Being a daughter, old age and the empty nest


This is a Blogadda Spicy Saturday Pick

Best Spicy Saturday of 2010. Top 25 .Yay

“Mother wait a little longer,
Till my little wings are stronger,
Then I will fly away.”

When my first-born Adi started school he was barely three. I remember how happy he was on the first day of the pre school on that fine winter morning. All dressed in a new set of clothes, carrying a small colorful school bag and a million dollar smile in his eyes which travelled to his lips the moment we reached the school gate.

He just ran inside and suddenly realising that he had forgotten me, turned and waved. I gave him a flying kiss and just as I turned to go back I felt the first pang of loneliness. My child had taken first step away from me in a new direction which led to his own world where I will be just a spectator.

I held back the tears and smiled. I had given him the wings now it was his turn to soar.

I don’t think I really felt that I had taken that first step towards ” empty nest syndrome”. It was all about Adi discovering, exploring and learning. That is what we were taught as little kids. To blossom.

After four years Shubhang came into my life and again the same process of preparing him to expand his horizons began and soon he too started his play school. Both the boys were very fond of their school and never missed a single day. Life was opening it’s gates for them one by one and each one of them was taking a new step every day just a little further from me.

It was at that time I remembered my parents  and how they  had given their unconditional support and love  for me to spread my wings and fly.

Now at the age of 78 she is alone. My father passed away four years back and since then I have seen struggle between the independence she is used to and the love and support she needs due to frail health and old age. My parents always believed in living independently and while my dad was alive they stayed on their own inspite of raised eyebrows and wagging tongues. Everyone thought it was my brother’s moral duty to look after the aging parents and he never shrugged from it but  dad believed in “not being dependent” till they can manage.

They left for Pune and stayed in Athashree , a unique housing complex only for elderly. The decision made the relatives gossip. Although it was their own decision and I think a right one then also everyone made us feel guilty. The place was well-connected, and had all the facilities but because Old Age Homes are such a taboo in our society that both of us kids had to listen to hundreds of accusations.I don’t know why sending old parents to old age homes has such a negative connotation in India. Sometimes we are left with no option.

Putting children on guilt trips is not right in my opinion. Some children do leave opportunities, like my hubby did , to stay with their parents  but ultimately how right it is , is the question.

With my father gone , my mom wanted to live independently and pursue whatever she had dreamed of. Travel, attend concerts, plays, meet friends, and much more but the idea of her staying alone in a big city scared us.

I felt for the first time the disadvantage of being born as a daughter. Why is it that once a girl is married her role in her parent’s life finishes and it is the always the male child who is suppossed to look after and care for the old parents. I realised that for every visit, for calling them to stay over when dada was busy or touring, for going out with mom , I had to seek permission and face lot of questioning and hear continuous saga about why I should bother about them when my brother and his wife  are  there, once married I was supposessed to only look after my parents in-law. Daughters are ” paraya Dhan” once married off they belong mind ,body and soul to the their husbands and in-laws that’s the norm and I question it very strongly. Why should a girl leave per parents who gave her birth, taught her the basics of life and made her what she is today ?Twice when one of my parents was ill and brother needed help, I was forcefully, accusingly denied to go and care for them by my in-laws. Things changed a bit when my ma in law herslef fell ill and I came to her rescue. Still she very grudgingly “allows” me to go see ma when I am needed by her. As if she is doing me a favor by allowing me to visit my old mom. How disgusting that is.

That really irritated me. Why do we expect the girl to look after the guy’s parents only and leave her own to their own destiny? How many times is it that a guys takes interest in caring for his in laws?

When I got married into a traditional orthodox family ( mine was a supposed love marriage , I knew the guy but not the family), on every step I discovered how further I was getting away from my own parents. It was a transition I had to make from a daughter to a daughter in law and trust me it is not easy at all.

Many parents expect the kids to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of the their ego and that leave me speechless, because I always think that Parenthood teaches selflessness, to love and respect your kids unconditionally.

