What do you think of this mother, and this family?

What do you think of this mother? How do you think would the ‘social order’ be impacted with this kind of parenting? Have you ever met mothers or parents or families like this?

Link shared by Gk from tears&dreams, with the message: “Felt like sharing the article with you. Its funny and sweet and talks about family in a way that would be hard to imagine for most Indians. I can’t think of anyone else who’d understand why I loved it.”

Can you think of two people who would love this story?

MODERN LOVE

The Messy-Kitchen, Parking-Spot War

The day my daughter arrived home from her first year in college, her boyfriend moved in. They didn’t consult me.

One day I was happily living alone in my two-bedroom Seattle apartment, and the next I had two teenage roommates, one of whom I hardly knew. The boyfriend, who was still a high school senior, had been my daughter’s summer fling before she left for college last September.

With my last child gone, I thought I’d be terribly sad and lonely. And I was — for about 10 minutes. After I had spent a brief stint lying on her bed mourning her childhood, I did what my own mother had done: I gathered the stuff she had left behind and moved it to the basement storage unit.

Then I took over the office nook she had claimed (but hardly ever used) and made it my own.

I installed shelves and filled them with my reference books. I stocked the refrigerator and cupboards with gluten-free, low-fat food. I bought soap in scents that pleased me and shampoo that suited my hair type. I rearranged the furniture and cleaned the house from top to bottom.

With each pass of the vacuum, I found myself becoming cheerier. My husband had moved to our farm on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington with our two dogs to pursue his dream of being a homesteader, changing our marriage into a long-distance arrangement with occasional weekend visits. I found myself, for the first time in 35 years, living alone in a perfectly tidy apartment. I loved it.

….

When I asked if the boyfriend might help out a little by doing dishes or taking out the compost, my daughter said, “He’s phobic about getting his hands dirty.”

“I’m sure that works well for him,” I replied.

Weeks passed as the lovebirds languished in my apartment. I’d leave for work at 10:30 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. to find them exactly where I had left them: sprawled on the couch watching reruns of “Monk.” The only way I could tell they had even moved was that the food I had bought for dinner was gone and the kitchen was a mess.

The boyfriend’s mother, upset that her 18-year-old son hardly came home anymore…

Please do read the entire story at – 

The Messy-Kitchen, Parking-Spot War

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85 thoughts on “What do you think of this mother, and this family?

  1. Oh I wish I could do this. Have told, hinted, stated to my children. Parenting comes with an expiry date … I need to reclaim me as a person. I need to be a woman, not a mother forever. Sometimes living in this country is a pain, is as though once you become parent, you can never go back to being a person.

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  2. Super-super-story! Loved it. Every individual needs their own time and space to be themselves, and at some point of time in life they should grab the opportunity if they get it.
    The so-called social ‘order’ might go for a toss, but that might actually make people happier. We’d want to go and help each other out in need, because we have more love and respect for people/parents who let us be our own self.

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  3. Hey IHM

    I didn’t mention in my email that I loved the husband wife equation as well. Free to pursue your dreams and passions and still being together.

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  4. It’s normal to be a little sad when kids move out, but it’s best for everyone. And if grown up kids visit, then they must act grown up, that’s all.

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      • My own mother is fighting to keep my sister at home, lol. It’s a huge drama because it’s simply not feasible for her to commute to college but sis is having her own way.

        More generally, I wonder if Indian parents want their kids around them forever because they don’t really share a healthy relationship with their spouses?

        Another reason could be that many Indians generally don’t indulge in hobbies. By the time you take it easy at work, you really have nothing else in your life.

        A third reason could be that Indians generally have very little control over their own lives so they want to control other people and your children are the best bet. Traditionally, this included financial control as well since it was more difficult to make ends meet 3-4 decades ago. But even today, other people can often control a person’s money. Control is often exercised by other people on what you can wear, what you can eat, where you can go, whom you can make friends with, how to pray and to which god, what university course to take up, what career to take up, even when to wash your hair and cut your nails.

        And I suppose, there is also the fact that most Indians want to ensure they make the decision on whom their son / daughter is going to f*** for the rest of their lives. I personally find it creepy, but to each their own. If children move out, they will learn to make their own decisions and that would spell catastrophe for parents who want to have a say in the sex life of their children.

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        • It is also possible that some parents just get along with and enjoy living with their children notwithstanding the generation gap. It’s like having a roommate whose company you enjoyed and who you were used to living with move out.

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        • Of course, The Bride. But in the Indian context, I doubt it’s the reason in most cases because of the control factor. And because you enjoy someone’s company doesn’t mean they can’t build their own home and life. What about when people get married? We come right back to the basic problem, the joint family system.

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        • “What about when people get married?” Agree, that circumstances might warrant a move-out, just as roommates move out for various reasons. My point that simply that there might be positive “non-creepy” reasons why parents might enjoy living with their adult children. In the context of the West, I see a lot of shaming of adults who live with their parents, which i guess there is a resurgence of because of the recession. But personally I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with it as long as everyone treats each other as adults.

