What Price Parenting?

This is not a politically correct post – but then I am a politically incorrect person who has lived a topsy turvy life – so you can’t expect me to be prim and proper, and only talk about socially accepted issues.

I got a call yesterday from a friend of mine and we talked late into the night.  This lady has grown up children and a husband …. and she was depressed because her mother was coming to live with her for a week.  She is uncomfortable because her mother has always shown her disapproval of the kind of person this lady is.  Now, this lady is over 45 years of age, well educated, has a good career and has raised and educated her children who are decent kids.

A very young colleague of mine was widowed last year.  She moved in with her parents (which I had thought was a big mistake) and now hates her mother completely.  Her mother finds fault with everything she does, and then snoops into her cellphone, mail box and even her accounts.  She has bought herself a flat and is planning to shift during Dussehra.  Her parents are fuming because they hate the idea of a 30 year old woman living alone with her children.

The closest bond in a family is perhaps the mother and daughter bond. A bittersweet relationship, it goes through many ups and downs but you know that no matter how much you fight, when you have to face the world, you will be one!  Some mothers and daughters like me are not so lucky though. They end up with strained relationships, which either get resolved years later or never at all!

Mothers are very critical of their daughters and tend to be relaxed and easy going with their sons.  My mother would criticise my cooking, my weight, my choice in clothes, the way I talked, sat and walked.  She would openly talk about the bad choices I made in life (given the life I’ve lived, I sure made it easy for her heh!) with every one including my sons, colleagues, friends and even my maid.  We were at war most of the time with a bit of uneasy truce thrown in.  At first she gave me hell for getting married (she was absolutely right).  She blessed us only when I was smart enough(?) to have a son.  Dont ask me, I still havent understood how my brain got involved in the process.  Humph.  Any way ….. and then she gave me hell for my divorce.  She pushed/cajoled/bulied me and ex into having the second baby, knowing fully well that the marriage was breaking up.  She used tears …. we had lost a young boy (my brother) and we needed more family members etc etc.  Afterwards she blamed me for having two kids and then leaving them to go and work.  I had to – who would feed them?  She lived with me for the last 12 years of her life, in which I supported/funded … whatever ……. and she was never grateful or even decent about it.  It hurt her ego as a parent to acknowledge that her daughter could be capable of supporting a family.  Especially the daughter who, in her opinion, was a disaster.  Her basic tragedy was that her son died and her daughter lived.  She said it very openly in the first few months after my brother’s death … and then showed it in countless petty ways later.  I guess she would have been able to make her son dance to her whims – her daughter she never understood or approved of, and so could not manipulate.  Bullying never worked with me ever ….

Why is it that some parents do not realise that the umblical cord is cut at birth.  The child you give birth to is not a mindless clone or puppet to ape you or dance to your tune.  He/she is another person with ideas, dreams, drives that can be very different from yours.  Why is it that some parents never realise that all the child actually needs is parental approval of his/her worth as a person and unconditional love and understanding.  Some parents withhold their approval of the major decisions in their childrens’ lives i.e. the choice of career and the choice of mate.  Many young people do get married or pursue their chosen path inspite of all that.  It creates such a big wedge in the relationship.  Who ever gave parents the idea that they own their children dammit?  We are at the best guardians, and at the least caretakers of these young people who share their lives with us.  We as parents are blessed to have these young people sharing their energetic and vibrant selves with us for a part of their lives. 

Dont get me wrong, my mother was a very nice lady.  She was an excellent home maker, great cook, a very affectionate and caring grandmother and had tremendous leadership qualities.  In another age, she would have been upper management in some corporate set up.  Her problem was that she never realised that I was not her clone and would never be so.  She also could not accept the fact that women can live a perfectly respectable and healthy life without a husband and that divorce does not automatically make a woman cheap.

There was a movie starring Rekha called Khoobsurat.  The mother (Dina Pathak) in that movie reminded me of my mother.

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20 thoughts on “What Price Parenting?

