Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Attitude to Parents - part 1

Although this next post may not necessarily be culturally based, it does highlight a major difference between the way Ms B and I view our parents.

Ms B's mother is in great health and is a very intergral and active part of Ms B's life, and as a result mine and our son's. She is also quite elderly.

Although Ms B and her mother have on the surface a close relationship, Ms B has made it clear that as soon as her mother becomes a burden, through illness or age, she will send her back to China, either to her sister or to a nursing home.

This is a very pragmatic approach, and oddly, her mother is in complete agreement with this.

Now Ms B claims to have been raised in a very close family, and this is borne out of the ongoing contact she maintains with the rest of her family, but something about the pragmatism of these relationships doesn't sit well with me.

They tend to represent relationships of convenience, which in my world is the anti-thesis of the foundation for family. In any case, it has worked well for their whole family so far, and given that there has never been any family inheritence to fight over, the relationships have remained symbiotic and mutually beneficial.

Of course, this is the easy part. If or when her mother ages to a point where she herself needs ongoing help, the pressures on the whole famly will be compounded. Although I have some work colleagues who have easily transitioned their parent's into a nursing home facility, the emphasis on family within the Chinese culture, I expect, would make this a more difficult proposition.

Only time will tell, and although my mother-in-law is in great shape for her age, both mentaly and physically, she does have a worriesome tremor and increasing rigidity in her body, which is looking more and more like Parkinson's disease.

For those who know about this disease, it is progressive and insidious, and takes a terrible toll on the whole family in terms of the level of care that is required. For my mother-in-law's sake, I hope that this care, no matter how difficult, is provided by us, and not a nursing home. It just wouldn't be right.


Magnus said...

Interesting post. This is a big issue for us... not now but I am sure it's coming in the next 10 to 20 years. I've been to a couple "old folks homes" in China... they are not pretty.

I've come to understand from my wife that NURSING HOMES are not an option. My grandma went to a nursing home and it was really nice... so we have that to deal with.

Faye said...

This is a worrying trend in China for young people.

Whereas in Chinese culture it has always been that a child must be filial to their parents, ever since the Chinese revolution and increasingly Westernised way of life amongst the youth this detachment from traditional Chinese values is greatly lamented.

Thankfully it is happening in China not so much other Chinese people dotted across the world.

It is also possible your wife is saying this to accommodate what she thinks is what you want.

I think your desire to cater for your mother-in-law is admirable since being Asian I do not like the Western concept of aged homes - a nice way to say 'dump your parents somewhere to die when they become a burden' especially when they have painstakingly raised you out of love not obligation.

Perhaps you can talk to your wife and see what she really wants.
If she really wants it that way perhaps try to find a way to accommodate the both of your needs.

Some Asians have actually taken a relatively balanced approach to both East and West cultures.
Many of them actually live next door or opposite (walking distance at least) to where their parents live. Sort of like Everybody Loves Raymond.

This way they get their 'privacy' as do the parents but their parents have full access to them and they can enjoy a joint family lifestyle while being a 'nuclear' family.

Tara said...

I am not a chinese but I am asian (filipino) and have many chinese friends. Your story about the shower and heat lamp is just an example of how chinese men are treated on strictly chinese family. When I say strictly chinese, these are the traditional family that do not allow intermarriages. I have observed that most husband received the same treatment, the woman must be heard most of the time. even if you are the bread winner. and I think chinese men learn how to deal with it by ignoring what has been said and done. instead, they pretend nothing happened and continue to enjoy their day.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?