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        • I completely agree there can be non-creepy reasons for parents to enjoy their children’s company. In fact, even people who want control over their kids probably enjoy their presence, and vice-versa. I know I enjoy my parents’ company immensely.

          But IHM specifically asked me about the Indian context and you can hardly disagree that control is a major factor that younger adults are often not allowed to move out of the home. Another is tradition. And also, there is ‘log’ who will ‘kahenge’ some shit or the other. None of them is a valid reason, imo. Enjoyment of company probably comes very low down the list of priorities.

          I think everyone needs to experience life without their parents’ backing, at least for 2-3 years. If they want to settle in an adult companionship after that, there is nothing wrong. But if you are not going to do your own washing or your own cooking and still depending upon mummy to do it even if you are 35 years old, I find it intrinsically wrong. This is the case in India. I don’t care about what Westerners think or do, because they have to sort out their own issues. There simply is no comparison.

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        • fem you spoke my mind.. all the points are so valid..specially the last one. It is just that they will live in denial that their children might want to be in a relationship without getting married during the teenage and then suddenly during early twenties they will start the get married drama.. It is like one fine day the wake up and realize – ok now its time my children have sex so I will choose whom they f*** / who will f*** them for the rest of their lives .. Creepy and funny..

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        • @Fem
          “Enjoyment of company probably comes very low down the list of priorities.” Hmm I dunno. I’d say 50-50 at least. This may not be a stated reason, but I wouldn’t write it off easily.

          “I don’t care about what Westerners think or do, because they have to sort out their own issues. There simply is no comparison.” This is strange. This post was originally about what a Westerner did, IHM’s question was a comparative one, including her question to you.

          I know I’m nitpicking, but I wish we could have a more nuanced view. Defining what is a complicated relationship in terms of “control” and applying it across the board even in the Indian context seems like an over-simplification. I don’t disagree with your reasons, but was just adding another one.

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        • Every point you raised is correct & excellently put. For the last point, not only whom, but also when & where ha The worst part is people don’t get why anyone should have a problem with that.

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        • @The Bride,

          I am not at all disagreeing with you that parents enjoy their children’s company. It’s very natural to do so. But you don’t need to live in the same house to enjoy each other’s company. During the week, many families hardly get to speak with each other anyway. They can still live nearby and visit often and do stuff together. That is not allowed. How many single people do you know that have moved out next door to their parents so they can be close to them and still have their own way of life and be independent? If you move out, it has to be to another city or something. I don’t think enjoyment of company is even a factor that comes into consideration when parents are screaming and emotionally blackmailing their offspring not to move out (married or single). If you genuinely enjoy someone’s company, would you behave in that manner when they choose to move out? I wouldn’t!

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      • Sometimes, in cross-cultural comparisons, we end up comparing apples to oranges. I need to blog about this but for starters, here’s a couple of things that strike me as baseline differences, differences so fundamental that we don’t pay attention to it – money/housing and a safety-net. I’m not saying that Indian families are not controlling or manipulative but we do need to consider the material context of Indian lives too. In western cultures, not so long ago, grandparents lived with grown children and their offspring because there used to be no safety-net, no old age pension, etc. Once that was put in place, began the celebration of the great “nuclear family” and “individual freedom.” I don’t see this in India at all at the present, despite some advances. The only social stratum that can afford to do all this is the wealthier section of society and even here most people cling to the clan/family for all sorts of reasons, given the precariousness of public networks,

        From the kids’ perspective, western countries (especially the US, to which this article refers) have a housing surplus situation. It is relatively EASY for youngsters to find a safe apartment in a half-way decent neighbourhood and move out. In India, where rent can eat up a substantial amount of income, youngsters have no option but to stick it out. Also, rentals are not standardised as they are in the US. So, for example, how many Indian landlords are required to provide a stove and a refrigerator in even the humblest apartment? And what guarantee is there that the tenant won’t simply rip those out and take it with them? Buying a house or building a house needs saving for a long, long time. Until housing becomes more affordable and available, most Indian children do tend to linger at home unless they have a government job with government housing or a job that allows one the financial wherewithal to live apart.

        Finally, the emotional part. I find both approaches strangely lacking in emotional warmth and empathy. The way that Indian parents detach from their daughters is weird and cruel enough. I know someone whose own parents refused to come and attend to her during a medical crisis because she was her in-laws’ problem after marriage. Unthinkable to feel that way to one’s own flesh-and-blood! Similarly, in western cultures, how does suddenly turn and tell one’s own children that as soon as they reach 16/18 whatever, they are OUT! It’s cruel, cold, and I would bet that creates all sorts of emotional issues between parents and children, even if the children need not fear for their material survival as they do in India. Grown children might claim in later years that it was the best thing for their parents to have done to them, but this is rather like middle-aged Indians looking back with nostalgia on the caning they received from their school teachers as having been good for them. One does not need to be cruel to build character – or independence. Or, indeed, to set boundaries.

