Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The babysitting plan

I have spent the last several days dealing with the fallout of my argument(s) with my parents and trying to figure out new solutions. A lot of my friends and blog readers have come to the rescue with excellent ideas and suggestions.

I have found two people who can watch Maya, whom we already have a trusted relationship with. That way we can go out on a date once per month, or even more frequently if it goes smoothly. I am starting to use the resources around me in order to start building a support system network. Better late than never, right? 

Husband-ji, who was originally opposed to the idea, has now realized that we need to ask someone to babysit so we can have our alone time. I think he also finally realized how stressed I am being a parent with little-to-none support system. He grew up in a family where his mother did everything and never outwardly complained, although internally she was ruining her health in the process.

 I also spoke to my MIL who said that in (nuclear) Indian families who live abroad, it is normal for couples to accept the fact that they may not have any alone time or dates - until their kids are like, friggin' ten. I seriously don't know how these couples manage!!!

I told my mother that I found somebody else to watch Maya, and that I accept her for who she is. She subsequently blamed me and claimed the reason why I don't leave Maya with her is because of my own anxiety. Total mind-f*ck. I sobbed to my mother and begged her, for the sake of my marriage, to please help me out by watching her just once per month, for only 2 hours. I stood there like a blubbering idiot and my mother told me to leave her house. And I allowed her to sever my heart, once again...I practically offered it up on a silver platter (When am I gonna learn??) I left in tears, with Maya screaming, and she was very disturbed for the entire day. When I saw my daughter being affected by this bullshit, I decided it needs to stop here - it CANNOT affect her and it cannot continue on. Dealing with my mum has become more trouble than it's worth.

There have been so many levels of emotions going on in my mind in this whole situation...

Whenever something like this happens, I wish I could phone up my grandparents and ask them for guidance. I wish I could just run to their house and fall into my grandmother's lap and cry. But they are long gone, and their house is long gone. They are bones in the ground, and the plot has been rebuilt, having bulldozed over her beautiful garden. They don't exist anymore, and I am really missing them a lot. Today would have been my grandfather's 96th birthday and his death anniversary is next week.

The second emotion is that I am realizing that my daughter may never have the kind of relationship with them that I had with my grandparents. The relationship that I had with them was so special. It has formed so much of who I am. I have felt so disappointed with knowing that my daughter might not have that connection. But as husband-ji rightly told me - it is them who are missing out. It is their loss.

One of my readers said, "if you can't count on your family in times of need, then WHO can you count on?!?" I think the hardest part of this entire thing has been the fact that I have to accept that this is the way it is. My daughter is two now, and I knew this would be the situation even when I was pregnant. I remember saying to myself a week before I gave birth, "I don't think they are going to help me at all. I think I'm going to have to do this thing by myself." I have spent the last two years hoping that this would not be the case, holding on to these empty promises of offers to babysit that never seem to come to fruition. My parents do not ask me how they can help me. They do not ask about my daughter. They do not come to my place and see us. At times, they watch me struggling with her as if I am some zoo animal to gawk at. And I have to accept this reality - I cannot change them, nor can I rely on them. Just like the time when I asked my mother to watch her so we could go to a preschool open house (adults-only). She stepped out at the last minute and I had to go alone, when really I wanted my husband to be there with me to pick out her school together. Or the countless times when she offered to watch her and we showed up and nobody was there - she had decided to get her nails done, for example. Clearly, it is just not a priority to her. Babysitting an only grandchild once a month for a few hours is not a lot to ask. But it is to them, and I have to accept that. It is enough for them to just see her once in a while.

It is weird to have my parents and my Indian parents on completely different opposite ends of the spectrum. Having one set be completely attentive and involved; and the other set disinterested and detached. My Indian parents don't look at spending time with a grandchild as "work". They don't think it's something they need to be paid for. At times they drive me crazy, but at least there's no shortage of emotional support!

I also need to stop snapping at poor husband-ji. We are, after all, in the same boat here. We should help each other out and cut each other some slack. Raising small kids in a nuclear family is not an easy task. As parents, we don't really know what the hell we are doing. And I think that's pretty normal.

In motherhood, I often feel like I go between two extremes - feeling on top of the world, that I can handle anything, and juggle any curve-ball that is thrown my way. And other times, I feel as though I can do nothing right, and I'm driving a fast moving car with no experience and no visibility of the road ahead.