There are always two extremes , of children throwing parents out in their fight for property or any other issue and the parents accusing children of  leaving them behind ”  to pursue their dreams. Both the situations are sad. Why can’t their be a solution. There the role of housing societies for elderly comes.

Coming from a liberated, modern background of free thinkers, it hit me hard to accept and mould myself  most of the times unwillingly to age-old customs, rituals and doctrines. The battle continues. Having no financial independence has limited my say.

Job opportunities  take children away leaving old parents to themselves and in such cases if there is not much choice why not opt for such a society where elderly people stay and enjoy life with all facilities, safety and medical care.

Here in our society people are too rigid to go to counsellors, to live in homes for the elderly, to pursue interests and plan their own lives after retirement and once kids start living their lives, whether living with them or  far away. Parents thing they own their kids and treat them like puppets. one statement that I often hear in my in law’s home is ” we have given them birth, educated them , spent so much on them, now its time to pay back. “.. I often think how cruel this mentality is and what effect it will have on children and their future.

I feel parents should give their children their identity and wings to fly and children. In our society it’s a sad situation for both girls and boys. The goal of the parents is to get the daughter married and here I talk of the majority of parents and for boys they have a set pattern of educating them to get them on some job depending on their ability and then demand the payback of all their years of raising them up. They are slaves who have to follow every thing parents tell them from job to marriage to their choice of girl and then how to lead their lives without becoming Joru ka Gulam ( thanks IHM for the phrase). They never let go , clinging on to them, judging each decision kids take especially the mothers for they have little else to involve them in later years.

Erma Brombeck says.

It is those mothers who cannot accept the loss of the supervisor’s role who turn themselves into controlling mothers/mothers in law in later years. Adults should not only teach their children to be independent and rejoice in it, they themselves should learn to be independent and rejoice in a job well done too.

I always wonder who eventually becomes their Budhaape ka sahara , the DIL or the son? While he continues to enjoy life as before , she leaves her job and sits at home to care for them and listen to their taunts. The fact that feel unwanted is nothing to do with old age , I know friends who keep complaining about their school going children esp sons and how they make the parents feel unwanted so the question of old age loneliness is nothing to do with feeling of being unwanted.

There is always a comparison to joint families of their times but now a days where there are 1-2 kids and nuclear families  the old-fashioned thing can’t work out and that becomes beyond their closed understanding.

There are parents who have progressed and moved ahead with changing times but what’s the percentage ?

We are all conditioned to the thought of ” not to let go” and that creates the problem and old people have difficulty in filling the void.

I feel blessed that my parents gave me an upbringing where I can detach myself from my kids and let them be. When Adi turned 18 this year I posted a post for him. I gave him roots and wings as a present.

Life is a bitter-sweet symphony and one loves to be wanted but not really at the cost of the happiness of our children. I hope the mind-set would change and kids will be treated as people and not just a part of the parents.

As Gibran says ,

“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.”

I love my mom, go and meet her at times, care about her and so does my brother in his own way but from parents to children we are all independent beings above all relationships. The teachings I got from my parents I have instilled in my children inspite of all the pressures from my orthodox in-laws and I hope the kids too will never hold their children captive, physically or emotionally.

Blogging , writing , music, travel I have a lot of things I would love to pursue when my boys go away . What is your plan ?

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48 thoughts on “Being a daughter, old age and the empty nest

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Being a daughter, old age and the empty nest « Spinning a Yarn Of Life -- Topsy.com

  2. Every word here echoes my thoughts
    “I don’t know why sending old parents to old age homes has such a negative connotation in India.” Why indeed??!! I simply cannot understand. This is a hotly contested topic of discussion with me. When I suggested some years back that I would prefer to live in a place like your parents chose, my son who was at the time just 15 or so was offended. Now he understands my point better. Yes society is going to taunt and say a lot of unkind things but ultimately isn’t that the best solution??
    As for parents and their expectations from children, yeah, in India children are like farms. The farmer take care of the land, sows seeds et al only to reap. Parents bring up children it seems to reap benefits when ready. I find nothing more disgusting than that. Unconditional love?? I don’t think they have heard of it. What they do for their children they want back with interest! I have seen too much of this attitude and it makes me sick.
    Why should the husbands family be our own and not ours too?? Why the hell should we take permission to go meet our parents??!

