“Motherhood” – a role which we have collectively epitomized as an ocean of unconditional love and care, and personified to unparalleled sacrifice and goodness. Probably it is for this lofty character that a mother is always standing in the court of opinions where judgements are constantly passed upon the efficiency of her job.
However, times have changed and the mother is no more the supremely sacrificing, innocent, simpleton lady. She is the all knowing, in-charge, clever mother who believes in putting herself at priority at times. But one thing that hasn’t changed is her position in the judgement box. And this became starkly clearer when I attended a session called “The Good Mother” with the very renowned Shobha De and Natasha Badhwar as panelists. The fact that there was such a session conducted corroborates its relevance without a doubt.
At the end of the session, there was a recently divorced lady who put forth this question to the panelists, “Ma’am, after living and trying to accommodate in an unhappy marriage for years, I finally decided to come out of it. Am I still a good mother?” She meant that she put herself before the consequences of a broken marriage for her daughter. And in having done so, is she right as a mother. This made me realize how much approval and validation we are looking for, while playing this very instinctive and natural role of motherhood.
I have been a mother for good eight years now and yes there are those amazing moments when you feel so accomplished not so much as a mother but a nurturer. When your kids show that unexpected innocent kindness or honesty or affection, you feel like you might be raising them right. But trust me those moments are hopelessly few when compared to the other ones. Because there are absolute times when a mother’s sanity is relentlessly kicked and bruised, her patience is slashed and slit, and every ounce of her good-naturedness is tried and trampled upon by her very adorable kids. And when she reiterates, the world around her is quick to frame opinions and express their uninhibited judgements upon her insensitive and callous ways of treating her child.
The mother tagging is rather the privilege of all generations including your own kids. For all the days in a year, if you need to tell the kids, “please change into your night clothes, it’s bedtime”, “please sit and eat your food on the table”, “wash your hands and feet after play”…and not on a single day do they do any of it at your first time request, at your second time instruction, at your third time desperation, the fourth time even an angel will yell. And then you hear a second voice, “Don’t be so impatient and impolite with the kids.” And you gape open mouthed like …Huh? This second voice is not your own inner soul reprimanding you; it’s a third person’s take on your behaviour or your own kids shoving advice to you. Every time I scold my four year old munchkin, she makes me say sorry to her without exception.
I am in my late thirties, and so a lot of mothers or parents in my generation will relate to the fact that we had strict parental upbringing. And when I say strict, I mean you needed to pick up behavioural cues only by the eye movement of your parents. No words, only non-verbal cues. And there wasn’t any leeway to go wrong or you have had had it. So now when this older generation comments that you are being very hard on your kids, you are too stern with too many rules, I find it laughable. I mean, did you never scream at us, did you not slap us ever or threatened to lock us in the bathroom? So why these judgements when we are going through that same arduous task of raising kids.
I am by no means supporting that what’s wrong should continue in every generation or there shouldn’t be a change for better. But there’s more scope for understanding the situation than liberally announcing your opinions. It might look like what’s the big deal if somebody calls you a stern mother; it does matter or hurt because to the mother’s ears it sounds like you are a “monstrous” mother. And it is frustrating. Funnily, I have also observed that it doesn’t end at being insensitive, there is this huge baggage of being an under nourishing mother as well. The moment you birth your child, there is an inundating flood of food advice. About how you need to give almonds, raisins, walnuts, honey, tulsi, amla, even barley water, and on and on to that baby. And whatever you might be doing, there will always be a gap and need to go a step further for his better nourishment. In some cases the advices are an ongoing process no matter how old your kids have turned.
I did attend a wonderful course on parenting and I wholeheartedly agree that as parents we do need to change some of our ways both in upbringing and dealing with our beloved kids. I try to be as mindful as I can but yes I fail often. But seriously you need to cut some slack to the poor yelling mother. People, it’s inevitable sometimes, almost ritualistic to scream in certain situations like, “switch off the bloody T.V.” or it never happens.
The whole judgement thing is not about these seemingly trivial or routine matters. We as a population and tribe are prone to comparisons and judgements. There are all sorts of mothers, working mothers, home maker mothers, active mothers, lax mothers, liberal mothers, strict mothers, etc. When you hold your opinion or judge her as an individual she doesn’t mind it so much. But when somebody targets her role and her place as a mother or parent in her child’s life, it feels rancid. In all societies, there is paramount cultural pressure upon mothers to succeed as mothers. And under its pressure, we are constantly justifying ourselves or looking for validation.
At the end of the day, what matters as a mother is not how much or how little I scream or yank at my kids, but if I give them so much more love and security to fade away the memory and drown the noise of those screams? And despite seeming like a cranky virago of a mother, if my love reaches and is received by my kids’ eager hearts and it heals and nurtures them when it should, I think I might be a fairly good mother.