Mamas, set them free!

What is so abnormal about being a mama’s boy, or for that matter, mama’s girl? Aren’t they all mama’s kids? The human child requires nourishment and nurturing longer than other animal species. And unlike animal mothers, which push their offspring away towards independence pretty early, human parents, mothers in particular, are reluctant to do so till they are well into adolescence and sometimes even till later. They also try to hold on just a little longer emotionally to their children, especially the boys.

Note: This post is not only about mama’s boys, but also mama’s girls since in single child families, it can be either and the ‘suffocating mama’ phenomenon is the same.

It all starts innocuously enough; from being nurturing caregivers the role subtly changes to constrictive caregivers. ( Read related post here )

I have observed something very interesting. Our generation grew up with relatively more freedom because there were more children in the family. Parents weren’t so worried about how to raise the children confidently etc. etc. Considering that some of the best achievers in all the fields belong to Gen X, I don’t think their parents did a bad job. But when my generation began restricting the number of children, our anxiety grew in reverse proportion as we began agonizing about raising confident and successful children. Monsters-in-law only increased in number. One can imagine the condition of Gen Y which is largely opting for single child families!

Coming back to mama’s kids, many of them enjoy the attention of their mothers to the point of even taking for granted their attention. Rajat confesses that he is ok with his mother doing everything for him including laying out his clothes and fetching him a glass of water. ‘It makes her happy to look after me. Why should I spoil her happiness?’ he says casually.

Geeta lets her mother run her house – it saves her the bother and she is free to enjoy life. ‘I am her only daughter; she loves doing it,’ says the girl. The mother has fetched and carried for her all her life, so it is nothing new to her. Besides she is able to keep control of her daughter’s life. How long this honeymoon would last is anyone’s guess.

For soon enough the bond might become a binding tie and begin to choke — especially the boys. For the Sunnys and Buntys have grown into adults and have brought home their Sweetys and Pinkys. That’s when the problem begins.

But why should a mother’s closeness to her son be looked upon contemptuously, while her attachment to her married daughter is considered normal? Or, for that matter, a father’s attachment to his daughter is considered ‘cute’? (that is stuff of another post!)

The answer to this lies in the Pinkys and Sweetys who have to share the man’s affections with his mother. The clinging love of the mother to her son can play havoc with the relationship between the man and his wife to the point of even ruining the very privacy between them.

‘I’d looked forward to having the first cup of tea with my husband, but my mother-in-law insists on serving him, barging into our room. The worst part is, my husband doesn’t mind it! says an incredulous new bride. He probably is another Rajat who might just deign to let his wife take over his pampering if she fights hard enough for the ‘privilege’!

So while a woman’s obsessive love for her son interferes with the lives of the young couple, her love for a married daughter doesn’t, at least not directly however constricting it might be.

A mother feels happy when her son-in-law is close to her  daughter unlike the MIL who might feel threatened when her daughter-in-law is close to her son.

 But things can get out of hand here too:

I once had a neighbor who was over possessive of her two daughters. When her older daughter got married, she insisted on setting up her home, down to choosing the curtains and bedspreads and even the bathroom fittings! She made regular visits to their house and checked up on things to ‘help’ her working daughter.

Needless to say, the girl started resenting the interference and told her mother to leave her house alone! She obviously didn’t share Geeta’s opinion in the matter, Interestingly the son-in-law couldn’t see anything wrong with his MIL’s interest in running their home. He thought that it made their life easier!

Many a time, economic and emotional blackmail are used by the mothers to keep their children in line. Constant reminders of the sacrifices that she has made to raise them as a mother can make the children feel obligated and guilty when they are unable or unwilling to meet the expectations.

Societal pressure plays a part too. I know of many women of the Gen X who begin doing the conventional MIL act due to such pressures ‘Don’t give up your rights,’ they are advised by the Mantharas of the society. And so they don the cape of the monster-in-law.

So where does that leave the poor gen Y? They are left to parry the thrusts from both sets of parents trying to keep a balance while walking a tightrope. Often though it is easier for them to go along with the flow to make their lives easier or in extreme cases, distance themselves – physically and emotionally.

Today I see a lot of young mothers coddling their young ones to the point of being on call 24×7. While this is required when the children are very young, one should begin to slowly let them find their feet and wings in keeping with growing years.

