Second Generational Guilt

I am wrought with second generational guilt.

I don’t know if that is the technical term for it, or if anyone has even coined a term for it but whatever you want to call it, I’ve got it.

And if you’ve got it too, you know exactly what I mean.

I feel guilty that…

…I was able to attain a college education when my mom had to stop her schooling in the middle of 4th grade to help her family on the farm.

…I sit on my butt in air conditioning while earning more in an hour than my mom made in a day when she first started working.

…I complain about said profession when my mom appreciated her manual job and never once uttered a negative word about it. Not. even. once.

…I give my husband a hard time for not writing me cards and giving me gifts when my mom took care of my sick father for years without ever asking for anything.

…I am on this endless search to “find myself” when my mom was happy to have a roof over her head and dinner on the table.

Who am I to want more…to earn more…to become more?

These questions have crept into my self-talk since I started working about ten years ago and started to really understand the struggles my mom had growing up in China and as an immigrant to the U.S. It has also been in the last ten years that I have “woken up” a bit and found my passions,wanted to start a business, and developed my sense of empathy. Those have all magnified the guilt.

In reality, I am truly a member of the privileged. I am reminded daily when I scroll through my Facebook feed. I have a steady paycheck, a home in an awesome city, and a beautiful family. I have an education and get to pursue learning everyday with a full bookshelf of unread books. How dare I want more?!

I have gotten angry with myself for being unappreciative and to be so consumed with such laughable first world problems.

As a mother now, I understand that my life and my problems are exactly what my mom wanted for me.

My mom never wanted me to have the struggles she faced. She wanted me to get a education. She wanted me to find a job in an office so I didn’t have to work overtime in a factory just to make ends meet. She wanted me to have more opportunities than her. And she did it in the most selfless way possible – uprooting her life from her familiar homeland to allow a better life for her children.

[bctt tweet=”As a mother now, I understand that my problems are exactly what my mom wanted for me.”]

So what am I to do with this second generational guilt?

The solution I have pursued over the past ten years has been to kick@$$ and start a business, make a lot of money and repay my mom for everything she has done. I have come to realize that this is way to much pressure to place on myself and it’s actually been stifling my progress. And more importantly, she does not want me to feel guilty, just as I’d never want my daughter to feel that way.

Instead, what I try to do now is honor her in whatever ways I can and to show her that I appreciate and love her. That means calling her more often, sending her pictures of my daughter, and inviting her to visit me. Those are the things that make her truly happy and I think if I do them more often, I will slowly chip away at this second generational guilt.

Do you experience second generational guilt? How do you remedy it?


I write everyday because it allows me to voice what is at the surface. Once that is out of my head, I can dig in another layer deeper. My daily writing practice has been my greatest exploration of self and humanity. Sign up here to receive these thought nuggets in your inbox on the daily.