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!

 

 

Is Indian culture so flimsy that it can be destroyed by women’s clothing!

My best friend’s daughter recently got a job in Saudi Arabia. ‘How can you allow your daughter to go to an Arab country? Don’t you know women are treated like second rate citizens there?’ I fumed. It was beyond my imagination how could an educated mother send her young daughter to Saudi Arabia for a job.

My friend replied calmly, ‘If she was working in Delhi or any other city in India, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night but I know she will be safe in Saudi. No man will dare misbehave with her.’

Today, women are in the board rooms, in space, factories, and even in armed forces but irrespective of their status, strata and education, they aren’t safe on the roads, not even on the streets outside their house.

One more incident of molestation, one more blood boiling statement blaming victim’s western attire for the offensive act. Don’t know which is worse – the indecent act or the disgusting statement. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said women in Bengaluru had been molested on New Year’s Eve because they were wearing ‘short clothes’, hours after the Centre condemned Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara’s similar victim-blaming comments. Azmi, like Parameshwara, claimed that the women faced repeated sexual harassment on the city’s streets because they had not conformed to ‘Indian culture’. Damn! Does groping and molesting women conform to the Indian culture? Not a word on how men are expected to behave.

First it was Delhi and now it is Bengaluru which have brought shame to India. It is spreading like some kind of contagious disease. Can’t say if the crimes on women are actually increasing in number or there are more number of such incidents which come to light.

Twenty Five years ago when during exams I used to study at night until the wee hours; in between cramming the boring lessons, it was a common practice for the students to take short breaks by having a quick stroll on the street. In the April heat, we looked forward to stepping out of the house even for just a while to soak in some cool breeze. A ten minute walk in the quiet of the night was refreshing enough to glue me back to my books for another couple of hours. The street opposite our house in Sector 22 in Chandigarh was dimly lit as some of the blubs would always be fused and I clearly remember in the dead of the night, dressed in my night clothes, I used to be the only one on the road engrossed in my thoughts, marching from one end to another, while my parents slept inside peacefully. On those days, it was a ritual in summers for most families to have an after dinner stroll on the street. People indulged in simple joys of walking on the roads. ‘Those days’ were just twenty five years ago but it feels like another era, a different world altogether when women felt safe on the roads. When I narrate the stories of ‘our times’ to my sons, they ask me, eyebrows raised in awe. ‘You used to go for walks alone? On the road? At midnight?’

Fast forward to the present times. After dinner strolls at night – alone or with a companion is unheard of for the fear of not only molesters but also of stray dogs, chain snatchers and thugs.

Nowhere there are statements from minsters or anyone that we need to put a leash on perverts. Punish the criminal and not the victim. Every time such an incident happens, men with misogynic mentality give disgusting statements and further shame the country. Are we saying, it’s okay to molest a woman? There are also no statements demanding better law and order, more stringent laws which could deter men. There are only statements how women should dress up, how they shouldn’t venture out alone at night. Seriously!

Media go overboard while reporting such incidents but when the culprits get caught, the media need to follow up , and report with the same fervour about the punishment meted out to them, publish their photographs to let public know about those men who shame their entire gender.

Are women public property that they can be groped at anyone’s free will? Do they need to be dictated how to dress up, do they need to be told where to go and at what time to go. Disgraceful! Unacceptable! It’s time to get it straight, it’s time to fight it out.

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)