To be or not to be, that is the million dollar question, dear Horatio. Countless articles, blogs and even books have been written on the glory of Motherhood – that precious halo shining through all the dismal worries and hardships our mothers face while nurturing a bunch of worthless (or worthwhile) kids. Vent your indignation if you wish to in the comment box below, but I figured as long as I have this space, I better put my two cents even if it contradicts every canon in the “Holy” Mother’s guide book.
The Canonization of Motherhood:
So I have a theory, and it goes like this. Since the dawn of civilisation, Mankind had two choices on how to live their lives. Either you live in a pack, follow the rules of the jungle and be safe & protected or you become a Lone Wolf, make your own rules and hunt or be hunted. Being the more ingenious animal of the group, Mankind soon realised they can get more work done through a dominant display of power contained in the hands of a few – thus controlling the majority of the Nuts – and capitalising on human nature to succumb to pain. They even gave it a nice jargon to go with – Team Work. Thus we evolved into civilised societies, “civilised” being the operative word, while the Lone Wolf was avoided and painted in scary red colours. We even came up with spooky stories of how the Lone Wolf ripped children’s throat at night, mislaid them from their path and ate them up. Pretty soon, society became the way of life. New rules to conform, new peer pressure to bow down to, new religions and faith sprang up to accommodate our evolving belief system.
With time, Evolution led to the discrimination of sex and Masculine aggression simply browbeat the Feminine sex into dominance for better satisfaction of their needs; the needs being sex. Now, Women clearly had issues with that – I mean who wouldn’t, right? So they started putting their brains together and came up with a brilliant manipulation technique that put them on an almost equal footing with their other half. Any guesses so far? If you are thinking Motherhood you are probably right, though of course, Sociological studies say there are about a hundred other manipulation techniques Women learnt in the course of evolution, as a direct result of Male oppression and dominance. That should have taught the Men a lesson – what you sow comes back to bite you in the ass – but men will be men and never a lesson was learnt, or perhaps they realised it was the best way to keep peace at home. In fact, pretty soon Motherhood became a need and Mankind came up with all kind of reasons to justify and glorify it. A woman is not complete unless she becomes a mother. I wonder which ingenious devil came up with that piece of profundity. After all, it was a win-win situation: you give me heir and I give you power. In most households, it soon became a ritual to pay extra attention to the expectant mother. Once the child was born, she got greater respect and a sense of promotion in the family hierarchy – more if it was a male child (see men are not exactly fools).
Now, here is a fun fact: In 2008, hospitals in Nebraska, United States witnessed nearly 35 children abandoned by their parents within a 4 months span. The reason? The Safe Haven laws (or Baby Moses law) had been recently enacted in several states of US, giving parents the option to desert their children without the fear of prosecution, thus declaring the abandoned children the ward of the States, provided they were left at proper establishments. There was a huge controversy because teenagers as old as 17 were abandoned at fire stations, hospitals and churches and there was a rising fear of scarring the kid for life with the stigma of abandonment. We might idolise Parenthood but Parents are far from being the perfect Idols. Now, wait. Why demonise those parents before even knowing their cause for doing it? Doesn’t what goes around, comes around too? If we created a society with rules, there is bound to be some flagging down of those rules. I say, why judge at all when we already know the varied mysteries the human nature is capable of?
Another Fun Fact: Apparently, Indian women too are increasingly opting against Motherhood. Nothing wrong in that statement, except in India, even an animal enjoys the revered status of Motherhood; numerous times lives have been sacrificed in the name of the “holy” mother. Imagine the plight of the woman who dared say no to such a privileged position. According to this article by BBC Hindi published in 2013, “Opting out is not easy for women in a country which, in 2011, had a total fertility rate of 2.5, only slightly higher than the replacement rate. It is also a country where more than 200 mothers also die out of every 100,000 live births ever year, and an infant accounts for every sixth death.“
Mankind is bored to hell:
In recent weeks, I had an epiphany of sorts. After my marriage, every time I used to visit a family gathering there would always be that one impertinent aunt asking me that one impertinent question: What do I do to pass the time. That’s weird and rude. It’s nobody’s business what I do with my own time, so initially, I was a bit miffed, not to say a bit perplexed at such questions. Until my mother brought a guest to my house – my Taiji (that’s my father’s elder brother’s wife: we Indians are really very close knitted that way). The entire time she was there as my guest, I found candid conversation flowed freely. I was entertained but more importantly I realised, Mankind is bored to hell. Men, they find solace in fast action: Cars, Casinos and Pretty Girls. Women on the other hand like working on long term projects: Career, Marriage and voila – Babies.
