Living with less

Exams are done and it is now time for the summer to take over. With the impossibly high heat and the lack of enough company for outdoor play, most parents and children are looking forward to summer camps and places for children where they can indulge in indoor activities. With sky-high fees and the interactive, child friendly use of electronic media, many activity centres are only too happy to oblige us too..... Welcome to the 21st century summer vacations!

Flashback 

The year is somewhere in the 90's and schools have just let out for the summer vacations.
Parents and children already have plans made and tickets have been booked to travel for grandparents' homes. What is adding to the fun is the fact that there is going to be first cousins and second cousins coming to Granny's too! With TV programmes available only for a few limited hours a day, kids are looking forward to visiting the village, where admittedly, TV will barely even be relevant anymore - but it wouldnt matter at all, as they will be busy playing out all day!

Cut to present day kids and parents. 

With both parents working, children are more or less left to fend for themselves throughout the day. A sort of a house arrest, one could say, albeit under the watchful eye of a sitter; or as is more and more becoming the case - grandparents. With most grandparents preferring to settle in cities, children find barely a reason to visit or see villages anymore. There is no excitement to meet cousins or first cousins either, as they are constantly in touch with them regularly on Whatsapp anyway!

Flashback 

The year is somewhere in the 90's. Grandparents await the arrival of their children and grandchildren who are coming to spend good quality time with them. Their children do not have to be "Logged in" on their laptop all the time. Neither are their grandchildren hooked to their cellphones or iPads yet. No one's even heard of Whatsapp or Facebook. Vacations are all about playing outside in the fields and at the pond all day and turning up only when hunger reminds kids of home. When famished, the kids will gorge themselves on the homemade pickles and the papads.....

Cut to present day summers. 

Summer camps for swimming, summer camps for dance and singing, summer camps for art and craft, summer camps for calligraphy - you name it and you will find a summer camp for it. And it is good too....what are children supposed to do for two months, sitting at home anyway?! But more than anything else, the overriding fact is, we live in a competitive world and our children are going to enter an even more competitive world when they grow up. By enrolling our children in summer camps and 'professionally run hobby classes' (is that an antithesis?) we are only ensuring that our children get the edge that they need to survive in the cut throat competition they will invariably face when they grow up.

Flashback

Although most games mean outdoor games, indoor games too are a big favourite! They include board games played at home in the lazy, hot, summer afternoons. Computers are something that are used in offices by people who work and then leave their work where it belongs - in their office - when they get home. 'After work' time is to unwind, to relax and to spend it getting yourself physically ready to face the next day at office again. Telephones are a mere means of communication invented to stay in touch with far away relatives and out of station colleagues. Children have no idea what it means to obsess over a selfie or chat with their friends for hours on social media. Social interaction is when people meet each other in the evenings for a walk or for picking up groceries or at weddings and other family functions. Virtual social interaction is unheard of.

Cut to present day society that thrives on social media and practically survives on daily status updates. 

Everyone needs an audience for even the most trivial thing that happens in our lives today. It is understandable when different countries and miles and miles of distances separate families. The internet is essential in such cases to keep each other updated. But that is personal. What is rampant instead, is the "upload" of everything - good and bad, happy and sad - on social media. Be it a milestone achieved in personal life or professional life, it invariably finds its place in your 'daily feed.' While the person posting these updates is clearly looking for a pat on the back, many times, these things have an ill effect on other people's psyche. Psychologists who have conducted studies in this field have found several negative impacts following people passively on Facebook has on the mind, including making people feel worse about themselves.

Flashback

People migrate to big cities in search of work and income. They leave their family behind, usually in villages, and concentrate on making a living for themselves and raising their families. Parents and children are a close unit because it is just them for each other. Everyone in the house is attuned to each other and knows when things are going right for someone in the house and when not. Space is a constraint, children share rooms with siblings or sometimes even with grandparents. The income is just enough to take care of food and education and the day to day running of the household. A little excess is usually sent back home to the native place. There are very less occasions to go out on a picnic or shopping or a movie. Conversations, therefore, are very common. End of the day is just time to catch up with the family. Every day.

Cut to present day overachieving parents and children. 

Professionally accomplished parents know the importance of catching up with children, and they do too, as frequently as they can. Just that there is so much to do at the end of the day that this catching up usually is superficial. Maybe not in all cases, but in most cases. Homework - check. Exam preparation - check. Food money - check. Good night!
Between take-out dinners and pizza's that are handed out as bribes or rewards depending on the situation, there is very less time left to really have a conversation with children. Add to the fact that the children themselves are exhausted, having spent the day in several 'hobby classes;' and you have a steep increase in the number of mental health professionals that are needed to save the day.

Flashback

Mom is supposed to be someone who is at home whenever the child wants her to be. Even when she is working, she is not tied to her laptop or her phone all day long. Mom is the one who runs the house, in all sense. Dad rarely gets time as he is busy 'providing' for the family. Mom knows everything about everyone in the house and is the one person who knows her true worth. She doesn't have too many friends on Facebook or Whatsapp but spends her time doing what she thinks is best for the family, including spending some good quality time for herself. She is sane, even in her sixties, seventies and through her eighties - having a clear conscience.

Cut to today's Supermom! 

Multitasking and only ever asking more and more of herself as well as everyone around her, Mom, today, is a 'mompreneur', a doctor, a teacher, a banker, a blogger, a volunteer and much more. Constantly feeling trapped in the middle of overachievement and overindulgence, the present day Mom is struggling to save her sanity and looks forward to the day when she can finally not feel guilty for spending the time away from her kids, her family and her home in pursuit of something that she thinks she needs to prove to herself that she counts. She forgets that she is the centre pole on which the tent of her family and her home and her kids is balanced. She searches meaning, in activities that are anything but 'just being there'........... all the while forgetting, that 'just being there' for the family is what she needs to do to make herself and everything around her, worthwhile.

Flashback
When children ask something to Mom, they do not necessarily get it. More often than not, they are denied seven out of ten things they ask. They learn to make do with what they have. They learn to earn what they think they must have. They appreciate the importance of longing for something and then the value of it when they earn it. Children learn to adjust, adapt, be responsible, take disappointment and basically, live with less.

Cut to present generation of boys and girls who are born to parents who strive to and more importantly, can afford to, give their kids what they always longed for but could never have themselves.

Every whim, every demand, every little wish of the child is fulfilled by their parents. Why would the kids then want to struggle? Work hard?

We may argue that the generation prior to ours saw less economic freedom and less competition - that they were the ones that lived with much less than what we live with today, but on introspection, is that really so? Who is it really, that is living with less? Them? Or us?

Comments

  1. Beautifully written Rashmi, i too posted something on the same lines.

    Completely agreed to what you say.

    ReplyDelete

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