Couples in Diaspora fight over the caring of their parents back home

There is always a problem when the other party to the marriage does not want the parents of the husband to benefit from their son, or vice-versa.

By Dr Masimba Mavaza

Misheck Perkins Gombedza is a rich self-employed Zimbabwean staying in England with his wife and six children. For years, his wife had resisted sending money back home.

One day Misheck received a call from home that his mother had died. When his wife arrived from work Misheck shared the sad news with her but she showed little interest.

“We do not need to go so do not waste time and money. Just ask your brothers to use that US$200 you sent to them last month. Coffins are cheap in Mbare there so you do not need to be worried,” she said.

“She can be buried in your absence. You are not going to raise her from the dead, are you?’’ she asked.

Misheck insisted on going and asked his wife to transfer the available money into their savings account.

Later on Misheck said to his wife; “Your brothers called and said they have no money for the funeral.”

The wife replied; “Why are they worried. They can just phone and send condolences.”

Misheck then said his mother had wanted to be buried next to her husband.

The wife was confused.

“Hey, you father is still alive?” she sked.

“Yes, my father is still alive, so is my mother.”

She then went pale.

She asked whose mother was dead

Misheck answered; “It is you mother who passed on. Since you said we need to save money, let us not be worried.”

The wife started screaming and mourning. “Why do you not say it was my mother? I thought it was your mother. Mum did not have a funeral policy. Can we call home and sort it out.”

Misheck looked at his wife and said; “We do not need to do anything. We follow your advice.”

This is the daily happenings of married life versus looking after parent.

Those Zimbabweans in Diaspora have become distant carers for their parents. They do make an important contribution to the caring process through letters, phone calls, and caregiving visits and above all by sending a lot of monies to make sure parents are looked after very well.

This is a contribution that has not been recognized by many, but it has caused many divorces amongst the diaspora. We should realise that such caregiving involves an ongoing dialogue with the home country over many years and even the consideration of comingback as the consequence of family obligations and the perceived need for caregiving of family members in the home country.

There is always a problem when the other party to the marriage does not want the parents of the husband to benefit from their son, or vice-versa.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about what it’s like looking after your parents abroad. This is a topic that is not talked about openly enough. But there are real challenges and heartaches in looking after your relatives when your wife does not want your parents to benefit. Many men are under the bondage of their spouses who do not want any penny to go to the family of the other,” said Dr Robert Maeresera.

The challenge arises in how we as partners can cultivate in our spouses love, respect, and understanding of who we are and where we are coming from. This is especially difficult while living in a country that pressures immigrants to trample their heritage and assimilate into a dominant white capitalistic culture.

A culture where your nucleus family is the only family you need to look after. This has been adopted by some mean people who just have a dislike of their partner’s relatives.

Many Zimbabweans have put their families under unnecessary strain and stress over sending money to parents and family back home.

We should mention the importance of understanding these caregiving experiences, said Mathuthu, who lives in Luton. Because of economic reasons, many family members reside in different geographic parts of world.

Mrs Melody Ndabakule a social worker said; “Variables such as gender, birth order and negotiation regarding the distribution of caregiving responsibilities are crucial to consider when exploring these experiences, hence the importance of trying to understand how migrant caregivers tackle this challenge.”

Many Zimbabweans send money to extended family members, making their responsibility huge and unsustainable.

Pretty Kafeso remembered when she came to the UK.

“I came to this country when I was just shy of turning five years old. I didn’t experience much culture shock coming to the United Kingdom because I was so young. But I have vivid memories of having a very different home life from my British contemporaries; the smells of my home, the language, the way I related to my elders, and the expectations of me were all vastly different.

“But now, as a mother myself raising a son in a bicultural, bi-racial household, I place tremendous value and importance on making sure he remains connected to his roots. I don’t want him to grow up saying ‘I’m half Zimbabwean and leaving it at that’.

“I want him to grow up knowing who his people are, what our food tastes like, how our language feels like rolling off the tongue. I want him to be intimately acquainted with our poetry and music, with our rituals and traditions. I want him to know himself as someone who is from Zimbabwe with ancestry scattered throughout Africa.

“I want him to know and understand what this means going beyond the arbitrary modern-day borders. This includes him sending money to our relatives in Zimbabwe. This spirit of giving makes him stay connected to his roots,” said Kafeso

For the whole family to embrace the spirit of giving, teach them your language. Speak or listen to music in your native language. Even if you can’t speak it well or aren’t fluent, you can still expose your child to hearing your language so they become familiar with its unique sounds. Language is a powerful tool in helping shape our future..

Listen to modern, classical, and traditional music from your country. It carries a unique significance in awakening our connection to where we come from.

Cook and eat your native food! Allow its smells to fill your home and the flavours to be familiar with child’s palate.

Honour and celebrate your traditional rituals and holidays. Read books about where you come from.

Share stories that you may have heard from elders growing up. If your grandparents are around, have them spend time with your child and speak in their mother tongue.

Honor them that you may have different values and belief systems from those of the dominant culture. Embody these values so your child can learn early that there is a myriad of beautiful ways to live life, not just one.

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