So, summer is officially here.
Which means, people relax and look forward to their holidays abroad. For me however, it is a stressful time-the time I want my mother to visit. That process is never simple. First of all, we have to go through the whole visa application process. Last time the interrogation lasted for 40 minutes. Is she coming to nanny/baby-sit for us? (This, by the way is officially prohibited by UK law. If you are a foreign grandmother, you are not allowed to look after your grandchild.) Is she living with us? Otherwise, why could she possibly be staying for this long and visiting so often?
All those questions make perfect sense to the British officials. It probably seems very suspicious that anyone would want their mother to stay with them for 2 months at a time, unless exploiting her as cheap labour. (Admittedly, very tempting considering the cost of childcare in the UK)
But what might seem weird here is the most natural thing for Azeries. The whole purpose in life for an Azeri grandmother is to look after her grandchildren. It is the task that comes as naturally as cooking dolma. They just don’t understand how it is possible not to want to do that, or not to be expected to.
A while ago, I was discussing going to a spa with my local mummy friend. She was struggling to get a babysitter and said she might not be able to join me.
- What about your mother? - I questioned naturally, as I knew she lived nearby.
- Are you kidding? - She said incredulously- I could never ask her to baby-sit for me while I go to a spa!
Eh?- I thought-Why not?
Getting my mother past the UK entry clearance officer is only the first step in the process. Step two involves my husband, who would not want his own mother to live with us for that long. I established, after almost 9 years of marriage, that two months is the absolute critical limit. Anything more- and my husband’s sanity is in jeopardy. Anything less -and I am not very happy.
That brings us to this very sensitive issue- the British husbands and the Azeri family dependency.
If you are from the UK (or other western culture for that matter) and have an Azeri girlfriend, my advice to you would be: do not marry her. If you are determined to marry an Azeri, then at least do yourself a favour and find an orphan. Because once you are married to an Azeri, you are married to her whole family. Often, that includes cousins.
You might think you did OK (better than my husband anyway) if she can cook all those elaborate Azeri dishes. You might secretly hope (some people are silly!) that she would behave like a good Muslim wife and never nag, demand or argue. She might claim that her parents would be happy with her immigrating. And that she is totally cool leaving them behind in Azerbaijan (where there is no concept of social care for geriatrics), to get old and crippled on their own. Do not trust her! If she is a nice Azeri girl, she will forever be tied to her family with the ties stronger than you can ever imagine in your worst nightmare.
She will want to support them both morally and financially. She will probably insist she has to get their flat refurbished, buy them a new telly or a car, and pay for any medicine or surgeries they will need, as well as send them cash every month…. More importantly, she would also be expected to. Forever. On top of that, she would always be plotting how she could eventually bring them over, so they could benefit from the proper medical care, and get looked after as they get older.
Yes, there are some parents in Baku who could, should they want to, support half of the UK. But that is a tiny percentage of the population. The majority are suffering from inability to adjust their old Soviet skills to the new ruthless world they now live in. They are scared and lonely, and they expect to be taken care of by their children, who were a lot quicker to acclimatise to the new life. And if you were an elderly person somewhere like Baku, wouldn’t you be afraid to be abandoned there? As you get older you get sick more often. And to be sick in Baku is pretty scary. Even if you have money. And what if you don’t?
As for me, I worry all the time. I worry about my mother and my father getting older back in Baku. But also, I worry about my own old age. Because, when I see what relationship a lot of British children have with their parents, I am terrified. I look at my little daughter, who needs me so badly right now, and wonder to myself: is she going to abandon me in a home when I am old and of no more use to her? Is she going to never call and never visit on weekends? I guess I could secure my position now if I learned how to cook and do some gardening. Alternatively, I could try to get rich so she would at least have to pretend she cares-for the inheritance.