I have given up on my mother. I don't think she will ever be the mother I need her to be, or the grandparent I hoped her to be. I am starting a new beginning with zero expectations. And boy, do I mean ZERO...that way I won't get let down.

I think one of the purposes in my life journey is to figure out how to be a mother to myself. I am the mother figure that I always wanted to have - kind, gentle, attentive, fun, and present. Only I need to be that kind of mother not just to my daughter, but to MYSELF too. As a woman, and as a parent, it comes so naturally to me to sacrifice and to give-give-give. I often forget that I need to take care of myself until I have a meltdown and realize that I have not done anything for myself for months. It doesn't even occur to me to take care of myself until it's too late (probably one of the qualities that makes me the ideal Indian DIL...hahaha). I need to take time for myself, away from my family, to do things that I like to do. That it's not all about "getting stuff done" or a to-do list. It's not all about what I can do for others. If I don't take care of myself, and take quiet mindful moments to myself, then I will have nothing to give. If I take care of myself and prioritize myself, then I can give to others abundantly without feeling depleted.

I think if I can just get to a point of taking care of myself on a daily basis, I think I'll feel a lot better. And as far as my parents go - it's time for me to accept it and move on. I have a family of my own now - which is me, husband-ji, and Maya.


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20 comments

  1. कालाय तस्मै नम:! This is Kalyug. Look around you and you will start to believe in it. I am sad to hear about your problem. Usually, I have seen that the parents of a girl are extremely supportive to their daughter in India. I have never never never heard of a case where parents of the girl are not helping her after marriage. B+ & Good Luck!

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    1. They have helped me in different ways, but I am having a hard time with being overwhelmed as a mother, and they are not helping in the way I need unfortunately. So I will have to help myself, accept the situation, and look elsewhere.

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  2. Agree with you. Moving on:
    - You need to focus on yourself and have a self care daily practice. How can we teach our daughters when we don't do it?
    - Maybe work on slowly healing the relationship with your parents. Stop being guilt tripped. As much we all want a great relationship with our families, many don't.

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    1. I have been thinking a lot about this and I have come to the conclusion that I must remove the expectation, and even if they offer and backtrack, I still need to remove the expectation so I will not be disappointed. And definitely what you said about self care is really number 1.

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  3. Living in India far from any relatives we have in the country, this is hard, and we haven't done date nights since she was born 5 years ago. Babysitters aren't an option, believe me if I had it, I would take it. My parents were also the only ones of both their families living in Geneva so they did hire a college student to babysat for them when I was a baby, because nobody can do it all. We all need our entourage, it doesn't mean it has to be family, but as you said, a support network you feel comfortable with. For me having help from the maid to clean and cook DH's tiffin food. When Ishita was younger, my neighbours offered to have her over to play, I still have a neighbour who has a daughter her age and we end up letting them play together at my place our hers to give ourselves a breather. DH and I do date nights at home, with take out food, beer and TV once she sleeps, that is where my insisting on her having a set bed time pays off big time.

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    1. I can't imagine - it must be so hard. I am delaying already having a second because right now we are just so overwhelmed. I also have a difficult time trusting babysitters.
      I really need to start doing those after bed date nights as you mentioned. It is better than nothing!

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  4. Alexandra, let me know if you need a good babysitter. I have a few I use and can happily recommend them.

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    1. Thanks Ramya! I will be asking you soon ;)

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  5. Ahh so wonderful post! It is as if reading about myself. I don't have kids yet but my parents are like that only, at least my mother. Father could be more present and supportive if he wasn't busy drinking every day. I also had this kind of resolutions so many times of my life. To live for myself only and be strong and don't expect anything. Unfortunately there are still times when I can't help but cry and blame they for who they are. These memories and feelings of disappointment keep coming back to me. I am extremely worried to become a mother. What if I am same kind of unsuppotrive parent? I have the same observations when I compare my polish and my indian families.
    All the best! This post was great.

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    1. It is hard, the first emotion I felt was rejection, I felt as if I was a little girl being rejected and feeling as a burden. It was like my childhood all over again. I am now trying to be objective about it and look at it with clearer eyes - like maybe that's just who they are and this is all in God's plan for me, these types of struggles. I think this will be an ongoing thing so I have to learn to deal with it.

