CHENNAI: Becoming a parent is a momentous shift of seismic proportions. Everything changes: the way you perceive yourself, your spouse, how long you take to shower and your stand on Fruit Loops as a valid food group. As we become parents, another equally important transformation takes place: our parents become grandparents.
Becoming a grandparent is a big deal, and many Indian grandparents want to and expect to play a prominent role in how their grandkids are raised. But, as a recent conversation made me realise, as Gen Xers and millennials become parents, things are not quite the same as before.
With a plethora of parenting styles to identify with, books, blogs and columns (er-herm) to read, online groups to join and post-natal experts to consult, how many new parents still identify with the home-made remedies and child-rearing techniques their parents subscribed to? Plus, with women choosing to have children later in life, they no longer see themselves as young and clueless needing constant guidance and support from their mothers.
So what happens when mothers, mother-in-laws, and in some what-were-you-smoking-when-you-agreed-to-it instances, both of them, come to help post-delivery? Ideologies clash, tempers flare, tears are shed, sulks come out and doors are slammed. It’s kind of like being 16 all over again.
If, as a young parent you have definite ideas about how you want to do things and they are the opposite of what your mother has in mind then discuss them before the baby arrives. Also, know that it’s okay to veer off the path set down by the best-selling author of the book on how to raise genius babies.
The great thing about parenting, is that there is no one right way. If you’d like to have boundaries, be gentle but firm when you set them down. In hindsight, I would have liked to curb the steady flow of aunties into my bedroom when I was nursing who waxed eloquent about the joys of breast-feeding their sons till they were 3 (and that’s why they still love their mommies so much. I know. Ewww!)
My friends and I ask each other if we will be like our mothers, putting our lives on hold to come and care for our grandchildren. But the question we should really be asking ourselves is will our children want us to?
Me? What did I do? Well, after having both my children I was very clear that I had little to contribute in terms of parenting know-how. With my first son, I ignored ‘What to Expect…’ and binge-read Cormac McCarthy (and stayed awake terrified, wondering what kind of world I was bringing kids in to) ate out and watched movies. The second time round, I’d had three years of being a mother already and a toddler to look after. In both cases, my mother swooped in and took charge of things. I was little more than a glorified cow in those early months producing milk on demand.
The arrangement suited everyone. It also cemented an idea that had been lurking at the back of my head all my life: my mother is always right. But shhh, don’t tell her I said that!
(The writer’s parenting philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me)