By ‘letting go’ I don’t mean leaving a child to take decisions and fending for himself, but emotionally preparing to distance oneself from their lives by the time they become adults. The role of a parent should change according to the age-related needs of the child – from primary caregivers to advisors and then finally observers. Otherwise we will have Gen Z complaining of suffocating mamas in the not too distant future.

After all, if they have earned the right to elect their representatives to govern the country, can’t they be trusted to run their lives?

 

Image courtesy: walldesk.net

80 comments

  1. Brilliant, brilliant post!!! 🙂

    “A mother feels happy when her daughter is close to her son-in-law…. but feels threatened when the son is close to the daughter-in-law” …. you could not have put this better.

    Caring for parents and managing an independent home are two different things…. I always say that parents should loosen their apron strings once a child is an adult, and especially when that adult gets married!

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    1. Thank you Ash for liking and commenting. Come again and browse in the relationships and family categories. Even society has some posts which might interest you. 🙂

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  2. Totally agree. Kids should be allowed to grow up in every sense of the way. If socks can’t be found, then search for it! The hubby here tries to clean up the kids’ rooms. He is the cleanliness freak in this house. I tell him not to do that because then the kids will never learn to take up responsibility. The same goes for school work. They need to do it on their own. Of course with us to help to clear doubts if possible. I have fought this attitude for a while now. So I really get what this post is about. I was made to find my own stuff in my room and nothing was laid out for me! And that helped a lot!

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    1. Over protectiveness is a ‘bimari’ if you ask me. It not only stunts a child but also makes him/her into a brat. This proves counter-productive in the long run as it comes back to haunt the parents. You are being very rational when you insist that your husband let the kids do their own picking up. 🙂

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  3. I should make my parents read this. I mean they are adorably warm and protective and have given us all the freedom but I doubt if they’ll live with our products of freedom…I ‘m sure they will..I’m being very optimistic about them 🙂 I love them so much! 🙂

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    1. Do read the series on Feminism and you will be able to deal with them better 😀 Parents are like kids. If you know how to treat them, you can get what you want 🙂

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      1. Zephyr…I know that! Parents attain their second childhood.I was just trying to mean that the initial shocks shouldn’t break them.Oh.. i know that so much better! I ‘ve seen so many things happening at home! 🙂

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  4. This is such a wonderful post. Touchy and prickly too as perception of dependence, independence, letting go or setting free is so subjective. My mother lives with me and it is always a fine line. For example, what she sees as concern and her right as a parent (like have I packed in fruit for lunch) can sometimes be taken as nagging by me and interference by an observer.

    I feel that it is the ability to allow space for the individual to make decisions and learn from mistakes by parents is what true letting go is all about. In the context of adult children staying with parents, this is very difficult as parents never stop being parents. The urban Indian cultural context is modern and traditional at the same time and this only adds to the difficulty of where concern ends and letting go begins.

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    1. You have managed to say in the comment what I have tried saying in such a long post 🙂 No matter how concerned the parents might be, they should let their children learn from their mistakes, though it is one of the hardest things to see your kids fall before they pick themselves up. they invariably do and emerge stronger for the fall.

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  5. Wow Aunty…if more monster-in-laws these days shared the same sentiments as you our lives would’ve been so easy!
    I’m sure many of us have to deal with this situation where the MIL simply has to be around her son all the time, doing all his work and interfering with all his decisions, not realising that he needs his space too. Gen Y sadly is getting it tougher from both sides, having to deal with pressures from Gen X and having a more opinionated Gen Z to bring up.
    Letting go might be tough but that’s the only way to make kids responsible, isn’t it? I know of people who wouldn’t let their kids out of their sight, even if to go to their neighbours’ to play. Wonder how they expect to be remembered by their kids when they grow up. Controlling? Protective? Caring? Unwilling to let go?

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  6. I am totally in with you on this one. When kids stay like small kids until way into their 20’s it’s not very healthy. As part of growing older and wiser and smarter, you need to fall down some stairs – without mothers and fathers to hold you back and save you – to learn how not to fall down stairs. Too much protection and cuddling will not make you fit for the real world. Free the kids from Generation Y (great expression by the way).

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    1. How can responsible parents let the kids fall down and get hurt? That’s our reasoning and we want to protect them from every perceived and apprehended threat. Since our generations stands guilty of not freeing our kids on time, at least the Gen Y should learn and free the Gen Z from its clutches, right? 😀

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  7. A very insightful post. There is always a thin line separating love and attachment and more often than not, we tend to cross that line. There is a simple message conveyed beautifully here and I have tried taking the same back from this post. I do hope to apply it sometime as I step in playing the various roles through my years.

