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A refreshing perspective from two Indian mothers who feel they have managed to let go of their children – and how they did it.
By Melanie Lobo
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other is wings,” said Hodding Carter, an American journalist and surely, truer words were never spoken. However, how many of us can actually do this? The typical Indian scenario is that a mother never lets go of her children (in most cases, the son, but this may apply to the daughter as well).
In the Indian cultural context, how can mothers learn to let go and help their children lead meaningful, independent lives? Read on!
Letting go of power
“I have let them go. I have brought them up to be strong individuals and not be wholly dependent on me” is what Shail Mohan, a homemaker and mother of two sons (27 and 21 years) says. When asked why she chose to bring up her children this way, she simply replies that she felt it was not right for mothers to control their children. Shail’s decision to a large extent has been influenced by the role her mother-in-law played in their lives.
She feels that her mother-in-law used to interfere in all aspects of her married life. While she tried to comply with her mother-in-law’s wishes initially, after a while she started questioning why she was being treated in this manner and addressed her concerns to her husband. Her husband however, did not take a stand and simply told her that his mother liked having “power”.
This set her thinking as she felt that a woman should not have such power over her children and any child should feel free to speak to his/her mum if the mother was doing something wrong. She decided at that point not to bring up her own children in this manner. She says that she feels that her son would earn even more respect from her, as a mother, if he could speak his mind to her. This is only possible if you build such a relationship from the time the child is young and bring him/her up in this manner.
Learning to parent democratically
Shail always set limits for her children but was sure to always explain and give reasons for why she told them to do certain things. She says, “I did not control them all the time and left some decisions to them. It helped when they understood why I said and did the things I did.” Looking back now, Shail knows she has done the right thing. Her sons are very open with her and even tell her when they have girlfriends. She doesn’t pry into their lives but is secure in the fact that they will tell her what she needs to know.
She has seen many parents who nag their children and constantly monitor every move of theirs. This, she feels, has led to such children rebelling against their parents, due to this constant supervision.
Her advice for other mothers includes:
– Focus on bringing up the child as an individual to stand on his/her own feet, instead of always being there to catch them when they fall.
– Make your children grow up to be responsible human beings. Parents are not going to be around forever.
– Mothers are mistaken when they think that their children will be more attached if they, as mothers cling to them. Holding on often pushes a child away. Shail admits that her sons are closer to her than her husband was to his own mother.
Let them be – or lose them
Ritu Lalit, General Manager with Lakhani is a single mother who also feels she has managed to let her sons go. “You have to let them go or else you lose them” is how she sums it all up. Ritu says that her mother-in-law was responsible for breaking up her marriage and she vowed that she would never let that happen to her sons.
However, she admits that the process was not an easy one. Being a single mother meant that they were a close unit for a long time. Her sons grew up and they needed their own space – especially from their mother. Thus, the process of letting go began. Ritu is emphatic when she says that if she had not done this at that time itself, she would have lost her son. “It’s as simple as that. A male child also has to distance himself from his mother so that he has a better relationship with his partner.”
She says that it is much easier this way and does not cause problems when the whole family is together. Ritu and her sons and daughter-in-law live in the same house – “it has worked out beautifully”. It is a very democratic set up. Everyone carries on with their own lives without interference in anyone else’s life. She also feels that everyone has played a role in making this relationship work. All four of them work together to ensure that they enjoy a smooth relationship.
Ritu says that this change and letting go does not happen overnight. It takes a long time and you have to be prepared and make a conscious decision to do so. One aspect that helped was that she was a working woman and had a life of her own. She feels that women who build their whole lives around their children find it much harder to let go. Ritu started blogging a month after her son got married. She then started writing her first novel. She made the effort to carry on with her life.
Her tips for mothers with regard to this are:
– Try and start this process of letting go from the time the child is young. This is an ongoing process.
– Do not react badly if your child stands up to you. Don’t get into an “I am his mother, I brought him up” mode. You, as a mother, will lose the very person you are fighting for.
– Remember that sooner or later, your child will lead his/her own life. Do not stand in the way. If you do, you will only be building walls in your relationship.
