The Parents Are Learning to Say…No!

With nothing but budget-related tamasha all over, here is something that might help divert your mind away from this rubbish. Trust me! The budget as a rule is usually completely irrelevant for you and I.

Last week, at a Gujju community dinner, I ran into a colleague’s parents.  While catching up with them, I remembered that they also had other children and I politely asked about them. They told me that two of their daughters were in the US. I jokingly remarked that they must be on “baby” duty and they said quite wearily “We’ve just come back after being there for four months”. I again joked, “It must be tough” and they said, “It just gets more and more difficult”.

I know my friends in the US are going to pan me for this!

For those who are still wondering what I am talking about!

When children (young adults) migrate to the US and have their own children, their parents from India keep making trips to the US to help them take care of the grandchildren.  Typically, one mother goes for 4-6 months, then the other mother and the fathers usually take turns going for shorter periods.

Up to just five years ago, no parent doing “baby” duty for the child’s child would complain. In the tradition of our bhartiya sanskruti that makes sure that only those who fall at the feet of their elders are considered “good” people, parents doing baby duty were assumed to be the ultimate parents. It was always understood that this was a good thing for them, being able to travel to the US and spend time in that “wonderful” country…even if all of this meant a total disruption of their daily routines in India and the lives of those continuing to live in India.

But now, as with everything else that is changing in India, parents too are slowly cribbing. I spoke to a couple of them to understand what their issues were and this is what I was told!

They don’t like living in the suburbs, where most successful Indians tend to live. Suburban life without public transport makes the parents completely dependent on their children if they want to get anywhere. A week or two is fine…but more is torture. It’s much easier in cities like Chicago and New York with easily accessible trains, buses and cabs.

They don’t like leaving their social networks and friends and family and spending time away from their spouses. There is only so much television one can watch (even if Star and Zee and Sony are available)…waiting till the weekends to socialize doesn’t work.

While many parents are happy to be with their children for the first 2-3 months after delivery as a one-time trip, they don’t like being taken for granted for more such visits. Many mothers these days have their own lives and careers, which they are unwilling to put on extended hold, even for their own children.

Then there are smaller issues, like the bedrooms being on the first floor of big houses, with the kitchen on the ground floor, making it really difficult for those with back, knee and hip issues.

And the final words of advice! Some parents will always be more than happy to be with their children. Great! But quite a few may not want to do so, and will travel only because their children insist a lot or emotionally blackmail them. This is for those children…don’t force your parents! These days, the parents might actually turn around and say…”Sorry, No!”


  • Janak Sheth wrote:

    There is another important reason why they may want to say NO.
    Generally after spending a few years in the US the kids tend to get selfish and self centered. They expect parents to do things for them but are not prepared to give to the parents.
    They would make excuses for not visiting India. They find it difficult to help out their parents – financially, emotionally or physically.
    When the parents are in US they feel neglected or in some cases are treated as glorified maids/babysitters.
    I have even heard of cases where parents (especially non-English speakers) are abandoned in the malls after they have outlived their usefulness as babysitters.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Seriously Janak…the last statement cant be true.

  • That’s certainly true. In my opinion, some parents have already started doing this. After all, the values of children have changed too, the traditional ideals of duty and sacrifice have altered and given way to more egalitarian ideals.Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that youngsters give up any opportunities for a financially more rewarding life in another country.But, by the same token, why can’t the parents too do the same and think of their own comfort. In fact,I believe that such a position would lead to better family ties between the two generations based on more mutual respect.

  • (Dr) Sunil Kamath wrote:

    One of my cousins was going ON & ON about ALL the wonderful things out there – in THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY – called the U.S.A. The ‘GLORIFICATION’ was to such an extent that it ultimately got my ‘goat’ that I had to retort “Despite ALL THE LOVELY THINGS that are available in the U. S. of A. – after the ‘DELIVERY’ (of the Baby) – they still have to ‘IMPORT’ their MOTHERS FROM INDIA.”

  • Children must respect their parents’ space as well and not demand from or dominate them or take their advantage just because they are older and perhaps physically weaker. Infact in my family,there is a similar scenario which shall happen soon and my mother is already anxious about it,especially about leaving one daughter at home,for helping out the other one. However, when my mother faced her times , my grandparents could not visit and my parents were in an Arab nation which had few Indian doctors. There are no hard and fast rules that parents should travel miles apart,leaving their own life behind,just for offering some help to their children. It may be an advantage if the parents are present but, it is certainly not impossible to deal with pregnancy without their physical presence.I think every child must understand that and must not force their parents or take them for granted. I believe if the children decide to settle abroad, they must be independent in all aspects of their life. On the other hand, if the parents are alright with travelling long distance and offering help,that is a different story.

  • vipin nair wrote:

    i know a widower who retired from a senior manager post who went to enjoy his retired life in US with his son and ended up being a ‘gopher’ and baby sitter. but our ever enterprising guy got himself an ’18 wheeler’ license. last heard.. he is having a ba ll of a time driving across US and Canada.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    We have our son, daughter-in-law and two lovely grandchildren in California (Los Altos to be specific). Have been there for their birth and when they have summer vacations since their parents are at work. We go gladly and have a great time for the four weeks we are there- have been there a dozen times so far! And plan many more!

  • sriganesh wrote:

    Very well said. The only problem is Indians will never say NO!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Dr. Sunil Kamath’s reference to ‘importing’ mothers is a comment out of context – ‘motherland’ is different from a ‘genetic mother’- can’t have more than one!

  • For most of the parents their ego doesn’t permit them to speak out about the negatives of the US life.Silently they are very proud that their children/grandchildren are American citizens.
    A couple of local grandmothers I know of grin and bear all the nonsense all day when they don’t have to,because these daughters/in-laws actually can afford to be sit at home moms.But the grandmothers at some point do express their frustration to the friends and neighbours.Most of the time they don’t even tell the daughters/in-laws about the various physical ailments they suffer running behind 2/3 yr old grandchildren.Who is to blame in this?

  • Right now with my kids being 18 and 12 I cannot imagine saying no! And it is an Indian thing. But it’s more. I could not work becauseI hate leaving kids with maids,had no other support system,so I do not want to deny my daughter this support,let her work for herself and get the financial independence I did not

  • Nitin Tamhane wrote:

    It would be interesting to find how the americans handle this problem.

    Another thing is that it depends upon how much you love your children and grandchildren then all is OK.

  • Yes, it is a long trip and total dependence on the kids. But most grandparents like it. specially when both the husband and wife can go together. Problem arrises only when a spouse/young daughter/son is left to fend for themselves. and like you said many are refusing the “offer” to baby sit.

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