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  6. You are right, you need to look after your own mental health so you can be happy and keep giving love to your husband and daughter. For me, exercise really helps me let out that anger and tension, and I always feel good after. You probably know that too, if you are not exercising, get back into it. If Maya is with you, push her in the pram and go for walks/jogs, often kids are not crying/bothering if they are out in the open air being pushed around.

    as for your mother, start to not bother contacting her at all. don't bother telling her what is going on in your lives or the little milestones your daguther is making. it may take her time to realise but soon enough she will realise she no longer lost a granddaughter, but also a daughter as well. all the best :)

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    1. After I felt angry, the first thing I wanted to do was exercise :) great minds think alike! haha
      I didn't speak to her for like a week after this, but we are civil now. But I am not relying on them anymore. That part is definitely over!

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  7. Oh my gosh! I am sure that your disinterested (and dare I say selfish) mother also has her good points and we all need to accept the faults of our family members, but having read this and your previous post I can only wonder at how caring and responsible YOU have turned out! For all I know there could have been some mighty emotional damage from being brought up with parents who are so detached. Don't feel sad for Maya for having grandparents who are detached, feel happy for her for having such a caring mom! Lucky you for having a loving husband and in-laws as well. I really feel for you - whatever you do, do not blame yourself, treat yourself as you would a dear friend and look after yourself knowing that you are the most precious thing in this world to Maya. Keeping you in my prayers!

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    1. I often do things and I do not expect anything in return, like when my dad was sick and I made him breakfast and lunch every day for months. I thought we are all supposed to work together for the benefit of the family as a whole. I think they do not see me struggling with my child because they have never experienced it like that, being all alone, so therefore they are not understanding. I cannot force them. I just need to take care of myself from now onwards, and of course I can always rely on hubby too.

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  8. Dear Alexandra,
    Hugs to you 'cos you seem to be hurting so badly. I can understand why you feel let down, disappointed and alone.

    But one thing stood out to me. You mother agreed to watch your daughter and went to get her nails done. Your mother does not offer to help you when you are struggling. It's unfortunate and I can see how much that has hurt you, justifiably so.

    But you don't seem to have the same expectations of your father. Is it because he's been unwell? Or simple because he's male and looking after small children is "women's work"? I resent it when someone expects me and not my husband to do something because it's "women's work". I refuse to do it simply because they made that assumption. If they asked him and he couldn't do it and they approached me, I'd do it ifI could, but if they automatically assumed that it was something only I was equipped to do, the answer is an automatic "no".

    Not saying this is what you've been doing, but just something to think about. Maybe your mother resents this assumption that she has to do it simply because she's a woman. I maybe completely off the mark here, but that is what occurred to me 'cos most of your hurt and anger is directed at your mother, not at your father, who seems equally unhelpful and uninvolved in his granddaughter's life.

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    1. It is mostly because he is still recovering from his health, he has survived cancer this year and a major surgery so I cannot expect anything of him. He has recovered but he is doing too much work and making himself tired. My mother is younger than him and more healthy, but she is more detached typically. My dad is great with Maya once he is there, but his health is not great so it is difficult. I think my mum is also stressed from him being sick as she feels she has had to take on the load of responsibilities. Could be she is burnt out also.

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  9. Hi Alexandra! Thank you for sharing so much here at the blog! I learn a lot from you both about intercultural life, India and motherhood. I am sorry you have such hard times with your family!
    I found your blog six months back, after meeting my dear A I really needed to get done encouragement that this cross cultural thing don't have to be such a big thing. After some heavy discourages from people around us it was great to learn how well you guys are doing. Thank you!

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    1. I am so happy to hear that, it makes my day! Much love to you both, may love prevail! xo

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  10. Yay, Alexandra, congratulations on moving on ! Was just reading a book about narcissic parents last week, which was so shocking as it described my mother's behaviour so well... and yours apparently... Somehow I think your beloved grand parents are still there somewhere, watching over you and your family... maybe you could create a ritual for yourself to feel comfort from your ancestors (and of course your ancestors DNA is still in you)... maybe an altar with photographs, or a piece of art to honour them ?

    I firmly believe we are ultimately the children of Mother Earth, she is our real mother, always supportive. And in the end we can forgive our biological mother's failures - but still protect ourselves from her catty behaviour.

    Love (Padparadscha)

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    1. Very true, Padparadscha, you always have some wise words.

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