents and want to continue that same close relationship we’ve always had, but on coming back, I’ve just figured out how to make myself the priority, and honestly feel better for it.

Obviously, it’s not like I do *nothing* around the house these days . I still help out, partly ’cause I feel that I should and partly ’cause my mum’s cottoned on that I’m just becoming selfish these days (and wants to keep me in line), but also, in a way, because I realise that this period of our lives – this nuclear, everyone-living-under-the-same-roof thing – is coming to an end.  Soon enough, my brother and I will move out or find a wife and a husband or whatever, and we’ll back look back on these times and be like “damn, I’d love to be back there right now”.  But I guess I shouldn’t be too existential about it anyway.  After all, as my parents have already decided, we’ll be over there with their grandchildren “every weekend, helping out in the garden and baking things together.  Won’t that be fun?”  Haha, yep.



  1. Hey Dunja!

    Awesome post – it’s so interesting to think about living away from home and then having to come back to live with the family again.

    As I type this, I’m at my parent’s house, staying the night as part of my ‘I’m moving to Melbourne, so I’ll stay some nights at your house to ease you into the idea of me being far away’ plan.

    Mum made a big deal about me staying over this weekend, but when I arrived this afternoon, it was to discover that she was away all day till evening, my sister was out with friends, and my dad had people over and barely noticed me. I ended up watching Glee and having a nap in my old room.

    I do think that our parents sometimes have unfair expectations of us, because they can’t quite comprehend that as adults, we might be more autonomous than we were as kids. But I also love that they’re always there, loving us, caring about us, actually wanting to see us in ten years time despite the fact that we will have changed as people.

    It’s very reassuring!

    Great blog, btw! 🙂

    • Hehehe, you’re so right. Having family in the background, supporting the good things you do and witnessing the funny bits plus everything in between is a bit of an amazing thing, actually. Now that I’ve been back for a while, I’ve realised that my life in Europe wasn’t actually as different as I thought it was. I spent my leisure time in the same way as I do here, befriended the same sorts of people and got the same sorts of haircuts. The difference was that there, I didn’t have the parents around, and here, I do. And that’s a huge difference which I can’t even express accurately. So yep. Good support. Heh.

      (They DO always seem to be ready to remind you of the funny bits later though, don’t they? My dad just loves quoting me when I get a conjugation wrong in my Serbian and then giggling like a madman.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s