Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Having your children close by

Parents-childrenDue to the eight hours time difference, I am only able to call my folks back home every weekend. Other than telling my parents how bad London's weather and economic situation is, I get a weekly update only how's things are back home.

Common updates include: a cousin of mine is getting married (and I'm going to miss the wedding because I'm in London), another cousin of mine just gave birth to a baby girl (when is it my turn?), a son of someone they knew just got a car and another daughter is moving into a private property (while I languish in a minuscule rental flat in London).

Nothing beats the ultimate question - "When will you be coming back?"

I was mentioning this to an American colleague the other day. He gave me an incredulous look when I told him that my parents would love to have us (wife and I) living together with them - his parents couldn't wait till he move out of their apartment. Apparently, its not unique to him as some of my other (non-Asian) colleagues can attest to.
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Interestingly, an ethnic Chinese colleague, born and bred in London, confided that her mum would love to have her (and her husband) live nearby. So that got me intrigued. Is the wish of having one's children close by an exclusively Chinese (or even Asian) mentality? If so, what is that main reason for that?

What do you think?

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16 comments:

Martin Miller-Yianni said...

Your heritage seemingly is from a close family culture. In the UK this is not the case for many families. It is the same in Bulgaria, not only do parents want their grown up children partners and grandchildren living close by, but in the same house. This also has to do with economics and not being able to afford a home to move in of course.

My Bug Life said...

Having your children or loved ones close by seemed to be an Asian thing as they say we tend to be more communal..but I believe non-Asians are communal too but have gradually "moved out"...so they tend to be more individualistic. I know my parents would love to have their children close by and I guess in a way I am that way too.

Fëanor said...

Does it have anything to do with the primacy of the individual over that of the social unit, I wonder? In countries such as the UK or US, where individuality is prized, I suppose parents would like their kids to strike off on their own, live by themselves and learn about life. In cultures such as India, where the family is considered more important than any member, one is expected to remain within the unit. Even in Italy, many men tend to remain with their parents till marriage. I'm not sure it has much to do with house and living costs. Even rich families in India often have this kind of joint structure.

Of course in the UK with the near-impossibility of raising the funds for a deposit on a house purchase, many young people continue to live at home. Not sure if the parents are too pleased at this development, though!

Emm said...

We want to be together - my Mum is moving to the UK now because both my brother and I are here - but no matter how close my Mum would like me to be, I wouldn't be able to stand living with her for too long. My Mum is moving in with us in the new year and i should start going crazy after 6 weeks...

Dutchie said...

CK - ur phone bills !!! I skyped with cam when the family meets up for an eternal Sunday buffet at mom's. It does take couple of hours to chat with 20+ members :-/

Emm has a point abt mom driving one mad - sorry if other mom's r reading this ! I hv been living too long in my own private space n having guests around does turned one's life into quite a bit of chaos. I heard the same from other Singaporeans as well.

My mom (n her maid) lives with my eldest brother n his small family. He (or his wife) gets a breather when mom goes to visit the other 2 sons who lives abroad.

Having said that, a part of me longed for the closeness of the family when we were growing up in a small flat.

My late MIL also wanted her sons to live close-by. Even tho our home is 25km away, she used to persuade my hubby to dine there n sleep over in the weekends when he was still a bachelor. First 5yrs of our new life together, she was visiting us every weekend ! Must be the food I served ?

Yep, my mom is always asking when I'm coming home - she counts the days n makes me feel guilty :-/ I do missed the coziness n warmth in Sg. It's a price we pay for wanting a private life here where one lives for themselves n cares so little for others.

attygnorris said...

I am black and unfamiliar with the Chinese culture. I will tell you that my parents would LOVE for us to move closer to them (they are in NC and I am in TX--20 hrs away). This is primarily so they can see their granddaughter more often. Living within the state is good enough for them--certainly not living under the same roof. I don't think any of us could even imagine that!

Davida

kyh said...

I do think that this has got to do with Asian culture. Family values are highly prized in Asian societies, and that filial piety always comes up top.

Family values in Western societies mostly intermingle with religious ones, and the Church used to have authority or a say over these matters in the Middle Ages. With the rise of capitalism and consumerism, family values have eroded along with the adherence to religions.

Rudy said...

Check out the show "Everybody Loves Raymond". It's a great show that echoes the down (and sometimes happy) side of having your parents close by. Too close, in this case.

LadyBanana said...

It would be a dream to have my 3 kids living nearby with their own families, which they don't have yet.

My son lives in Dubai right now and I miss him so much..

My daughters are not so far away in Leicester and Brighton..

SheR. said...

Well.. Asian or not.. I guess all parents would long to see their children when they are far away. But gets irritated by their presence when their children are living with them. I lived with parents of both cultures. I understand this important part!

American Mom In London said...

Well, I just see the difference between my family (Filipinos) and my hubbys (white folks from Oklahoma). My techno-phob parents bought a webcam and learned how to use it just to talk to us. My sister and her boyfriend (also Filipino) talk to us for about an hour once a week and ALL of them are coming to London for Christmas.

My husband's family... couldn't even call to tell us we have a new nephew until about week after the kid was born. Even thought we've sent them our phone number EXACTLY as it is to be dialed from the US, my mother- and father-in-law won't call us period because the numbers "confuse them".

I think family is simply more important to Asian.

C K said...

@Martin Miller-Yianni,
I think the younger generations of Singaporeans tend to prefer not to live under one roof as their parents. However, due to high cost of childcare, some may opt to live near for practical reasons.

Then again, many flats in Singapore are relatively small and really meant for one family.


