Mandakini Mashelkar refused to become a full time babysitter for her grandchildren. What caused this refusal? This is her story.
As told to Reyna Mathur
Everyone says that as parents, we must do everything to protect our children. In India, we go to extreme lengths to ensure that our children are happy. Even when they grow up, we run to assist them and make their life easier. I was one of those parents, too.
My husband and I ran a garment business together in Pune, and we shifted to Mumbai in 1996. Since then, we settled into our life in the city fairly quickly. Ever since we had our two children – my sons Sangram and Sanket – we had been focussed on giving them the best life ever. And we did. Our sons grew up to become engineers, and both of them got jobs in US-based companies. It was just a matter of time before they went to work abroad. Five years ago, my younger son went to the UK with his wife, and a year later, Sangram went to Germany with his fiancee.
Two years ago, my husband and I went to Germany when Sangram’s wife, Maitri, gave birth to their son. We stayed there for four months to assist them while they took care of their baby. We had just returned home after this visit that Sanket asked us to come to the UK because his wife, Sonali was pregnant. On hearing this, my husband became silent.
A few days later, I asked him, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to go,” he said.
“But they need our help!” I protested.
“I don’t want to go,” he repeated stubbornly.
A little digging revealed that he was uncomfortable doing ‘babysitting duties’ for our sons. As he spoke, I realised that what he was saying was true. Our trip to Germany had exhausted us. At our age, it was very difficult to care for an infant. While we were there, Sangram’s mother-in-law had also dropped in and she was to stay for six months. We were to go at the end of this period. “We can’t keep doing this,” my husband reasoned. “First Sangram’s baby, then Sanket’s baby. We can’t keep shuttling between countries like this.”
The mother in me protested against the wife in me – my sons needed our help while they took care of their young children and their jobs. But then my husband said the most important thing: “Whom did we call when we had our sons? You were managing our business with young sons in your lap. We did it. Our children will, too.”
When I told Sanket that we would not be coming, he was furious. He demanded to know why we could not help him after helping his brother. I explained gently that we would visit occasionally, but only for a few days. Staying at their homes, with nothing to do apart from taking care of the baby, came with its own problems: we did not have a car at our disposal, so we had to wait for our sons to come home and take us out. There was ample free time but nothing to do.
Both my sons were upset for a while. But my husband and I remained resolute. We will visit them both next year and stay for only a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we have travelled to five places in India and both of us have joined a gym. You could say that in our retirement years, my husband and I have a greater bonding and we are rediscovering our love for each other. Keeping active and living within our means has given us a good quality of life in our senior years.
My friends and our relatives think we are being selfish in not helping our children. I think we have already done enough for them. It is now our time to enjoy our retirement years.