“When I was your age, I was married and had a kid!”
A staple dialogue for all mothers with a 20-something year old daughter. But unfortunately, that’s something your daughter will have a lot of difficulty relating to. Not because they’re the rebellious generation and there’s an age gap between you both (those are a couple of the reasons, obviously). But it’s mainly because the current 20-somethings’ lives are so different than what you have lived. Everything is either difficult or different- It is so much more difficult to earn money. In a world where it is difficult to find a username on a random website, they have to find a job that hasn’t been taken already or isn’t being taken over by technology. And to top it all off, there’s the problem of gender equality and being a feminist in your own way, taking care of themselves and treading carefully while living the kind of life they want to.
But it doesn’t end there; the generation gap seems to play a larger role where it comes to not being able to relate with each others’ ways of living at all. The way social relationships were handled, the way lives were lived and the way their lives will progress in the future have changed with time. The way the 20-somethings plan for their future, their aspirations and their ambitions are all very different from their previous generation. Moreover, the way societal pressure affects them is also very different. The society is changing in bits and pieces too, it is not as conservative or judgmental as it used to be.
It’s a tough job to have a daughter, care for her all your life, provide everything to her, keep her safe and plan everything for her so her life gets easier is a tough job. What’s tougher is letting her go, listening to her say that they don’t exactly need your help anymore and that she wishes to fly out of the cocoon that you so very carefully made for her. You stayed up innumerous nights, fought for her, listening to her problems, trying to come up with solutions. You probably even consulted your friends, went through the internet to make sure you relate to whatever she says; and then one fine day she comes to you and says that she would want to go in another city and stay, NOT married. The ground beneath your feet slips; you find it selfish that she’d say something like this to you. Is this how she repays your efforts? What if she wants to do something wrong? What if she gets into trouble and her mother won’t be there to protect her? What if she craves her favorite dish and no one can make it the way she likes it? Worry and anger fills your heart. Had it been your mother, she would’ve thrashed you and locked you up in the room, but you have raised too strong a daughter for that, you know that wouldn’t be right. You remember the resentment you felt towards your mother when she used such methods when you didn’t listen to her.
But now here’s what you need to know
1) Your daughter has the same ethics and morals as you, they have just been altered by the kind of lifestyle that she has.
2) Her wanting to move out doesn’t mean she doesn’t like to be with you. There’s a whole new world out there and she wants to explore it, while she can. Who would know the restrictions that come after marriage better than you!
3) It’s a learning experience. Every child needs to trip and fall and learn how to walk on his/her own. She needs to know how to let go off your hand and live.
4) She is an individual with her own destiny ahead of her. And she’d rather have you supporting her through it than question her for all the small decisions she makes.
5) There are ways to stay safe even when you’re alone. This does not mean she stays locked up in a different city. To reassure yourself, go and stay with her for a week, explore the city, understand the safe and unsafe areas and timings, discuss this with her, discuss all your ‘what-if’ worries calmly, let her find a solution to it by herself (she is going to have to do that a lot). Once you have given her an idea of what you think, believe her that she will follow it. She wants to stay safe too, after all.
6) She will have to learn a few things the hard way. This goes for everything that you’d be shouting at her at the top of your voice and you know you have a point. But there are some things which are realized only after you experience them. Let her face her consequences.
7) She will eventually get married or find someone. You rushing her into it is not going to help. It’ll happen when it has to happen.
There are a lot of opportunities out there, but it’s not necessary that she finds it. Let her struggle to find it. Sometimes you might realize that you’ve spoon-fed too much, protected too much. It’s time she realized that that’s not how it works in the outside world (see point 6).
This isn’t the last bit of nurturing her, it might seem like she’s taking a leap and flying off. But everyone needs their mother, always. Letting her go will be tough, you will be clueless about what to do once she goes, but it’s time she made a life for herself. And with her finding a life for herself, you will start remembering the things that you made yourself give up on for your family, reintroduce yourself to you. It’s a new journey for her and for you too.