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As a mother, one often questions oneself and feels bound by perceived inadequacies. But the truth is, mothers can have guilt-free fun too.
Last year we had gone to a small seaside resort for two days, with friends who also had two kids, just like us. Now, when you transition from a family of two to one of four, you no longer crave for a ‘just us’ vacation. In fact, it’s the opposite. You bring along someone who shares your fate so that you don’t feel lonely as parents. Your children get some company as well!
For this trip, I promised myself that I would have fun and not waste time constantly worrying about getting them to stick to their sleeping schedules or searching for restrooms wherever we went. Since the resort was located on the seashore, most of the above problems were already taken care of.
We reached our vacation spot at around lunchtime and I ordered a simple meal of rice and curd for my kids. My friend, on the other hand, had other plans. She asked me disapprovingly, “Are you going to give them ‘bahar ka khana‘ (outside food)?”
“Well this is a hotel, not my house. How can I give them ‘maa ke haath ka khana‘ (mom’s cooking, literally!)?”
With a small smile, she opened up her suitcase and took out a steel container. “Look what I brought with me! It’s a rice cooker. I am going to boil rice and vegetables in this for my kids.”, she announced proudly.
Really? Who cooks on a holiday? But then again, maybe it is a good option for the kids.
“If you want, you can use it once I am done. I have brought along rice and vegetables too.”
What a thoughtful mother she was! She did all this for a two day trip, simply for the sake of her kids. As far as I was concerned, such a thought had never even crossed my mind. Though I had never used a rice cooker before, I happily agreed. She handed me the cooker after half an hour. I blended the chopped veggies along with the rice and waited.
10 minutes went by, then 20, and then 40 minutes, but the rice was still cooking!
My kids were really hungry by now and had started throwing tantrums. “Why did you cancel the order? This is taking so long”, my husband grumbled.
Finally after 1 hour, lunch was ready but we were exhausted. As a result, we slept till late in the evening and missed the sunset.
We were still intent on visiting the beach before the light faded.Our friends said that they would join us at the beach directly. The cool breeze and the sight of white frothing waves among blue waters was indeed a welcomed change from the humdrum of our routine life. We sat there for quite a while, our companions nowhere in sight. As darkness descended we headed back to the resort when we finally saw our friends approaching from a distance.
“Hey, where have you been? It was so relaxing on the beach. You guys missed it.” I said. “Oh, I was feeding the kids. I fed them poha and curd”, my friend replied. I glanced at my kids devouring a packet of chips. Her eyes followed mine and instantly I felt guilty. What kind of a mother was I? Feeding my kids junk food so that I could enjoy myself?
In the mood that I was in, I might have tried the cooker once more for dinner that night. But this time my husband firmly took matters in his own hands and ordered a simple meal for all four of us. We were done by 10 p.m. and I was feeling much better. That is, until my friend called.
“Hey, want to go for a night walk? The kids have slept off.”
Asleep? Already? I turned towards my monkeys who were jumping all over the bed, showing no signs of sleep. Curtly, I denied her request and ordered my kids to go to sleep.
A series of protests erupted followed by loud bouts of wailing. Yet, I stood my ground too. Soon our hotel room turned into a mini battlefield. The war came to an end when my husband threatened to leave the next morning if we didn’t call it a night right at that moment.
My head throbbed as I lay awake in the dark, thinking about the events of the day. How foolishly I had wasted one whole day. But no more!
The next morning we woke up early and went to watch the sunrise. The kids played on the beach and together we made a big sand castle. Later, as we took the kids to the water, I was suddenly reminded of my own childhood. A strange sensation filled me and I hugged my kids tightly.
I realised that motherhood is not a competition. We are all different and so are our parenting styles. There is no right or wrong about it. Moreover, I deserved to enjoy myself. So I let my children eat all the junk food they wanted to eat, stay up the entire afternoon and run on the beach as much as they liked. Meanwhile, their mother clicked selfies and dipped her legs into the cool water, enjoying the bright sun and soft breeze!
Pic credit Ryan Moreno, via Unsplash
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Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).
Gender stereotypes, though a by-product of the patriarchal society that we have always lived in, are now so intricately woven into our conditioning that despite our progressive thinking, we are unable to break free from them.
Repeatedly crossing, while on my morning walk ̶ a sticky, vine-coloured patch on the walkway, painted by jamuns that have fallen from the jamun tree, crushed by the impact of their fall, and perhaps, inadvertently trampled upon by walkers, awakens memories of the mulberry tree that stood in my parents’ house when I was growing up. Right at the entrance of the house, the tree caused a similar red and violet chaos on the floor, which greeted us each time we entered the gate.
Today, as I walked by this red-violet patch, I was reminded of an incident that my mother had narrated to me several times. It had taken place shortly after her marriage and her arrival in this house from her hometown.