Reprinted from the Supporting Parents issue of Visions Journal, 2021, 17 (1), p. 4
There's a popular Punjabi folk song I heard often growing up, called "Maavan thandiyan chaavan," which roughly translates to "Mothers provide cool shade." The sentimental song talks about the nurturing and care that mothers provide. As a child of immigrants, growing up I watched my parents work incessantly in order to provide for their three children. Before she left for her nursing shift, my mother used to wake up at 6:00 a.m and make that night's dinner so that we'd have something to eat when we came home from school. It wasn't until I grew older that I began to interrogate that song and some assumptions within it – such as the idea that mothers are the ones who nurture (as opposed to fathers or other caregivers or family members), that all mothers are nurturing, and that parenting should be about sacrifice. It also made me question, "If parents care for their children, who cares for the parents?"
This issue of Visions addresses many of these assumptions and questions. Our Guest Editor, Dr. Robert Lees, edited a previous version of Visions on parenting more than 15 years ago. Although support for parents, families and children has come a long way since then, we know that families—both parents and children—continue to face hurdles in the mental health system. A lack of preventative programs that emphasize family well-being, lengthy wait times, and lack of affordable family-centered services such as counselling continue to be obstacles families must contend with. And, within the services that do exist for families, there are relatively few that address parental mental health.
As families shifted to new realities such as working and schooling from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with it came a growing awareness of the challenges of parenthood. Although I'm not a parent, I watched my siblings, friends and other family members adapt to these changes and juggle their parental, work and other life responsibilities while worrying about what the future holds. Although the pandemic might cause continued uncertainty, one thing is clear: the mental well-being of parents is important, and too often ignored.
Thinking back to my childhood days, I realize now that my parents had little formal support as they grappled with raising their children in a new culture and a foreign land. If you have loved ones that are parents in your life, I hope this issue inspires you to check in on them and ask, "How are you doing?"
About the author
Kamal Arora is Visions Editor and Leader of Health Promotion and Education at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division