Moving out of the parental home....

June 30, 2006

Many youngsters I know want to move out of their parental homes, for various reasons. For some the commute to work is becoming increasingly harder to bear; for others, the control of the family is too restrictive. Others simply find that their lifestyles differ so much from that of their parents that moving out would be a solution.

However, Indian culture takes a very moralistic stance about "good children should stay with the parents". The parents EXPECT the child to live on with them.  Assorted aunts, uncles, and "family friends" think nothing of dropping in and pronouncing their views on the matter (generally against the youngster leaving....this adds fuel to the emotional fire.) The attitude seems to be: a) how can s/he leave us? what is s/he lacking here? , or b) what will the relatives/friends say if the child leaves? they will think we have not brought up the child properly , but more than all this seems to be  c) the child is OK because s/he is under our control/influence here. How will s/he go astray after moving out? Unfortunately, the question, what is the child lacking here? is not a question that is objectively addressed. It seems to be more of "I/We have done everything for you, why are you not satisfied?" rather than really asking if the child is missing freedom or other activities or spending too much time on commuting, and taking an unemotional decision about what's missing. The concern with what the neighbours and relatives think is ingrained into Indian culture I think. It seems to be difficult for us to realize that our neighbours and relatives are probably so busy worrying what WE will think of THEM that they don't have time to think of us...and also difficult to understand that their judgements and value-pronouncements are not germane to our family and our child's happiness. Also there seems to be a lack of confidence about the way the parents have brought up their children, otherwise why worry so much? The third concern is the one I see all the time, but can least understand. Are we bringing up children to become adults, thinking for themselves (sometimes disagreeing with us too), capable of leading their own independent lives, or are we training them to be our clones? Do we want unquestioning obedience from them or do we want their discerning respect? If we want unquestioning obedience..wouldn't it be better to have pets? Why do we always claim that " I am more like a friend (sic) to my son/daughter", and then add in the same breath, "S/he won't even have a beer in front of me!"(So we *know* that they are having beer behind our backs!!) ....please notice which side of the fence I am talking from, by the way. And, if we have brought up our children well, as we all like to think we have, why should we be so worried about our children "going astray"? In today's world, with the Internet at their fingertips, I do believe that there is not a thing that the young adult is not exposed to. So, it's really not necessary for a son or daughter to move out of the parental house to "go astray". Most youngsters are pretty responsible on their own. Yes, they might make choices which are not in line with the parents' for them...but the parents have to accept that it's their children's life and the choices are theirs to make. If  the son or daughter is going to make a's got to be done and faced. The parents can be non-judgemental, and help if the offspring does get into trouble. Of course the son or daughter might meet someone and fall in love. Well, as young adults, surely that's natural? I would even say (heresy in the Indian milieu) that the sex of the person the offspring is attracted to doesn't matter. But perhaps that's too radical for the Indian parent right now....G&L issues haven't yet stepped out of the closet, we are still mid-Victorians. On some fronts, the parents are being quite practical. It makes a lot of financial sense for the offspring to live with the parents; the small, yet necessary chores of everyday life are taken care of and the youngster can concentrate on his or her life and activities. The family remains together, and that is a valid thing to want. How is it that parents seem to accept a bid for independence pretty easily when their child takes up studies or a job in another city, but is unable to do exactly the same thing when the child wants to live apart in the same city? Why do emotions and accusations of " X or Y is moving out, why can't I?" or "A or B is happy with his parents, why not you?" cloud the issue, and make the whole process so ridden with sadness, anger, and guilt for the offspring and the parents? Youngster could handle this well too. A non-confrontational attitude would help. Instead of saying, "I want to leave", they  could say, the work commute makes it impractical for me to stay. I find that being pleasant about it, never losing their cool, but being firm about what they want would ease their path. Ultimately I find that the parents, who, after all, do want the child to be happy, come around and accept that the child will not love them less because of the separation, which is probably a worry behind much of the arguments, though it would never be stated or referred to. Sometimes the parent has to be treated as a be told, firmly yet lovingly, that no, the son or daughter is an adult now, and wants to lead life on their own, and that does not mean that there is any lack of love or respect.

Our societal mores are rapidly evolving, but unfortunately we still put  a moral value on what is traditonally done. Leaving home shouldn’t be seen as a “western”  or “bad” thing to do; it should be discussed in terms of what is best for the parents and their child. Respect for the family unit prevails always in our society over the needs of an individual…maybe it’s time to change that a little. Distance doesn’t always mean the loosening of the familial bond…the strength of the umbilical cord shouldn’t be under-rated.