Monday, March 2, 2015

Eastern Vs Western Parenting Styles

Recently, I got into thinking about different ways of parenting a child and how the country's culture makes a big impact in parenting choices. I came up with some important differences between parenting in India and in the Western countries. During my research on this topic, I came across a book written by a Chinese mother about how she raised her kids - Battle Hymns of the Tiger Mother. This book taught me that Chinese are not so different from the Indians when it comes to parenting. So instead of naming just India, I guess I can generalize it as the 'Eastern' parenting style. Also, I am not saying that any particular style is better than the other as both have their pros and cons. Well, not to forget that I am no expert and I am merely struggling with parenting my own kids! Also, there are exceptions in both Western and Eastern parents- especially in case of a lot of Indians/Chinese who have migrated to the West and adopted the western style.

An ideal Eastern parent is expected to be strict with their children or else is considered to be "spoiling" them. Parenting children is considered to be a lot of emotional and physical "investment" by the Asians - they emphasize academics and skip on arts and sports. They are ready to spend more time and money for their education and take extra tuition classes for tutoring their kids. They are ready to sacrifice anything to get them to good college and obtain good grades. And in most cases, many of them end up in well paid Technology/Medicine/Management jobs as well. And in the end, the child is expected to pay them back by looking after them in their old age and is indebted to them forever. Parents, especially those with sons, who come from patriarchal families rarely have a pension plan and expect to live with their son and daughter-in-law- although this is changing gradually. Eastern parents do all the thinking and make all the choices for their children. They don't respect the preferences of their kids and "override" with their own interests as they think that it is good for the children. They try to make their kids as an "idealised version" of themselves. As a result, children are curbed from thinking independently when it comes to making important choices in life.  So the children are used to taking assured path with lesser risks. But this technique works well if the child is not self-motivated - and let's face, not many children are that self motivated. But some parents don't know when to stop and keep controlling their kids even when they turn adults or get married and this causes a lot of tension in case of many families.

The Western parents tend to be placing rules for children, although many of them tend to be permissive when compared to the Eastern parents. The parents permit children to choose their own interests and pursue them as they continue to do their own as opposed to Eastern parents, especially mothers, who stop living their own life for the sake of their kids. A lot of kids are more creative than their Eastern counterparts and they choose careers not just in Technology, but in all possible fields. The parents try to treat their kids as adults and give a lot of freedom in making decisions for themselves. So even if they make wrong choices as adults, the children don't tend to listen to their parents as they are not used to being controlled. So the parents tend to just hope that their children would learn from their own mistakes. And the Western parents don't expect benefits from children like the Eastern parents and also expect them to be independent. I like this quote about how Western parents view about their children, from the book "Battle Hymns of the Tiger Mother" -

"Children don't choose their parents," he once said to me. "They don't even choose to be born. It's parents who foist life on their kids, so it's the parents' responsibility to provide for them. Kids don't owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids." 

 Well, the ideal style would be to balance between both the styles- permissive in some cases so that the child learns from making mistakes and strict in some cases so that you teach them that choosing the right path is not an option but the default. Also, parenting is a tough job - there is no single book to say what is right and what is wrong. Some things work fine for one kid which may not work for another. And it is a no-brainer that one must choose what is good for their own kid and family.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rent a wife?

Stereotyping roles based on gender is not uncommon around the world. Just when we started to protest and reduce them to some extent, we have websites called Rent-A-Wife and Rent-A-Husband. The "rent a wife" website offers services like baking, cleaning, grocery shopping, "making things pretty" etc and the "rent a husband" website offers services like lawn mowing, plumbing, etc - no brownie points for guessing them right. Basically, these websites did a good job of inscribing responsibilities based on gender. Well, the problem with stereotyping is that men or women find it as an excuse or embarrassment to carry out tasks not meant to be done by them.
Secondly, renting a wife/husband reduces the worthy notion of a spouse being a human. We can rent a car or a house or a DVD- but the idea of renting a spouse just doesn't sound right. And one may ask, if the spouse can be rented to live with or go for a party for showcase. Well mate, this is not a dating or adult website- but you see, it gives that notion. Well I am sure these websites got some extra clicks this way.
Lastly, not the mention how much pressure it adds by raising bars of being a "perfect" wife or husband.

Bree Van de Kamp of Desperate Housewives, who is portrayed as the "perfect" housewife. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Have some spare tennis balls?

You can decorate your glass window with them hanging on a rope like this.

Glass window of a random shopping mall in Melbourne


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Victim of domestic violence once, now what?

