Managing Family Expectations: Balancing Tradition and Personal Aspirations


As a frequent flier, when I travel by plane, I have a habit of striking up conversations with people. This sometimes turns out to be a remarkable experience. So, on my way to India from the US a few weeks ago with my wife, I had a conversation with an NRI who, just like me, runs a company in the US.

While having a conversation with him, I got to know about his recent stress, his son’s decision to quit grad school and start his business. Even though his son started a business a year ago and acquired initial funding, as a father, this man is still not at ease. As an NRI, doing a job in a foreign land, he has experienced life differently. And now, that his son is creating his own path, the father feels uncertain about his financial security and stability.

The Difference between Generations in a Family

This conversation made me realise that this is actually a problem for many people all over the world. When our kids are in their initial years, they live up by our expectations. But when they grow up, it is natural for them to choose their own journey. But as their parents, we often don’t agree with the choices they make. Call it a generational gap or a gap in communication, but while we feel sad that our kids are not respecting our traditions and opinions, they feel frustrated as we as parents fail to understand them. And often, this becomes a huge reason for a lasting conflict. But how about we change this now?

What Have I Learned from My Life


My grandfather, in his time, was an entrepreneur. In Peshwar, he had a thriving business of brick kilns. During partition, he had to leave that behind and come to Delhi and settle with his family. While the next generation, my father and uncle, decided to go for government jobs, their next generation, I, decided to join IT at the time of the internet boom. When I moved to the US, I had a thriving career in IT and later in sales and marketing. From there, I decided to become an entrepreneur. Today, my son, Suraj, is carving his own path, making his own choices. While we all come from the same family, our times and lives are very different from each other. That is why the decisions we have to make are different too. The main thing that we needed was to communicate our decisions well and respectfully. To me, this can solve the conflict between generations.

Managing Family Expectations While Priorotising Your Desires

This is a delicate balance to strike. Not letting go of our traditions while still making personal choices can become easier in the following ways:

Separate Expectations from Goals

In any Indian family, even today, parents think of white collar jobs as the best thing for their kids. But it is high time that we understand that time has changed. We are living in an age where people, from a very young age, start to innovate. Someone who is meant to break new ground cannot fit into the boxes society has created. Do you remember that scene from 3 Idiots where Rancho says what if Lata Mangeshkar’s father told her to play cricket or Sachin Tendular’s father told him to sing! So, as parents, your duty should be to separate your expectations from your kids goals. Let them chart their own course and experience life their own way.

Communicate and Understand

Maybe you are the first generation in your family to settle abroad. That shaped your life. But your child grew up in a foreign land with their own perceptions. It might not be easy to always understand them. But there is a solution. Communicate with them. Try to understand what they want from their lives and respect that.

Loose the Grip

When a child lets go of their parent’s hand for the first time, it makes the parent proud and worried at the same time. Similarly, when your kids are building their own lives, it might make you worry about them. After all, you never want them to face uncertainty or failure. But that’s how we learn, don’t we? Unless they make mistakes, fail a few times, and take a few detours, they will not learn. So, let them be. Let go of your grip and let them find their own way.

Having patience and a willingness to adjust are two ways you can manage your expectations while your next generation achieves their goals. Have faith that while making personal choices, your kids will still respect the values you have instilled in them.

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