Generation Gap: Who Adjusts?

Senior citizens in India whose children live abroad find the generation gap and adjustment to it a challenge if moving their lives abroad

I am now on a vacation visiting my children in America. As it always happens I find myself wanting to wind up everything and relocate to any place in USA to be able to visit them more often. Grandchildren are always an attraction. More so when they are in a mood to interact with us i.e. grandparents. A few years from now they may not even have the time or inclination to do so. Anyway that is beside the point. I want to analyze the pros and cons of relocating to USA.

My argument:

If it had been fifty years ago parents would not think twice about moving in with their children – read sons. It was their right. But is it so now? Why then are Indian parents leading lonely lives in India? What is stopping us now? Even in India I see parents preferring to stay in an establishment of their own even if their children live in the same town. This seems to be better arrangement. If this is the present scenario would it make sense to relocate to a foreign country, set up a home here and expect one’s children to support us financially? We certainly do not have the money or means to lead an independent life in America. Wouldn’t the relationship sour sooner rather than later if we had to depend on them entirely for our upkeep?

My daughter says:

With parents getting on in age there can always be health issues that need immediate attention. With a job and family to attend to it would not be possible for them to fly to India at moment’s notice. And even if they managed to come they could not stay on for long. It is always better to plan and prepare one’s self to a life with one or the other of our children. We could either live with them or rent a small unit for ourselves at an accessible distance but clinging on to our so called independence will not help. We would only complicate our own lives and theirs.

I cannot say much against this argument. My own maternal uncle and aunt lead a lonely and sedentary life in Gobichettipalayam because their son lives in Dubai and the country’s law does not permit parents to live with their children. Their son does his best and so do his daughters. However, both my uncle and aunt are sick and my aunt is bed ridden too. They need the care that only children can provide but it would be selfish of them to expect the son to leave his job and return to India at a time when his expenses are soaring what with children’s education and the demands of a hectic life style to be taken care of. The next best arrangement is to have a nurse attending them and the daughter who lives in the same town checking on them on a daily basis. If she has to leave town another sister comes over and takes charge for a few days. Society is quick to blame the son and paint him black but I know him better. He is a caring son and dutiful too. But he has his own limitations.

There are several other parents whose children have flown the nest and face the same dilemma as me. There are times when I feel that in the name of civil behavior we are no longer open with our own children. We are unable to communicate with them openly and/or express our specific requirements be it our food or life style preferences. As a result we do tend to long to return to our niche – our comfort zone so to say.

A couple known to me surrendered their green card and chose to remain in India due to adjustment problems that kept cropping up during their stay in the US. Their son and daughter in law, both working full time were always busy and they could not take care of their hyperactive grandchildren aged 4 and 6 even for a few hours after school. So the kids went to a day care after school and returned along with their parents. Food prepared by the mother went untouched because the son and daughter in law preferred a light salad meal for dinner and the children found her preparations too spicy and oily. No one complained but the resentment that kept building up within them burst out and each group blamed the other.The older couple felt unwanted and left out while the younger couple said that they really did not expect them to pitch in and help with child care or otherwise. They had only to relax and enjoy a retired life. Had there been open communication the relationship could have been more inclusive and a midway compromise could have been reached. All this happened in a set up where all those concerned were good at heart, expectations were negligible, intentions were good and suggestions well meant. They are back in India leading their life as per their own terms preferring it to living with their son in America.

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This and other such stories act as deterrents and I must admit that I too am wary of shifting bases. But the truth in my daughter’s argument cannot be ignored. I think my young readers could give me their perspective and let me know which arrangement would be better- Burdening children from a distance by subjecting them to a guilt trip or imposing ourselves on them and squeezing them dry knowing very well that the few lac that we cling on to as our asset mean almost nothing to them with the value of the Indian Rupee tumbling downhill?


About the Author

Hip Grandma

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its shortcomings, she would rather not shift anywhere! She began her career at a local women’s college for two reasons: read more...

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