Emotional recession... seesaw between parents and children

Disclaimer – this isn’t another sorry article on the state of economies worldwide, nor is it a stab at the fragile financial structures, which are considered the root cause of all evil and misery that has engulfed our lives. This article, in fact, is an assessment of the hubs of any system, i.e., the people. Markets will see their crests and troughs, but are emotional structures witnessing a new paradigm shift, which will result in a new social order of sorts, more vulnerable than ever?

By Aditya Mahajan

Published: Fri 17 Dec 2010, 11:03 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:17 AM

One aspect of social structures that has been timeless is its stratification – lower, middle and upper classes. Some of us do ourselves a favour and call ourselves upper – middle class. It doesn’t mean anything as such; it just feels nice. These strata’s in the society are essentially defined on the grounds of economics, and the financial prowess of each class is different. Interestingly, this financial prowess has a resounding effect on the way members within the family conforming to each stratum engage with each other. The upper classes usually have no financial constraints, and hence there is a certain sense of independence between each layer of hierarchy within the family structure. The reliance and dependency factor is minimal, and most decisions are autonomous. The lower classes, on the other hand, are rather tightly meshed, and financial dependence has a strong bearing on the emotional bonding. The only surplus in these families will be the number of children, all bread winners, who hand over their daily/weekly wages to the patriarch, who runs the family. The patriarch will not only ensure the essentials for the family, i.e. food, shelter, security, but will also ensure that the emotional bond is unbreakable.

The more complex stratum to understand is that elusive middle class. There is just about enough of what one needs, and the rare surplus is a luxury. It is here, that the family values have undergone the maximum renovation. With an ever growing awareness of opportunities, an increasing appetite to take risk (and loans), mothers have been happy to extend their umbilical chords, allowing their sons and daughters to venture beyond the perimeters of the house. At rather young ages, we have set off for our educational pursuits, and by default settled down in our location of education, in our first jobs. Inevitably, most of us are on loans, and the “plan” is to repay this loan before we head back home. Most of us, therefore, would be in our 20’s; some early, some late.

I find this age bracket quite interesting, from three angles – world, family and self. From the world perspective, as we have settled into our new jobs, the expectation is to act mature, professional. There is an active audience which is judging us, whether we are worth their money, whether we can deliver the goods. Different adjectives have been associated with this age bracket, by this audience – brash, arrogant, confident, rebellious, revolutionary. We hear “mature” as well, but that is interspersed with other superlatives.

The family perspective is slightly more significant and worth examining. This is the period for most of us, in which our parents are either on the verge of retirement, or have crossed the finishing line in their careers. After a very long period in their lives, they have time for themselves. They don’t have to bother about bringing up their children - they are where they are because of them. The car loan has been paid for, the house has been built, the savings are secure and the gratuity is rewarding them for their years of service. At this juncture, have you felt a sense of childlike nervousness settle into them? Have you noticed a sense of tentativeness in their actions? If nothing else, have you observed the increase in the number of their trips to the general physician? It is now when reality sinks in – they have grown old. The couple which once guided you through your life choices, now needs your advice. The tacit expectation is that you have grown old too.

Have you? Let’s examine the self perspective. Have you ever considered your actions a façade, to pretend to the world that you are strong, mature and sorted? Have you ever felt like standing on top of your work stations and yell, “I don’t know how to do this and I hate this tie that’s suffocating me every day!” Money, unfortunately, hasn’t brought maturity with it. And every single day, we fight our own internal immaturities, without letting the world know. The sole relief is that most of our actions have an impact on ourselves, and hence we can take the damage. The scary part is when we get those occasional calls, with increasing frequency – “I intend on investing in that property. What do you think?” Most of my life, I was under the impression that the main duty of the parents is to answer my questions and resolve my problems. When did the tables turn?

It’s at times like these that you realise that your parents have aged faster than you have. I strongly believe that this is the single strongest catalyst that invigorates your maturity. They have the money, house, car and all the other material goods that I thought would make life comfortable. What they don’t have now is that sense of confidence and assertiveness, which you imbibed in your personal disposition. It’s not a bad thing; we’ll all go through this cycle. It’s a wake up call for us, and these days, I can hear this phone ring loud and clear.

Aditya Mahajan is a Dubai-based writer and management consultant. For comments, write to opinion@khaleejtimes.com

More news from OPINION