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«Vancouver Centre of Excellence Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis Working Paper Series No. 06-08 Parental Sponsorship – ...»

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Because my family is here with me, so I am looking up these kids. Happiness because they are my grandchildren, so I’m happy with them. I spend time, so it is also good past-time for me also, so I’m happy otherwise. Things to do, no doubt…..My personal expectations were not high….so spend time at home, cooking and with these children I’m happy. So my expectations were my children…should set down the life, because they come for something special to hire and achieve in life, their comfort, their purpose only….So she said …I never thought much about my own personal life. I knew that I’m going to help my kids…..It’s good, I understand, whatever, I’m doing, I’m doing a very good thing. My kids are under my supervision, it’s good. I am satisfaction.

Many talked about their satisfaction in helping their families by taking care of the grandchildren and the home. But some were not happy about how confined they were to the home.

Here are examples:

She was very busy in India and over here she’s very busy at home but the only difference is the type of busy-ness, for example, over here she’s taking care of the kids more…..She said from all the relatives we heard about that, that it’s not so easy over there (in Canada), that you have to work hard, and that at the same time, the seniors, the ladies, they stay at home, so left lonely.

You know actually because she said most of the time you stay at home….She said you know for other age groups it’s fine. They go out, they work, they come back…and then again go out but for seniors…they have to stay home…..So she’s trying to tell me so that in India so we go out, we have our farms so that means lots of activity outside.

Another stressed: “I’m giving advice, yes, come to Canada. It’s a nice place but it’s a prison”.

Though many of the women spoke of dedication in helping their children and grandchildren and found satisfaction in doing so, they called attention to some difficulties of their situation, in particular, in being confined to and isolated in the home, which could be a “prison”.

Farm work

Since landing in Canada, not all the women had been busy looking after grandchildren all the time.

Most who lived in Surrey, in fact, had worked at some point on farms. Many found the work difficult and some had to stop the work because of health problems. On the other hand, some found the work enjoyable because it provided a sociable dimension to their lives. A participant who worked for two

years on farms picking berries indicated:

Most of the time it was seven days a week….She said it’s only season is from June to September. That’s when she worked…..She worked at the farm for two years so it was quite hard. She said she had to go at 6 and by the time she was back it was 8 o’clock….She said she has to leave that job because she developed a tumor in her brain and she has to go through a medical operation…She can work only in the household. She can’t work outside. She was quite happy working over there because lots of people are over there…..She said that time we don’t have the kids so she said I was quite tired that time so her daughter-in-law, she would cook and she would just eat and sleep. Next day again, back to work. It is hard work she said. It is hard work she admitted…..She said yes, my husband used to work with her, used to go in the same van so working at same time.

Another described her farm work experiences as follows:

And she said, over here in farms, she was enjoying as well, because she was meeting new people over there, she can talk. She said because of the English problems, she could not work anywhere else, you know. She works in the farm, and when she was working on the farm, she got some back problem, so then she got some blood pressures, so after that, you know, she left the job, so her husband is still working in the farms……So they say we have two cars, especially for that, because her daughter-in-law and son, they are also doing the same job. So that’s why so easy, they don’t have a ride problem. So sometimes they go to the same farm, so they use one car, but if they have two different places, so she and her daughter-in-law go to a different farm and her husband goes to a different farm, so because of their case, they were doing the same job, then it was convenient for them……She said, I like working on the farms, because, you know, you have the get-together and you are busy, she was, she was enjoying….(She worked on the farms) maybe four years.

The meaning of farm work to the women in this study was complex. It could be difficult and back-breaking work that contributed to health problems, with long hours during the busy season. Yet, it could be sociable, a place where they meet friends or are with family members, in the open air, not unlike the agricultural work that some were familiar with in India. It could also be a welcome change from being confined to the home looking after children. Some, however, indicated that they had few alternatives to farm work and others expressed relief that they did not have to do such work and that

their children insisted that they do not:

She said that, for example, because they don’t have to work outside, because the kids, they are taking extra care of them, so that’s it for them, they don’t find any difficulties…She said the kids are so nice to them, they won’t let her go out and work…..She said that even my daughter-in-law mentioned, you are not at this age that you should go out and work, the daughter-in-law is so nice, the children, the boys they are already you know, nice but the best part is that their daughter-in-laws are saying that.

Community activities and mobility

Several of the women were active outside the home, involved in community activities. One, for example, was involved in a Seniors’ centre. Some went to the temple regularly, as one said: “We go to the temple, yes, every Saturday, Sunday”. Some of the women talked, however, about the difficulties of having a social life: “She said, you know, I wish I had that type of relation you know, as in India, but over here, she said, the people, I don’t know why they don’t, you know, go very often to each other’s house. She said when I feel too lonely, so then I go to my nieces’ and nephews’ house”.

Some were able to get out of the house and get around because of their family’s ready help

with transportation. For example:

She said…she doesn’t have a driver’s license, her husband has, her daughter-in-law is very supportive of her, they always give ride, sometimes they say okay there is the festival. Women’s festival outside, they force her, okay ‘We already bought the ticket for you, you have to come’….She said that she has a lot of support from her friends and they always take her out.

