My dad left Belarus when I was four. Belarus is known as “Europe’s Last Dictatorship”, and even though it was a great place for me to grow up, the significant financial and political instability was unavoidable.
Two years on a bunk bed with 10 roommates wasn’t exactly a spa retreat for my dad, but after two years apart, we finally reunited in Denmark. It was great. Also, I remember thinking that my dad looked like someone from the cast of Jersey Shore because apparently, sunbeds were a trend back then. At least that’s what he said.
Back in the day, my dad was a straight-A student and got a finance degree in Belarus. He knows all sorts of weird stuff and remembers every historical date that I forget a second after he tells me. Unfortunately, as it often goes, my dad could not use his degree in Denmark and currently works as a driver. Driving a bus wasn’t exactly his dream, which is why he often pulls the “driver card” to remind me of the sacrifices he’s made.
In many ways, I feel entirely Danish, but one thing keeps reminding me that I’m not: immigrant parent guilt.
I want to show my parents that I’m not letting the life they’ve given me go to waste
Like many other immigrant parents, my dad wanted me to become a lawyer, dentist or an engineer. A career that would give me a stable financial life and him a villa in Marbella with a sea view and never-ending margaritas. He always ‘jokes’ about it.
Although I didn’t choose law or engineering, my parents are very proud of me for studying IMK, and that’s important to me.
My parents are very loving and supportive, and they probably wouldn’t even get mad if I chose to do something crazy with my life. They’d try to understand, but they wouldn’t be able to hide their downcast eyes and disappointment. As of today, I still make those ‘wrong decisions’, and even if they don’t say anything, the feeling of guilt is unavoidable.
I don’t want their struggles to be in vain. I want to repay my dad for his courage.
Maybe, it isn’t that important to ignore the feeling of guilt, but what is essential is to use it as a motivator
Being a single child only makes it harder because I’m the only one reflecting their parenthood. I’m the only one carrying the responsibility of making them happy and proud.
If I didn’t live in Denmark, I would most likely not have had as many opportunities in life as I do now, and I really want to make the most of each one.
I want to show my parents that I’m not letting the life they’ve given me go to waste.
However, I know that my dad doesn’t make me feel guilty on purpose. I’ve talked to him about it, and he doesn’t deny it, but he just can’t help it. As years go by, I’ve realized that the desire to do everything just a pinch better for my parent’s sake will never leave my subconscious. Maybe, it isn’t that important to ignore the feeling of guilt, but what is essential is to use it as a motivator.
Immigrant parent guilt or not, I believe we all appreciate our parents’ pride.