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Kudos To Manushi Chhillar, But Our Glorification Of Motherhood Is Problematic

Posted: November 21, 2017

While juggling multiple roles, don’t forget you are important too.  Make yourself a priority because no one else will with #KhayaalRakhna

Kudos to Manushi Chhillar, Miss World 2017 for making us proud but here’s why something didn’t seem completely right about her answer.

It was a beautiful moment to watch our own Miss India being crowned as Miss World 2017. Kudos to her for making India proud!

I also heard her answer to the question, “Which profession deserves the highest salary and why?” Her answer was “I think a mother is of the highest respect. I don’t think it is just about cash but love and respect she gives to someone. She is the biggest inspiration in my life. A mother should get the highest respect.”

I don’t want to sound like a party spoiler or someone who is nitpicking (because I do agree with parts of her answer) but when something is being said on a global stage, perhaps it is time to pause and think. While I can totally respect a daughter’s sentiments behind this answer, I thought, ‘Is motherhood really a profession?’ I always thought of it as a role that we played in our life like being a wife or a daughter.

Economists have been arguing for ages that the work that a woman does at home has value and therefore, whether women are in paid or unpaid jobs, they are contributing to the economy. If homemakers/mothers were paid for their work, it would be actually one of the highest paid jobs. I am not for or against homemakers being paid. Apart from the practical difficulties of implementation, it is a thought which has social ramifications and it needs to be deliberated upon.

Our society has romanticized motherhood to epic proportions and in popular thinking, mothers are benign and sacrificial creatures, for whom material things like ‘cash’ are not important. This is actually far from reality. I have met several women from different walks of life who have left their careers to raise a child. While most of them have taken this decision voluntarily, it has affected them in some way. When they look at their contemporaries doing well in their chosen field, somewhere deep in the corner of their hearts, they may feel a sense of loss. This may not only be tied to loss of earning potential but also a need for healthy recognition from society at large.

There may be some who are so intrinsically motivated that they do not need any external recognition but this is not true for everyone. Let’s be candid about this, ‘There is not much recognition from society for being a mother.’ If a mother is lucky, her family might value her contributions. In some cases, even the family is eternally ungrateful and may take the mother’s role for granted.

There are enough examples where homemakers and mothers are looked upon as freeloaders who are leading a relaxed and lazy life, just by being at home. Most people believe that raising a child comes naturally and effortlessly to a woman which is far from the truth. Since there is little understanding of the effort involved, the respect is perhaps superficial at some level and more along the lines of just being ‘politically correct’. Even as I say this, I need to acknowledge that there may be many exceptions.

The glorification of motherhood also holds women to impossible standards of judgement and conveniently absolves the father of any or most of the responsibility of child care. To make matters worse, women who go out to work are often judged harshly. The same society which accords the highest ‘respect’ to mothers, makes it nearly impossible or extremely difficult for her to get back to work after a parenting sabbatical due to strong biases.

On an altogether different level, the nastiest abuses in many Indian languages involve the mother and daughter. Isn’t the hypocrisy so evident?

Top image is a still from the movie Deewar known for its mother character played by Nirupa Roy

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An HR professional by qualification, have worked for close to 10 years now across Pharma

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