Before this year I would never, ever have thought of leaving the United States. This is where I was born, and it’s the only country I’ve ever lived in, or considered home. But the events of the last two years–my mom’s illness, my pregnancy and childbirth, my father’s illness–have made me realize how very alone I am here, and also that the US is a very difficult country to grow old in or raise children in. Most of that is that the costs of home care or assisted living here are prohibitive, the costs of good childcare are equally prohibitive, and there isn’t much of a “village” to help each other out–at least, not where I live.
I am the only child of two elderly parents, both of whom have cancer. It is a stab in the gut to say this, but it’s likely that I will not have my father for much longer. I’m not very connected to our US extended family, as most of them are in India and the ones in the US are far away. A lot of the US members of my family have gotten heavily involved in a religious organization that influences all aspects of their life. Since I am not particularly religious, let alone a member of this socio-religious organization, it is hard to connect to them. Also, all of my cousins have multiple siblings. And even though people in my family talk a lot about how cousins are equivalent to sisters or brothers, there is a huge difference. (Of course there is; you either grow up in the same house, or you don’t–I certainly don’t expect anyone to feel close to me, when we have only seen each other a handful of times in our lives.)
It’s been very hard, raising my baby alone. I had thought my parents would be able to help a little, but my dad’s health crisis came weeks after my baby’s birth. My husband began residency and is gone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, sometimes later. He keeps saying we should send the baby to his family in India for some time if I can’t handle her–his family is well-to-do and has a household staff, and I am sure she would be well cared for. I am physically and emotionally exhausted and sending the baby to her grandparents for a while sounds awfully tempting. But literally everybody I have floated the idea past has told me that a prolonged separation from me would be very traumatic for the baby and should be only the last of last resorts.
I am tired. I long to have an extended family, to belong, to have some moral and emotional support. I don’t have that in the United States, and I don’t see any way of getting it.
Maybe it’s time to go “home.”