My boring family

How I learned to appreciate my parents’ busy lifestyles

Gauri Manoj

I was always the last kid to be picked up from Lincoln Elementary School. I’d go to the after-school YMCA program and try to pass time building Legos or finishing entire Harry Potter series, my eyes darting towards every parent who walked in, in the hopes that they would be my own.  

When my mom or dad finally showed up, usually after 6 p.m., I’d ask them with watering eyes how they forgot about me every day. They’d smile and assure me that they would trade everything in the world to leave their jobs early and bring me home, but unfortunately, this is just how their lives work. 

I was eight when my dad called to tell us he had been laid off from what I called his “fancy computer job.” While my dad, mom and brother nervously discussed our new pressing financial situation, I excitedly grabbed the phone with my little hands and told my dad not to worry because I was going to find him a new job as a firefighter. That’s the job I always wanted him to have, so he wouldn’t spend all his hours coding and away from me. I knew the firefighters I saw on TV were strong and brave and saved lives — they were real superheroes. My brother, as always, rolled his eyes at me, but my dad just laughed and told me to let him know if any firefighter positions open up in Cupertino.   

After my dad found work again at Google, my parents didn’t really talk about their fancy computer jobs. Their everyday lives seemed rather ordinary to me — they drove to work early and sat at a laptop for hours. Sometimes I felt angry that they chose to pursue this boring and busy software engineering life over spending time with me. 

My parents were not always — sorry, if you two are reading this! — boring. As teenagers in India, they loved to dance and sing when their parents had left the house and climb up 20-foot-tall trees to steal the sweeter coconuts from their neighbors. Eventually, when they chose to begin a family, they traded that life and embarked on a new one, one where they instead had to prioritize their salaries over their favorite pastimes. 

My parents don’t even enjoy computer science — my mom actually dreamt of becoming a physicist and my dad fell in love with mechanical engineering. But the promised security of the tech industry, especially during an extremely volatile economy in the 2000s, led them to give up their dreams for the sake of their children — a familiar story for many immigrants in the Bay Area.  


As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that my parents’ seemingly mundane and busy lifestyle is just a small sliver of the life they’ve been working to build for years, a culmination of the hundreds of sacrifices they’ve made after immigrating to America. They choose to live this dull life because it means they can later watch their children pursue the lives they once dreamt of living. 

I still sometimes reminisce about all the things I watched my friends do with their families —  game nights, eating dinner together at the table, watching movies — and I still wish my parents had been around more often when I was younger. But I learned to stop comparing them to the seemingly perfect parents I saw at my friends’ homes or on TV, because their stories and circumstances are so unimaginably different. 

Though it took me a while, I’ve grown to understand that my parents’ love has always been interwoven in the invisible sacrifices they made for my brother and me, even if I wasn’t always able to immediately feel their affection. And honestly, maybe it’s not too late to start eating together at the dinner table or playing a quick game of Monopoly every once in a while — just a subtle reminder that our family is definitely not boring.


Obviously, my dad never became a firefighter. But he will still always be one of my favorite superheroes.