The Middle Generation

The definition of the middle generation for me is the generation that currently has senior citizen parents and are raising children. The middle generation is where I’m currently located.

We seemed to be extraordinarily stressed out over the last year in a half. For a while, I thought it was just the pandemic but then I realized that being in this middle generation meant I wasn’t just worrying about myself and my spouse but also the health of my parents and my kids.

When the vaccine came out and all of our senior citizens got vaccinated, it helped but then my worries shifted to my spouse and I. Then we got vaccinated and it shifted again to my children which is where it has sat since.

On top of all of that, those of us in our late 30s and early 40s had to finally look mortality straight in the face. It’s not something most of us have had to think about yet. We were just starting families and needed to be there for them. All of a sudden, we had to be seriously aware that something could happen to us and we would have to think about our children’s futures.

I think this middle generation has had an especially hard time because we’ve taken on the worries of our entire family. It’s not limited and it doesn’t stop. I find that if I’m not worrying about my kids in school, I’m worrying about my parents working or doing every day errands. It doesn’t stop. It just shifts.

And it’s not just covid anymore. We have grown so accustomed to not getting sick due to masks and distancing that even a minor cold causes more worries than it should. It’s strange because I definitely remember a time when, as long as my kid didn’t have a fever, they were fine. Sneezing and coughing was no big deal. Not so anymore. Every thing out of the ordinary is a stressor. It’s like I don’t know how not to worry anymore.

This is without mentioning that being around crowds of people immediately brings out high anxiety. Even smaller groups of people whom I know are vaccinated will keep me thinking for days after the meeting.

I don’t know how to go back into an easier mindset. I don’t how long covid will keep me in this headspace. I feel like it might be a few years before I feel at ease with regular illnesses. It might be several events where I’m overcautious before I go back to feeling safe around other people.

There has definitely been a shift in how those of us in this middle generation live and think. I guess the big question is will we ever learn how to relax again?

Why Don’t We Talk About It?

I met someone who was telling me about her journey to have her children. She was open about it which she mentioned was unusual for an Indian person.

She wasn’t wrong.

Why don’t we talk about it? I’m not just talking about things like miscarriages and infertility but also other things that we think are embarrassing or that we will be judged for in the Indian society.

Why should we be embarrassed? So many people go through things such as depression, therapy, divorce, miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, difficult births, and having a hard time adjusting to being a parent. The list goes on and on.

Why shouldn’t we talk about it? I’ve personally been through quite a few of these things and I try to be open about it because if my experiences can help one other person see that it’s normal to feel like this or go through this and it helps them figure out how to make themselves feel better, then it’s worth it.

We keep worrying about being judged by our community or society but seriously, what the hell? Who cares if some aunty talks about the fact that you had trouble getting pregnant? I promise you a fair number of the generation before us also had the same problems. So why do they believe that not looking like the “perfect” person is a bad thing?

As I said in Emotional Awareness- Yes, It’s A Real Thing, mental health is important. And as a South Asian Indian, we hide from our feelings. We try to play off that everything is always okay. Everything is not always okay. And most of us probably understand that even though we don’t share it. It’s a good thing to be able to recognize when you aren’t okay because recognizing that is a step to helping yourself.

It’s okay to not be happy 100% of the time. It’s okay to go through things. It’s okay to have physical and emotional health problems. And talking about it gives you a chance to finding a solution. It also gives you a chance to find a support system to lean on. None of these things makes you a worse person. None of them make you a weak person. Acknowledge and own what you are going through. Once you do, no one else’s judgment matters.

So let’s talk about it.

All Our Indian Aunties Were Also Stay-At-Home Moms

I always imagined that I would be a working mom when I grew up. My mom was a working mom. I knew that a lot of the stay-at-home moms I knew weren’t necessarily college educated. I assumed that all of these aunties were stay-at-home moms by default. I thought that they had no choice and this is what they did. I thought it was definitely an easier life than to work and raise a child.