    Those words from Kahlil Gibran and Erma Brombeck are my favorites!

    Shail , it is so wonderful to see you visit , read and appreciate my work. I agree fully with you. It is high time parents stopped clinging to their children and making them slaves of their wishes just coz they gave them birth. Unconditional love is rare anywhere sweets be it any relationship. we still have to move away from many of our conditioned thoughts. I do plan to find a home for elderly for us thats for sure. my kids know mom won’t pile on to them now or ever. thanks for sommenting my friend

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  3. BTW, my boys have already gone away and yes, I am into blogging and writing, music and hopefully travel looms on the horizon. Plenty of reading on the cards and oh yes, meeting up with friends old and new.

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  4. Your post struck a chord. My parents think like yours and I was quite offended that they feel that they need to go to an old age home.. But the reasons they gave were similar- they would like to lead an independent life as far as possible, being around people their age, be free to do what pleases them. Today, reading your post, I realise how right they are. I have seen the exact opposite from my in-laws – they feel that it is their right to expect their sons to leave everything and run to them when they need anything.. The whole feeling of being neglected is in the mind, isn’t it?

    As for in-laws owning daughters in laws, I can never understand this? How can a girl be expected to forget her family – the people who brought her up the moment she gets married, is something I can never ever comprehend.

    we don’t women as individuals you see they are always seen in some role, sister, daughter, mother, wife and all that so the DIL is the property of the inlaws she is a puppet in their hands the strings are tranfered .. thats how our god damn society works.

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  5. Couldn’t agree with you more. my folks have a better social life back home than they have here with us.! I can totally relate toy our post…pretty much in the same boat.

    However, with children,it is a bit of a gamble.Actually there is no pattern to follow as there are scores of examples of all methods succeeding and failing…which is where i disagree with Gibran !

    If you don’t guide them – they might go astray,
    If you guide them too much – they might rebel away,
    some look to become like their fathers,
    for some breaking the mold matters,
    Some learn it the hard way,
    some learn it hardly anyway…
    such is life gyanban says,
    knock every step each day,
    let some common sense prevail,
    and life will be a smooth sail…

    Hello Gyanban
    Well you see at my parental home , my dad always said we are their to show you the way , rest everything you got to do, from taking decisions to enjoying the fruits of it good or bad and learn from it. We were given freedom to use our minds and were never comditioned about how to live life. Parents should guid but let children be. its their life and what they do with it is their problem not ours. I would not tell my sons not to do certain thing coz we dont like it but yes if we know the result we will warn , rest is their choice. Thank you for visitng and commenting.

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  6. You echo my exact thoughts on the subject. Erma Brombeck words are my favorite.

    I have written 2 posts on it and there was some debate on it too.

    http://mesoliloquy.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/empty-nest-winging-it/

    http://mesoliloquy.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/the-first-step-towards-empty-nest/

    Oh wow Sol Just visited your blog and commented too. thats some debate there and I am glad you posted the links here so more and more people can read the great posts you have written. thanks you .. will stay connected to your blog

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  7. Loved this post. I agree with your views entirely. It is because parents are not allowed to let the daughters look after them in their old age that most parents in India don’t want daughters at all. This has created a situations where women commit suicides, or are burnt alive or are aborted or killed with neglect… this can only change when all children are seen as one’s own children – when no child is paraya dhan.
    And how can children be seen as ‘dhan’ (commodity, wealth) – that’s another thing wrong with our thinking, we want children to be our ‘bank balances’ (like Amitabh Bachchan did in Baghban) 😦

    I always say, in India when we say ‘senior citizens’ we mean parents of a son. When we say children are not taking care of their parents – we mean sons are not using their unquestionable authority to ensure that the wife takes care of their (sons’) parents.

