You know the problem with motherhood being glorified? The problem with everyone going, “Mother = goddess,” the thing where mothers, no matter who they belong to, are ‘revered’? The problem, my fellow mother, with that is if you want to step out of line and do something un-mummy-like, something most mothers can only dream of doing, something that’s basically funny and enriching for the woman you are (not the mother), the world comes down on you harsh. So you, with your wild spirit and young-girl soul, quickly retreat and either do things you want to quietly, without making too much noise, or totally deny yourself the side of you that existed before you wore the heavy title of ‘mother’.
Yesterday, I was going through my Facebook feed and saw a friend of mine was on holiday with three of her other friends. The picture was of the four of them looking very lovely, all dressed up fancy, in a bar in Bangkok. These ladies had their make-up on, their pretty jewellery glinted in the flash of the picture, their manicures looked great and so did their hair. And they all held up exotic-looking cocktails. The picture also had a caption that detailed where they were and, especially, that it was an all-girls’ trip, away from the duties of family. Just a little downtime, some sisterhood loving. The first few comments were all encouraging, asking them to have fun, as we do when we comment on happy pictures and don’t know what to say. Suddenly, there was a blip in the comments: a man, possibly in his 40s, clearly Someone Important, who was used to airing his opinion no matter what. It may have been family or not; maybe he was just an old man who liked commenting on everything on Facebook. But this is what he said: “I hope you realise your children will hate you for this. You are making your husband suffer as you do things unbecoming of you. Drinking alcohol is not something a woman must be proud of to display it like this to the world. Your children and your husband will remember this always. Be prepared for it when the time comes for them to reject you.”
I, for one, began to laugh. That’s how ridiculous that comment sounded to me. So much so that I thought it was someone trolling my friend. But as I expanded the responses to that comment, I realised this man was serious. While we all know these uncles who tell us to be sanskaari, it was shocking for me to discover how many people had “liked” his comment. Of course, there were quite a few who stood up for my friend and her holiday picture, but there were a few others who sounded very much like they were in support of Mr Someone Important. As I write this, I go back to find the post to get more comments that supported him, but guess what? The post isn’t there any more. Instead of deleting this man’s obnoxious comments on her post, my friend chose to take down the picture so that she didn’t invite more judgement about her motherhood.
And I see this over and over again everyday. We are okay, to some extent, to be judged about our lives by those around us. Many of us even find it easy to ignore those judgements; some of us retaliate and make it clear that we are not to be messed with. But almost all of us get irrationally defensive when our authenticity and efficacy as a mother are questioned or judged. Our reactions to it are anything but measured or contained. If you find yourself disagreeing with me, well, let’s just say I have research to back me up. A study that surveyed over 2000 parents saw that almost all parents felt judged, but mothers felt a lot more judged than fathers did. Duh, yeah, considering women are supposed to be perfect in every single way: get back into pre-baby body two weeks after baby is born, go back to work in three months and perform just like you haven’t had your entire life (and body) changed. Or if you choose to stay at home, listen to friends tell you how you’re wasting your education by doing ‘nothing’ at home. Women are expected to be homemakers but also be interesting and well-informed, like the working women that men know. Women are expected to achieve at work but god forbid if she has to travel on work. Men will check their tickets and passports, book a cab and leave for their tour. A woman will decide an entire menu for the days she’s away, instruct the maid, the cook and the driver, write down reminders for the kids’ classes and any appointments that are there, spend extra time with her kids, make sure their clothes are ready for the next few days, get her own bag ready and prepare for the upcoming tour. When a woman, a mother, is expected to do so much, be so much, she’s obviously going to feel more judged than a man, or a father.
I am pretty sure my friend was miserable for at least 24 hours since the obnoxious Mr Someone Important left that comment on her wall. Instead of dealing with him, she chose to deprive herself of that bit of social media space, allowing him to discolour what would have been a cheerful memory. It made me think of the times I have changed the way I talk, communicate, behave because someone else was judging me by my life. That’s why it’s nice to get to your late 30s, I think. You stop worrying so much about what’s the right way to be; instead you start to do what you think is right.
This week, I have a beautiful selection of stories that I’d love for you to take the time out to read. The first two are strictly parenting stories: this one about why your child absolutely needs to have curds twice a day (hint: the bacteria in the stomach dictates a LOT of your child’s moods and emotional well-being) and this one that tells you what milestones to expect in your toddler. Watch out for more on the milestones: we’ll be adding more ages and what you need to look for in order to know your child is on the right track. Going on the right track has a lot to do with you too, parents, and that’s why I urge you to take this four-week challenge to see if you can raise a thriving child without it being a chore on either of you. And finally, ‘tis truly the season to be jolly. If you’re not the kind who celebrates Christmas at home but still want your child to experience a celebration, here’s a list of Bangalore’s best Christmas parties for children.
Until next week, then.