Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Forced parenthoods

I was sitting on the stone bench outside the church. The church was overflowing due to the Holy Week service. Kids were playing around while the teens gossiped and young parents ran behind their tots. It was a jovial atmosphere notwithstanding the Stations of the Cross going on inside the church.

An elderly lady from Kerala was walking around and rocking a baby who looked a month or so old. Time and again she would peep into the church as though looking for someone. When the baby got restless, she went inside and came out with a young girl. The young girl went into a car and fed the baby and gave it back to the lady who I presume was her mother or mother-in-law. The baby got restless again. The lady peeped into the church apologetically, her face pleading with the girl inside. The girl walked outside in some annoyance and grabbed the baby and went to the car to feed the baby again. I heard the lady telling her to feed the baby well. In five minutes the young girl was out of the car again and after handing over the baby to the lady in disgust, she walked back to church to join her husband. The baby, mercifully fell asleep. I felt bad for the lady who seemed to be the only person who cared for the baby.

Somewhere in the middle of the service, a young girl in jeans and her young hubby walked into the church. Another Malayalee couple. It was obvious she was new to Bangalore. They stood outside the jam-packed church and looked uncomfortable. The reason was obvious. The baby who looked about six months old was getting restless and wanted to be walked around. The poor girl walked for some time and came back and the baby started crying the moment she stopped walking. The young father took the baby from the mom and walked around for some time. The baby watched the people with fascination. But he started crying the moment the poor father stopped walking and took shelter under a tree. After some time the annoyed couple left the church.

I see these sights every Sunday in church. Somehow the new set of parents these days don’t seem to ready to be parents or seem to be forced into parenthood. And it is not just these couples. My colleagues from other states too narrate similar tales... of young couples with babies who are neglected because the parents were forced into parenthood by their parents. One such child, the niece of my North Indian colleague has stopped talking due to sustained neglect by parents. The parents do not beat the child or verbally abuse her. They just don’t care about her.

All these incidents have a culprit and it is the grandparents. The people who start hinting from day one to full scale nagging from day two of the marriage of their offspring. People change, but the changes in our society in the past 15 years have made the change faster for most of us young people, though our parents still lag behind in the 70’s. And this disconnect is making life really difficult for the most vulnerable section of our society…the kids.

Child neglect is increasing and will keep increasing say all my married colleagues and they don’t blame the young parents. As a young mom in my office told us at lunch, “I told my parents that I will have kids if they look after the kid. They agreed and moved to Bangalore. They will go back to Andhra when he is in high school.”

Now that’s what I call a sensible lady. Wish every young couple who are nagged by parents to have kids do the same. I am sure it will work wonders for them.


dr.antony said...

This is one reason churches should have separate area for mothers and children.Inside the church,children might cry and disturb others.What if this lady didn't have the mother in law? They would be forced to go in to the church with the kid.I think the only reason the girl couldn't take her baby inside would be because she didn't want to disturb others.

And what if it were a special occasion for them to pray,like a birthday or an anniversary?Just for the simple reason,don't come to conclusion that the mother doesn't care for her child,or it is a forced parenthood.

Whatever,I don't think there are couples who do not cherish parenthood.May be ,they would opt to have it at their convenience,but that is an altogether different matter.

silverine said...

dr antony: I am afraid I don't agree with you. Didnt Jesus himself chide people who prevented kids from meeting him? There was another couple in the church for whom the child was a priority and one of them stayed outside. This girl couldn't stand the baby. My parents took turn to got to church so that one of them could watch over us. If you love your kids, you will adjust to them. Period.

This post is not about people wanting to pray etc. But the reality of young people being thrust into parenthood against their wishes.

dr.antony said...

You don't have to agree with me,just as I don't have to agree with you.These are opinions.I don't think we are authorities in parenting and can make our assumptions acceptable to every one.

I don't believe in this forced parenthood you talk about.No one forces anyone to become parents.If they don't want to have children they can choose to live so.And who is to blame if they yield to someone else's force?You make it sound so easy as if they make children at the touch of a switch.
As a doctor,I know how difficult it is for some people to have a child,in spite of all the efforts.Children are the gift of God.And parents are blessed to have them,whatever time.

silverine said...

dr antony: I don't think you understand that I write about what I see and hear over a period of time. There are lots of people I talk to before I write. I am no researcher, but neither am I an arm chair commenter either. So dont assume that these are my assumptions. It is you who is assuming just for the sake of opposing here. If you dont agree to a post it better not to comment unless you have done some research like the blogger. That is common courtesy.
Arent you assuming when you say that "No one forces anyone to become parents.If they don't want to have children they can choose to live so." Also the line shows your ignorance about Indian society where young people have no choice. Couples going to doctor are due to pressure from family and by the society to have kids and the pressure is so much that they go to doctor if they don't conceive. Some may be genuinely interested in having kids. But many aren't. Do you as a doctor ask them why they are having kids and do they want kids? You just treat people who come to you that's all, i.e. if you are a fertility specialist.