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        • People in Western cultures don’t actually throw their kids out when they turn 18. NONE of my friends were actually ‘thrown out’ because they had turned a certain age. It just happens because they go away to university or work, they keep visiting and gradually make their own homes, first with roommates, then on their own or with a partner. It’s a gradual phasing out. I think this needs to be clear as too many people here are thinking that just because young adults are setting up on their own, they are being thrown out like a bag of trash. They aren’t.

          I totally agree with the housing and rent problem in India. Moreover, there is also the fact that flat owners prefer not to give on rent to single men, making it even more difficult for them to move out. It’s like a giant conspiracy to keep men hanging on to their mothers. But those who do provide a fridge, put it in the contract so tenants can’t just rip it out. I had a separate contract for the furnishings provided.

          You are also right that there is not enough options for old people. That really needs to be addressed, not just to provide autonomy to younger adults, but to deal with the fact that not every old person have children to take care of them, and some might not want to live with daughters and struggle in their old age.

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        • Since I am a Westerner, may I add my two cents on the matter? It is not true that we are kicked out by our parents once we are 16 or 18. It is very much like Fem says: we move out for studying or for working. But that only goes for some of us, me included. Several of my friends studied in their home town and stayed with their parents until they had an income and could afford their own flat. Others, who started to work, contributed to the household expenses until they had found their own place. So whoever claims that the Westerners are cruel enough to force their kids out of the house is just as wrong as the people claiming that India is a paradise where everyone is enlightened and one with the universe.

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    • Replying to all your comments in go, Fem. Loved all the points you’ve raised. However, control doesn’t stop once you leave home, it can extend virtually across countries with easy communication channels.

      Case in point, my husband’s brother. My parents in law know when he wakes up, the clothes he wears, the food he eats, who he hangs out with, when he gets paid, how much money he makes. They’re even very eager to “find a girl suitable to the family” for him. This is a guy who has been away from home for 4.5 years and earned a Masters degree along the way🙂 This is also the guy who’s been mollycoddled so much that he doesn’t even know how much his cellphone costs, doesn’t know how to book a flight, can’t book a hotel room for himself, can’t take a day trip without taking mommy’s permission🙂

      IHM, Most Indian parents don’t enjoy each other. They’re first co-parents and then a couple in love. How much middle-old aged Indian couples do you see who genuinely enjoy each others’ company once their responsibilities are over? I don’t see why they make their adult children their responsibility well past their prime😐 It breaks my heart to see 35 yr old marriages crumbling without the children keeping them together. Can you imagine a married couple with adult children signing up to a long distance relationship the way the author and her husband did, just for the sake of pursuing their passions? Somehow, we Indians are not taught that love isn’t breathing down each others’ throat – it is all about faith, unconditional support and taking joy in each others’ self sufficiency and capabilities.

      P.S: Apologies for the long rant

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  5. Loved the story. It kinda described the post-45 life I wouldn’t mind adopting.
    I should show this to my parents. My sisters are married & settled abroad & I work in another city, dropping in once a month or so. Yesterday my mother was telling me about joining a dress-designing class. I felt happy.

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    • There’s more…
      //When I asked if the boyfriend might help out a little by doing dishes or taking out the compost, my daughter said, “He’s phobic about getting his hands dirty.”

      “I’m sure that works well for him,” I replied.

      Weeks passed as the lovebirds languished in my apartment. I’d leave for work at 10:30 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. to find them exactly where I had left them: sprawled on the couch watching reruns of “Monk.” The only way I could tell they had even moved was that the food I had bought for dinner was gone and the kitchen was a mess.

      The boyfriend’s mother, upset that her 18-year-old son hardly came home anymore…//

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  6. As I read this post my indignation was growing. Why didn’t she make her boundaries clear?! I actually heaved a sigh of relief when she finally did.🙂
    Even before my children left home, I had set my boundaries. My room was mine. I was a person too. I had my likes and dislikes. Of course if I was out of station I came home to find my comb gone, the living room littered et al. Sometimes the boundaries fade for a while, but generally we all know where we stand. It is better that way. The love and respect is much more this way. No one has to be the sacrificing martyr and no one just the one who ‘takes’ from a relationship. It is up to parents to judiciously draw that boundary and also teach their offspring to respect it.

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      • i also liked the fact that the husband and wife were comfortable with a long-distance relationship. In any relationship you may not want to be in close proximity to each other 24×7 and still love each other and be happy. This is especially so in the middle age, I feel. Your children are grown up and the partners might have different interests and hobbies by then. Why not pursue them and feel fulfilled?

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      • IHM, Any relationship is so much more fun when one person isn’t always sacrificing. I feel that way very strongly about a marriage as well. Both sides give and take. It may not always be equal but there need not be this undercurrent of martyrdom to have a successful relationship.

        I enjoy my mother’s company very much now just because we’re two adult women and we know our limits. I know she can be my trusted, all knowing mommy when I really need it but I am also comforted in knowing that she doesn’t have this need to control my life🙂

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    • Absolutely agree, Shail. The most important lessons in life are learnt at home, in one’s childhood, and often the child’s mom is his/her first teacher. If a mom doesn’t ascertain her needs and draw boundaries, how else will the kids learn to respect others and have balanced relationships?

