19 March 2006

The young woman and the old woman

Although countries are often congratulated for having rapidly modernized themselves into the league of developed nations, I have found two major downsides to rapid modernization that ought to be taken into account when determining the pace of development. The first is the noveau riche mentality. (Cf »my post on Bejing.) The second as I recently found out is the strain on mother-daughter relationships.

In an era long past and never to return, mothers and daughters led fairly similar lifestyle. Life urbanized quite slowly, at a pace acceptable to the general society. For a country that took a hundred years to double its GDP per capita, there were three generations of mothers to spread the change over. For a rapidly industrialized country however, there is all but one generation to bear the entire trauma of the change.

In an era long past and never to return, it was reasonable to adopt a yang er fang lao attitude and to expect your offspring to stay by your side. It was not likely that the education level and level of exposure of mothers and daughters differed as drastically as today. Today, we would find that in one generation, no woman had ever gone to college; but in the next, women are going for post-graduate degrees. In one generation, it took fifty-six years for the old woman to make her first Trans-Pacific flight; but in the next, it took nineteen for that first Trans-Pacific flight, then less than five subsequently for 100,000 miles to be travelled.

In an era long past and never to return, women were homely and time away from home meant stints in which one was reluctantly pulled out of the home nest for a greater cause like work. But in the current era, it is quite possible that the young woman relishes this time away and genuinely enjoys being a citizen of the world.

This entire burden of change rests on the single old woman (instead of the three in the past), who still expects her nestling to stay by her side. But the young woman flies and stays no more. Her heart still lies with the old woman, but that is not enough for her. Why is my daughter not happy to stay by my side when I was happy to stay by my mother’s, laments the old woman.

The young woman does not know how to explain to the old woman that the world has modernized too fast and placed too heavy a burden on her.

So she tells the old woman stoically and simply - in life, one can only look forward.

The past is an era long past and never to return.


  1. The security of the human heart is the issue that needs to be addressed. This remains the same, past and present, altered not by technology nor geographical change. The old woman has her insecurities, the young one hers. It manifests differently but what the old woman wants from the young woman may not be physical proximity (although expressed as such, she yet knows not what is really wants). Address that mind’s concern then young and old may see eye to eye, realizing one way is not different from the other.

    Good luck.

  2. Thanks for a fresh perspective. I suppose the faithful heart can stand impervious to winds of change, but the uncertain heart palpitates with the slightest breeze.

    Perhaps the palpitations can be reduced, with effort.

    Drop by soon, SZ.

  3. Hey Jo,

    Great catching with you =)
    The walls that surround
    the old woman's heart needs to be broken down. What is that "Wall" ?
    Do both parties know what is that "Wall" or is there more to it.
    Be it insecurity or unfounded worries, talking about those barriers might lead to the answers which both the old woman and young woman are looking for.