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    1. Oh and where has your Google friend connect widget vanished? Was searching for it to subscribe to your blog. Have you removed it or is it some problem from my end that it is not visible?

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      1. google friends is being disabled for non blogger sites from March, so the younger one removed it as some upgrade was causing problems. He is fixing it. Why don’t you like my FB page? 🙂

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    2. It is best to start early and have very firm beliefs about things when we are in our teens and twenties because these are the ones that stay with us all our lives with minor and major modifications since the modifications are also necessary for them to survive. Any rigid belief can break since they tend to become brittle. here too the rule of being pliable to survive applies as in relationships. 🙂

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  8. I feel relations are always like a rubber band or a simple elastic. Someone comes close we get stifled and we go away. We start missing it and we come close.. its the pendulum of life .. 😀
    monotonous life becomes boring too.. 🙂

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    1. Ya, but the problem is that the elastic can snap or sag if used indiscriminately. It is an ideal situation if relationships can be like a pendulum but it is unfortunately not so in real life.

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  9. Personally true..My mom has made me over dependent on her and I know many people going through the same thing..

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    1. Whew! Some daughter finally corroborating my experiences about mothers and daughters instead of just mama’s boys. 🙂

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  10. Fantastic article, simply loved it.

    Is over- protectiveness restricted to women who treat their children as their sole accomplishments? Their sense of self worth gets validated by making themselves indispensable to their family members? I get tired of socializing with women who can’t stop bragging about their kids. And I agree that our generation is far from chilled out when it comes to parenting. We have to do everything perfectly – the kid has to be a mix of Einstein, Mozart and Dhoni. Does anyone bother asking the child what he wants?

    And I fervently hope I can be a chilled out MIL 🙂

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    1. Over protectiveness is not the sole preserve of mothers, but when the parents are in it together it goe by another name — control. Also when a father is protective of his daughter, it is not considered control or even bad but ‘cute’ while the same can’t be said about a mother’s cossetting of her son. But at the end of it all, any cossetting is bad for the recipient after a particular stage viz adulthood. And yes, we want to raise the perfect kid even while pampering them silly. And my verdict: You WILL be a chilled out MIL and mother. 🙂

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  11. Indeed! Indeed!! 🙂

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    1. Glad you agree Deepak 😀

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  12. I supposed there is an assumption there that a mollycoddled son becomes a cuckolded husband? Maybe?

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    1. Not necessarily. Mollycoddling children of either sex beyond a particular age is detrimental to their evolving as individuals. Somehow the term Mama’s boys conjures up all sorts of images in the minds of readers 🙂 But my post is about children in general and the effects it has on them as adults.

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  13. There is nothing wrong in being a mama’s boy or daughter But sometimes parents molly coddle there kids a lot especially when the kid is only one.

    I think we shud learn from the west this good feature let them free, Let them go out nad see how it is to be in the world thats how they will learn. I seriously think there is nothing wrong with asking the kids once they are 16-17 or 18 to fend for themselves , Get part time jobs while they study ..

    share in the household expenditures etc ..

    and worst is the fact that parents want to make the kids do what they could not do , I mean if you could not become a doctor or something dont force your kid to be a doctor.. because when he grows up he will do the same ot his kids …

    I totally agree with you that if they can Vote then they can do other things tooo …

    Bikram’s

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    1. You know Bikram, we only take from other cultures what suits us. So while we might take their concept of nuclear families, we might not like their living on their own of children who have completed school and have to start supporting themselves. Why, even our children would be aghast if something like this were to be suggested for it is only in college that they get to show off their possessions and their pocket money power and how can they do it without their parents footing the bills? So first of all, before junking our traditions, we should do a soul-searching about if even the so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘global’ Indians know what they are talking about. It is only the very poor and the very rich, who can afford to do things their way in our country. The rest have to grope and feel their way to some kind of compromise.

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      1. ” we only take from other cultures what suits us” – how true! Gen Y or the next one, are not ready to take up odd jobs while they are working to be independent (there might be a few exceptions, if I may add) but want all the freedom etc that we see in the Western / other traditions. As Bikram said, kids should be encouraged to take up odd jobs (learn “dignity of labor”) and not be dependent on parents. Once kids start doing that, parents will also start letting go of their kids – I think it should work both ways, right – parents taking a step to let their children free and the kids learning to be independent and being ready to exercise the freedom.