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  7. In India having a child is such a big deal, more so a male child so that the parents get to have some SEVA done in their old age. Most never let go because of this and often also due to financial dependence.

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    • Sometimes a mother lives with the DIL of her deceased son despite having other sons and daughters. She feels it is her right because she always lived there. But what about the DIL who would be looking forward to some freedom from MIL? Any idea?

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  8. Hi IHM,
    Not sure how to send email to you so sending as a reply…
    I am a working mother of two kids..This email is regarding contraception and Family planning operation..
    Here is a short description of my life post marriage:

    My husband is a lovely and understanding person and a JKG🙂
    During initial months of marriage we tried for kid but were unsuccessful in the first year. Then I got pregnant unfortunately that ended in a miscarriage…
    Then started all the problems….I was blamed for the miscarriage (I was abused to the extent that words spread that I only took some tablets to end the pregnancy !!)
    I felt suicidal but my husband was very supportive and was by my side whenever someone talked about miscarriage

    Next year I again got pregnant and that too ended in miscarriage @ 11 weeks….I was completely devastated and it took 1 year for me to come to normalcy…

    Then I took it as a challenge, reduced my weight (around 18 kgs) and tried to get pregnant
    and was successful immediately…. but i faced so many complications during the entire pregnancy…I was put on complete bed rest (was allowed to get out of bed only for using rest room)
    for the entire nine months and finally i delivered a lovely boy baby by C-Sec….

    God blessed me with another baby (girl) within next 18 months🙂

    But here started the problem…owing to my complications, my gynec refused to perform family planning operation when i delivered my 2nd baby….
    Now I am being abused by my MIL that my ill health is the reason why the gynec didnt perform the operation and every month if my periods get delayed I am given a weird look and it clearly shows that she is afraid i might get pregnant again

    But the same lady used to torture me earlier (before birth of my son) if i got my periods every month🙂 what an irony

    Ok I come to the point…I want to know if there are any contraception laws in India….
    Does it work in favour of women?

    As I told earlier, I am working so it is difficult for me to take long leaves as I have already taken two back to back maternity leaves…
    Also my health is very bad that i will not be able bear another operation…

    Any advice?

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  9. 🙂 thank you so much for sharing this, IHM. The honesty is refreshing, as is the point of view.
    According to Robert A. Heinlein, “Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” – and this mother has it in spades😀
    I can only hope other parents learn the importance of respecting the individuality of both themselves, and their children. We all need the space and time to be ourselves, and both parents and children need to be made aware of those boundaries, and be taught to respect them.

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  10. in india, being a parent and exercising the authority of being a parent is a life time job. life would be so much easier if parents could let go and let their adult children take their own decisions. and yes the emotional blackmail. they say a parent’s love is selfless. i have my doubts. indian parents claim to have selfless love, but it is one of the most selfish things they do.and it is always up as a weapon.

    i sincerely wish i can stand up to being a person rather than a mother when the time comes. ( my kids are young 12 and 8)

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  11. A lot of the comments talk about the need for control, but I am not so sure. The moment, my brother got married, my parents “kicked him and his wife out”. Said they needed to build their own life together. We would be there if we were needed, but otherwise, they were on their own.
    I am an unmarried woman. I stay with my widowed dad, coz it works for both of us. As long as I keep the common places tidy – well, not too messy – and I don’t leave lights and the TV on, he doesn’t care what else I do. My room is my own, that I can keep they way I want – and his room is his, and I cannot mess about there.
    I’m not sure what his reaction would be if I brought home a boyfriend, but I think it’ll be more a fear of society’s norms than him having any objection.
    And we are Indian, living in India,
    There’s more to Indian parents than control.

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    • If your parents fear societal backlash and therefore control/influence/force/expect certain behaviour/conduct from you, isn´t that control and selfish still?
      As parents, isn´t your first responsibility to your children and yourself?

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      • I honestly don’t know what his reaction will be. I’ve known him all my life and he still manages to surprise me🙂 But if he is uncomfortable, I think it’d be a case of him being afraid for me because I might – will – not be accepted by society if I was in a live-in relationship, and also given the norms he was brought up with. In that case. I’d move out – someplace close, so I am still there for him, but my own place where I can do what I want. Simple. That way, we do not step on each others toes and our relationship remains intact.
        And yeah! I do know I am lucky. A lot of my friends have said so. But equally, a lot of my friends have parents like mine. I actually feel we’ve become more regressive as a society. My parents’ generation seemed so much more ready to bend/break the ‘rules’ than a lot of my peers so.

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  12. Yeah, read the article. It will be lonely without the kids and their dogs, but it will also be liberatiing. Of course I think I’ll cry buckets, eat lots of ice cream, haunt the empty rooms and then get over it with a binge of shopping. The home will be cleaner and much easier to live in.

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    • Once you’re done crying, you’ll go get a facial done, have friends over, enjoy a drink or 6 and then really enjoy the company of your responsible, adult kids when they come over to visit🙂

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  13. I did not like the idea of kids coming home with significant others and taking life for granted. If they are old enough to claim the right to inhabit with significant others, they should be old enough to shoulder some responsibilities and find a place of their own – even if it be a single room somewhere. Something about the way she allowed them to walk all over here before putting her foot down and drawing the lines clearly made me very uncomfortable.

