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Judge me all you want, but I know that I’m not a bad mother! Say the bold and gutsy Indian mothers of today!
Whatever happened to that infamous emotion that plagued nearly every mother a.k.a. mommy guilt? Well, it’s still lurking out there but today’s mothers seem to be more in touch with themselves as their own person while parenting.
A few months ago, a friend of mine put up a post on social media stating, “If I could, I would leave my kids at day care even on weekends!” Comments on this update ranged from ‘haha’ to ‘omg how could you?’
My friend is a busy mother of two young children and even though I have only one child, I could still very well relate to her sentiments. In fact, my first thought was, “Wow you’ve got some guts to actually say that out loud!” Clearly, my friend couldn’t care less about being judged as a bad mother by anyone out there, just because she yearned to have some time to herself, away from her kids.
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is an expat in the Philippines who runs the popular mom blog ‘The Times Of Amma’ and she is also a 33 year mother of 2. She puts it aptly when she says, “It is impossible to be a parent and not be judged. I listen to what the other person has to say, try and explain my position in case they are worth my time. Otherwise, I smile and carry on the way I always have. No one but us can walk in our shoes and not everyone may like our shoes. It is up to us to push those opinions into the background and stride on.
Nirupama Sriram, a 42 year old yoga teacher from Chennai is mother to 8 year old Adithi Sriram who has Down Syndrome. Being a mother to a child with special needs in India can be quite challenging, but she says, “I have never felt that I’m not a good enough mother. From the day I had her, I have been only positive about her and myself. She is an unexpected surprise in my life who is teaching me a new perspective about life each day.”
Most urban mothers in India today are well-read, well-travelled, have a greater amount of exposure to the outside world and also tend to have children later in life when compared to our mothers or grandmothers. These could also be factors which contribute to feeling secure in one’s parenting role. Lakshmi Iyer, a mother and writer based out of the US, who has both adopted as well as biological children shares, “Perhaps it is a side effect of parenting in my forties but I have little tolerance for unsolicited advice or the energy to worry about what others think.”
As a young parent, it is easy to lose our footing from time to time. But today’s mothers also know how to get back on track during moments of self-doubt.
For Shweta, it was the practise of mindfulness. She says,” Mindfulness helped me work through the feeling of being ‘not enough’. I learnt how to live in the moment, let certain things go and adopt the mantra, ‘I may not be the best mother, but I am the best mother for my child.’
While nearly every mother out there strives to give her best for her child, today’s mothers are not over-burdening and stressing themselves out in an impossible quest for perfection. As Nirupama says, “I don’t have any expectations from myself as a mother. I always adapt according to what my kid feels. I encourage my child to tell me how she wishes her mother to be. I try to be firm but flexible to her needs.”
This is something which is echoed by Suganya Bala, a 33 year old mother from Mumbai whose young son has been diagnosed with ASD. She states, “I am definitely not the mother whom I imagined I would be. Instead my son has evolved me into a better mother for him”.
Lakshmi corroborates this by explaining, “Over the years I realized a happy home is one where everyone is happy and that includes the mother. So, I have consciously stepped back. I am not the average sacrificial mother. I divide food equally and that means setting aside a good portion of things I like for myself. I eat if I am hungry before serving others, I set aside time to write most days even if it means getting take out instead of fresh homemade dinner.”
I can’t help but agree. I find that I am a much better and calmer parent when I’ve had my breaks. Of course I love my daughter to death, but let’s face it – with their boundless energy and endless questioning, toddlers can quickly tire anyone out. When my child turned 2, I started sending my daughter to day care for a couple of hours a day just so I can have some me time.
Some people were surprised: “But aren’t you a stay-at-home mom?” was the reaction. Yes, indeed I am, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I need a break too. Just this weekend, we arranged for a playdate for her, while my husband and I went and watched Baahubali 2. It’s just common sense that I need to take care of myself first before I can take care of my child. In fact, recently we’ve joined a health club and do you know what the best part is? No, not the extensive gym, not the high tempo aerobics classes, not even the temperature controlled swimming pool. Rather, it’s the fact that they have a babysitting service on site, which means that I can actually take a nice, long, hot shower without an audience questioning my every move!
Komal Porecha, entrepreneur, designer and author of the popular parenting book, ‘Bringing Up Your Baby’ stresses that it’s also about giving ourselves permission to fail at times. She says, “I am not a superwoman, nor do I strive to be one. I am a loving mother and a committed designer. I love both my roles equally and try and give my best to each. But I know I will falter from time to time with both. I will make mistakes. I am human. “
I wouldn’t say that the guilt has disappeared completely and Shweta agrees when she says,” Social Media plays a major role in inducing guilt with the consistent parade of glossed over images of successful mothers with spic and span homes and understanding bosses and fit bodies and over-achieving kids and happy husbands. With the everyday mom trying to reach those unattainable standards of perfection, guilt is inevitable.”
However this generation of mothers are more aware, not only about the latest studies and research in child care, but also there appears to be an increased level of self-awareness. For Nirupama, it is yoga which has helped her become more self-aware, while Lakshmi says, “I have taken to talking to myself, writing down things I should be doing like “No more yelling”, “Empathize” etc. around the house so I can lean on those visual cues.”
Shweta points out, “I am no longer in a competition with others or myself. I have learnt that it is fine to let go and that it is ok to breathe and slow down.”
Today’s mothers are also comfortable in their own skins which in turn means that they are comfortable about tackling issues and topics that the previous generation of mothers might have shied away from. For instance, Lakshmi says, “I raise my children to use proper terms for body parts. I do not hide behind euphemisms. My children are comfortable around blood. They are aware of why Amma is tired when she has her periods. I am not always nice to them. If I am angry or tired, they know that. We talk about all of it. The mood swings, hormones, the very human side of being a parent with all its attendant responsibilities.”
Whether it’s about nursing or sleep training or disciplining kids, the parenting decisions of mothers usually attract a lot of conflicting opinions. If you choose to breastfeed your child for more than x number of months, you’re making the child addicted to breast milk; on the other hand, if you choose to stop breast feeding earlier, then you are depriving your child. If you co-sleep, you are making your child over dependent; but if you make your child sleep by themselves then you are being cruel by abandoning your child. The list is simply never ending. It requires courage and perseverance to stand your ground and persist with your parenting choices – two characteristics that mothers today seem to possess in abundance.
Komal elaborates further with an example: “One thing I was obsessed with was routine. My family thought it was quite unnecessary. But when the twins were toddlers, routine was a complete saviour. If they were fed and rested on time; there was minimal crankiness. I was able to get some rest and sleep too. And as they grew older, holidays, outings and day to day life became much easier as they were very comfortable in their routines. My family saw merit in this only much later when the ease of this came to light. Today at 7, the twins have flexibility in their routines and are judiciously applying it”.
Certainly, the barrage of judgements that are heaped on young Indian mothers haven’t stopped. Nevertheless, we mothers today are smart enough to block out unnecessary judgements that come our way and also wise enough to be kinder and more loving towards ourselves first.
Motherhood changes a woman’s life in many ways. But being a mother all the time is a tough job! While children mean the world to their mothers, every mother has her own style – and her choices don’t necessarily make her a bad mom.
If you are a mother, have dissed societal expectations and are bringing up your child(ren) in your own way, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a pic of yourself (include your child if you like), and a line on what you choose/don’t choose that makes you #NotABadMom. We’ll share them on our Facebook page!
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Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even
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