Both my Taiji and my mum are working women. So is my aunt and all my married friends. On the other hand, almost all of the women from my In-Laws side are housewives, including me. The only conceivable difference I could find between a 30-year-old married woman and one in her 50’s, irrespective of their career status is this: The younger ones have it slightly better – even if they are somewhat bored, they are still engrossed in their current projects and they have better prospects in the future (babies! what fun!). The older ones, however, are bored to death, and that’s really irrespective of their career status. There was one prominent reason that stared at me right in the face – their most important project, the upbringing of their children, was over. All the kids are working, married and/or settled. Their dear children really can do with much less interference from their meddling parents and basically, everybody wants them to mind their own business.
Now, what should be expected from a society of bored women? Kitty parties, Satsang, a new found interest in Facebook, gym, a new diet, yoga, travelling – the list goes on really. But nothing can beat the perkiness of a brand new grandchild! How cute. I mean, how many times can one really poke someone through Facebook? It’s much more fun in real life! Thus, they don the cloak of Cicero and advocates the benefits of raising a “family” together. What happens next is too mundane to mention. My question:
- Were the husband and wife, along with in-laws and siblings, not “family” before the child happened?
- If children are really the answer to most of our marital problems, why are the divorce rate of parents with kids increasing?
- Is it really okay to bow down to peer pressure just because your mother or mother-in-law would be entertained with a grandchild and find a new “project” in the autumn of their life?
- Do we always have to find children cute and adorable? Of course, there are children who are cute and adorable but can’t they also be manipulative little bastards? I know I was when I was a kid.
- Do we really have to attach a stigma to not having a child? Why can’t a couple simply decide not to have a child without raising any eyebrows?
- Married couples do cheat, even after kids. In fact, extramarital cheating is too frequent in the middle ages, and they mostly happen because of boredom (or absence of excitement – tomato, tahmato). In that case are children really an effective cure for boredom?
- When does having a child turns from becoming a happy pick-me-up project to a dangerously obsessive need that threatens to destroy a marriage and how do you draw a line there?
- Finally, the most important question: Can a human being not be complete in himself or herself? Do they always have to be so dependent on love that they would need the validation of a child’s cry to feel complete?
I won’t compete against a Mother’s feelings for her child. No, that would be stupid and fatal. I would also happily testify that Motherhood does change you. Every great tragedy does, and I am not being sarcastic here. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, remember? And our children do sometimes end up being the greatest tragedy of our lives, next only to the men in our lives. After all, what does a mother really live for? She is not expecting anything in return except to see her kid grow up into a conventional human being with a few conventional faults. In the process, she does sacrifice a large part of her life -almost 20 to 30 years – merely to see her kid grow. She changes her habits, her predilections, her priorities – all for a helpless 5-pound wriggling mass of human flesh. But that wriggling 5 pound of human flesh is hers and how! That’s true for Fathers as well. I would consider both of them to be hopelessly romantic, but that’s just me.
To be or not to be:
I realise I have raised many an uncomfortable question. Horatio might even suggest I have blasphemed against the Feminist Gods. What I have done, however, is simply raise a point of view. Motherhood is merely a choice – not a sacrifice or a need. Couples who decide against having a child, for whatever reasons, should have space in our society. Same goes for people who decide against commitments of any sorts – marriage, career, religion, politics or love. Not making difficult commitments, irrespective of reasons, doesn’t make you weak. In fact, like one of my dear friend pointed out – Bhisma Pitamaha’s greatest suffering came from making one too many commitments he shouldn’t have kept. In his deathbed, his last piece of advice to the Pandavas was to avoid making promises, especially to ourselves.
While stressed out on difference of opinions, try clenching and unclenching your fist. If nothing else, you will soon notice one thing – it is a rare evolutionary wonder that none of the fingers in our hands match up. Each has a different shape, a different name and a different role. If there’s no conformity in us, how can we expect conformity in others? Acceptance of who we really are is the greatest act of kindness we can show towards ourselves. Once we accept ourselves, it becomes much easier to accept the differences in others – that’s what we have been taught through the epics and through our religions. After all, isn’t that the essence of a true Democracy?