This is part two of the article on parents-children relationship. In the previous part, we saw how the parents-children relationship existed three generations ago (i.e. present day kid’s great grand parents’ child rearing age).
Let us now see how the parents-children relationship existed in the previous generation (i.e. the parenting age of present day kid’s grand parents). These are the observations of this author, who is nearing sixty. It is the period of his peer group’s early parenting days that is discussed here. These observations mostly are related to educated middle class families.
It is the period when the importance of family planning was well understood and practiced by middle class families. Two children per couple became the de facto norm, though there were occasional cases of 3 children or single child families.
The benefit of planned family went largely to the advantage of the children. Be it good nutrition, healthcare, love and care, good dress, toys, decent schooling – the parents could mostly afford them.
Many to most of the mothers were stay-at-home moms and their health and well being were far, far better than the women of previous generation. Mothers could afford to spend lots of time with their kids, cuddle them, tell stories, play with them and help them in their schooling, so on.
Unlike the previous generation, joint family system was not the norm, and was gradually becoming an exception. With the mothers available for care most of the times, the role of grandparents in child care started dwindling in this generation, except in families where mothers were employed.
Another very positive aspect of this generation was that men were far more sober, saner and adjusting than the men of previous generation. They were far more communicative with their wives and far more loving and caring with their kids when compared to their fathers. The disproportionately bloated sense of male superiority and the consequent non-active-indulgence in childcare that the previous generation males displayed gradually became absent in this generation.
Children started having a loving and communicative relationship with fathers. Sometimes fathers of this generation intervened so much in child care that mothers started feeling exasperated by men’s trespassing in to their territory uninvited! Healthy and pleasant father-daughter relationships blossomed beautifully as the mother-son relationships.
For children, parents were lovable figures — more than respectable figures. This is another significant change when compared to the previous generation. It is not that children did not respect parents. Children had their genuine fears about a punitive father or an angry mother if they did something really wrong. There were boundaries of love, freedom and strictness.
Children naturally got pampered more than the previous generation. But parents had their brakes intact and children could not get away with all their needy or greedy wants. Mothers were anxious to feed their children to their stomachs full and children started seemingly enjoying teasing their mothers with non-cooperation in getting fed! Most children seemed to lack hunger and they managed to be choosy in what they want to eat. Of course, parents kept nagging them for drinking milk, eating vegetables or curtailing unhealthy snacks and the children tried their best to thwart the parental pressures!
When children fell sick, parents became a worried lot. Going to doctors even for minor ailments of children became the norm. Home remedies were gradually on their way out. A miscarriage or an untimely death of a child became emotional catastrophes. Intentional aborting (say an unwanted third pregnancy) can be seen here and there, but done with a heavy sense of guilt.
TV bulldozed its way into all families and children could enjoy good to reasonably good cartoons. Children of this generation seemed to have a great attraction for TV commercial ads! Complaints about mothers getting hooked to TV soap operas and consequently neglecting due care of husband and children can be heard here and there. Computers started entering in to the homes here and there, attracting children towards computer games.
Parental pressure to study well and come as toppers in schools was very significant on children. Becoming an Engineer was the de facto basic requirement for boys and girls and tuition centers became great money making business. Children gradually got less and less time for playing games outdoors. Living in apartments became common and consequently there was lack of playing space in urban areas. Playing varieties of games almost became nonexistent. Boys got obsessed with cricket and mostly they did not know anything of any other game.
In case of families with working mothers, leaving children at crèches or with the care of ‘ayas’, was more or less a taboo. Crèches were few and far between. Grandmothers could not mostly tolerate leaving the kids at the care of total strangers. So, despite advancing age and the added burden of cooking/ taking care of the home in the absence of the daughter-in-law at home, grandparents came forward to take care of the children. But I have observed that while grand fathers enjoyed their times with the children, many grandmothers got entwined into duty-mindedness and consequently they could not develop a loving and joyful relationship with their grand children.
In the next article, let us see how the parents-children relationship underwent further metamorphosis in the current generation.