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        1. The reason why we don’t allow our children to work at odd jobs is because we don’t believe in the dignity of labour. But a very pertinent reason is that in a poor country like ours, these kids might just be taking away the job from a more deserving and poor man or woman or even boy. And when we do let them work in Macs and malls, it is for their expenses and their ‘experiences’. So the whole point is lost. It is seldom that we find children who are willing to give up the comforts and luxuries provided by their parent’s money and strike their own path. Sometimes I wonder if we are rearing lazy kids. But in keeping with the culture of western countries, these very same parents allow their children to work at odd jobs and stay on their own. When in Rome….perhaps?

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  14. its a cultural thing alright & sure cuts across status & regions/religions.

    as for overdoing the “nurturing/protecting’ bit …hmmmm…. something to think about…maybe most dont realize when the nurturing crossed the line & becomes constricting

    need to comeback & read this post again Zephyr. very interesting topic & needs time to absorb

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    1. You have put it perfectly — it is difficult to realise the point of crossover from nurturing to suffocating. I am glad you found it interesting enough for a second read 🙂

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  15. Zephyr, that was a profound post. I have seen parents falling in pitfalls ranging from ridiculous ditches to bottomless crevices in clear awareness. Call it love, call it greed or even stark selfishness. Probably it takes immense courage to let go. I remember a beautiful example from one of your earlier posts: you have to hold the sand softly with open palms; close your fist and its all gone. A father of twin daughters, I will wait for the promised post with trepidations.

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    1. It is a bit of everything — greed, possessiveness, insecurity and ego that makes one hold on to another regardless of the harm it is doing to the person. Sometimes in their zeal to prevent perceived mistakes of their parents, the next generation gets into worse mess. parenting has to be treated with kid gloves, being very very careful all the way. I will come up with the post, the mistakes i did and still do before I catch myself.

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  16. Sometimes Zephyr the MILs don’t just try to control their son but also their son’s child. Before I quit my job to come abroad, my MIL took case of my baby and everything had to be done her way, what to feed when to feed, even how to hold the baby. I am so so thankful that I got the opportunity to travel and raise my kid..we so far.

    High levels of insecurity I tell you. They feel they will lose their hold on their children and also in the household somehow. Also sometimes such kids who are used to having every decision made by their mothers/parents are incapable of making decisions/choices and struggle every day.

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    1. When we ask someone else to take care of our children that someone will try to impose their ways, especially if it is a mother or mother in law. While we can accept our mother’s ways we find accepting the MILs ways hard to accept or downright unacceptable. It is only because we are not used to the way they do it, while we are comfortable with our mother’s way. As long as it is just doing things their way,it is ok, but trying to separate the mother and child is bad. I am glad that you were able to leave and have the opportunity to do things your way and bond with your child.

      You are right about babying someone to such an extent that they become incapable of taking decisions by themselves.That is the worst form of stunting that can be done to another human being.

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  17. Letting go is one of the most difficult things ever I guess, whether it is a friend who has forsaken you or if it is our own parents/kids who need to cut the apron strings. I am an only daughter, and I understand what it is to be the center of attention. When I got married in a family of three brothers with wives, the attention suddenly was gone, and I found myself wanting the very attention that I felt was a burden earlier! Funny how life works. Finding that elusive middle path will always be a challenge.

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    1. Letting go indeed is very hard Richa. I couldn’t help smiling at your predicament after marriage 🙂 Good for your parents that you realised their worth as attention givers. On another note, I feel that they must have only given the requisite amount of ‘attention’ and not smothered you, because then you wouldn’t have missed it at all 😀

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  18. Am back Zephyr, I don’t want to pass this as a fact or truth. But i have seen this generation of moms having faced the wrath of over possessive inlaws might be making up their minds to let go off at one point. So that they get a DIL who will respect them and also a son in law who will ask for them. Like i have a friend who is the only daughter and her husband being the only son to his/her parents. They are so tied up with each other’s parents and they fight with each other for the sake of their parents. Just imagine how the parents are so possessive of them. But now the said friend has almost made up her mind about how she would be a mom in law to her kids spouses.

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    1. Your friend’s is the exact situation I had visualised in the post Sumana. It was not about mama’s boys at all as some might have thought. 🙂 Single child families are increasing and this scenario is bound to affect lives of the next generation even more. Coming to an amicable solution to the care of the old people is very important just as important as the older generation being more understanding. Without a social security blanket for the elderly, this is an important thing that everyone must give a thought to. In the absence of a community solution, families should have their own solutoins, where neither generation suffers.

