Reflections on breaking free from the traits we inherited from our parents

A woman with her parents.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • My friends and I agreed that the vicious cycle of patriarchy would only stop if we made it stop.
  • We promised that we would be the last generation to shrink our achievements and ambitions to pander to the whims of patriarchy.

What traits did your parents pass on to you that you are actively trying to change? This question is from a Kenyan card game called Ask. It’s packed with 60 questions, and the game creators promise it will break the ice with deep and thought-provoking prompts.

When one of my friends drew this card at a girls’ lunch date last weekend, she paused for a moment, cradling it in her hands. She eventually shared that she was working hard to avoid becoming the kind of wife her mother was.

“For every decision, big or small, my mom had to get my dad's approval. If he said no, that was the end of it. She was always in his shadow. Now that he's no longer with us, God rest his soul, she's taking on huge projects and making big life decisions on her own.”

My friend said she wanted to think independently and make her own decisions, even as a wife.

“Today, when she visits my house, she openly disapproves of small things like my husband serving himself or washing his own hands. I tell her that I'm not going to start something I won't be able to sustain,” she added.

Her response immediately shifted the mood of the room. We talked at length about the consequences of a permission-seeking existence for our mothers in their marriages.

One unintended result of this trait was that our male counterparts grew up witnessing this and ended up imposing the same expectations in their own marriages.

We also acknowledged that our parents did not know any better as the “good wife” script had been followed for centuries and passed down to many generations of women before us.

As for me, I loved and admired my late mother immensely. She was a beautiful, fashionable, bold woman adored by many.

But she believed that women must never leave their marriages. I held on to this belief until I found myself in a marriage that warranted my leaving. That’s when I realised how much her staying in a toxic union affected me. I left. Leaving made me understand that I was actively changing my attitude towards marriage.

Patriarchy

My friends and I agreed that the vicious cycle of patriarchy would only stop if we made it stop. We promised that we would be the last generation to shrink our achievements and ambitions to pander to the whims of patriarchy.

Our parents, even though we often place them on pedestals, made mistakes, as any human being does. It's our duty to ensure we don't repeat them.

So, what traits did your parents pass on to you that you are actively trying to change? If this question resonates with you and you can answer it authentically, please do. Who knows? Maybe this is your path to healing wounds you never knew you had.

The writer comments on social and gender topics (@FaithOneya; [email protected]).