Ramblings Of A Modern Indian Mom: I can’t help but envy the current urban middle-class generation of young adults; to be specific, the 27–32-year-olds. They are far more intelligent and knowledgeable than we were at their age. They say what they want, do what they want and if you aren’t OK with it, it’s just too bad – for you. Mind you, most of the parents I spoke with have children who are doing well professionally, working hard and partying hard, gender-sensitive and progressive minded. Yet, the distance between them and their kids is steadily growing apart. Just like what I’ve been facing for some time now.
‘My son is not a “bad” kid,’ said Shikha, a mother in her late fifties, ‘but if I ask him how he is, or if I express my concern about his health or erratic working hours, I’m either met with silence or a “you-won’t-understand” look.’ Her 32-year-old MBA son is with an OTT platform. ‘He stays in his room, door locked except when he steps out to carry his lunch or dinner back into his room. Or when he’s going out to party.’ And he hasn’t been like this because of the WFH scenario. Ever since he was a teenager. Didn’t you protest at that time, I asked her. She had, a couple of times, but then stopped thinking that perhaps he needed privacy in his growing-up years. Recently, exasperated at having to knock on his room door each time a packet came for which an OTP had to be given to the delivery boy – or an e-commerce product had to be returned/exchanged — Shikha asked him what was it that he’s ‘hiding’ in his room, pat came his reply: ‘It’s to keep out all those who are outside.’
Preeti, a freelance translator, confessed ruefully, ‘My marriage has been rocky. My husband is a good guy but we just never “got along”; the atmosphere at home has not been pleasant always.’ That her husband could never hang on to a job didn’t help the situation. ‘Financially, things were tough too, and unfortunately my daughters saw it all: my worry, the stress; they saw his arrogance as well as his duty towards his parents and towards mine. There was no one I could turn to for any help. So my daughters had become my support to some extent. Do you think that’s the reason why they are hostile now, to both of us? I deeply, deeply regret that I couldn’t provide them a smooth childhood. My elder daughter told me the other day she’s had enough of us, that we’ve ruined her life.’ Despite the differences and hardship, Preeti and her husband had provided their daughters with the basic necessities. ‘Food and clothes were all basic stuff but we never compromised on their education and health. Of course, we couldn’t match what their friends had but it wasn’t that they were neglected. We managed a few family weekends too, when we could. It’s only recently that I have started talking back in anger.’
My conversation with other women revealed similar stories, more or less. Mothers who had tried and ‘apparently failed’, despite their best intentions, to provide for and protect their children. ‘It seems like my 35 years of effort in raising my kids has come to nought. Anything I ask is regarded as an interference,’ fumed Mala, who lives in Chennai. ‘Asking what time will you be back from your friend’s is met with a raised eyebrow! He returns at 2… 3/3.30 am in the morning; if I say don’t stay out too late, he says I’m an adult… don’t tell me what to do with my life… he doesn’t understand my fears… If he’s an “adult”, why doesn’t he understand all this? Or, why doesn’t he move out and stay by himself? He keeps threatening; at least, I won’t get to know all this and ignorance is bliss!’
‘It seems like my 35 years of effort in raising my kids has come to nought. Anything I ask is regarded as an interference,’ fumed Mala, who lives in Chennai.
‘Let go,’ advised a school friend, a journalist. ‘I have, but it took me years. You know my daughter; she is not at all a “problem”. She’s a successful dentist, yet she brushes me away, taunts me. She’s there, but when she wants to; not necessarily when I need her to be there. Our kids are very different from what we were.’
I asked her whether we were like this when we were their age.
‘Were you?’ came her question. ‘We’ve been friends since school! You weren’t, nor was I and same goes for most of the women I know. Yeh har ghar mein ho raha hain. Hum kuch nhi kar sakte hain except letting go. Our health will break down! Just immerse yourself in hobbies, pray for their protection and well-being.’
So, we stop talking with them? I was puzzled. ‘No,’ she sighed sadly. ‘You have to continue to be their mother — always available if and when they want to speak with you. The only choice you have is let go else they will walk away from you. If you let go, they might still come around. I know it’s easier said than done but there’s no other way.’
* Some names have been changed on request.
The views expressed are the author’s own.