  1. I would not say that it is politically incorrect post. Someone had to say this out, and you are that someone. I agree one hundred percent with all the points you raise.
    People need to realise this sooner or later.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Thanks for the support Manpreet. I had written a post on Mother’s Day too which I have got saved but never published it. It is quite a sad thing is it not ….

  2. Ritu- tough and very familiar! Thanks to having had typhoid I had a break from looking after my parents. Though they are both very decent and considerate people, old age has made them so critical of everything that the constant complaints about everything did get very hard to handle. And of course they forget that I’m fifty plus, not five.
    I think the loss of your brother unbalanced things tremendously in your family life. I’m sure you’ll remain a terrific mom and mom-in-law even when you are really old! Let’s hope we can compare notes twenty five or thirty years later:)

    Yeah Dipali, lets do that – its a date 😀

  3. i loved reading this post. And I’m glad, my mom is not one of the typical moms. She’s strict but now I think she’s slowly understanding I’m not the typical south indian brahmin daughter. And I can never be. My Gran still hopes I become a proper woman.

    You are absolutely right. Parents should not expect children to be their clones.

    Khalil Gibran once said,” Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”

    I always quote this(only the first half) whenever my parents advice me a lot. Lol.

    Yeah, it is and shall be the fav quote of all young people LOL. Funny – my kids never used it. I have not given them a chance I guess …..

  4. Wow. As usual. I don’t think this is a politically incorrect post at all. Indian parents do believe they own their kids…life long 😦 I think they are crueler towards boys than girls, who they consider paraya dhan. Your attitude comes like an amazing breath of fresh air 🙂
    Would be content if I am able to do the same when the time comes 🙂

    I wonder what gives them the right to? If this is the price of parenting its way too high!

  5. I don’t think you are being politically incorrect. I am sure it took a lot of courage to write this and kudos to you!
    My mom and I have always had a peaceful relationship(except when I was an adolescent when I was a pain in the a$$) but I have seen some dysfunctional mother daughter relationships up close and it hurts both parties a lot. Why cant some moms take it easy?
    Mom’s cool but I can say something similar about my dad. He tries to control my every move(even now) and I have learnt to ignore him!

    Good for you! My dad was super cool

  6. that was some timing.. i have a mom who is the unconditional and supporting mother u are talking bout .. n i was thinking all mothers by default r so .. this is the time m slowly realizing that its not true there r mothers who put their interest and dreamsb4 theirs sons/daughters and expect them to just b clones n not have opinions/ideas/lifestyle of their own… m beginning to question the respect i had for motherhood..

    as u said don get me wrong… i still kno that mothers r wonderful people.. jus that some r yet to grow up!

    There are parents who want to live life through their children – it sucks

  7. Beautiful post Ritu!
    Each incident in our lives is there for a reason, and how we deal with it and move on…to become a better person…or not…is what constitutes our Karma…and future life!…From all your posts I know that you have a great attitude and spirit and zest for life. Keep it up!:)

    If its a karmic debt – hope I’ve squared it. I think of it more like education and a test of mettle. I like to think that I won 😉

  8. My mum darling sounds like yours! I’m everything she’s not. My dad passed away when I was 12. Before that everything was fine even though she favoured my younger bro more, I was daddy’s girl.

    After that it’s been one messy ride. I totally understand everything you wrote. It’s true, she wants me to be what she couldn’t be. She doesn’t realise that I am my own person.

    I don’t know whether you’ve read The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. In it is a chapter on children. Forgive me for typing so much but I just have to. If I could, I would just make my mother read it and understand but I know I will only get ‘oh so now you are going to teach me!’ in return!

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  9. Advitya, they do not want to understand or even acknowledge that they need inputs. Its as though you are percieved as a 2 year old who has no sense and they need to do your thinking for you. They are insecure and fear that if you grow up they lose their identity and self worth. Its best to put space between them and us – or one ends up like me ….. I keep wondering why??????