      Psst…the Gen X MILs must have all at some point vowed to be model MILs too. But we have such short memories 😀 😀

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  19. If parents let their children grow independent, everybody benefits, the parents too would find more time for themselves.
    I think sometimes the parents might feel it is their duty to be ‘involved’. Many senior citizens feel guilty if they have lives of their own. Hobbies, travel plans or recreational activities which don’t benefit their children, are seen as selfish by some in the society.

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    1. Agree with IHM!
      The parents see their own life in their kids. If they start enjoying life on their own, there will be a lot of peace and harmony 🙂

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      1. Many a time parents of Gen X either didn’t have the time or the means to develop interests and have a ‘life’. Sometimes they embrace something eagerly when they are introduced to something new. tried it?

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    2. I am working on a post on Gen X MILs. Even I am one, you see 😀 And yes, having something besides your children to keep you occupied is important to get away from under their foot 🙂

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  20. A thoughtful post ! Why do we not humans learn from nature.. the birds teach the young ones to fly and as soon as they are on their own let them soar and take their flight! I am a very firm believer no matter what judgement are made!

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    1. We do it probably because we can’t prepare our children for the dangers and survival in the world no matter how much we teach them, since we ourselves are not prepared enough. Which is why we want to ‘protect’ them 🙂

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  21. I think the reverse also holds true – just to touch upon that point while you have written upon the pitfalls of the one-way traffic.

    Sometimes it becomes difficult if the child becomes overdependent on the parent – not because the parent likes to take care of the child or anything similarly positive – but because of the crutch that the support provides – then the spouse finds it difficult to compensate for that.

    A wife is not going to stand petty items overlooked daily by just chiding the husband like the mother – she will throw a proper tantrum, in his face, and make him do the work. The mother will just go tsk-tsk, and do the job, since that’s how he’s always been. This has been the single largest reason for marital discord in my circles – the wife not giving in to what the mother took for granted, and the son being overdependent on the mother, refusing to transfer the dependence to the wife.

    I know of enough divorces that have taken place thanks to the ‘mother’ factor – not as you have outlined, but in reverse – the son was just not ready to transfer his dependency to his wife, making her an outcast of sorts.

    In my case all this has been heavily delayed. After school, I was majorly self-dependent, handling most of my things myself. Only for heavy activities did my parents get involved, when they saw I was incapable of handling things myself. Well, that was an ideal situation. However, now that my sister is married and settled and my mother need not be there for her all the time, and my father has retired and realised that he was never ‘there’ for me during my childhood, they are concentrating all their attention on me.

    To an extent, that is all fine. While I can take care of my own laundry and cleaning my room – as I used to do during my time outside my home – I am relieved that my mother is there to handle those things for me. However, I cannot stand it that she treats me like a kid and keeps pestering me every morning to eat something with my breakfast tea. I may not be hungry then, and hence will not eat anything then, but then words do fly every morning on this. My father may be genuinely interested in my work and ask what I am doing, but he typically does that at inopportune times when I am doing something else that requires as much concentration as my normal work and his intereference breaks it.

    Training her to accept where I want me freedom and where I will come to her when needed – that she is not being set aside – is a daily ongoing process that gets iterative at times. I have to repeat the same statements I made the last month, last week, or even the previous day at times, just to make her understand. Ditto with my father – I just have to be a bit forceful with him at times to explain that I cannot answer his questions immediately. Both of them resent this. On one hand, they understand that I am now grown up and can well take care of myself, yet on the other hand they still feel that I am their child and can’t accept the fact that they left their affection for a bit too late in my life.

    Well, life about is achieving a balance. And its not a one time thing – you have to work on it daily. Only if it weren’t that much of a strain.

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    1. Life must be tough. I can understand how you feel, because I had gone through something similar when I was a teenager. Which was why I didn’t have the maturity with which you are handling things now. I withdrew completely. Being the last born, I was raised by my older siblings more than my parents but when the last sister had got married , my mother realised that she had missed raising me and began with a vengeance 😀 I couldn’t handle it being just 14 at that time! It is good that you are patient instead of being rude and screaming at them. They will eventually come round but your wife might not be able to handle it. So be prepared there. 🙂

      But even we both are sometimes guilty that way with our children not that we were not there for them or anything, but just that we want to be part of their lives. But i pull myself up immediately and make the L&M stop too. So when someone who is aware of the mistake can still do it, how can others not fall prey to it. Why dont you take them somewhere alone for a holiday and clear the air? Or have you tried and it has not worked?

