The Art of Doing Together
Indian society is in a transition phase with the change over from a patriarchal system to a shared system where the husband and wife are equal partners. They may have double income from jobs or business and share the household chores and parenting responsibilities. This has evolved out of the nuclear family system and the renaissance taking place with respect to gender rights in the country. Children are also encouraged to take part in the discussions on family matters and even finance. Aspirations, lifestyle and how the millennial parents look at celebrations have also changed. It is not characterised by a consumerist culture that values material possessions but finding delight in experiential activities such as travelling or theme-based entertainment for the whole family. What are the issues associated with the transition to a shared family culture where no one is dominating over the other? How have corporate practices evolved to support a nuclear family that has aspirations and dreams but as well have stress and strains? How have businesses evolved to create new products or services to cater to the millennial parents and post-millennials? What will be the outlook of post millennials about family life and living in general?
These are some of the questions addressed at the 55th Rajagiri Round Table Conference on the topic "Millennial Parenting: The Art of Doing it Together" held on 11th December at Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET). The following were the subject experts-
1) Dr Ajay Sanker, Director, Laurus Institute for Training and HR
2) Sejoe Jose, Managing Director, Marvel Tours and Travels
3) P K Shihabudeen, Entrepreneur and Leadership Coach
The Round Table was anchored by Sreekumar Raghavan, Editor of Pallikkutam magazine and Eduportal.
The change over from a joint family system to a nuclear family system does bring lot of pressures on parents and children. When both husband and wife are busy trying to achieve career growth or make both ends meet, the children may be looked after in creches or playschools or by caregivers at home as both parents reach home late. This affects the quality time children get to have with their parents was the concern expressed by Dr Ajay Sanker, Corporate and HR Trainer. They may watch TV and engage in mobile or video games more than ever before which may affect their cognitive and social skills as they grow up. Parents spend more time for parties and may go for family vacations but children can't rely on them to tell their problems or hear their stories. They miss the most cheerful part of their children growing up.The aspirational nature of the millennial parents came in for criticism from some of the participants, Sejoe Jose, Tourism Entrepreneur was of the view that millennials believed in spending not a second after office hours for work and wanted to utilise the extra hours before sleep for their own personal fulfilment. This is because of globalisation and spread of social media which make them aware of the work culture in Europe or other parts of the world.
Several new trends have emerged among millennials notably the DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and DILKs (Double Income Less Kids) and marrying at a late age. The millennials working in technology and management with big pay cheques get rich quickly and they don't know how to handle that wealth fruitfully. Dr Job Kuruvila, academician and epistemologist talked about his experience in Australia where Indians did three jobs to make more money while native Australians won't work beyond eight hours. "Why should we shed tears for such people who are putting money first before anything else?"
Millennials care less about religion, colour or race and that is reflected in the increasing number of inter-caste, inter-religious marriages. They value the experiential rather than the mundane or traditional when it comes to spending leisure time. Sejoe Jose talked about the demand from millennials to have a Bicycle Tour in Fort Kochi from 10 pm to 12 pm which was attended by people from across South India. "They want to travel to places which are specific to their interests and not interested in a traditional tour that covers the typical tourist attractions such as Taj Mahal or Qutab Minar." The Kochi Biennale which has attracted global attention is not attended by fifty olds, but the millennials. At a conference of millennials, they were talking about tour ideas none of which were luxurious or expensive. All they were looking for was an amazing, wow kind of experience. It may be art, literature, adventure, food or anything. Earlier, one would go and watch Kathakali but now they want to learn Kathakali in a natural setting. “Today nobody wants to sit and watch an event but want to be part of the action,” Sejoe observed.
There are some fundamental parenting approaches which doesn't differ in traditional families or in millennial families. Despite being busy and distracted by technologies are parents and children able to establish the emotional bonding vital for life. Levin Thomas, a millennial parent and entrepreneur said we must hug our child in the morning when they wake up and also when they go to bed. Sejoe Jose said that age old tradition of respecting and caring for grandparents, having a meal together, a prayer together has to be revived in families. " I take my children to visit my grandparents every Sunday to spend a day with them. There are no compromises on such activities that foster togetherness. Dr Job Kuruvila pondered over why we can’t bring back the old love and feeling and emotional connectedness in a family. Philip Daniel, who is a grandparent having his children settled in USA and Singapore talked about the increasing dog ownership in US. There are supermarkets specially catering to dog food and accessories. In such nations, the connect between the parent and child has gone away and only affection that elderly find is with the dog.
Is Technology to Blame?
kids are exposed to more of internet, mobile gaming and social media in their
daily lives which is due to a vacuum created by lack of emotional connect with
parents. Uncontrolled use of technology can have damaging effects on the child.
“It is a big challenge for millennial parents as you are not aware what
children are exposed to. When they have problems, they don’t know whom to talk
to and depend on Google Assistant or Alexa. It has been found that 70-80% of
school going children in US are bullied,” according to Philip Daniel.
Millennial parents are worried about the harm technology can cause to their
children. Shihabudeen felt children should be allowed to become creative with
technology and not addictive. Games and programs that make them design or create
new things will keep children engaged as well develop cognitive skills.
The Corporate World
Has the corporate world changed to accommodate women who have multiple roles as mother, spouse and employee? Corporates are driven by profitability and hence there is no uniformity among them when it comes to treating women employees which causes increase in attrition rate, Dr Ajay Sanker said. In many countries, up to six months of maternal leave, creches in offices and flexibility of working from home are provided. When worker promotion and incentives are based on number of hours spent in office, millennial parents are forced to spent more time away from home. Productivity should be the yardstick to determine worker efficiency rather than number of hours put in the job.
Are Millennial Parents role models?
Are the millennial parents’ role models, if they are not able to find time for their children and communicate with them? Dr PR Poduval, former Director of School of Management Studies (CUSAT) was of the view that changes in society have impact on parenting. Quoting the works of Margaret Mead, he said patriarchal and matriarchal systems exist in various nations. The success of a family depends on how positive is the inter-personal relationship between husband and wife. Can they work for a common objective now that educational levels and aspirational levels are the same? How can they become partners rather than husband and wife? Johny Joseph, marketing professional also underscored the need for parents to be role models for their children. Even as some participants painted a scary situation for the post millennial child brought andnurtured by busy, aspirational parents, Dr Job Kuruvila said that there are role models among millennial parents too.Shihabudeen said that as a parent of four children his objective was to make each one of them independent as early as possible. "We are trying to build a sense of responsibility for every member in the family. Be it cleaning the house, washing clothes or looking after younger siblings." Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor of RSET talked about the positive fallout from shared parenting of the millennials and the need to find solutions rather than discussing problems alone.
- Millennial parents should ensure emotional connectedness in the family.
- Parents should hug their children everyday and also listen to their problems.
- Millennials are becoming more experiential in spending leisure time, they look for adventure, get involved in events and looking for the wow feel.
- Technology need not lead to break up communications between parents and children.
- Children should be made to be creative rather than addictive. They should be made creators rather than consumers of technology.
- Corporate world has to be sensitised about multiple roles played by women in family and implement supportive policies.
- Millennial families value sharing of responsibilities among partners and delegate responsibilities to children.