  10. My mum and I had a very nice, open relationship- or so I felt, till a few weeks ago-when she came to visit me. And suddenly the control and the “you don’t know this” aspect of it has got more and more emphasized. It was always other people, whose mums were like this, not mine. But unfortunately, I seem to have entered a Dali-esque meltdown. And the worst is I am not even prepared for it- since there was no prior warning. And there are a few more months of this to go through… and then I read your post- clearly I am not in a very unique situation- but I really wonder why this metamorphosis….
    Sorry for the rant.

    No problem – mebbe ……… just mebbe its menopause or something to do with her health. Sometimes elders feel inadequate since they are not feeling well. Hope its okay soon

  11. First time here and totally loved this post. Probably because I have an unwritten post somewhere about how parents don’t always know what’s best for us. Parents who think they own their children are people who have lived unfulfilled lives and want to live through their children. Not just as a child but as an observer too it seems bizzare, especially so since my parents never exerted their right on my life.

    D – I also have a post I wrote after my mother died – trying to exorcise my demons …. since we had such a bad relationship. Some day I’ll post it here. The thing is that if we do not forgive and make peace, the bad really haunts us later …… and they do not make it easy for us to forgive

  12. Do we actually ever remember to work on our relationship with our parents before it is too late?

    I did Ashwina, and tried desperately to fill the void created by my brother’s death …. even tried to go mild and soft – but it did not work. The thing is that I was not the daughter she wanted, and her son had died

  13. heart touching post… my relation with my mom isnt so bad at present… I would say she is one of them who has accepted that we are different… with great difficultly though.. we have gone thru loads of downs… lots of arguments but finally she has accepted… I know she doesnt like the way I live still but she accepts it without grudges and i guess thats enough for me…. I see that a great deal in my mil though even with my hubby

    Yeah, I am realising after posting this one that mine was not so unique a case

  14. happened to read this today… firstly its tough to write about ur worst fears.. afterall you can never not admire ur mom…. and to think of differences and bitterness the relationship had created.. i dont know if it was was worth it…
    you most definitely loved her thats the reason why you supported her when she needed you the most,.. she most definitely had a bigger ego thats why inspite of staying with you she managed to prick you at the right time….

    Relationships are complex.. its like a maze where you think you have found a way and you end up being lost again….
    What could have worked here is if you let go of things… I and my sister are very close, i am the elder one… she is young, pampered, and cannot take no for an answer…. when we are close we are like the long lost friends… but we both know that there is a bitterness!!!! Unfortunately we both do not forget things… so even if we are more forgiving now.. memory does brings back instances which makes us competitors…

    While writing this trust me i have moist eyes.. its one part of my life i could not manage.. and still do not have any answer… She loves me and loves me so much that she is insecure abour me…i have not been able to convince her that other people in the world do not change her position… We have nasty fights…and i am sorry for that.. i dont know if i have spoken to anybody like that & specially when i love her so much..
    But i know whatever said and done we cannot stay together …
    We can be friends, we can be companions but we cant stay together as we are different and to save the meaning in the relation we both need to let go of things…

      • I might sound like a Cynic…Dont know if things would have been different.. I dont know how your releationship was with her before she came and lived with you….Because the basic nature of humans cannot be changed…
        Whatever i may try my reactions to her are still the same .. every time!!!!!! which does not make situation better. but its comforting to be around her…because whether we are like each other or not. whether we understand each other or not… We know each other to the core……I dont think you We change anything about what happened in past. And if controlling future was easy then life would have been too boring! 🙂
        I am lucky that i get to celebrate new years with her…
        I wish you & your Family a wonderful year ahead.
        Keep writing for us 🙂

      • I dont know what she was ….. since I went to the hostel at 15 years of age, and grew up away. We lived together when I was more than thirty years old, and a mother of two.

        Wish you a wonderful year ahead too

  15. How difficult it must be to live with the feeling that you are not the child your mother wanted .. I don’t how she could have said that after your brothers death .. where are all those “mamta ki murtis” that we hear so much about !
    After reading this post and having that conversation on FB with you the other day – I really admire you for what you have made of your life !

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