But others had difficulty gaining access to transportation, which reinforced their dependence and their confinement in the home: “She said most of the time I stay home or go to relatives’ place (and don’t go out shopping). She said friends as far as friends are concerned they are very…close to her… within walking distance, but relatives, the kids, they always give a ride, sometimes they drop her over there and whenever she feel like, they’ll bring her back”. In contrast, in India, the woman had more independent mobility: “Back in India she was taking the bus and visiting the relatives. That way she was more independent. Over here she said, no, I don’t use the bus”. Another said: “She goes to the temple with the family but because of the kids they are quite busy now. So otherwise she’s staying home….She said most of the time I go with my kids and they do the shopping”.

Being mobile and getting out of the home was a struggle for some. “She said they don’t say no to take me out if I want to go. But I understand when they get time, I have to take it also. My son is tired, so I can wait. To these things I adjust”. She commented further: “My difficulties is that I don’t know how to drive. I can’t do it…..Over there in India, it is easier to go out. They have that rickshaw thing, you know, manual driving, so she can hire anybody”.

Health and well-being Some of the women discussed their concerns about their health, the reasons for its deterioration, and the obstacles in attending to it in Canada. Several indicated that emotional stress created health

problems. For example:

She said yes, over time she feels that her health is not as good and the reason is because when she’s here she always feels like going back to India because she misses the family….So she feels like going back to India but over there all her family members are over here so she’s staying here….She said yes, it’s natural when she’s thinking about India, she misses it and it stresses, she said of course, it may affect these physical things but she’s not very sure.

In negotiating the health system, the women often needed the help of family members, and if they were absent, the women felt vulnerable. One said: “The only thing she’s worried about is her health….So that’s what she’s worried about a lot, and because her husband, he’s back in India, so she said when he’s around, he’s getting her all the modern support and everything. So she’s worried about, concerned about her health”. Another emphasized the importance of having a translator

available, if not her daughter-in-law, then a Punjabi speaking staff member:

She said I don’t like the doctor here. She said the doctor said ‘take Advil’….So she said most of the time her daughter-in-law, she used to translate but the nurse is around so she said whatever the information was she was communicating through her daughter-in-law because she was with her and secondly she said the staff member over there and they called the Punjabi speaking staff member and they do the translation.

In contrast to India, most of the women could not communicate directly to doctors about their health needs. In addition, they were likely to be more isolated in Canada. If they became sick, the whole family would not be available – since most were absent at work during various hours of the day (or night). Several were particularly dependent on their daughters-in-law, who provided help with

their care:

She said, you know, most of the time her son and daughter-in-law, they go with her, and she said of course she feels that she’s not communicating directly to the doctor.

Second hand information. She said I start feeling, yes, why can’t I express myself, you know….She said yes, there is a difference, because in India, you know, so most of the family members stay at home during daytime. If you are sick, then they are around you. But over here, if you are sick, still the family member, they have to go to work. So if you are sick, either you are by yourself, or you are end up in hospital, so it is a major difference. Over there in India, when you are sick, you don’t feel like because the whole family’s together you. They are not all daughter-in-law, the whole family, they don’t go out for work.

Some women felt their families were able to provide the care that they needed: “My son, my daughter-in law, my daughter…they gave much time for me, this time this and that, take me to the doctor, so food-wise and health-wise. Health-wise, they take care….I have no problem otherwise….Yes, my kids are very concerned about me. (They are planning to hire) a nanny for my health condition”.

Implications of sponsorship

When asked whether or not their sponsorship relationship left them feeling dependent, some felt they could not answer the question: “Actually, she finds it hard to answer that question. For her definition is totally different. She finds it hard to answer this question….She said no, I don’t have any experience, you know, that she feels she is being dependent on her son or she’s sponsored by her

son”. Another:

She said I’ve never had that feeling…..My kids, I don’t have to ask them, only then she would feel dependent when she has to ask or something. The kids, they feel whatever their needs and they are providing that, fulfilling those needs without asking, she said even sometimes, the relatives, say you are depending on the kids, why don’t you work but she said she never felt badly that I am depending on my kids.

One participant said that she does not feel she is a burden on her children, in particular, because she and her husband have been able to repay their daughter financially for sponsoring them.

But she was concerned about a neighbour who no longer had a husband, and who was feeling


We are not a burden. Financially we are not a burden on her. So we were spending our own money…..She says, because our daughter sponsored us, she has to pay some fees. And even they have returned the fees to her…..Landed fees, her daughter, she paid the landed fees, they gave the money back to her, for whatever she spend to bring them over. My husband, he gave the money back…..Not burdening, also because my husband is getting pension. We have our own property in India, so we have no problem otherwise. All these kids are very good. They are helping us.

Whatever we want, we get…..But she was just giving the example, there is one lady that is living next door. She said, you know, my kids they brought me over here, sponsored me, but now, her daughter-in-law is not treating her very well. But she talked a few minutes. In the mean time her son came up to her, and take her away.

But she said I can see that he was angry. That why she is talking to. There are some cases.

Because sponsored parents are “purely dependent” on their children in Canada, a woman

indicated, the sponsorship relationship could be very difficult for seniors:

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