Parental Duties: Where does it end?

We all know that as a parent, you provide the best for your kids. You provide them with love, feed them, clothe them, make sure they have a roof over their heads, and educate them. After all, in some countries, if you don’t do that, you get reported to child protection authorities who may take the kid away. But for some reason, in India, there appears to be an added ‘duty’.

Getting your ‘child’ married. Your 18+ child.

Let me explain to the non-Indian readers of my blog. In India, once a child is of marriageable age, apparently it becomes the one thing all parents yearn for — to get the said child married. And if they don’t, they are apparently shirking in their duties as a parent.

When I visited my family in India last month, my nice grandmother (maternal) asked me about marriage saying that I should consider it so that mum would be happy. Me, the ever-stubborn and ever-questioning woman I am, asked politely why it would make mum happy to which I get the response that she would have done her duty! Of course, I had a polite rant to my grandma about why mum’s happiness is apparently dependent on my being married or unmarried (which by the way, isn’t for my mum!) when I have done so much else in life for her to be happy about (which she is!). And I ended with — shouldn’t mum and dad just be happy that I am happy and content with life?

I ask it again — why should a parent’s happiness depend on whether or not their son or daughter is married? Even if we were to equate a parent’s happiness being dependant on their child’s happiness, who is to say being married is equivalent to being happy? I firmly believe that we are in charge of how we feel so even saying that a parent is happy because their kids are happy is a stretch. But if I let go of that view for the sake of this post, why can’t parents be happy if their kids are happy with their life in general. It doesn’t have to be that the child is married or even employed or even owns a house. Maybe the person is perfectly content drifting through life. Why then, is it hard for parents to be happy for that child?

Somewhere along the line, society in India has made it such that a parent is not completing their responsibility if their child is not married by a certain age. The parent is a ‘bad’ parent. I found out that my dad got asked the question about me getting married by his friends. Who the hell are they? My parents are not pressuring me in any way but are being pressured by others to ‘make them see light’ and ‘get me married off’. My parents are being guilted into thinking they are not ‘doing their duty’. Once a person turns 18, they are considered to be responsible adults. Why then, is it still considered a parent’s duty to see to it the 18+ year old gets married?

It’s about time people realise that parental duties involve mainly caring for their child until 18 and providing them with love and basic necessities. After that, it is not mandatory. Furthermore, getting an adult child married is not a parental duty by any means. If only society were to realise that, it would spare a lot of parents from needless guilt and spare a lot of children from getting into marriage to ‘make parents happy’ or to get society to back off.

I am fortunate to have sensible parents (well, at least a mum; dad hasn’t really spoken to me on the issue). Parents who are happy that I am content with my life. And thereby currently are not getting sucked into this void of guilt that society is placing them in. Unfortunately, most of my friends back in India and their parents are not free of this and are currently under pressure to allow their parents to fulfil their parental duty.

Where does this madness end?

Until next time,


You Might Also Like

  • Prateek
    24 July 2011 at 2:21 am

    Once I was asked by my aunt, “Child, when will you get
    married. It’d be fantastic, no?” Fortunately my mother heard it and replied on
    my behalf, “Married? He isn’t even a graduate. How can you think of getting my
    child married when he isn’t even 20 yet? Child marriage is ban. He’ll get
    married when he’ll be able to earn and thereafter it’d be his decision.” This
    is why I love my mom. 😛

  • Psych Babbler
    24 July 2011 at 5:39 am

    Yeah I don’t get it why society is more worried about our marital status
    sometimes than our parents or us! Wait till you are my age and see how much
    more they pressure you…

  • D
    24 July 2011 at 8:01 am

    I hear what you’re saying. And I agree. But it’s a cultural thing – this practice to equate your child’s happiness with his/her marriage. And it’s a thing that deprives many parents from happiness. It’s important to come to terms for parents of unwed adults that there’s more to life – their’s and their children’s – than marriage. And the sooner they realise, the better parents they’re likely to be regarded as, by their own kids.

  • Abhishek Ranjith
    24 July 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Parents these days are kind of okay if their children dint get married. But they are afraid if their children might reach their 30’s and suddenly wish they got married earlier. They will blame their parents for not getting them married. That is the only thing that forces even the most liberal parents to force their children to get married i guess. Havent we all told our parents that we dint want to go to school but once we got older we are kind of glad that they forced us to go? Its kind of the same thing. Most parents dont trust the maturity of their children and treat them like 10 year olds (and some people deserve to be treated that way.) 🙂

    Nice post. 🙂

  • Maddie
    24 July 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I think most of the times the pressure comes from the society, relatives, friends etc. Parents maybe understanding and even open minded, but often they given into the pressure and in turn pressurise their children. And in many cases, it is not only the issue of fulfilling parenting duties by getting their offspring married, but getting him/her married to the person of your choice. Apart from the pressure on the younger generation, there is no freedom of choice in one of the most important decisions of your life. The parents do not have to spend the rest of their lives with this person.

