Thursday, September 10, 2009

How can we feel guilty when you started it?

When I was working on my master’s thesis at Columbia University, I did extensive research on the dynamics of “empty-nest syndrome,” amongst Indian parents whose children live abroad. Empty-nest syndrome is the name given to a psychological condition that can affect a woman around the time that one or more of her children leave home. [1] For women in their 50s and above in India, the syndrome affects a little more adversely because majority of women from my parents’ generation were housewives. They were trained to take care of their homes and families. Most of them took a great deal of pride in what they cooked for their families or the crochet pieces they made for their furniture or the blooming roses in their garden. 

But time flies. Children grow up and husbands get more involved with their career. With husbands still busy and kids away, the same women begin to feel redundant. The basic duties and acts that made them feel important their entire lives, in some ways, diminish with age. The children don’t need their moms in the ways their mothers would like to be needed. All of a sudden, the women have too much time on their hands and an underutilized brain. And this is when things begin to go downhill. The expectations begin.

Every family is different, and I feel blessed for not facing certain pressures, but I have very dear friends who are constantly emotionally blackmailed about living away from India. Every phone call to India translates into, “You should move back now.” Again, this pressure has nothing to do with parental health issues or any tragedies back home (THANK GOD!); it’s about the women in the older generation feeling forlorn. But weren’t you the ones who sent your children abroad? So why do you call your own children selfish? Why did you teach them to dream or aspire if you wanted to dictate their date of departure and return? Is the guilt of creating “nuclear families” catching up with you now that you are at the receiving end?

I am honestly baffled. In some ways, isn’t all this solitude self-invited? Wasn’t it my parents generation that adapted the concept of “nuclear families” and held it close to their heart like the sacred testament? Didn’t their generation popularize “Hum Do Hamaare Do?” In their youth, they left their families behind in small towns and villages and moved to bigger cities and sometimes countries to find opportunities. Why? Because every generation wants to provide the generation after theirs with the best. They wanted to make a better life for themselves and desired to give the best to their children. And we all express our gratitude for it.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not blaming anyone here. I am trying to understand the altered outlook of the people, who started the trend of moving away, in search of a break. Why is my age group expected to feel culpable for following in the footsteps of their elders? Aren’t we doing what we saw growing up - working towards a good life, so we can provide for the family back home and for our children?  The deed remains unchanged, so don’t call us avaricious and yourself as the sacrificial goat. If anything, my generation keeps the parents more involved than they ever could with their own families.

At the time when our parents were starting their lives, technology wasn’t on their side, so they weren’t able to communicate with their families back home for weeks and sometimes months. Lot of people didn’t even have telephones at homes while my generation, irrespective of their family's location, talks to them a few times a week. Technology allows being able to see each other too! And enables the ability of being involved in each other’s day-to-day activities.

Today, the only difference is that geographic boundaries have dissipated so instead of moving from Bareilly to Mumbai, the move might be from New Delhi to California or London.  It’s the same action; just a different generation. Don’t call it abandonment when we do it and sacrifice when you did it.

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.10.2009

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.” Oscar Wilde quotes



Anonymous said...

Awesome. I should add my mother-in-law on your mailing list. ;) Then maybe something will sink in (or not)

vijay said...

Seems too personal,justification an vindication of self guilt for whatever reason, The world is not what u think but you have a right to your opionion and feelings, but you are too young to make a judgment and castigate your elder genration and put the blame on them for whatever you are doing.
Vijay Sinha

Anonymous said...

Interesting point Vijay. But maybe I do not agree. I used to think that way too and my children and I had discussions about it. Once you put yourself in their shoes you can see exactly what they mean and that it is logical and true. This author is not blaming anybody, just stating a point of view. We have ours and they have theirs. They are both right. But you sound judgmental in your comment. Is it your own ire that is making you say what you said Vijay?

N said...

Mr. Sinha: your comment is rather bizarre. I am not quite sure if a) you have understood the argument presented in the blog, and b) if you are simply making a personal attack on the writer. I am not posting this in defense of the idea in the blog. Rather, and most unfortunately, it is to explain my understanding of the language of Pandora’s post.
First of all, (Pandora please correct me if I am wrong here) the point of this piece seems to be the inherent question: Are certain parents being hypocritical when expecting their children to live with them, when in fact, they left their own homes to make a better life for themselves and their offspring? Regardless of whether this applies to Pandora’s life or not, the question is a legitimate one. I did not get a sense that this was directed viciously at anyone in particular. In fact, it is more a sociological query targeted to young immigrants and their roots.
Secondly, it is a sad display of “ageism” on your part, Mr. Sinha, to say that the writer is “too young” to make a judgment. It is this mentality that inhibits one generation questioning an older one—not out of spite or disrespect, but merely out of curiosity.
Pandora, this is indeed a burning question to the audience your blog probably reaches, but please don’t let baseless comments hold you back! As Descartes said—“To doubt is to think.”

Bijay said...

Sorry for the delay in going through the post.But it is a blessing in disgise since I could read the comments as well.
I for one fully agree with the views expressed in the Blog.Ironically,this type of social migration has been a normal phenomenon since ages.Even Moghuls left their roots and settled in India for a better life for future.
The only point one could make is for a judicious balance between the past,present and future.

bk said...

I fully agree with the view expressed in the Blog. In addition , i would like to add few natural points .It is not a question of blaming any one , it is a sentimental attachment the old generation may carry and it should be respected . Also, in my view, parents should encourage their kids to grow and make their parents proud, irrespective of they being located at any geography . Ultimately it is your ( PARENTS) achievement. It does not mean that if the kids are located far away ,they do not take care of old parents. May be few exceptions ! Binod

Bijay Chandra said...

Further to my views posted earlier,I would like to add that our basic concept, in my opinion,
should read as follows:
We must learn from our past and respect it for whatever worth it is.
We should enjoy our present and Adore it for what we have without cribbing for what we do not have
We ought to dream our future for multi-directional improvements and plan to execute to achieve the goal.
With this where is the conflict of interests of generations??