Four Things Mothers Need to Change About Themselves

Secure your own mask first before helping others. Two decades ago, when for the first time I heard this safety instruction live in the airplane, I was a newly married girl travelling to Alps with my brand new husband. How ridiculous! Be selfish. Think about yourself first. Is this what they want to convey to the society? I elbowed my better half. All my life, I had been fed on the diet of putting others before self. Hindi movies and elderly aunties made sure that such values were instilled and ingrained fully.  The sole purpose of a woman’s life is to serve others. Give, give, give until your body is squeezed of all blood. The more you give, the more you get, that’s what the motto of your life is. Only then your life is worth it and not before. Right? Wrong. Motherhood is a choice and not a sacrifice – echoes the latest Titan Raga ad.

Like everything else in life, motherhood too is evolving. A mother is someone who has been assigned by God with the job to take care of the physical and emotional needs of her children but she is no longer contented just being a mother and a wife. She wants more from life. Give me more, is the latest buzz word. Juggling, hustling, multi-tasking is not an issue, she is tuned for that.

You don’t need to wear the badge of sacrifice on your sleeve like a solitaire on your finger. Women love to be sacrificing queens. Sacrificing in small and big ways for children gives them a strange sense of pleasure, a contentment that their lives have been worth it. But alas, sacrificing queen leads to a checkmate only in the game of chess. In real life, it leads to distress and disaster. Putting yourself before others sometimes is not selfish, it is taking care of yourself.  A mother is an individual first and a mother later. She needs to first take care of her own health and happiness to be at the service of her children. Come to think of it, how will a tired and exhausted mother look after her children? Eating before your kids eat doesn’t certify you as a bad mother. You can still be an ideal mother even if you decide to eat before them. And wellbeing is not only restricted to physical needs but also emotional. Recharge, don’t break down. Mothers’ distress levels are directly proportional to kids’ mental health. No one wants a grumpy mom? If you are emotionally burnt-out then there is no way you can sit and listen to the crises in your children’s lives. Can a hungry man fill others’ stomach? It is a survival need like the oxygen mask in the times of low pressure.

Mothers too can have likes and dislikes. Take a mother to a restaurant and ask her what will she like to eat? The typical answer will be ‘I will eat whatever everyone is eating’ Most women even in today’s progressive world have never thought about their own desires. Adjusting for others is noble but not always. You are undervaluing yourself by trying to fit in the standards, by always living up to people’s expectations. You too have an opinion, a desire, an expectation. If yes, then voice it out.

You don’t need to give up your dreams for the sake of your children. Make yourself a priority. Mothers are so busy doing it all that they forget the most important person in their lives. Themselves.  Investing time, money and energy in your children is important but in the process, do not forget that time and resources spent on the gratification of your own desires is not a waste. It is perfectly fine to have your own desires and ambitions even if they are not aligned with that of your children. Social work, get-togethers, book clubs, meeting friends, a full time or part time job, gym, yoga, a hobby class, reading, even just Me time are all justified.

Adjust. Accommodate. Adapt. These words are for everyone in the family and not only for the mother. You are not born to be at the beck and call of your family all the time. To hell with the guilt feeling. The sky is not going to fall down if you couldn’t cook a three course meal one day because you didn’t feel like. You need not die of guilt if once in a while you ask your husband, a neighbour or a relative to baby sit your child while you go for a movie with a friend.

If you are a smart mommy, you can have your cake and eat it too. It is not too difficult a task to find a balance between your needs and those of your kids’. In today’s times, it is even more important to redefine motherhood because very soon, the sooner than you can imagine, your children will fly the nest. When children leave the nest, it effects the mother the most as they had always been the nucleus of her very being. So if you have never thought about yourself as a separate entity, it is bound to create a vacuum in your life leaving you wounded and empty. Mothers, do take care of yourself – your health as well as your happiness. Only a healthy and happy mother can enrich the life of her children. If Mommy is happy, the entire house is happy as the old adage goes. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Mothers, Go… Get a Life!

 Remember, Sridevi from the Bollywood blockbuster English Vinglish who enrolls in an English speaking course to uplift her self-esteem when she finds herself lacking in comparison with her daughter because of her inability to converse fluently in English. Middle age is definitely not a show-stopper when she decides to go back to school. In the end, she enriches her life as well as that of her children and family. The daughter who was earlier ashamed to even introduce her mother to her teachers is now a proud daughter. Sridevi in the role of the mother perfectly symbolizes a progressive thinking woman.  Agreed, it is not easy to be a child in today’s highly competitive and fast-paced world but it is even tougher to be a mother.

A mother’s responsibility doesn’t end with packing variety in tiffin box every day and taking care of the physical needs of the child. That is the easier part and can be delegated to the house help. A mother needs to be more than just a mother; she needs to be a companion, friend, advisor, counsellor, playmate, entertainer, motivator, role model, disciplinarian and confidant to her child all at the same time. A mother should be in sync with the world of her children’s even if it means staying abreast with the latest in everything including technology, gadgets, smart phones, music or whatever it takes to match her steps with those of her children. She needs to continuously push the boundaries.

Whether she is a stay-at-home mom or a working mother, her role and responsibilities as a mother remains the same. For sure, you have heard of part-time jobs, part-time business and even part-time girlfriend but ever heard of part-time mothers? Mothers – working outside or at home are always full-time. A mother may delegate her children related tasks to her own mother/-in-law but she still remains a full-time mother. This piece is not about whether a working woman or a homemaker makes a better mother. Whether you want to be a working woman or a homemaker- it is your personal choice.

Along with doing what it takes to be a progressive thinking mom, it is equally important for her to cut the umbilical cord early in life for various reasons.

Having her child on her mind 24/7 is no testimony of her motherly quotient. The need of the hour is to strike a fine balance between a contented mother and an over ambitious one. On the one hand, there is no escape for her from motivating her child to excel and on the other hand, she has to ensure that the child is not burdened with parents’ unfulfilled aspirations. If her world revolves only around the thoughts and anxieties about her child’s well being, unknowingly she is bound to raise expectations from her children. Such mothers suffer from empty nest syndrome and are likely to go into depression when the children leave the nest and become independent.

Moreover, it is claustrophobic for a child if the mother doesn’t provide a breather to him.

It is good for the child as well as for the mother that the mother has a Me time. This does not mean that she should not be available if the child wants to reach out to her for any physical or emotional requirement.

There are times when a mother needs to feed her own passions, to think of herself as a person, an individual and a separate entity because she is an individual first and then a wife and a mother. Why should her own desires and dreams always take a back seat in comparison to her child’s aspirations? For sure, the two are not mutually exclusive.

There are many activities which a mother can pursue to carve an entity for herself like learn a new skill or language, nurture a hobby that had been lying dormant for many years, make new friends, meet new people, join an NGO, gardening, fitness, reading, blogging, travelling so on and so forth; if nothing else teach children of your maid servant. She just needs to explore and there will be plenty that will catch her fancy to engage her mind productively. Cultivating a hobby will broaden her perspective towards life and give her exposure to empower her as a person, as a woman and as a mother. Her child will still be the most important person (or the second most important depending whether the child or husband comes first) in her life; wanting to maintain an identity of her own does not change that in any way.

You can still be the World’s Best Mom to your child. Whatever you do, go get a life of your own – both for the sake of your happiness as well as for the happiness of your precious child because only a happy mother can raise a happy child.

Happy Mother’s Day.

(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore on 10th May 2015)