Desi Parenting: Passing the Buck
It was just the last Wednesday, at the YMCA, my swimming class was flooded with Desis. Besides me there were three other desi women with four children on the deck. While we were taking lessons the life guard was busy keeping their children entertained. This made me little uncomfortable I asked the life guard if baby sitting was included in his job profile. I guess one of the mothers over heard, may be I wanted her to hear it and soon a gossip session ensued how I hated children. No I do not hate children I just love my life more. I want the life guard to do the job he is paid for and keep me safe. I totally understand how women’s gendered duties of mothering and care giving prevent them from pursuing interests and skills. May be these mothers are able to attend the lessons only on the condition that they have to take their children along. May be their spouses refuse to share the childcare duties though the ideal situation would be for them to share the parenting responsibilities (I could see women running to answer phone calls their spouses). May be they could not afford a baby sitter. I totally empathizes with what ever their situation. But I refuse to jeopardize my safety and my peace. The good option for these women would be to take turns to baby sit each other’s children while the other person took the lessons. They should work on creating their own support structures rather than take other people for granted or assuming an entitlement to time and resources of others who are not parents by choice.
In ideal situations both the parents would be sharing the parenting responsibilities so as to leave each parent with some personal time to pursue their own interests (some desi men do share parenting responsibilities). But that rarely happens in the Desi contexts as mothering and care giving are tightly knit in to desi women’s gender role and there is a looming fear that any attempt to alter it may create a cataclysmic kaliyug and endanger the great traditions of our beloved Des and communities. Next morning I read about a desi teens killing and nailing another minor. Was shocked and more disappointed at the response from a reader who wrote:
“I had a conversation with my sister-in-law as to whether it is a good idea to keep kids at boarding school, considering teachers are better suited and trained to spot concerns and in also addressing such issues. They are also under a watchful eye, which one can not ensure at home. She was completely against it as she felt it would not solve bad behavior, and as a parent you would not be bonding with your child also.”
I was wondering how easy it is to pass the buck, the parents could create a monster with their parental neglect and then expect the schools to fix all the wrongs. If teachers are trained so are better suited to spot the signs of troubles then what are the parents doing? Did the parents have to apply for any kind of parenting license or certification for owning much prided toys called children? This reminded me of the time I told my FIL that his son was assaulting me. He innocently replied “Oh he learned it from me. In my younger days I was like that, look it me now I am totally a different person. A woman’s love can transform a beast.” I just kept staring at his face thinking, “Wao, you created a monster and now you want me to kiss and turn your frog into a prince? About you becoming a different person, you may have given up assaulting physically but now you are even worse, a passive aggressive manipulator and inveterate codependent.” I guess I realized then it was not my job to cure their monster and turn him into a mutant monster.
It is very common practice in Des to treat marriage as a cure-all for misbehaving, irresponsible sons, “is ki shaadi kardo apane aap theek ho jayega jab sar pe zimmedari padegi (get him married, he’ll improve once he has to bear the responsibility of a householder).” (I guess for these reasons arranged marriages work because if these men were to find partners on their own they would die single). I don’t think the person improves in any way but his parents get another scapegoat, his wife to blame for she failed to cure him. It is a great formula to fix one problem by creating another problem and that too for another person. It is assumed if a marriage did not bring him to senses then a birth of a child will definitely do it. I do not know if the man in question comes to senses or not but his wife and now mother of his child definitely comes to senses, she is more bound to him for the sake of a child and she cannot leave him easily even if she wanted to. It is in such circumstances an emotionally and physically brutalized desi wife pines all her hopes of emotional fulfillment on her children especially sons and thus creating another generation of dysfunctional adults and passing the buck…