I don’t know if staying at home was a choice or a default lifestyle but that didn’t make it any easier to be a stay-at-home in the previous generation. I think about the things I face now on a daily basis with my children. I think about how many times I burn out and need time to myself before I send myself into a nervous breakdown. I have a supportive husband with the flexibility to allow me to take time for myself.

But what about those aunties I grew up with? Were they able to get time to themselves? In the Indian culture, there is definitely a “put everyone else first” attitude for the women. Your husband and your kids come first. If you have in-laws or your parents, they also come first. You are definitely last in line when it comes to being taken care of. So is that what happened to the women I saw raising my friends?

Our culture here in America has evolved enough to recognize that everyone needs some time for themselves. It’s encouraged and recommended. I’m not sure if the Indian culture has evolved as much yet but I can see the trend leaning towards it. I know if I ask my husband for some time to myself, he will do his best to give it to me.

I really wonder what the generation before went through when they were raising kids. Was it easier or harder? Did they expect anything more of themselves than being a parent or was that enough for them? How did they deal with the day in, day out of being a stay-at-home mom? Were they happy? Did they care if they were happy? Or was it enough if everyone else in their household was happy?

Someday, maybe I’ll try to have this conversation with some of the aunties I know.

 

That Auntie!

I go to a dance class every Saturday. It is run by an Indian woman that’s probably around my mom’s age. Almost all of her students are about the same age. I actually have a great time in this class because anytime I’m around dance, I’m at ease.

A new lady showed up at the last class I went to. Our teacher told her I was Gujarati because apparently, that lady (who was South Indian, Tamil to be more specific) knew how to speak Gujarati. Then, my teacher asked if I understood Gujarati. Before I could even answer, the other lady said “No. Most of that generation can’t.” I immediately jumped on that because, in reality, most of the people I know can speak their parents’ native language. At the very least, they understand it.

I think what bothered me was that the lady assumed I didn’t know anything. She started testing me. Now Gujarati is my second language. If you start putting me under pressure to speak, of course, I’m not going to be as good as I would be in English. She asked me a second question later and I was able to recover and prove that I knew my own language.

Seriously though? Why was I being challenged like it was wrong if I didn’t know Gujarati? I really wonder if her children understood her native language. Why would she assume that I didn’t? She had met me for the first time. For all she knew, I had just came to America recently with English as my second language.

I don’t get it. Being judged just based on my appearance or whatever she was judging me on was not appreciated.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m not Indian. I wish Indian people would stop treating me that way.

Where Will Our Traditions Go?

So here’s a question that has been on my mind for a while: who is going to perform the Hindu/Sikh/etc. weddings after all of the pandits (or corresponding religious leaders) in our area retire? The group I’ve grown up with has had this discussion before. Most of the people who perform weddings now have moved to America from India. And no one I know who is in my generation is practicing to become a pandit.

What happens to all of our cultural traditions in the future? Will there be someone who can help continue them?

I’ve been making sure that my parents and my husband’s parents talk to my kid in our respective languages so she learns that part of our culture. Unfortunately, it’s a second language for me as well and I tend to go to my first language when I speak to her. On occasion, when I do remember, I do speak to her in Gujarati. But it won’t be the way my parents spoke it to me. Language is still something easier to pass on than a few other aspects.

I grew up going to pujas, temples, parties that celebrated different festivals in India. When I got married, we had an event where our families and friends sang traditional songs in our respective languages. Will our generation be able to continue this? Who will be responsible so that our children learn all of this stuff? How do make sure that we don’t lose this part of us?

It’s a little bit scary. Is it okay that our traditions progress as the way we grow up changes? Did this happen to our parents or since they all were born in the same country, the traditions were able to be passed down much easier? I wonder if this really only affects us now because we are growing up here in America and raising our children here.

I want my child to know her cultures. I want her to be able to really understand where she comes from. I’m just not sure how I can make sure that happenĀ in the future.