@My Bug Life,
Just curious, would you mind living with your husband's parents (or are you already?). Many of my female friends would prefer to have a place that they can call their own then to live with their parents-in-law.

That said, I've seen some guys who have no problem living with their parents-in-laws.


@Feanor,
Thanks for bringing in the Italian example. That pretty much overturned the perception that the family as a 'unit' mentality is solely an Asian one.

Just curious, how do the Indian families cope with the increasing family size? Though I'm sure that there's less red tape for extension of building, do they actually modify their houses to cope with the extended family?


@Emm,
LOL, I know what you mean. She'll probably nag you about your diet and keeping your place tidy. I know my mum does!

Well, try deflecting her attention towards your brother then. Good luck!


@Dutchie,
Yep, Skype is the answer for me. It cost 0.017 euros per minute to make a call back home. How much does it cost from NL? An average phone call last for around 20min or so. I can hardly imagine speaking to 20+ people on webcam! As far as possible, I avoid using that as I would have to look somewhat presentable if I'm using that. :)

Hmm... I'm sure your M/L's frequent visits back then had got everything to do with your food and have absolutely nothing to do with your husband. Did she like your loh mai kai? I'm surprised that she didn't cook when she came round back then.


I know what you mean about the wish of having a 'private' life. In fact, I was thinking of doing up a post of it the other day when I thought that it might be a tired topic already. Then again, I'm sure your husband, having grown up in NL, do face some pressures, no?


@attygnorris,
Hey, thanks for stopping by! I think most of us would love to live near our family. Note that the keyword here is 'near'. Honestly, I think there will be less friction (especially between mother-in-laws and wives, and between father-in-laws and husbands) if the families are not under one roof.

Do you agree?


@kyh,
Now, that's a fresh take. Though I've not exactly a religious person, I cannot remember any religious teachings that emphasize family as a unit.

With regards to filial piety, I think Confucious does promote it quite a bit.


@Rudy,
LOL, will do! I'm not on cable but I'm sure it's available online as well.... er, YouTube, I mean.


@LadyBanana,
I'm sure you do love to have your kids nearby. Just curious, how does it play out if your children's parents-in-laws prefer to have them close by (but they are nowhere near you)?

It might be a moot point but I wonder is there a protocol for such things?


@SheR.
So I take it that you irritate the heck out of your fiance' parents? lol

Well, I'm sure they'll let it slide on the account of your baking.


@American Mum,
I do find Filipinos really warm and friendly. Family ties do feature importantly in the culture. I'm not at all surprised that your parents actually take to calling you over webcam.

Dutchie said...

CK, Sg Telco's has no treaty of any kind with NL, so I hv to fork out E 2,46 (incl 19% VAT) p/min. U can imagine why I only use the phone why it's absolutely necessary. My sisters on the other hand uses prepaid cards, costing S$2,00 for 20min - "sub sub soi" as they r fond of saying. R u using prepaid ?

Haha, true abt being presentable at the skype cam ! Those familiar background noise always makes me feel like I'm home. Once I get off the chat, it's so surreal to get back to my own reality .. sigh ...

Actually my parents-in-law were rather apprehensive abt Asian food n whatever I made specially for them, they r straight-forward to tell me that what they think (usually negative). They certainly wont tolerate spicy food ! I was glad when my BIL got married n MIL went to set up camp there for their weekends ;-)

Hubby has pressure with moral support which is lighter than Asian families where we pay for every needs of our parents (unles they hv a fat pension). My elderly FIL is giving us headaches now. We get calls from the care n meals people who said he refused to let them in. When we get there, it's a hellish chore to clean out the house n put him in hospital bec he's under nourished n dehydrated. I cant tell u how often I feel a cardiac arrest coming on when the phone rings ! We had the same experience with my late MIL for 4 long years ... so it's a kind of pressure u might say. I said often enough to hubby that we better head off to Sg n get us a maid when our time comes bec I would prefer not to impose on others for help !

C K said...

@Dutchie,
Are you kidding me? Over 2 euros per minute?! A weekend call must have cost a small fortune. Say, do your folks back home have to pay for tele charges for incoming calls? If not I assume the same goes for you and you should get them to call you instead, no?

I guess that's the irony with regards to elderly care in Europe. As the cost of hiring a full time maid/caretaker is exhorbitant, the reliance is on healthcare workers (which I supposed is paid by the state) who are not around when they are needed most.

But then again, retirees might find the pace of life back home a tad too fast... and the irony.

Dutchie said...

CK, if Sg Telco's were to sign a pact with Unisource EU, the charges here would be just cents. In spite of being penalised with hefty fines, Telco's within EU r still overcharging. Callers with a mobile phone doesnt even know what it cost to call home from outside NL until they get a big bill !

No incoming charges that I know of. My family r aware of the "mob" charges here, so they gladly make the calls :-D

Our health care was 100% commercialised 4 yrs back. Am paying 1500 p.p annually n the first 650 p.p. incurred cost has to be bourned by us. Prior to this change, the state charges only 346,00 p/yr n most of the medic costs r covered as well.

I hv seen housing communities for the elderly with an in-house medic staff - it's understaffed, so u can imagine the poor quality of life there !

Yes, hubby kept reminding me that Sg will be too stressful in a few decades. I still prefer to live near my family than with strangers !

Fëanor said...

CK: Good to see you the other day. Re: your question about coping with large families - yes, indeed, lots of houses get constantly expanded to accommodate growing families. Check out Manju Kapur's lovely book Home, which describes very intimately the lives and affairs of one such 'joint' family in Delhi. You may find that traditionally this is the norm, although these days many kids are moving away to other cities on work or study, with the resulting fission of the joint family.