While hearing stories in the television or reading from magazines, my heart breaks every time for those women who suffered from domestic violence and the pressure from society to stay married to their husband or in-laws. But when I hear similar stories from close relatives or friends whom I thought to be happily married, it turns out to be an eye opener. On giving some thought to the issue, I came up with this post which might probably my way of dealing with it.

I love this quote from the movie "300" and now is the right time to remember it-
King Leonidas: Then what must a king do to save his world when the very laws he has sworn to protect force him to do nothing?
Queen Gorgo: It is not a question of what a Spartan citizen should do, nor a husband, nor a king. Instead, ask yourself, my dearest love, what should a free man do?
Economic independence is the first most important thing for a woman in such a situation. At any cost, you should not feel that you won't survive if you leave your husband and if there is fear that your family might not support you. This will give you freedom to think if you really want to stay for love and not for food and shelter.
Secondly, a back-up plan is always important. If there was a second time, how would you want to handle. It is said to be safe to leave when the abusers are not around. Degree certificates, passport and other important documents need to be kept handy at all times.
Keep the emergency contact numbers and embassy details if outside the country handy.
It is a misconception that not leaving the abuser is good for the children. But it just sets a bad example for the kids i.e., your daughter will think that it is normal to be in an abusive relationship and your son might end up being abusive or vice-versa. Ending the relationship will teach them the right lesson that relationship cannot survive if it is abusive.

Having said that, it is also important to make a call if one more chance needs to be given. I have also heard of someone who is happily married for more than 18 years which was only possible because one such chance was given. If the abuser accepts the mistake instead of blaming you again for why it happened then it is worthy to give a shot. But it is important that the abuser is really ashamed for what happened (and accepts the same) and assures that it won't happen again. But be cautious and read up about the cycle of violence.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sealife @ Melbourne

After my kids got to know how uncooked fish looks like, I decided that it was the right time to pay a visit to the sea aquarium at Melbourne, the SeaLife. The aquarium had various zones where one could get to see the sharks, sting rays, sea turtles, jelly fishes, sea horses, sea stars, and a lot other marine fishes, penguins and a crocodile. The view was designed so well that we could get to see all of them from very close and we did not have to carry the kids around as they could enjoy the sight from their own height. The aquarium also had provision to take wheelchair/strollers and had some decent cafe` inside. There were also some options for diving into it to watch the sharks and fishes closer. Watching penguins was the most special moment for me as I was looking forward to it for a long time. One of the penguins came so close to us and was staring at us for quite sometime. The experience was one of a kind and amazing not just for the kids, but surprisingly for us adults as well. It is definitely a must visit for anyone who is here in Melbourne.

Sydney also has a similar aquarium and seem to host similar experiences. Visit the official page for more details.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Project Cairns

The three hour flight to Cairns was on a Saturday morning and it was already Wednesday and I was yet to pack the bags. I had to make a quick checklist for things to pack and do a quick shopping for all required stuff during my lunch break at work. Usually I never stress on what to pack, but this time we had two toddlers coming with us. So here is my rough checklist-

Firstly, basic things for the kids to be packed -

  • Diapers, wet wipes
  • Milk - Powder/ Bottles to store water/ Feeding bottles
  • Sippy cups
  • First aid kit for kids - for fever, dehydration, wheezing, band-aids, thermometer, baby vicks etc
  • Bathing essentials - soap, toothbrush
  • Needless to say that kids will need extra clothes as they can get dirty easily
  • Stroller/pram if needed.
  • Small toys to keep them engaged during the flight or in the car
  • Hats - Remember that they can get lost and we may need extra ones
  • Lots of tissue papers 
  • Carry a handy bag to take things while going out to places
As we had plans to visit the beaches and pools, we had to pack some extra stuff-

  • Sunscreen
  • Swim diapers
  • Extra towels
  • Small pool floaties which can be filled with air while using if needed.
  • Swimwear
  • Footwear that is easy to slip to their feet and good to play with water
  • Toys to play with beach sand- Mostly they can be purchased after getting there
My daughter trying out the pool for the first time

Also, it is important to pack some food for the kids while travelling -
  • Finger food to munch on - nuts, crackers
  • Packaged fruit juices, jelly
  • Handy food pouches like Rafferty's Garden ones. 
  • Backup main food for kids in case we could not stop at restaurants on time - Cheerios, some rice, veggie fingers etc
  • bowls, plastic spoons and forks as not all restaurants provide them and it is safer to use the plastic ones in case the kids drop them and throw a tantrum