    IHM I am glad you came over and expressed your views. You know already the mindsets are conditioned and then serials and movies like Baghban worsen the situation. My inlaws love the film and I have seen them quoting from various TV soaps esp my MIL, women need to get out of the age old Ghutti that has been shoved down them of being a commodity. As far as sr. citizens go well girl’s parents are not considered worth any thing leave aside caring by their dotty or son in law. It is very rare that there is an initiative from a guy to encourage and support his wife to care for her parents just the way he wants it done for his.

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  8. Well said Shail, …in India children are like farms. The farmer take care of the land, sows seeds et al only to reap. Parents bring up children it seems to reap benefits when ready. .. Unconditional love?? I don’t think they have heard of it. What they do for their children they want back with interest!

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  9. And with Smitha, “As for in-laws owning daughters in laws, I can never understand this? How can a girl be expected to forget her family – the people who brought her up the moment she gets married, is something I can never ever comprehend.

    I am sure a lot of girls wonder about this and can you guess what they are told? If they talk like this their sons will hear and learn to question our traditions, and then they will not ‘ensure’ that their wives look after them in their old age 😦

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  10. Hi,came here from Shail’s link on FB.I’m totally moved by this post of yours.
    You know every time I come back from India after my vacations,this terrible sense of guilt takes over me for leaving my parents and father-in-law back. I feel guilty for not being nearer to them.Then I observe how much they are enjoying their lives doing what they want to do being where they want to be. And it calms me.They have an active social life,they keep themselves occupied with activities that interest them.

    About two days back when my parents called up to tell me that they were sitting under a razai and drinking hot chocolate while enjoying the chilli Delhi weather ,although I pretended to be jealous of them,in my heart of hearts I was immensely happy to hear the glee in their voices :).

    And the last I spoke to my pa-in-law he was planning to go to the nearby theater to catch the movie ‘3idiots’ 😀

    “we are all independent beings above all relationships.’ Couldnt have agreed with you more,Tikuli.

    Terrific post!

    Thanks so much Deeps.. I am so happy that my writing is finally making an impact. it is good to see more women waking up to a change in their thinking .. I hope men will too .. 🙂 they too deserve to live I feel sorry for them too at time. Am happy the elders in your family are doing good. thanks so much for visiting .. keep reading.

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  11. How true.. can’t take my eyes out.. I am undergoing the same phase but in a different way.. Just chocked..

    thanks Lavi am glad you could associate with this. love and hugs

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  12. Great Post!!! I have written about this as well. I can identify with what you have written.

    The guilt of leaving your parents all alone does makes me restless but I know they are both quite happy and independant.

    Thanks a lot for visitng and commenting. You should not feel guilty at all. just feel glad that your parents are finally living their life instead of giving it all to others esp children. keep the faith. keep visiting.

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  14. I agree that there should be no taboo on living in old age homes, and as far as I know, the taboo is decreasing somewhat? While parents might want to live independently even when they are in their 80s, it’s not safe just from the perspective of potential medical issues alone. Even if they could fall down in the bath, there’d be no one around to help them.

    I absolutely agree Lekhni, I think many people are realising this and opting for such societies for elderly but the problem comes in middle class and lower class, the prices are high and the govt needs to make some policy for the benefit of elderly people so everyone can afford such homes.

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  15. First time on your blog and just love it…My parents too live on their own and since they have only daughters, they had no expectations of being looked after…I think, even if they had had a son, they wouldn’t expect him to take care of them…

    I also wonder at the concept of tradition…Many people think all tradition is good but that’s not true, is it? I hate when people hide behind it – cowards, all of them…

    They are scared to take that first step because their minds have been comditioned for years my friend. In our coutries women are treated so inhumanly at times in the name of tradition. A lot of chamge is needed and it’s not easy unless we become that change. some where things will work for the best.
    I visited your blog too. congrats on spicy saturday pick.