      But tell me one thing, why should a man transfer his dependence to his wife from his mother? Why can’t he learn to do things for himself? And what makes you think that a wife would happily fetch and carry for him? She will haul him through the coal before she does it, even it meant keeping her MIL at bay. Good that you are independent that way 😀

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      1. Screaming has no effect ever in my house – I’d commented on this ages back that for us, shouting, screaming and fighting serves no purpose whatsoever, we’re too immunized to it now. Rational dialogue helps when it can, silence & non-responsiveness even more, if the same thing repeats and the response is a similar non-response.

        I always welcome my parents to be a part of my life, but nowadays, the gap is so wide (and widening, at that) that I spend most of my time trying to explain things to them or waiting for them to catch up. I also don’t mind that most of the time. But you’ll understand it when I say it gets irritating at times.

        In terms of that last question of yours: Well, insofar as the kind of junta I have seen, the boy is always dependent on someone: mom, aunt, elder sister, grandma, someone. He’s ben raised that way. (My family – 3 generations on – has always been an exception, that’s how we’ve been raised.) So even after the wedding the gent is going to depend on someone. Well if the fool has to depend on someone, depend on the wife. Don’t just continue the old drama with newer characters on stage. That surely will bring the house down.
        The wife, if modern, will wean off the dependency slowly, with understanding, or quickly, with a broom whack on the backend. If orthodox, will just continue. Have seen it happen too often. Only if the dependency on the mother figure has smoothly transferred to the wife, albeit with its uncertainty of change, has the marriage been successful. Else, problematic, leading to divorce.

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        1. Well said: the new wife will either go along or make him change with a whack of broom on his backside LOL How I wish that could be true! But it will happen albeit slowly. I must appreciate your patience with your folks. Most young people would just clam up or leave. But maybe you should try the other way too. Nit explain piecemeal but give them the dope in one go — in some place away from the familiar. Things go down well in a new setting. It might just work.

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  22. Nice post Aunty. I agree that today most parents are quite constrictive. And as for “letting go”, earlier parents let their kids go to make the kids independent but today I feel it is required to detach the parents emotionally. By detach I don’t mean complete isolation but to a more curtailed level. In the sense that a mom pampering her kid(s) on their birthday is perfectly acceptable but, like your example, insisting on carrying in the morning tea into the bedroom can only push the relationship in one direction – south.
    An important part of this emotional distancing process, I believe, is kids going off to hostels and boarding schools. Don’t get me wrong, I am dead against sending off kids with ages in single digits to hostels because they need to grow up in a safe, protected environment but once they’re in college, a residential grad program may not be that bad an idea. It teaches the kids to cope for themselves as well as teaches the parents to cope with the emotions associated with detachment. My parents themselves have learnt to cope with it ever since my sister and I left home about 5-6 years ago. There definitely is the “empty nest” syndrome but they slowly learn to fill the free time they have with other activities and though tough at the time for both parties, it is the better, healthier choice in the long run.
    I feel the biggest challenge our societal setup faces on this front is the feeling of having to “share” a person. This is typically present in a mother-son relationship after the son is married. Sub-consciously I feel, parents are mentally prepared that one day the daughter will leave home but with a son it is quite different. Especially with mothers but often with fathers too, the situation arises where there is a feeling among the elder one that their son is being “controlled/manipulated” by his wife. How do women conveniently forget that they too are somebody’s wife, a somebody who is also a son and that these “aggrieved” mothers were, about 30 years ago, in the reverse position as a newly wed DIL?

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    1. The going to hostel things after school is really a rite of passage that many parents have come to accept. But even here, how many children keep rushing back home to get their laundry done and eat ghar ka khana every weekend and during all holidays? I remember the older one telling us that he would not be coming home often because he didn’t want to waste time commuting but wanted to spend it on learning and doing things at college. We were fine with it. I never lamented that my son doesn’t want to eat my haath ka khana and all. Like your parents we learned to live with it. This is one of the things i admire about western society where children are expected to leave home once they finish school. We of course want to adopt their lifestyle and try to fit it in our culture clumsily. If we put our minds to it, we can find the best way out, like wearing a kurta over jeans maybe? 😀

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      1. Pratibhap · · Reply

        Posts like this, really scare me.
        Will I become another interfering MIL, trying to hold on to my son.
        I sincerely pray to God to grant me enough wisdom and strength to treat my daughter in law as ‘the most precious one’ to my son and not as an outsider entering our family.