Anu: No, the issue is not with the couple. And everyone knows that. We are a conservative society and the pressure of society is immense. How many Indian couples can oppose their family and society? Very few. Let us look at the problem here instead of denying it.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,
This post moved me to comment. I couldn't agree more with you out here. Produce a kid ASAP is the memo every single married woman gets. I interact with young people on a daily basis and it is absolutely pathetic to see how ingrained the "vishesham" topic is, it's as if they have nothing else to talk about. Your hopes,dreams, aspirations count for nothing esp if u r a woman. Once u r married you should have a kid or else u r a mean,cruel person who hates humanity, is arrogant,selfish and what not! The irony is once the kid actually pops out there is little emotional support. I could go on & on about this.

Monalisa said...

I would not completely agree with you on forcing a couple into parenthood. Thats simply not possible. But i would agree on grandparents' nagging from the first month of marriage. Its almost a year and half i'm married, and i know all the trouble with ppl around regarding having children. We (I and my husband) most times had hard time escaping from elders. yes, we could understand their concern, but we were bothered how can it just be, when someone tells us have children, we just like that have children? Oh we believed we don't need extra pressures and it just happens.

PS: Happy to say it just happened. I found myself hcg positive early this morning :)

Anonymous said...

"But i would agree on grandparents' nagging from the first month of marriage."

@monalisa....that is forcing parenthood ...

Vivek Stanley

Anonymous said...

A mans manliness and a woman's virtue is questioned if they don't have kids. It is hard escaping from these elders.

silverine said...

@ some commenters, stop wasting your time trying to attack the post. It has become fashionable to attack bloggers these days specially if the blog has touched a raw nerve :p I can see your desperateness because I guess I hit the truth ;) So chill maadi and go have a beer folks!

Indu said...

hey silverine,

you hit the nail on the head.Ask me about it. Got married in the "wrong side of twenties" and after 3 years of marriage we are still childless by choice. The hints are unbearable. And they are not from our parents. Infact, they are the most silent people on this issue. But "well wishers" are a different ball game. I even got an hour lecture on how selfish i was to deprive the grandies of their joy of seeing a grand child not to mention subtle hints if we are having trouble concieving. I just dont get it why the goddam people can't understand that we are not yet ready for kids and they will happen only when we want it.

Dr. Antony,

everyone cherishes parenthood "when they are ready for it" and that is the key. A kid foisted on a couple will not ensure happiness. Infact a lot of people adviced me to just "get over with it" and get back to life as if a kid is an inanimate being. And sadly many couples in kerala do that.

B said...

hmm. I see a lot of those around these days. I wish the young couples are sensible enough to rebel and wait it out.

An aunty I spoke with last week, said that one should have kids soon after the wedding because it's a sort of a security. Otherwise, it's always the insecurity that the hubby/wife will want out of the marriage.

I dont know why she has such a rigid set of thoughts, clearly she's too inconfident that people do marry and do live together, not just for kids....

I dont know. It's all too sad.

Happy Kitten said...

And if the current generation is sensible, responsible enough to choose a partner and get married to him/her when they are ready, why blame the parents or grandparents when it comes to procreation.

It is your choice and you should know if you are ready.

The problem happens when you leave this choice to others. The problem happens if you are also expecting your parents to look after your children. They may or may not, depending on their choice and as parents they may ask you to bring forth a child too.

There maybe grandparents and parents who feel since they have already experienced (even cherished) parenthood they can pass it on too. This also reminds me that sometimes we are happy that the joined family system broke down while at times we wistfully remember the advantages of the same.

As for church, Christ will only be happy if these young couples stayed home to look after their off springs instead of parading in the Church, i.e. if the Church has made no provisions to take care of the young ones.

silverine said...

Anon at 10:31: I have seen this too. First it is nagging to get married, then 'vishesham' nagging. Like there is nothing else to life.