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  16. Tikuli…a very relevant topic..well written
    Mothers r left to face a lot and even if the partner is with them,not always do they or others understand a mothers mind

    It is not enuf for a female to be financially independent… even so, to have a smoothly running unit, we have to stick to certain norms

    I am lucky to a certain extent,that i am able 2 take care of my aged parents, as i decided to continue in our home-town in Kerala and my husband ,being a totally family person agreed with me totally.

    But my parents insist tht when we finally move to calicut,they wud want to stay alone or stay at one of the centres for the elderly

    till such time…just being happy i can do my little

    Thanks Suja for visitng and commenting. Yes you sure are lucky for 90% do not get this opportunity but if you see the problem in wider perspective there is a need for the govt to make some effort apart from the change in the mindset. Regards and love to your parents. all the very best to you.

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  18. Congrats on the post being picked up by Blogadda! [;)]

    I strongly agree with you. Both my parents go to work and get very tired at the end of the day. My grandfather just passed away 4 months back. He was 90 and had been ill for a very long time. Even though we had hired someone to take care of grandpa and talk to him throughout the day when we were all out, it was still very difficult to manage him sometimes because of his old age and stubbornness. I’d feel bad for my parents sometimes when they’d try to lift him up with all their strength after coming back home tired from work.. So, yes, we had considered the idea of an old-age home, my relatives had also approved of it and everyone else too thought it was the right thing to do. We decided atleast one of us would visit him everyday and spend time with him. However, at the end, we knew grandpa wouldn’t take it very well and would think we don’t want him anymore so we decided not to go ahead with it.

    So, sometimes, it’s the grandparents who think otherwise. If only they could think practically and not feel like they were unwanted, then such things could be worked out. The emotional attachment is always there but there should be a mutual understanding.

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  19. Well written Tikuli !! ….something we all feel is so unfair, yet tag along and give in to the norms that probably made better sense in the past era.

    Thanks Kavita.. there is always a time to shed it all and start afresh . why not now?

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  20. An Interesting Post!!

    To be quiet frank the number of parents living independent after their children have grown up is very less and rare too.

    I guess parents are realizing that in today’s time it helps to be independent to take care of one’s self without being dependent on the children who one cannot say will or will not look after their parents in their old age.

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  21. I think husband plays a very vital role in this kind of situations, if he supports wife then in-laws will naturally stop being so authoritative.

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  22. Wow.. Am so glad I found your blog on the Indiblogger Vine:-) Love your post. As a daughter, a wife and a mom, I can quite relate to what you’ve shared. I think attitude is what makes all the difference. Plus, one needs to accept the fact that it is not possible to make everyone happy. I know easier said than done, but that’s how it is!
    Blessings and best wishes.

    Prerna

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  23. Can you believe this story from Denver?

    I just saw this story and had to share it with all of you.

    This poor woman, just can’t believe that this actually happens in this day and age, what a shame.

    I just thought it was important to share.

    (CNN) — Three police cars pulled into Christina FourHorn’s front yard one afternoon while working from home just before she was supposed to pick up her daughter at school. The officers had a warrant for her arrest.

    “What do you mean robbery?” FourHorn remembers asking the officers. Her only brushes with the law had been a few speeding tickets.

    She was locked up in a Colorado jail. They took her clothes and other belongings and handed her an oversize black-and-white striped uniform. She protested for five days, telling jailers the arrest was a mistake. Finally, her husband borrowed enough money to bail her out.

    “They wouldn’t tell me the details,” she said.

    Later, it became clear that FourHorn was right, that Denver police had arrested the wrong woman. Police were searching for Christin Fourhorn, who lived in Oklahoma.

    Their names were similar, and Christina FourHorn, a mother with no criminal record living in Sterling, Colorado, had been caught in the mix-up.