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    • “If they are old enough to claim the right to inhabit with significant others, they should be old enough to shoulder some responsibilities and find a place of their own – even if it be a single room somewhere.” – Easy to say ..But making such an arrangement is expensive and it takes time to earn so much and do the setup. At least you need to complete college to get a job.. In the article the children r either just in college or senior in high school.. So biologically they are capable of having sex and enjoying it however economically if they are not capable to rent a place they cannot have sex ? .. So much pain to just have a relationship, some sex and good time..

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  14. Love the article and glad that she told the boyfriend off for parking in her spot!😀

    I always wondered if my parents would be sad or lonely or what not when my sister also finally moved out. This finally happened in the recent past parents are FAR from sad or lonely. They have a very active social life now and have made a lot of new friends. They seem to be finally free to do what they enjoy rather than having to run around me or my sister. As long as one of us lived at home, my mum’s entire day was spent fussing over us. Mum now visits my sister when she gets too home-sick.. and then calls me up to tell me ‘get her to be more like you, more independent, she keeps bugging me still!’.. lol! Totally a different phone call for the one I used to brace myself for. I am happy for us all.🙂

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  15. I think this mother should have set limits right at the start.
    I’m not that liberal, in the sense, my boys can be with whom they want how they want , but my room, cleanliness in my house and nasty behavior are off limits.
    This was even when they were little.

    But i don’t think we will like the boys and their partner stay over for months on end in our house and like slobs. They’ve been gone to college and we have enjoyed our self, it feels somehow carefree but with joy, we know they are safe and doing well and yet we dont have to care for them or worry about them on a daily basis. it’s a great feeling. again we love it when they come home for holidays and love it when they leave. i think it’s the best of both world. there is great joy in seeing your child navigate the world🙂 and it’s like a 2nd honeymoon for us, we are back to our 20’s , no responsibilities, just more money and fun ..

    As for partners, My view is if someone is old enough for a relationship then they should be old enough to deal with living life and taking care of themselves too. and we should let kids explore relationships, how else will they know who’s right for them…

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  16. Liked the story, but the lack of boundaries early on drove me bonkers – I know people like this IRL. Besides, a messy house drives me completely batty🙂 All of which to say, boundaries good. Establish early and reinforce often. The living together – in an Indian context – don’t see it happening for a long time to come, especially not for an 18 year old.

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  17. If parents themselves knew their boundaries and learnt not to interfere in their children’s lives and continued to lend their support through the trials and tribulations of relations, then a lot of misplaced ideas about the opposite sex, about sex itself, about healthy, nurturing relationships would in time sort itself out.
    I think this log kya kahenge has been the number 1 reason that everyone parrots, of course only surpassed by the listen to your elders, we know best line of reasoning.
    Also, I think we have a deep rooted sense of double standards. I am very sure parents know their teenage and adult children might be having physical relationships, or drinking?dancing or talking to boys/girls, or whatever else is the social evil by the family’s definition. As long as you do not get caught, by extended family, by nosy neighbours, and said nosy neighbours cat and its kittens, its a-Okay!
    This mother was definitely a real woman going through the real motions of being a parent. I have a 10 month old and I already see myself going back and forth sometimes! (Time travel parenting, you see)

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  18. Several things come to mind while reading this story –
    – No, it could never happen in India, not in the near future, girl of 18 having sex with her bf in her mom’s house, and that is not even the central theme of this story – but of course, it attracts our attention, since we are so not there yet in letting young people make their own decisions when it comes to relationships.

    – American moms have long moved past the phenomenon of “mom giving up 20 years of her life to raise kids, then celebrating their departure into adulthood by establishing her own space and identity”. This sounds very 50s. I don’t know of a single other mom who does this anymore. They have friends, hobbies, and a life, while being very involved with their kids.

    – Also, American moms seem to be good at establishing and maintaining house rules, expecting kids to pick up after themselves, etc. So a mom like this who will allow her kids to turn her house upside down is actually a rarity.

    – My perspective – I enjoy my boys a lot, they’re 14 and 10, and when they leave, I’ll cry buckets, and no amount of ice cream will help. It’s not that I want to control them but I love having them around, I love the things we do together – going on hikes, playing basketball, discussing books, watching movies, eating out, hugs for scraped knees and bad days, lots of jokes, some funny, some just plain silly ….
    And no, there will be no relief in re-claiming my space because I do have my own space, my own friends, and my house rules that are taken seriously. So, yes I’ll miss them terribly. As your kids get older, you become more of a dear friend to them. It’s like they say, “You have to let go of your child a little everyday …. starting with pre-school.” I’ll eventually let go and be happy for just visits I suppose. It’ll certainly take me some learning to get there!

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    • I must disagree with your second point. I know several American mothers who don’t seem to want a life currently and have multiple children and extremely busy husbands. They are going to be left bereft and clueless and also perhaps financially weak by the time the children grow up. I don’t know if they will celebrate their children’s moving out or whatever, but they certainly are not in a place of safety. But I think this may depend on the part of USA they are from. The more religious people often prefer to put their lives on hold to look after their children. Btw, I’m not referring to crazy religious people, just ordinary religious people.

