Motherhood: A Choice

Today is Mother’s Day and my timeline is flooded with articles and posts on mothers and how wonderful they are. Some groups have a hashtag trending #justlikemaa. And this hashtag got me thinking how different my mother and I are; and how little we have in common when it comes to motherhood.

My mother has never been the typical Nirupa Roy. She was more like Lalita Pawar from Junglee, who believed in tough love. She taught us all the right things and gave us a lot of attention but was a little miserly when it came to showering us with love. Something that all of us craved for all our childhood. I resented her for it till recently, when at the time of my brother’s wedding, my mother and I ended up having a very candid conversation. I don’t know how we got to it, but we did and I am thankful for it. She told me that she considered us lucky being able to make our life’s choices on our own. She said no one asked her if she wanted to marry, who she wanted to marry, if she wanted to have children or how many children she should have. The decision was always made by others; decisions that should have been her own or at least in which she should have had a say. I immediately countered her and said that she should have said something. My mother is quite a vocal person and the strength to speak up is something I have got from her. So, it was a bit disconcerting to think she wouldn’t open her mouth when it came to life-altering decisions. But she was brought up in a highly patriarchal set-up where decisions were made by the elders and it was the duty of the younger ones to listen. So, she didn’t say anything. Maybe she didn’t want to have any children? No one asked her, because it is assumed that a woman’s existence is essentially to bear children. And the irony of it all is that she ended up having four of us.

I asked her, though I was terrified of the answer, whether she wanted to have any children. She said, I don’t know. I knew it wasn’t my decision to make so I didn’t ponder over it. And this truly broke my heart. And I realised just how privileged a lot of us are. So many of my friends, cousins, have taken their own decisions on whether or not they marry or whether or not they have children. And while I am sure that they have faced enough family and societal pressure especially when the decision was against the norm, they’ve had some support from somewhere to help them to stick to their decision. I am sure my mother was afraid that she would have received none of it even if she could speak up.

I always knew that I wanted to have children. But having a child was my choice. If I didn’t want to have any, I would have discussed it with my husband before we got married. I have the privilege to choose to be a mother. My mother didn’t. And despite all her failings, she made us strong human beings and instilled the importance of taking our own decisions and being independent in every sense of the word. And for that, I am eternally thankful to my Lalita Pawar. My ma.

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The importance of being the perfect mother. or not.

 

It’s International women’s day today and there’s heated discussion all over social media on whether or not it should be a celebration. Since this blog is on motherhood, I am not going to get dragged into that conversation; instead, I’d like to acknowledge that motherhood has taught me so much about being a woman.

I’m really surprised that the society world over, is essentially patriarchal. I mean, this immense, amazing power that women have, the power to create, is next to only God. Shouldn’t that have automatically made us the more powerful one? 😛 Anyway, I digress, that isn’t the point of this post.

I found out really early that I was pregnant pretty much by the missed period and morning sickness. It affected me so much that even the thought of entering the kitchen would make my stomach churn. My husband didn’t so much wait for me to ask him, he took over the kitchen and pretty much every aspect of the dull household chores that I usually took care of. Every morning I’d wake up to a glass of fresh coconut water, followed by fruits and whatever else I could eat. He would have his breakfast in a different room so that the smell of eggs wouldn’t bother me. My lunch was packed, dinner was cooked, boy was I pampered. And do you know what it made me feel like? Privileged. And the moment it did, I found the ridiculousness of the situation. Did my husband ever feel privileged that I took care of all these things on a daily basis?No, he didn’t. So why was I feeling so?

Because unfortunately, that’s what I am. We share equal responsibilities in the house; some days he cooks, some days I do. But how many women get that opportunity?

The moment I realised that there were some (very minor) complications in my pregnancy, I decided, I’d quit my job in Bombay and shift to Calcutta to stay with my parents. It was a huge decision for me as I have been independent for a long time and I’d lose it for a long time, I knew, but I was scared and didn’t overthink it. Being pampered in my house during my entire pregnancy again made me feel privileged. Because I mean, how many women get the opportunity to just sit at home, taken care of, and be pregnant? My mum gave birth and raised 4 children, managing the entire household in the process. She didn’t get half the facilities that we get today. My sister worked until her 9th month. I have no idea how these women do it. I was so tired all the time, even when I literally had nothing to do. Would I have been able to do it? I don’t know. If I had to, I’m sure I would have.

All the posts on FB keep celebrating the hardships women go through. It does need to be acknowledged but an ideal woman is projected as the martyr; who sacrifices everything for the sake of the others. What kind of standard is that? And by that definition, I suppose I am not a woman enough since I refused to go through the ‘hardships’ and took the easy way out. Why is it an accepted thing that despite carrying a child in the womb, a woman would continue doing all the hard work of the household, because that’s what women do, and rave about the man who serves his wife breakfast when she’s sick? Continue reading “The importance of being the perfect mother. or not.”