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  24. Pingback: The Tragic Tale of Elderly In Our Society « Spinning a Yarn Of Life

  25. You said it so plainly, and so well! Indeed, what is unconditional love? And what do they know who mouth it so?

    And Khalil Gibran, and Erma Bombeck are favourites too!

    You had me here, and reading all this while! You go on… and blog, and keep the dreams alive! They cant not happen!!!

    Thank you so much Usha. I hope more readers would give their feedback like you do. hugs

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  26. Rightly said, daughters are paraya dhan. Perhaps u felt it deeply because u r married which i dont feel for my single status. I have been attached to my parents so much that i pray god for the reverse to happen—-that is i should not see their departure from this world but they should see mine. Nice article, thanks

    —Padma
    Orissa

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  27. My mom wouldn’t look for “payback” either!! But I’d still want to give it…I wouldn’t like it if my grandmother lived in an old-age home…there’s nothing like family…but maybe you just need to be a family of only four people; my mom, me, my sister and my gran to really want to stick together forever 🙂
    Nice post…I can imagine it from your point of view!

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  28. Hey,

    This is a message for the webmaster/admin here at tikulicious.wordpress.com.

    May I use part of the information from your blog post above if I give a link back to this website?

    Thanks,
    Peter

    Sorry for this very late response .Do feel free to use it and please give me a link too to your write up.
    Thank you
    tiku

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  29. Wonderfully put across. I won’t say much but just to let you know, I have that initial rhyme on my lips now.

    “Mother wait a little longer,
    Till my little wings are stronger,
    Then I will fly away.”

    🙂 Lovely.

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  30. i am an only daughter and when i got married my in laws seemed very modern and broad-minded. over the years, i have seen them and my husband express anger and childish jealousy whenever i pay attention to my parents. Just goes to show that no matter how much things change they never do!
    On the other hand, their own daughter is extremely attached to her parents even post marriage. actually im thankful to my sis in law. seeing her example my in-laws and even my hubby have a far better attitude towards me and my parents.
    I used to think being an only child is a disadvantage. but because my parents have no other option, i have had to fight for my rights, and i do think i have won the battle to some extent. Stick to your guns,things work out!

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  31. Pingback: Relationship Dysfunction: The All Engulfing Apron Strings And The Parental Guilt Trip « Spinning a Yarn Of Life

  32. Tikuli ,

    Your writings are so force ful they bought tears in my eys , you are so true so real , God give you strength in your crusade ,
    Take care

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  33. Pingback: Relationship Dysfunction: The All Engulfing Apron Strings And The Parental Guilt Trip « Fakeindianbbahu's Blog

  34. You post really inspires me to write my own. I’m a mother and can understand all your pains. My two children live abroad. I miss them a lot and every day I wish to travel back through time only to have a glance on my little angels. I fully understand that my children have grown and that’s normal that they live apart from me. The only fact that makes me sad is that it seems that my children don’t need my help anymore. Thanks for you post. It was very interesting and inspirational.

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  35. the thoughts chanting in my heart…. but then parents leave everything for us.. there desires, passions & even life.. and in the end in the name of career opportunities we shrug off with our responsibility. I agree with you when you say girls & boys equally deserve an equal standing when it comes to looking after our parents.

    Weakest LINK

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  36. Absolutely adore this post and agree to every word you have said!!
    Even birds leave their nests once they sprout wings…so why is it seen with so much contempt when humans do it? Of course the “budhape ka sahara” doesnt have to go to such an extreme as that the possessiveness and controlling attitude makes life hell for everyone in picture…people need to learn to strike a balance and throw ego outside the window…

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  37. I am an only child and yes despite my love marriage my husband and his family have reservations about my parents staying with me.But I have decided come what may whenever they need me I’ll be there for them despite all the opposition here.
    My gender is not going to come between my love and my responsibility for my parents and surprisingly enough my mom often tells me I know it might get difficult for you to juggle everything at some point but it could have been the same if we had a son,so how does it matter.you do what you feel is right.

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