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    • “No, it could never happen in India, not in the near future, girl of 18 having sex with her bf in her mom’s house.” Actually, I know of it happening in India, and not even in the so-called metros. I agree it’s rare, but we should stop overgeneralising Indian society for our own good. In doing so, we elide a lot of alternative practices that do exist.

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      • @Fern, you are right, there are some Christian moms like that …. there are far fewer of them here on the West coast … still you are right, and just because I didn’t meet these types or it slipped my mind, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Thanks for bringing this up.

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      • @ The Bride, I know of Indian families where the children have their own (sexual) lives and parents are completely okay with it, even welcome it, meet their girlfriends and boyfriends, etc. What I haven’t seen (as in this story) is 2 things – one, being open about sex at the age 18 (with Indians, sex could be easily happening at this age but is usually kept under the wraps). Two, a daughter and her boyfriend making out or having sex or lying around half naked in the mom’s bedroom etc. Even the Indian daughters and sons who have sex with their boyfriends and girlfriends, with their parents not minding, don’t do so in their parents’ house so openly. THIS is what I don’t see happening in India YET – with our rigid, repressed view of sexuality, individuality, choices, etc.
        If you did see it happening, more power to them!

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        • Got cut off … sorry @ The Bride – continued:
          Many Indian daughters and sons are struggling to make basic choices – marry someone of their own choice. “Marriage” which is accepted by “elders” is still not accompanied by choice in many cases. Higher on the spectrum of acceptance is the concept of dating, having sexual relations, etc. And much much higher on the spectrum of acceptance and choice, is the concept of not freaking out when you see your daughter kissing her boyfriend. I think it’s a pretty safe generalization to say that we (most Indian families) are still struggling at the bottom of the spectrum – letting our kids choose their life partners. It is in this context that I said we have a long way to go to accept uninhibited displays of sexuality from one’s children.

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        • @wordssetmefree

          “What I haven’t seen (as in this story) is 2 things – one, being open about sex at the age 18 (with Indians, sex could be easily happening at this age but is usually kept under the wraps).” I have not seen this at 18, but at 21 or so, I have.
          “Two, a daughter and her boyfriend making out or having sex or lying around half naked in the mom’s bedroom etc. ” This is a question of boundaries. Many people don’t like the idea of someone having sex in their bed, leave alone parents. So I think it’s fine if Indian parents don’t want it.

          “Even the Indian daughters and sons who have sex with their boyfriends and girlfriends, with their parents not minding, don’t do so in their parents’ house so openly.” My point is that I have seen exactly this. I know of one case at least of the girlfriend moving into the boyfriends house, his mother had expired but his father was okay with it. I also know of a girl spending the night in her boyfriend’s house every weekend, he didn’t have a father, his mother was okay with it. I also have a friend who moved in with her boyfriend in an Indian city before she got married. Both their parents lived in the same city. At least the girl’s parents were okay with it.

          As I said, I’m not claiming it’s common. I’m saying it exists, in reaction to your “it could never happen in India” statement.

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        • I completely agree with you on this, Bride. I know someone whose parents are quite happy to have her boyfriend around every weekend. I also agree I wouldn’t want to see anyone sitting half naked on my bed, cherished daughter or not. It’s one thing being able to discuss your sex life with your family, quite another to stroll about naked or make out in front of them.

          But just because it’s happening doesn’t mean most people aren’t suppressed and having their major life decisions made for them. It’s cruel and inhuman to manipulate people into marriages.

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  19. Like some others, I was uncomfortable with the mother in story’s inability to put her foot down until it got unbearable. If the cliche of the Indian mother is one who wants to cling to her child and is ever-sacrificing, then this woman seemed very much in that vein, liberal attitude to boyfriend notwithstanding.

    That said, I am uncomfortable with the repetition of the view that parents must without struggle or pain, let go of their children and “enjoy” life. There are many parents who enjoy life even while their children are growing. There are parents who share a good relationship with their kids and would naturally be sad to see them going away.

    Yes, let go, but the compulsory reaction to this process need not be relief and celebration. Being sad and missing your child like hell is also a valid reaction. Why must we audit the feelings of people who are sad with this “don’t be silly, you are now free” mantra?

    I am also uneasy about the almost tyrannical framing of a happy family as one where spouses are intimates. It is possible that the main bond between parents might be the children, and so what? Maybe a couple will grow apart after their children leave and maybe that’s okay, as long as they don’t cling to their children. I used to keep urging my parents to go on romantic vacations with each other after my sis and I moved away. I realised that they are least interested in this, they would rather visit us or other family, and that’s okay too. Why hold everyone to this standard of compulsory lifelong romance, nice as it is to watch in movies and witness in real-life?

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    • I completely agree, Bride. If some people overrate mother’s love and sacrifice, others overrate eternal romance and gazing at each other’s eyes post retirement. But I think this is more about a particular woman who reacted this way. The point is that she is ok too. Not that everybody should emulate her.