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        1. Sometimes trying too hard will also become counterproductive. you know yourself and your feelings and so relax. As far as I can tell from your nature, you will be a natural one. So dont worry. btw., making girls welcome in the home at all is old hat and taken for granted. You have to know what is desired by the girls and give that to them. That’s the cool MIL.:)

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          1. You are further scaring me!

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          2. Better scared than sorry, right? 😀

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  23. Absolutely agree. When the kids are small we do have to ‘take care’ but slowly should let them take charge.
    We forget that our children are individuals too.
    The other day I just realised that though God would want us to be always with him; he waits for us to learn thru our mistakes. But we; do we do the same with our kids? No, we don’t.. Atleast most of us don’t. I know this realisation is out of the context here but still wanted to share. 🙂

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    1. The reason why parents are so suffocating is because they can’t see their children making mistakes. They want to prevent pain to them and warn them of mistakes they might have themselves made. But like you say, the greatest parent God lets us do things for ourselves and learn from them (or not learn). It has to be like that. But how many of us can honestly say that we can look on detachedly while our children stumble?

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  24. Very well written 🙂 I so agree with you on this. Though I ma not a mother I am married and I sometimes do experience this coddling behavior from my MIL. i have seen many of my friends suffocating their child with so much attention and love that it gets nauseating 🙂

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    1. Spoiling is the word more than coddling. When love is equated with licence it is bound to backfire. But at the same time too much restraint is also bad. So unless the parent has had a balanced upbringing, the children can’t be expected to become good parents. So the blame is with Gen X. Oh god! 😀

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  25. One of the first things I think my Appa told my Amma was this ‘set them free after a certain age’

    Its very very important na..to be a parent who knows the right path of not smothering and yet being there….parenthood is definitely a difficult path!

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    1. Very True RM. It is very difficult and only if we are always on our toes can we do the right thing. And please remember this when R is a teenager and older 🙂

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  26. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    Taking care and fussing is natural till a certain age….beyond that it becomes an intrusion.
    You have a flair for exploring nuances in relationships….comes from experience, not everyone can do it.

    Lovely read.

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    1. I am learning on the job too, Alka 🙂 I keep learning and listening to things from my three children and will soon do it from my granddaughter too. Already I have started learning hi-tech communication on her prompting, see? 😀 😀

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  27. So loved the post. Will come back to re-read the post and comment.

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    1. Waiting! 😀

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  28. Very true, Zephyr! There are so many complexities that make certain mils act this way. I have personally been very lucky to have a non-interfering mil who sides with me more than she does with her son. I also have the sense to never take that for granted :). I think the best strategy for any mil is to work on her relationship with her dil instead of her son. She will be sure to have a harmonious relationship with her son’s family then. But for that we need a secure mil who knows how to stay an important part of her children’s life yet be non-interfering. These balances are the most difficult to strike in relationships. People can go overboard either way.

    I like the involvement and the knowledge that mothers of my generation use in child rearing. But, I agree that many of us are taking things too far by first letting the kids dictate how things ought to be in the house. A lot of time, it is the reluctance to enforce discipline that raises spoilt brats. I don’t understand why discipline is equated with being severe or less loving. Discipline ensures that every child is handed the responsibility age appropriately to lend hand in chores and maintain a routine. Many mothers in my age group complain, “Bachche sunte nahin hain.” Whose fault is it? They don’t listen because we allow them to get away. Also obsession with one’s kids as you pointed out is unhealthy to both the parties. Parents are a guiding force and should be approachable and around to the children. But, children must be given the opportunity to reason, make their own decisions, and learn to take failures too. We can’t always protect them. So, equip them to handle the ups and downs of life.

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    1. You indeed are lucky, or should I say practical? When the effort is from both the sides, the result is always good. And when one makes a little more effort, it is even better. The older generation is also not able to come to terms with the changing times much as the boys of this generation are clueless about the emancipated women. So it is our duty to sit them down and make them see. I am sure when it is done with sympathy and genuine care, it has the desired result. ABaout letting kids get away with everything,that is another extreme situation one which is the result of over pampering and not letting the children feel deprived. Matter for another post. Loved the way you handled Sid’s doubt, btw. 🙂

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  29. Very pertinent and likely timeless topic, Zephyr. If we come back and read this in 25 years, I’m sure it will still ring true.

