As you have read the good girl and the nyab, you probably have an good idea to the girl expectations. But I haven’t talked about the boy expectations.
But first let’s highlight the history where Hmong people care from. According to my mother, I say homeland I mean the mountains of Laos. As for my great grandmother, she said China.
This was a picture I found on google of Ban Ya Nang
This documentary on YouTube is a great reference to help you understand the history of Hmong people: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Dti6qB0r7Ok
The Hmong elder used to always say it was important to have boys. Here are a few reasons when they lived in Laos:
1. Boys protected the household
2. Boys carried the clan’s last name
3. There were no access to hospital, so have another son in case one dies – when someone was sick, sickness spread like wildfire
4. Boys were stronger farmers – they only ate what they were about to grow
5. The oldest son will lead the family – may even become the clan leader
6. The youngest son will be responsible care for the elders
7. As girls will one day marry and leave the home
Growing up in America, we had more opportunities. More opportunities that some those expectations of boys were unnecessary and or were lost.
1. Health care was available, this meant longer life expectancy
2. The family wasn’t limited to eat what they grew anymore
3. Education – the opportunity to grow and make something of yourself
4. Job – the opportunity to do anything
Some of these expectations went away for boys/men, but the tradition and the practice was there.
Growing up my brothers weren’t allowed to help out in the kitchen. They had the freedom to do what ever they wanted. They would able to run wild in the backyard or use a cardboard box down the top of the stairs. They never got in trouble.
When it came to meals time, my parents often fed the boys first and then the girls. My parents used to say because the boys needed them strength. Strength for what? To play some more? I never understood it. Seriously what is more important my strength to cook this meal or for him to play.
Growing up I was rebellious. I wasn’t allowed to go play outside because I needed to stay home and learn my responsibilities to be a nyab one day.
Sleepovers I have never been to, friends I wasn’t allow to be around outside of school; I was only allow to go to school and come back home.
I found my ways and sneaked out of the house by myself. I would wandered the streets, I got lost and eventually found my ways home later on. When I got home, I knew I was going to be beaten but it was so worth it!!
Today in my household, I can say that we have transitioned and evolved from the gender roles. As full-time working parents, we do what needs to be done around the house. If I have to work late, my husband is ok if he has to cook. Sometimes I actually thinks he enjoys it. And he is a wonderful cook.
We’ve seen it in Hmong funerals and family events, the men aren’t just eating first anymore the women too. Woman are stepping up to lead. It’s amazing how we have come. Some traditional values are worth keeping but not necessarily all. I think it’s important to remember the history and the why.
Please share how you seen the gender role changed throughout your family generations?