I am an only child who grew up in a nuclear family. To add to the fun, both my parents were working, my father in a private company and my mother in a nationalized bank.
Given that these were the early 80s that we are talking about, they didn’t have to spend too much time on their commute to and from office, but having said that my father was a workaholic and my assumption is that he never used to get too much time to spend with me during weekdays including half days on Saturdays. My mother however, probably used to spend some quality time with me during the evenings. Even so, I give full credit to my maternal grandparents for bringing me up during those initial few years, until I turned 7-8 years old.
I remember my maternal grandmother, (I used to call her Ajji) feeding me, telling me all those old granny tales (quite literally in this case), playing with me, putting me to sleep and generally spending lots of time with me. And my grandfather also doted upon me and my cousin, given the fact that we were the only two grandchildren that he had in the same city that he lived in, Bangalore.
While I wouldn’t say that my grandparents were over indulgent when it came to taking care of me, I would like to believe that I was well taken care of and was never left in need of anything that I wanted, be it toys, books, or overall items that kids usually want.
The fact that both my parents were working and that I would see them only for a couple of hours in a day did not deter me from loving them as much as any other kid would love its parents. And even looking back now, with the lens of being a parent myself, I can undoubtedly say that I have had a wonderful childhood.
All my friends at school and college who had siblings had only one term to use for me when they came to know that I was an only child – “spoilt kid”. Back then I used to wonder if I really was a spoilt kid. The way I saw it, I had to struggle as much as any other kid to get my parents to buy me the latest toy, to buy me the latest children’s book, to give me what I wanted. I never really understood what my friends meant when they called me a spoilt kid. It was not like my parents ever gave me more than what any normal kid got.
It was not like I got a Maruti Car the day I turned 18 years old (I wouldn’t have even gotten the ‘hand me down’ car from my father if he hadn’t had his back problem which prevented him from driving). I used to face the same pressure from my parents regarding studying well and scoring high marks that all my other friends used to face. I had the same time curfews at home that all my other friends had. So I never quite understood how and why I was a spoilt kid.
I guess, it was the fact that I didn’t have a sibling who competed for my parents and grandparents’ attention that probably made me a spoilt kid. I never had anyone who I had to give up things to, sacrifice toys for, and fight with for love and affection and that probably made me a spoilt kid. That being said, the combination of ‘working parents + over indulgent grandparents’ did not spoil me as a kid.
If anything, both these couples ensured that I developed an awesome value system and taught me that the only things that came to me as a result of my efforts and struggles would stay with me for long. They taught me that there are no free lunches in life (in a manner of speaking). Therefore, adding to my equation, working parents + over indulgent grandparents + value systems = good kids.
Why am I talking about this equation in my post… because my daughter R faces the same situation today. Both my wife and me are working, and my daughter has equally (or probably more) indulgent grandparents than I had. While my wife and me make it a point to spend quality time with R on a daily basis, talking to her, playing with her, reading books to her, taking her out to rides and walks, the fact remains that she spends a good amount of time with her grandparents on a daily basis.
I have observed my mother reading out books to her and explaining the morals of the stories to her. Values such as sharing, cleanliness, punctuality are all being taught to her (as much as her 2 yr old mind can absorb) by her parents and her grandparents. Every once in a while when she throws a tantrum, all of us ensure that we don’t necessarily fall prey to her emotional blackmailing tactics and distract her away from the cause of her tantrum. Both couples, us as parents and my parents as grandparents, are constantly learning on the job, in terms of adjusting our behaviours to how R reacts to situations. We continuously exchange notes on how to handle particular types of tantrums and effective ways to overcome them.
I would love to hear from other parents on this forum as to what they feel about kids with working parents and also about kids with over indulgent grandparents.
Jairam Mohan is a 33 yr old father, of an almost 2-year-old daughter, settled in Bangalore. He and his wife tend to see the funny side of things in life which helps them maintain sanity in their otherwise crazy and stressful working lives. While his day job involves poring over Excel spreadsheets and preparing PowerPoint presentations, his other hobbies include frequent updation of his blog on varied topics and watching/writing about movies.