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      • “But I think this is more about a particular woman who reacted this way. The point is that she is ok too.” Yep sure. My comment was related more to some of the comments above as well as a general trend I’ve seen in the comments on this blog about how parents should ideally face their children’s impending departure.

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    • I agree with the first part of your comment, regarding parents being sad about kids leaving. It’s a very natural phenomenon and they’ll get over it but their feelings must not be denied.

      As for children being the main bond of the parents, it often results in catastrophe. This isn’t about romance or twu wuv, but more about enjoying each other’s company, which does not happen in many cases because you’ve never given time for each other. My main problem with this is that it often puts a subconscious burden on the son or daughter who would be worried about how their parents will survive if they leave. So, it’s not okay at all. And the concept of couples enjoying each other’s company and sharing at least some things in common is not ‘tyrannical’. It’s the very basis of a relationship. If you need a third person in your relationship to make it work, it’s not very functional.

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      • I’ve been reading a bit of sociology on marriage in Indian society (if such a generalisation can be made – I guess upper caste Hindu society is what is meant). Traditionally, the couple were not expected to and in fact actively discouraged from getting to know each other and the child was the main bond. The couple developed a relationship later on in the marriage. While some of the aspects of these traditional marriages and family structures, such as exogenous marriage where the woman is completely isolated from her kin, is the lowest in the pecking order, and forced marriage to a practical stranger are being critiqued and hopefully discarded, does it necessarily follow that the alternative model we advocate for is the nuclear heterosexual couple?

        If children are the main bond between a couple, it may result in “catastrophe” in transitional societies, but an alternative could be spouses who call it quits and move on or people who live in the same house for practical reasons but lead separate but possibly fulfilled lives. There are many examples of the latter even in India, as well as other Asian countries. To somehow deem those relationships a failure because they do not conform to some third-party ideal of companionship seems excessive. My point: just because children were the main focus does not mean that parents will not let go off their children or that children will be guilt-tripped into staying with their parents. This does happen, but that alone should not be cause for touting only one kind of relationship (the two-person companionate one) as the only ideal.

        “If you need a third person in your relationship to make it work, it’s not very functional.” Yes, I do find the idea of insisting that two people “learn” to enjoy each others’ company, that it must be two, that they must focus on each other so that when there are no children they still like each other, kind (hence I used the word “almost”) of tyrannical. I think there can be functional three-person or more relationships, not speaking just of parents and children here, could be three adults. Yes, this companionate two-person marriage that we all hope lasts till death do them part is supposed to be the ideal, but I prefer to think there could be other paradigms that could work if we think beyond it.

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        • “… does it necessarily follow that the alternative model we advocate for is the nuclear heterosexual couple?” – I am not advocating any model for a couple. I am merely pointing out that it is sad if a couple does not have companionship. They can do partner swapping for all I care as long as it is not pressurised on anyone.

          “just because children were the main focus does not mean that parents will not let go off their children or that children will be guilt-tripped into staying with their parents” – I never said every parent would do this. I was pointing out that this could be one of the reasons. I certainly know women who hang on to their sons because they literally have no one else in their lives. And unfortunately, this guilt tripping happens far more often to be classified as a mere exceptional case here and there,

          “Yes, this companionate two-person marriage that we all hope lasts till death do them part is supposed to be the ideal, but I prefer to think there could be other paradigms that could work if we think beyond it.” – I am quite aware that not all marriages last forever, and I have no problems with that. I am not even recommending it as an idea. My point is that the children in this equation are the vulnerable party since they can be moulded by the parents since childhood. If someone who has experienced freedom and is aware that there are no expectations, decides to live in a three way relationship with their parents, good luck to them! But that’s often not the case in India, is it?

          Before you ask me not to generalise, I am generalising because the majority of people in this country have some form of control over them. There are a few free spirits, and I think they can manage very well without our discussing about them. The other ones need help which we may or may not be able to provide, but talking about it is a good start. I prefer not to ignore the millions living a hard life simply because I have a good one.

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        • @Fem there are many things I don’t quite agree with with what you have said, but I will just clarify my thoughts on one point:

          “The other ones need help which we may or may not be able to provide, but talking about it is a good start. ” My thoughts on the kinds of marriages that might be possible that do not conform to a heterosexual companionate one but which might work for different people, applies to all people, not just “free spirits”.

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        • Free spirits shall follow whatever relationships in whatever way they want irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. Others are not so lucky and might be coerced into doing things, for which our society is famous. Isn’t that what this entire discussion is about?

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  20. I read the entire story and I could not get why the mother let them walk all over her. She was clearly resentful but she did not open her mouth for a very long time. Was it conditioning? Being a mom? To let people (be it your children) walk over you?

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    • I think some people are just like that. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with being a mother or conditioning or anything. Some people just find validation in giving in to other people’s wishes (even if it goes against their own), or simply dislike confrontation (it can get messy), or have a desire to avoid emotionally draining exchanges. It’s not a healthy thing, but it’s not always related to a specific role that society makes someone obligated to play.

