Judging people for their choices is a collective human pastime. Everyone is guilty for it. Some of us just voice it openly while others hold that thought back and choose politeness in our expressions. But the level of judgment varies person to person, with some people holding themselves back, understanding and agreeing that it is not the best practice, while other think it is their divine calling to dole out unsolicited opinions at inopportune moments.
The second favorite thing to do is stereotyping. There are people who take stereotyping more seriously than they did their blood typing in biology. The latter at least helps. The former… well… it helps in creating a sense of false belonging to a particular peer group. Yes. You just read that sentence. And yes. It was stereotyping and generalizing. Irritating, right? If it didn’t irritate you and / or made you laugh instead, please read further.
A recent spate of posts (on Facebook) and a few personal conversations with friends prompted this post. I am not going to deny the fact. I do not have first hand experience at motherhood and have no idea how it feels like. I may not be a mother but I am a daughter, and if I cannot see the issue from one end, I can very well throw light on it from another end. It also helps that I have some amazing mothers as my friends, people slightly older than me, younger than me, but every one of them setting major life goals for me in their own ways.
No one can deny the beauty of motherhood, or the ultimate joy it is to women to become mothers, manifesting a gift presented only to them. It is closest to God a human gets a chance to play, and while all these emotional thoughts about motherhood and the sacrifice that is are put aside, the stark realities of life strike. The divinity of motherhood is undermined by the general mindset of some folk.
The first obvious pain of all mothers who have been blessed with children is this: it always opens them up to criticism on how best to bring up the child they gave birth to. It is not only mothers who feel this, but I can see how very irritating it would be to be subjected to constant, unending criticism about something even they are bound to be unsure about. Be it their choices to be working or stay at home mothers, or be it the choice to be a strict or lenient mother, every choice is exposed to microscopic level of scrutiny by ‘well-meaning’ people who offer contradictory suggestions that will confuse even stone statues.
I would love to think that they are all multiple versions of correct methods but the utter failure of some helpful suggestions, and the results I have seen with my own eyes when some friends applied the suggestions, have led me to conclude (judgmentally) that no one knows what actually works. It may be true, it may not be. But it is a strong theory. Even if the suggestions themselves worked, what is the guarantee that they will work for someone else whose dynamic might be entirely different? Is it not considered foolish to judge a fish by its ability to climb trees?
Judging a working mother for their choice to leave the baby with a crèche or a stay at home partner is as stupid as judging a ‘stay at home’ mother for losing focus on their career and becoming a typical mom. Now I would love to know who a typical mom is. Ultimately, it is the love a mother has towards her child, and it is her choice to decide how she is going to manifest it. Maybe securing a financially independent future is sometimes more important, or maybe watching every aspect of growth and being there in the early developmental stages takes a priority.
Much like many other things in life, motherhood is also a choice that is influenced by a variety of other circumstances and opinions. Judgmental stereotyping is not even the last thing mothers have to face, but it is sadly very common in everyday life. Motherhood is dependent on a woman’s personal lifestyle and it must be only her choice and freedom to determine what she does with the gift she has been bestowed with. The simple understanding that ‘mothers know best’ is all it takes.
If that is one perspective, there is another pet peeve of mine that gnaws at my mind during every occurrence. A woman can become a mother at 22, or 32, or whatever age that befits her lifestyle and choices and preferences. And no, this is not even a rant about how women are forced to endure society’s stereotyping about when to have a baby.
There is another finer aspect that does not get much attention and is even considered an agreeable endearment in many cases. This is the kind of socially acceptable, veiled criticism that all mothers face at various points in their life. Being a mother is one of the things a woman can be – no doubt something she really revels in. But the moment a woman becomes a mother, all other identities slowly fade away, and Mother becomes the best (and only) thing a woman can be.
The title by itself is supposed to elicit an emotional reaction, and while a mother is patronizingly placed in a pedestal that calls her a Mother and celebrates that glory, it can also not be missed that all of her other individually defining characteristics are slowly merged into that one single facet. All of her choices from that point onwards are expected to be in the best interests of the child, or rather what her detractors consider are the socially acceptable choices for a mother to make – bringing her into the web of judgment from which it is difficult to escape.
The mother emerges, and the woman fades into the background.
Celebrating motherhood is a very personal choice. Women will take it up happily, make their life all about the apple of their eyes. The sacrifices and decisions will be made towards the darling they have created, the focal point of their lives who brought additional meaning to their existence. But those choices should remain a personal thing, and the way they act upon them must be open to criticism from only those people who matter and have an equal part in the child’s upbringing. If they are thrust upon them by someone else, the choices become chores and a gripping sense of self-doubt cripples anyone who has anything less than the perfectly impenetrable bubble of self-confidence.
But enjoying motherhood does not mean refusing to enjoy everything else that makes a woman what she is. Motherhood is just one more jewel on her crown and not the only identity she shall go by. Motherhood should not make a woman lose everything she was and all the things she actually is. Perhaps one of the most pressing questions is why being a mother is expected to be a complete personality transformation that sheds all the defining layers the woman held till that point.
There are many alternate views that might arise from everyone who wants to defend their unknowingly well-intentioned judgmental view points, but the ultimate point of writing this post (rant) is to express only one point – what a woman chooses to be is her decision, and perhaps the problem of only those people who are going to be affected directly. Trying to mansplain the pride and joy that is motherhood is like quacks trying to dumb down the labor pain.
Here’s saying cheers to motherhood, and celebrating a woman for everything she is, instead of just the labels the society attaches to her name!