– Make the effort. You will be rewarded with a better relationship with your child.
This is the story of two mothers who have made the effort to let go and have realized that they have done the right thing. What about you – do you feel the same way?
Melanie Lobo is a freelance writer. She grew up in cities across India but now
A dear old friend once shared a saying: “A child is like a tree sapling. The further you plant it from the shade of the parent tree, the better it will grow and sweeter will be the fruit.”
A very apt post, especially for mothers who are very attached to their children. Well, I am a father, and I feel that parents are like trustees – you bring up your kids, teach them how to “fly” and then when they are old enough you let them “fly” away.
How well put Vikram. We parents are just trustees of our children. Once we start on presumption, we’ll never go wrong.
Loved loved loved both the interviews..both of them are bloggers whom I have been following for over two years now..and I think both of them are awesome mothers…I only hope and pray I become such a mother..
Thanks Shail and Ritu for such wonderful insights…
I liked the article and agreed with what both the ladies had to say— But why can’t we women talk without indulging in our all time favourite activity– mom -in -law bashing?
I do not think there was any MIL-bashing here. The two women were simply stating facts – more importantly, the reasons behind their decisions to raise their sons the way they have.
Nandini, I am not indulging in mother-in-law bashing. I learnt a very valuable lesson from her, her attitude taught me to step back and not smother my sons. It has worked for me
@Nandini, If the cat scratches you, you will obviously state that the cat scratched you, not the canary, the dog or the exposed nail. I don’t think that can ever construed or rued as ‘cat-bashing’. The same logic applies when it comes to MILs too.
Thanks readers. I think we can all learn from Ritu and Shail. And Nandini, there was absolutely no mother- in-law bashing whatsoever. They simply stated facts and what made them bring up their sons, the way they did.
Wonderful insights into parenting,Shail and Ritu
Absolutely loved the interviews by Shail & Ritu, two immensely inspiring women I respect and look up to.
I hope I am able to incorporate their advice and bring my child up along the same lines and teach her stand up on her own feet and be perfectly secure and responsible as a human being with a mind of her own.
Thank you, Shail & Ritu for your ever so insightful thoughts 🙂
Its very easy to talk about ‘letting go’ but practically not so easy to implement…
Parents must instill the sense of what is Right or Wrong and trust their children to make the right choices.
@Archana, On the contrary, I have felt it is the easiest thing to accomplish. The problem is when we start with the assumption that we own our children, that they belong to us. They don’t. If we start with that, it is quite easy.
I agree with everything that this interview and the interviewees say. I too follow Shail and Ritu’s blogs and I admire them as wonderful, strong women.
However, unfortunately and depressingly, I have seen the opposite happen too. I have seen mothers who have let their sons go and build a life for themselves while giving unconditional love have their sons totallly distance themselves from them emotionally and physically. And those mothers who have blackmailed, manipulated and forced their sons to act the way they (the mothers) like have sons who are blindly devoted to them.
What does one do in situations like these?
Let go of not only your son but also your daughter. let them grow taking one step at a time.
Wise words and the ultimate pill for peace in one’s old age.
That said, it is not easy to practice it. and those who do are sensible human beings.
My own MIL was a person who had a very strong influence on my husband. But she did not let that stop her from grooming me to take charge after her. So I would not call her dominating. She was a feminist who taught me to stand up for myself without actually being dominant. i owe a lot of what i am to her.
In short she allowed me to share her space and never thought that I was a competitor.
Beautifully written. I agree with Hip Grandma that we should be able to let go of our daughters as well.
Letting go does not mean ‘anything goes’ and that is what both have done. It is a very thin line which both have managed with 50% contribution from the children.
@Vivek, How does ‘letting go’ transfer to mean ‘anything goes’?
Personally I have not felt the presence of any thin line. It was quite an easy and natural transition from holding them inside my womb to letting them be individuals standing on their own feet, in their own right.
I think’s that what he is saying too, Shail – does NOT mean “anything goes”.
@Ritika, I got that.But I guess I did not phrase the question right to ask what I wanted to. 🙂
Melanie this is a beautiful article.:)
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