      For example, a person who has always had people view them as ‘dispensable’, as it were, would go out of their way to ensure that the relationships they do have are continuously sustained. Even if it means not setting personal boundaries. As long as the other person is happy because of you, they will stick around, and you will be “needed”. This desire to feel “necessary” in someone else’s life doesn’t always come from a place of conditioning (as in, if you don’t play the role society dictates to you, you are no longer needed). It can just come from a lifetime of being discarded by those you thought cared about you.

      (This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog post or the story. Just a thought I had. I often see comments like this, and in the context of many of the blog posts IHM puts up, the conditioning thing is the right answer 98% of the time. But not always, and I thought I’d point that out.)

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      • Agreed conditioning is not the answer always. Some people are more soft, I admit, but in this case, I would say conditioning does play a part. The author does mention that her parents were very conservative – that tells you a lot in her conditioning and she was taught to be a good girl.

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        • I think all humans are, to an extent, influenced by their upbringing and their environment. Whether we like it or not, our actions often tend to be reactions to the way we have experienced in our own life. In the author’s case, her reaction was to go in the exact opposite route of what was intended through her conditioning. She was conditioned to be a “good” girl. If the intended effect had occurred, she wouldn’t have even heard of her daughter living in her house with her boyfriend. But instead, the attempted conditioning had the exact opposite effect.

          The way I see it, this wasn’t conditioning exactly, since it wasn’t truly successful. Of course, the article doesn’t go into enough depth about the type of upbringing she had, just that having children out of wedlock and sex in her mother’s house were absolute no’s. It seems remiss to infer from this that she was also taught to be conducive to everyone’s wishes. She mentions that her own mother certainly wasn’t, and that she set her boundaries and commanded respect. So I wouldn’t really come to the same conclusion that you did, about her being conditioned. Did she have a reactive response to her upbringing? Definitely. But was she conditioned by it? I’m not sure I would come to that conclusion.

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  21. I liked this story. I haven’t moved out of my parents’ home yet (I’m not in a financially stable place and I don’t need the stress right now), but it’s definitely in the horizon, and I wonder how they’d cope. For them, right now, the idea of me not living here is probably unthinkable. But I imagine that once it happens and they’ve grown accustomed to it, they’d never want me over again.

    The thing I liked most though, was when the author was talking about how she herself had grown up in such a conservative family and that was why she was so much more liberal with her daughter. It’s interesting, and very nice, to see this how this kind of upbringing can backfire in such a spectacular way. In fact, I’m willing to bet almost anything that these are the kinds of mothers I will see in my own generation. The kind who grew up with strict parents, who got used to lying about where they were and who they were with. A lot of my friends and I who come from relatively conservative families are completely certain that the relationship we have with our parents, the constant struggle to balance both our “Western” life and our “traditional” heritage, and the dishonesty it breeds is not one that we want with our own children. But at the same time, I’m almost completely sure that many, many of us will take it one step too far, much like the author of the article. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if many of us (myself included),have trouble with the exact same question. How can we possibly be liberal parents with a loving, honest relationship that doesn’t devolve into screaming matches about parking spaces and mounds of laundry? How much is going to be too much?

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  22. When will ‘parenthood’ problems, and ‘love-life’ issues in India really graduate to this level? At one level, it is warming to read how each individual- the mother, daughter, boyfriend, husband- accepts the other in their lives while still establishing some ground rules that ensure that personal space is not infringed upon. And here we are trying to still establish that there is such a thing called space in EVERY relationship. Parents want to still make matches (and maintain that they are made in heaven!), most youngsters still opt the ‘arranged’ route, and there are horoscopes, stars, planets, and the entire solar system to reckon with as if human error is not enough😦

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  23. This woman is far too permissive. It’s one thing to acknowledge that your daughter has a boyfriend and to let him stay the night (which is sensible), it’s another thing to let them slide into co-habitating. If you’re old enough to do that, you’re old enough to pick up after yourself and respect other people’s space. If you want to co-habitate, go look for an apartment. Did you pick up the part where the kid’s mom is Vietnamese? They weren’t over at his mom’s house because his mother wasn’t going to stand for that for half a minute.

    Their peers wouldn’t stand for that either, believe me. Nobody is allowed to have their boyfriend just move in, not pay rent and mess up everything. I would have lost my shit at “you used my bed for sexy time”.

    It seems this woman wanted to be reactive but did not escape the desire to please everyone.

    My Indian parents–the very idea of them letting a boyfriend stay over night for any reason in any room would send them into conniptions.

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  24. As I understand the story, the 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend were studying and staying at their college, and came back to the mother’s house for holidays.

    I think the years between teenage and adulthood are really tricky ; children behave sometimes as adults and sometimes as spoilt kids and mothers well… it’s so easy to fall in the trap of spoiling your kids especially if you don’t see them often, and especially if the father is not at home. But it is part of education to help your kids turn into independent adults, and I think this mother managed the situation quite well. First she observed the situation and accomodated then she thought things carefully over and finally took steps to enforce her decision. I like this kind of un-dogmatic adaptable parenting.

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