The Immigrant Bargain

The immigrant bargain is the idea that our parents sacrificed much of their lives in their home country, and thus our successes should justify their loss (and some) This is very common amongst immigrant children.

Immigrant parents may leave their home countries for numerous reasons. War, political instability, lack of opportunity...the list goes on. The key is they are in search of a better opportunity for their and their children's futures.

How does the immigrant bargain impact the children of immigrants?

To justify all that was left behind, parents might put very high expectations on their children. Perfect grades, a clean social record, chores, and tasks done with no mistake, and an emphasis on family. What many families don't see is that it leaves the next generation feeling pressure to succeed. Anxiety, depression, and resentment might build over time if expectations are not met. And these feelings might be hidden away to avoid conflict. The perfect image of sacrifice might not become reality.

It is important to remember you are not alone.

What is it like to know that there is a whole term for this experience? It is common enough for the field of psychology to say "Hey, this seems like something that should be labeled because it looks like it happens to a lot of people!"

Remember: Your worth is not tied to your accomplishments.

You are more than the things that you produce. You are not your mistakes. You are more than the praise you receive. You are not your successes. You are not your productivity. You are a human being with infinite worth and you should be treated as such. You may not receive this message from your family, but hopefully, now you will be able to tell yourself these things.

Their method of survival does not have to be yours.

Immigrant parents might have left situations that required them to live strictly, perfectly, and without mistakes (because mistakes could be costly). Take inventory of what you have now. It is likely that you have more room for mistakes. You might have more resources available. You might have more freedom to be the main evaluator of your life and not your parents. Everyone is at a different stage of life, but maybe you don't have to live as strictly as your parents want you to.

You are allowed to seek support.

This might be the first time you are able to label your experience. Hopefully learning this term has been validating your experiences! And has hopefully mad you feel less alone in these feelings.

Immigrant children are often strong and resourceful because they have to be. But you don't have to do this completely on your own. It is okay to seek out support from professionals, or from other people who have gone through similar experiences!

If you would like to discuss these experiences with someone, our trained therapists at Cultured Space are here to help!