Stay at home grandparents – A thing of the past?

They say it takes a village to raise a family – and it truly does. But these days things are different. Gone are the days of everyone contributing to the ongoings of a household day in and day out. Typically, the more westernized daughter-in-law’s and sons were the breadwinners of the home. And their completely eastern parents stayed home and did the child rearing. The eldely filled their days with changing diapers, stroller walks, and fitting in their radio listening time in between.

But now everything’s changed. We’re meant to make a life and a living, all while our parents are doing the very same, just with completely different agendas. So how does one check all the boxes necessary without losing ones head? You call in the reinforcements. You seek help by any means necessary. There’s a reason the recent trend of hiring domestic caregivers or enrolling your young in preschool much earlier than most of us joined has sky rocketed in popularity.

But still there’s something missing. There’s something that just ultimately connected all us 80’s South Asian second-gen kids with our roots by the way our bibi swooped her chunni around her neck, and managed to fill the house with the scent of “thurka” at the same time every evening. We’re missing that magical touch of our own true culture.

Our parents have now completely assimilated into the Canadian way of life. The “bibi-era” is long gone – and we have no one but ourselves to blame. We forced our parents to drop their accents and their baggy salwaars. We cringed when our Caucasian friends came over and we heard the cutting board and haldi can come out the drawer. We didn’t want ANYTHING to do with our strong roots then, so why complain of their absence now?

Each way of life has its benefits. With more breadwinners, comes less stress on the youngins to be the sole source of income for the household – but they also have to think twice about child rearing. Another thing not going in our favour is just how much knowledge is now out there about parenting.

When we were babies and slightly beyond our parents just kind of played it by ear and we ended up pretty alright. Nowadays, new parents are being held to such a standard that we drive ourselves nuts, even when our kids aren’t, that we aren’t doing it right. We’re constantly trying to perfect our parenting skills only to cause more stress and less fulfillment in our new roles.

Maybe we need to take a page from our good ol’ bibis book and just take it one stroller walk, Sikhism story, or radio talk show at a time – and just go with it.

All in all both ways of life – with grandparents of home and with grandparents out the house has its pros and cons. Each family just had to figure out what works for them. Accept help when it’s offered, and seek help even when it’s not. Because the days of having young with strong demands, and raising them in today’s day and age is something challenging but brilliant – if only you aspire to this role in the best way you know how.

Strangers In Their Own Homes

It’s a well known fact that it is customary for adult children of certain ethnicities to continue to live with their parents, well, forever.

There’s no concept of moving out once you hit 18 or even farther into the future of setting your parents up into a nice retirement home when they’re too old to care for themselves.

It’s like a never ending pact, we raise our young, only to grow up to care for those who raised us.

It’s a nice sentiment isn’t it? To have such a high regard for our elders that we keep them close no matter what.

I recall a interview a few years back in which the mega Bollywood stars Aishwariya Rai and Abishek Bachan were on the late night show which was then hosted by Jay Leno.

He teased and poked fun at them for still living with their parents. Aishwariya snapped back by saying, “well our culture doesn’t believe in dumping our elders into homes and going about our lives.”

There’s more of a familial unit. A responsibility to put back into the world what was given to you, complete the circle of life if you will.

Now this is all fine and dandy under one extremely important circumstance. In order to all live under one roof, you all have to be mutually respectful to one another.

No one family member should have precedence over the other.

I see a whole lot of people treating their grandparents like second hand family members. They grumble and moan when they ask them for anything or to be taken anywhere. Their request is usually for a five minute trip to one of three places – the temple, doctors office, or the bank. How hard is that? It doesn’t have to be such a nuisance.

I remember being the EXACT same way with my grandmother. But then her days became numbered and I realized I shouldn’t take her presence and wisdom for granted. I realized that when she looked in the mirror she didn’t see a demanding old lady.

She saw the lady who built things with her own hands, singlehandedly fought off home invaders in her beloved home in India, worked day in and out for her family, and raised and watched four generations grow from her name.

Each “old person” has a story to tell. Each moment of crankiness, or request, or repetition of the same story has MEANING behind it. Don’t be too young and naive to appreciate that.

I think where it’s all going wrong here is that we are staying together for the wrong reason. Because we care more about what people outside our homes think rather than those inside. We keep our parents and grandparents close because well that’s just the norm. But no one sees how they’re being treated behind closed doors.

Pensions being cashed in by the youngsters, groceries not being shared, huffs and puffs when asked for help. They’re spending their last days bound to their homes because no one has time to take them anywhere. They’re forced to ride the bus, their bikes, and walk in the rain because once again no one has TIME. The only reason you’re on this earth capable of having ANY time is because of them so the least you can do is spare a few moments for them too.

It is no fault of their own that they can’t adequately care for themselves any longer. They are our roots and were our wings when we needed them to be, now it’s time to return the favour, and for all the right reasons.

Don’t make them feel like a burden. Help them remember their youth by sharing your own. Bring them into your world. Don’t shove them into a corner of ostracism and unkindness.