Monalisa: Your comments is contradictory. You say you don't agree with me while you are going through exactly what I wrote about. And congrats on the good news :)

Anon at 9:22: It is a form of control I feel.

Indu: Makes me hopping mad reading your comment. And you are right. Parenthood is not for everyone. In our country, people don't have that choice.

Amrita: It is part of tradition hence rebellion is out of the question. and from your aunts comments it looks like this has many other connotations.

Happy Kitten: How many people have the choice? How many people can stand up to elders in our country? Not many.

Sunil said...

It may have a lot to do with the environment that we grew up and our parents grew up.
My parents grew up in big families where they had to take care of their younger siblings and that gave them some training on what to do when they had kids of their own. I on the other hand grew up in a smaller family, and all the responsibilities of parenthood were taken up by my parents. I am pretty sure that if I were to become a parent, I would make a very lousy one. Patience and sacrifices are difficult to learn in a smaller group.
But that does not mean everyone who grew up in small families will make bad parents, I have friends who are great parents.

I am not going to get into a philosophical or theological argument about the need to go to church when you have a child to take care of, but I would like to point out to those who attack the post just because some people find it difficult to manage parenthood with their normal life, does not mean everyone would be like that.

"I don't think there are couples who do not cherish parenthood"
I think most parents would tire of the constant demands of a kid, but good parents learn to deal with it.

Who said being a good parent is easy and that it comes naturally? I feel it is the toughest job you could get.

Remitha Satheesh said...

thought provoking read there... i really wish people would stop assuming that parenthood or rather motherhood is the be all and end all for women.

Jina said...

I totally know what ur talking about.
Even my father in law has started asking-why are we not having kids after just two n a half years of marriage.
It does put an unecessary pressure. Even when you say, its individual choices- for a tightknit family or society, opinions from family members do act as a judgment on how well ur doing or set invisible standards of the best life possible.
Whether we are not ready or ready for a kid at this point seems to be moot at this point.
The logic of parents n elders seem to be-
1. They are getting old and they cannot travel long distance to take care of the baby (We live out of India)-- Well, I never really asked anyone to take care; but ofcourse that will be good!!
2. Age is racing and eggs r depleting--Im 27 and better half is 29. What if we just got married?-Will the same logic apply?
3.Everyone else is having babies--Arrgh!!

Anonymous said...

What young couples should not be forced to ..is go to church if they have li'l kids. There's no other place where kiddo is supposed to be quiet for 1 hr standing absolutely still. Nothing which goes on inside makes sense to them and obviously they get annoyed. This does not make sense. Because of their conditioning - parents,esp young moms consider their sunday church responsibility more important, so they cant digest just skipping church..thats all. The problem u saw is different and so is the solution..

Jay said...

So what are you doing in church? I never notice these when in church beyond a few irritations -:)

Good Life said...

Would like to add more thing here, dont know why but I have always observed that there are many elders in Kerala who look at kids as a complete burden, they would force the couple to have a child and first thing they would ask, after the kid is born is "Vazzaku indo"...this is something I have not understood till date :)I mean its so nice to see a child growing, trust me each moment is wonderful!

Anusha Subramanian said...

thought provoking read!

Anonymous said...

Interesting article at a time I am expecting a baby in a few weeks :)forced parenthood is a truth. I have heard that from a colleague how she was forced into having a baby after 2 yrs of marriage. she seemed to be oscillating between motherly affection and anger because she had to leave baby with her parents.

As for me I got married in the early 30s so you can imagine the pressure from relatives!. I am proud to say I conceived only when I was ready, after 2 1/2 years of marriage :) interestingly my parents never asked about 'vishesham' any time.It was his relatives who started from the very first week of marriage.It was surprising at first, because I always thought it was couples who decide when they are ready to bring a baby into their lives, and I was particular not to hand over my baby to my or his parents for bringing her/him up.Moreover I was not really sure if I wanted a baby! We were still debating on that as a couple.so such talks about 'vishesham' was irritating to say the least.some of his close relatives even lovingly warned me to come to their house next time only with a baby in hand - I would call that love-blackmailing! ;)

My age was a huge disadvantage, so after 2 years they might have assumed that I had problems in conceiving:) Or I might have come across as a selfish, cold woman who doesn't melt at the thought of having babies and worst, who is not even considering infertility treatment!. and yes when the talks about 'vishesham' really dried up, I felt free to decide to have this little wonder growing inside me:) that too at a time when I am fully settled in life & career and don't have the urge to join work asap to save career or to make money. that's the true blessing of motherhood for me :)