  • Psych Babbler
    25 July 2011 at 12:56 am

    Abhishek, my friend and I are 27-28, and some of the guys were telling me
    their parents had set deadlines that they need to be married by the end of
    this year or early next year. That doesn’t tell me that parents or society
    are okay with people not getting married. And my parents are still being
    asked by “well-wishers” why I didn’t get asked more about marriage when I
    was there visiting for a few weeks. They think my parents are too lenient.
    There’s a difference between not wanting to go to school and not wanting to
    get married — the fact that our brains are more developed now than when we
    were 10 and our cerebral cortex which makes decisions, it a lot more
    developed compared to it’s almost non-existence in our childhood years. And
    you know, even if the argument is that some adults are not mature enough to
    make a decision so much so that parents need to take it for them, then what
    in the world are they doing getting married and starting families?? These
    are the ones that should probably not get married until much much much
    later, if at all. What do you reckon? 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    25 July 2011 at 2:35 am

    Maddie you are right when you say the pressure comes from society. Seeing it
    first hand in my experience where my parents are fine but they keep getting
    lectured about not pressuring me into getting married. And don’t even get me
    started on the parental choice issue versus the child’s choice…I used to
    have an argument similar to yours — parents don’t have to spend the rest
    of their lives with the person. Of course, there were other arguments too
    about who says parents know best and such stuff…but we’ll leave that for
    another post!

  • Aathira Nair
    25 July 2011 at 8:41 am

    My parents and my friends’ parents were all cool till the time we were 26… and then the deadlines and small hints started. One of my friend is yet to be married… and she wants to find the guy herself, in her own time.. and her parents just don’t get it. 

    These things are pretty crazy in India.

  • Lazy Pineapple
    25 July 2011 at 10:57 am

    It is the societal pressure that makes parents pressure the child into getting married. Also, I feel that parents want to see their children happy and settled with a life partner so the pressure. 
    Our customs and traditions are like that…
    Not that I am siding with customs and traditions as they need to change as time changes and society changes…

  • Maddie
    25 July 2011 at 12:57 pm

    This issue gets spiralled down into many further issues, doesn’t it? Getting your children married at an ‘appropriate’ age is included in parental duties since ages. I am surprised to see even the Indian TV series are focused around this very subject. There was this one ‘Hamari Betiyon ka Vivah’  – It’s ingrained on the mind by elders in the family and further hammered by such serials and who else watches these serials but for these well wishing relatives and aunts and grannies who have nothing better to do? 🙂

  • Titaxy
    25 July 2011 at 2:37 pm

    tell me about it. it’s hard to make parents realize this whole your-adult-child-is-content-with-their-current-life thing when there is pressure from every other side for them. and sometimes it’s the parents themselves who lose their sleep over this issue because they consider it their duty or whatever.

    what appalls me more is when people of my age tell me something like this – ‘you are not being a good daughter because you’re standing in the way of your parents fulfilling their duty’ – i can’t get myself to explain to them what i feel. oh well.

  • Psych Babbler
    26 July 2011 at 2:58 am

    Yeah that’s about the time the pressure starts for the majority — 24-25 in
    the case of my friends and me. From my friends at school, I think it’s just
    myself and one another that are not getting married by next year. Soon it
    may be just me! 😛 But yeah, the pressure at the moment is on my parents and
    not me…my mum has backed off after I told her of my decision and my dad,
    well, he doesn’t communicate on such topics! 😐

  • Psych Babbler
    26 July 2011 at 3:00 am

    LP, that though is my point — who is to say a life partner makes one
    happy? In fact, surveys have shown that single women in their 40s are
    happier than married women while it is the opposite for men of the same age.
    It is a deluded notion that Indian parents have that they can only be happy
    if their children are married because it means the children are happy. Of
    course, the marriage in general issue is a deluded notion most people have
    thinking that’s the only way they can be happy but I did a whole
    different post on that a little while ago (The M Word). Anyway, it’s time
    society in India realises it needs to back off and let individuals do their
    own thing…

  • Psych Babbler
    26 July 2011 at 3:49 am

    Wow, telly serials appear to have gotten worse in teh past few years! I only
    knew of the ‘wonderful’ K serials. But yeah, at the end of the day they are
    all about marriage by a certain age. And you’re right…they cater to a
    particular audience — the very same that puts pressure on our parents!

  • Psych Babbler
    26 July 2011 at 5:31 am

    Makes you wonder where parents got this sense of duty, huh T? You’re right
    in that some parents do stress out that they are not doing their duty and I
    blame society for that too. Grr! And don’t get me started on the people our
    age giving us that lecture…I don’t even bother with politeness there. Like
    I said, my constant argument is that my parents’ happiness doesn’t and
    shouldn’t depend on my marital status. And yes, we are happy with the way
    our life is at present…wouldn’t they just be happy that we are happy? The
    funny thing is, the one friend I get similar lectures about marriage from
    has been married for a year and is unhappy in the marriage! Go figure!

  • Priyanka Victor
    26 July 2011 at 4:44 pm

    It’s something about ‘coming of age’ that makes people want to see girls ‘settled’. Sensible parents are more than a boon in this case, they become the lifeline to warding to pestilential relatives and match-making aunties. 

  • Psych Babbler
    26 July 2011 at 11:12 pm

    While the pressure is way more on girls, funnily enough, some of my male
    friends back in India are feeling the pressure too…particularly because we
    are all now in our late twenties. Yes, and it’s great to have sensible
    parents! We don’t have to deal much with the crap the nosey well-wishers
    like to part…