Mother's Day was a few days ago and we have been thinking about parenting in general, and motherhood in specific. The idea of 'Mother' is such a culturally loaded one, no matter what culture. Mothers are supposed to always be up and about, care deeply, cook and clean and dust and mop, and go to work, and everything else.
It really could be such a pressure.
What happens to those who find motherhood quite hard? I am thinking of mothers who go through post-partum depression, For many, the pressure to be a 'good mother' is so severe on top of their depression, with relatives and others commenting on them being 'weak' or 'uncaring' that makes it hard for them to seek help, and that leaves them vulnerable to chronic depression. I am also thinking of women who find it hard to enter motherhood, or those who do not wish for motherhood for themselves - and the degrees of emotional turmoil they might go through.
Even otherwise, for mothers well into motherhood, trying to balance their different roles as women, spouses, working women, housekeepers on top of being mothers becomes really hard. The pressure to be good at everything means that any small error of judgement on the child's part, say if the child bit another in the sand pit, or was caught sneaking a smoke outside school, gets a sharp reaction, and the disapproval falls squarely on the mother's shoulders. Disapproving eyes pass judgement that 'she was too busy at her job that she failed at her "real" job'.
In India, as in much of the rest of the world, child care is considered primarily the women's job. An involved father is lauded, and a not-so-involved one forgiven, but no such luxury of lenience for the mother though. At the work-space too, maternity often limits career options, and often this leads to very capable women leaving the workforce for years if not for good. Sometimes, it leaves the woman, proud and happy as she is in her motherhood, angry and upset at the workplace, stressed about it, and perhaps, frustrated at her struggles to reach her full working potential.
The point is: What is Mother's Day about? Should it really be about celebrating the 'super-woman' status of mothers, or can it also be about challenging our collective consciousness on our expectation that mothers must be super-human? Can we look at the pressures and stresses that mothers go through, and actually make it easier for mothers? Not merely by getting them breakfast and a bunch of roses, but to look at ourselves, the roles we play and the systems we have to help women through motherhood without needing them to be anything more than human.
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.