    Agree with the letting go, ‘keeping involvement at arm’s length’ etc part after kids cross a certain age. I think the desire for “intense involvement” in children’s lives comes from the fact that most parents (understandably) build their lives around their kids and their sense of purpose in life comes from staying involved. And a lot of times, it is taken to the extreme. Striking the balance is an art.

    The second reason possibly has to do with the anxiety that that children are not ready to take care of themselves, however old they may be. I think there comes a point in time when a parent begins to believe that her child might actually know more and better about running her life, and the letting go starts happening. Sometimes, that point in time does not come because either the child has not demonstrated capability or the parent stays blind.

    All in all, yet another great read. cheerio.

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    1. This intense involvement comes from either not having anything constructive in life or having just one kid with whom you don’t want to make mistakes and so go all out to be the ‘perfect’ parent. As for your other point, I missed including it in my post. Thanks for bringing it up. We Indian parents don’t to believe that our children have grown up. sayings like ‘dillikku rajavanalum thaikku pillai than’ amply illustrate this point. But sadly sometime the realisation doesn’t come even after the daughter grows old and is ably managing her family. And thanks once more for focusing on the relevant aspects of the post and not just the ‘mama’ boys’ part alone 😀

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  30. my mom is okay but what happens after some new entrant remains to be seen. i ll order popcorn in advance 😛

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    1. Here’s hoping you get to enjoy it with both the women in your life 🙂

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  31. I have noticed some parents become very insecure when they become old and then they become even more suffocating to their own children. Likewise, some kind of insecurity in the spouse of the mama’s boy/girl could lead to problems too. All relationships should be about trust and understanding at the end of the day.

    One factor that I think plays a major role in parents interfering in young people’s lives… most parents (people I mean) bear children only for their own old age convenience (budhape ka shara) , they raise the child as an investment n want to reap the benefits when the time comes…have seen it happening…

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    1. If it is an investment for their old age, how would you explain the choking that many mothers did in my generation and mothers of the Gen Y do today? Certainly they take care of their future and make plans too. It is more than that and it would be better to acknowledge it as emotional insecurity than taking the line of hardliners about this.

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      1. Emotional insecurity definitely ! Finding a larger purpose in life will be helpful absolutely!
        But Zeph..I have seen it from close quarters…kis din ke liye tumhe paal pos kar bada kiya tha….yehi din dikhane the kya? These dialogues certainly point towards the investment theory. I am warned for not having children as I would be besahara in my budhapa.

        There are homes where children are seen just as an extension of their own selves ..not as an individual who can have his own free space. Having a child is seen as an ego inflating exercise and the ego gets a boost when the child is in our grip. Meri baat sunta hai ….is a pride. Apni marzi se chalta hai is an insult.

        Why ? Should we control a life to this extent ?

        Discipline is different as Rachna has said…that can be brought by being an example . I have seen mothers watching serials and rationing children’s cartoons time…the child cannot see this as a fair exercise.

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        1. You know, what is worrying with the present gen of parents is that they are trying to be the antithesis of their parents who were so controlling and in the process are raising a generation of kids who are becoming uncontrollable, as Rachna has pointed out. That’s what made me write this post, and not your generation which is still going through the grind. Isn’t it easier to change before it is too late than regret it later? Like I said, we might have a whole new generation tomorrow that feels suffocated for another reason altogether. Control has changed forms, not gone away. We have to learn from the mistakes of an earlier generation, not by making a whole set of new ones.

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          1. Not only different generations, different families may have different reasons to feel ‘suffocated’. Our country anyways lives in different centuries, so it is better to work on our own set of problems/limitations or whatever it is. Learning from the mistakes of others and not making another set of mistakes as you say…every relationship needs to be based on some amount of faith and understanding, respecting others freedom and space and being open to change…
            Waiting for your new post 🙂

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          2. You are so right about living in different centuries and we are adept at switching centuries when it suits us too. That makes it even more difficult. And yes, the reasons for suffocation are also different for different sets of people. Hey give me some time for the post. These have to be written walking a tightrope, not to be biased or strident but just to share and invite a response. 🙂

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  32. It is indeed like walking on a tight rope.Fragile relationships have to be handled with care and a little distance may do a lot of good .A very good read 🙂

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    1. Taking care and choking are two different things. When one is confused for the other, it becomes a problem for the recipient of such care.

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