Child rearing : Are grand parents being misused?

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is too sensitive a topic that might actually put off a few of my friends / acquaintances. But a topic so close to my heart that I've been itching to write ever since Lil General was conceived and born. The opinions expressed here are mine and the conversations that I've had a with a few wise and elderly people. If you do not subscribe to them, then so be it.

Last week on a brief transit at Bangalore en route Pune, we stayed over at a relatives'. After exchanging pleasantries, the uncle asked me, "So who is coming over to take care of the kid - your parents or his?". It was 6:30 a.m. and needless to say I was startled at the question but one that I had got used to replying without thinking. Vivek was not a party to this conversation but our thoughts on the issue are the same. Below is an excerpt of our conversation that provoked this post:

Me : No one.

Uncle : "You are not returning to work after 6 months?"

Me: "No. I have resigned and am going to stay home and look after the baby."

Uncle :" A good decision. Its difficult to believe it though. What about Vivek's/your parents? Aren't they coming over to look after the kid?"

Me: Re-emphasising my point, I said, "Yes and No. Yes, they are coming over but only visiting us to spend some good time with their first grand-child. Not to take care of him. I want both set of parents to enjoy their retirement and old age doing things that they have always wanted to. If it is religion calling at this age, then let them visit temples. Or just go around see places. They have missed out on so much to rear us. Things were not the same then as they are now and who knows it better than your generation. Today, Lil General traveled by second a/c that will be followed by a flight travel in a little while from now. All this while he is just 4 months old. Not a big deal for the kids of today. But it was a dream come true for most people in your generation and not something affordable back then. Our parents raised us working hard, very hard making sacrifices and giving up on the luxurious life just so we could get good education. Now when they can afford all the luxuries of life, we want them to enjoy all the pleasures and not be bound to raise a child all over again so that I can pursue my career."

Uncle : "I am very happy to hear that and if job is not a necessity then it is our advice that you don't. When I say this to people, I am branded as outdated and a old

He continues as an after thought and the conversation goes on for an hour.

Uncle : "I am pained by what I see around me. A niece of mine has called over her grandmother aging over 75 to take care of her kid while she goes to work. The grandpa is very much alive and in Chennai while the granny is here at Bangalore. Grandpa's food is a problem and they can't get him over here for the expense would shoot up. So many such instances ..I told my kids that expanding their family will be their own decision and do not expect us to come and take care of your kids.If you can financially afford it and logistically manage it, then please do so. Kids misuse us. They think if we don't work and are over 60, its the end of life. It is no longer my need to stay with aunty. I would like to go for a evening walk or to a temple with her. Yet another niece of mine left her kid for 6 months to travel to Us with her husband. I cannot understand this."

After Lil General was born, people often asked me one question, "When are you going back to work?" Now either they didn't take me seriously when I said I have resigned and am going to be a stay-at-home-mom taking care of Lil General or they thought I was being foolish and emotional who would would eventually change her mind. This is natural in today's times,isn't it? which is me going back to work within 6 months.

When the status quo changes from "Double Income No Kids" to Single Kid, people very much like to keep the "Double Income" part of the proposition intact. There is nothing wrong if the mom decides to pursue her career after a kid. What I can't understand is the idea of a parent coming over to take care of your kid while you goto work. This is not stuff that Hindi movies are made of but one that you see so widely prevalent in today's metros,U.S in the high income IT households. Maybe I live in the ancient ages, but these were our thoughts :

  1. We would have been utterly selfish to separate mom from dad or grandpa from granny to have one of them move in with us. I went through hell for the 6 months because I couldn't bare the thought of my mother staying away from dad for my delivery and urged her to return despite Lil General's health. But parents love is unconditional and in emergencies it knows no bounds. Isn't expecting them to come away from their own home and their comfort zone to stay with you asking for too much?

  2. It was our decision to conceive a child. So it was our responsibility to have worked out the financial aspects before doing so. And logistics. Parents never say no and one might think they will be happy to raise their grandchild but thats taking undue advantage.

  3. Have you ever wondered that they would have to think twice to go on a month's vacation if they take up this responsibility. So much has to be sacrificed - relatives' weddings, funerals ....or that festival that they always wanted to attend but couldn't all these years because it was either their kids' exams or no leave from office.

  4. If I find it difficult at 29, to run after Lil General and make his formula umpteen times a day, how can I expect my parents to be running around after him all through the day. They are only growing older.

  5. How can I expect my dad/father-in-law to clean my son's potty?

  6. People who know me would also know how restless a creature I am. But that doesn't mean to satisfy my whims and fancies I can shirk from my duty. Can I? If at all I decide to go back to work for whatever reasons, I would have to get a domestic help and not look towards my parents/in-laws for everything. Emergency is different.

Agreed, there are instances where there is a dire financial need. But I know so many of them where they skip a domestic help because mom/mom-in-law has agreed to come over.

With disposable incomes increasing, is there no end to our greed?
Is there no end to our wants?

As Indians, we are quick to adapt everything western. Then why not this trait. How many American's have you seen where in grandparents stay for months on end to rear their grand children?

Is it always "I, US"? Is it our boredom that matters above parent's happiness and freedom.

Does 50 years and above mean end to life? If you were 50, would you do this?

As we go global, has our thinking gone so local?

After retirement is one of the best times in a person's life. Free from his duties of getting daughter married or son educated, parents feel relieved. So lets not bound them by our timetable. Let us give them the freedom of when and how they want to visit us and how long they want to stay with us. If we can't give them happiness, then lets atleast try and not make them sad.

I would like to hear your side of the story.

Updated: Glad to have discovered this link Granny or Nanny