For those who don’t know, Nyab means daughter-in-law in Hmong.
As a young Hmong girl, I was taught that becoming a nyab was my destiny. I hated the fact that my life was decided for me. The expectation was high to learn and prepare to become a nyab; as one day, I will marry.
My parents consistently reminded me of the expectations of a Nyab, these were the 7 expectations that resonated with me:
- When you are marring a man, you also married his entire family. Meaning that you must leave the family you were raised with.
- You must love and service your husband’s parents as if they were your own
- To bite your tongue is a sign of respect
- You must assist cooking every meal
- You must clean what needs to get done
- You must wake up before your mother-in-law
- You must attend every family event and offer your services
When I married, I found myself struggling with the culture shock. The expectations and pressure, I was not prepare for. Before my life with my husband, I had never been to a Hmong wedding, Hmong funeral nor a cultural family event. My husband’s family consist of 13 siblings, whom are all married with children, some with grandchildren. He has 11 aunts and 1 uncle, they each have great grandchildren. Can you image how many birthday parties there are? Baby showers? And how crowded my house is on Christmas Eve? My weekend are full of family events with just his family.
Throughout my childhood mother was often sick. Her legs would lose coordination and balance. At the time, doctors couldn’t pin point the cause and they couldn’t diagnosis her with anything. My childhood was full of doctor appointments and hospital stays. As I never wanted to leave my mother’s side; where ever she went, I went.
As my mother’s condition worsen, it didn’t stopped her from carrying out her responsibilities. No matter how long it took her to prepare a meal from her trembling hands, she was committed. She would stay up all night if she had to. One night, I walked in on her crying because she accidentally cut her hand. She expressed to me how she felt like a complete failure because she couldn’t do her duty as a nyab due to her sickness. I never understood my mother and why she felt she needed performed these crazy nyab duties.
After I got married, I hated the crazy expectations. I was expected to attend church on Sunday where my mother-in-law attended. Be at the funeral when it was open; meaning if the funeral was 24 hours for 3 days, I was expected to be there all 3 days. Oh don’t forget about the evening night watches every weekend as soon the person pass until the funeral date. And when you attend a family event, it was a sign of respect to help set up and cook and stay after the event to help clean up.
When my mom was critically ill, I witness such love and compassion from my husband’s family. There was no culture expectation, but they did. But without even asking, my mother-in-law went out of her ways to cook meals and visited my mother. The family even took turn to visit and comforted my mother.
“The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow”
As tired as I was from it all because of their act of love and support; I felt in love with this family. I loved their children like my own and they loved my children like their own. I couldn’t get enough of it. Every weekend I look forward to events. If there wasn’t an event, I would set one up.
I am a PROUD to be a Hmong nyab.
Please share your experience and how you overcame cultural challenges.