Some other tips-
  • Staying in a service apartment is preferred to staying at a resort/hotel as we have the freedom to cook whatever the kids want. Also, we can get to do free laundry. My friend tipped me about this and it really worked for me.
  • It is good to keep time to visit the nearby supermarket to buy things like yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs etc for the kids if there is fridge to store them. My daughter was a bit fussy about food the first day and so we got her favorite and usual food from nearby store so that she was comfortable.
  • Call up and make sleeping arrangements for the kids well in advance.
  • In case if you are renting cars, make arrangements for car seats for the kids.
  • Do research on places to visit especially with the kids. For example, I checked out this website before going to Cairns. Visiting Muddy's Playground was one of the best part of the vacation for the kids which we would have missed if we did not do our research. 

Muddy's Playground

Well, the kids learnt to adjust as we did not follow their routine. They managed to get some sleep in the car or in their stroller as we had to miss their naptime. Overall, it was a good experience for all of us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living a Melbourne life

We started off with the wrong foot. I used to live in a suburb closer to the Melbourne city and it was dead silent in the weekdays as almost all humans migrate to the city and get back only to sleep. And the unpredictable weather and frequent rain made everything even more difficult. And needless to say that it was dull and cold given that it was winter season. So if you are a housewife living in a suburb outside Melbourne with kids (especially infants or toddlers), then you are likely to experience loneliness unless you have friends living closeby.

But the good things was that my kids got adjusted to Melbourne time in just a single day. Sometimes they really surprise me! We bought some winter clothes from India knowing that it was winter in Australia and so all was good for them. We gave the same kind of food we used to feed them back in India and so kids were very comfortable in the new environment. Flavored yogurts and cheese for kids are very cheap compared to India and kids really enjoyed them. I started applying for jobs in parallel but nobody bothered to call me for an interview. Job search for a computer science engineer in Australia is a blog post by itself, but shortly, I can say that it is not as easy as I had imagined. Apart from not having Permanent Resident Visa, the recruitment agencies seemed to look for "local experience" in Australia which is not possible unless some one gives you your first job to gain that experience. There are people who I know that took apprenticeship/internships to gain local experience and land a full time job. In this scenario, I got a call from Google Sydney though I had not applied. Relocating to Sydney was out of question and it was for SRE role and I was not sure about my fit. As I did not have any job at that point I decided to go with the flow. But the process was very slow than I had imagined and so I kept applying for other jobs in Melbourne. Finally I got a job in Melbourne that was exciting to me and so one more thing got crossed off from my checklist!

The next thing I could think of was to find a daycare for the kids and get them settled before I head off to work in a month's time. Childcares here are way too expensive - about $100 per day for 8 hours a day, and well, I had two kids. But for the lucky fellas who had Permanent Resident Visa, there are some child care rebates from the government. But I was in 457 Work Visa and without any rebate it seemed too expensive for 1.5 year olds. Moreover in my opinion, they were not independent enough to handle themselves in the daycare. Also, waiting periods for these daycares are too long - 6 months to a year. So the other option was to find a registered family daycare with available vacancies. We found a few and chose one that was good. The caretaker kept her house very safe for kids and had all the facilities for them - like table for nappy changing, high chairs, etc. Her own daughter was 2 years old and she seemed to be a good girl. She was also independent in many ways like she knew to feed herself. She agreed to train my kids as well. So the first week, I stayed with the kids in the daycare to make sure they were comfortable. The kids enjoyed playing and were taking naps as in home and my son started to feed himself though need little help. The kids were very happy in the daycare and they did not mind me not being there with them the next week. That was a very good improvement! They were happy in the daycare and so I was in peace of mind!

Learning @ the daycare

Playing @ the daycare

I started working and only then I started spending more time with the city and now I have become a part of it. The lanes are beautiful - I take a walk around the lanes during lunch hour to experience it. The "lane culture" in Melbourne is quite popular and good to take a nice long walk. The Bourke Street is the really happening place in the city - I call it as "The real Melbourne". After being a zombie in the dead suburbs, I should say that the Bourke street brought me to life! Lot of artists performing in the street, fashion stores on the side and seats to watch them all. And Myer Christmas window is just like cherry on top. Sometimes I grab something to eat and go there to have my lunch. It feels like I am on a holiday for an hour before getting back to work fully refreshed.

The Bourke Street, Melbourne

After getting to know my way around the city, it feels good to be in this part of the world. When time permits, I plan to go on for a date with the city- just me and Melbourne... This part of my life, this part right here, is called "living a Melbourne life"!