The scapegoat and the saviour
Have you ever heard the joke about the respect that mothers get?
“If there is a woman speaking in the house and no one is listening, she is probably the mom.”
Such a precise observation, true in all houses. Being the lady who has to play many roles inside the house, you always have a lot to say, ask, inform and order. You are the cook, the maid, the baby-sitter, the accountant, the driver, the overworked and unpaid employee and yet the boss of the house. Everyone follows, or let’s say pretends to follow your word. You are the ultimate planner; plan meals, plan grocery shopping, plan family trips, plan birthday parties and sleepovers, plan what the kids wear, plan their studies, their evening classes, plan weekly phone calls to grandparents and fix up the kid’s FaceTime appointment with them, and even plan the planning. One of the most interesting roles you play is that of a ‘finder’. If anything goes missing, you are summoned.
“Where is my pencil?”
“Where is my sock?”
“Where are the plates? “
“Where is the TV remote”
You are in demand when things are in place but others cannot ‘see’ them. All you have to do is, go and take a look around. Go to the study table and bend down... yup...right there! The pencil. Waiting to be picked up by you. Simply open the neatly folded sock, and voila! The second sock is tucked in. Open the kitchen drawer. Plates! Yes, there they are, hiding from the world. If you give your family that mean look, the kids and the husband will unanimously agree that you changed all the places without informing them. Thanks, Marie Kondo, but my family finds stuff more easily when everything is lying in a mess.
Your family also thinks that you have the memory of an elephant, which you definitely don’t. You are expected to remember the birthdays of all the children in the neighbourhood, of your child’s friends at school, their pet’s name, and their house phone numbers and also remember to remind your kids to wish them on that day. In case you forget and they find out later, be ready for a lot of drama.
You are also expected to know what their friends like to eat, which toys they already have so that we don’t gift them the same and all other such ‘important’ things. Any detail that is missed out will cost you. You will end up saying sorry every ten minutes, living a guilt-filled day remembering that, which may end up in you agreeing for extra TV time or junk food for dinner.
As a mother, you are also expected to know-it-all. You are officially the in-house search engine. The children will throw in any query and you ought to know it and get it done. Let us say that you are a terrible cook but you will be asked to bake cupcakes. You do your best, following a recipe online but they turn out to be as hard as a stone.
You will be asked to make a dinosaur out of paper when all you have ever made is a paper boat. You will be asked why there are no flying cars in our town yet and why is our country at war with the neighbouring one or even asked if we can also carve animals out of stone, monolithic structures basically or bring some sculptures from the museum you visited during the school vacation and have them placed in the living room. You are expected to know what happens when we die and if we can ask God to send his classmate to hell for cheating and winning a race at school.
Well, you try to stick to facts, you accept that you have limited craft skills and resources and even try to explain that some things are illegal but you can never say “I don’t know how to, or I don't know why..”
You try to give detailed answers, take Google’s help, show videos, make a mental note to enrol for a baking class, update yourself on science, religion, even the country’s laws to be ready for their questions and demands. In spite of that, you might get to hear” You don’t know anything Ma!” and so at the end, you direct them to the father. When they do, your husband will give them the most ridiculous, illogical and bullshit answers. No surprise, that the kids will be thrilled and love those more, happily believe them and find them funny too. You feel defeated as after all the trouble you took, your husband earned those brownie points and became the ‘cool’ one.
It is not just your own kids holding you accountable for every little thing that goes wrong. Everyone around you, the neighbour, your extended family, even some random woman on the street might point a finger at you. They all believe they have the right to question your parenting technique. If you try to bring discipline and ask the kids to do some housework, you are being too harsh. If your little boy cries on the death of his pet fish, you are told to make them tougher and not so weak. Really? Since when is sensitivity the same as being emotionally weak? If you try to train your kids to be punctual, your word is brushed aside by an elder at home saying no one ever comes on time in this country, why to make our kids wait!
Nothing you do is ever ‘correct’, nor will it ever suffice. People are going to judge, advice and criticize. Whether she a stay-at-home mother devoting her entire time to the children, a full time working mother setting a great example for them or even a part-timer doing the balancing act, mothers are always targeted for what they are not.
Mothers take up responsibilities and work willingly most of the time. Right from fetching a glass of water to filling up air in a bicycle tyre, it is all her job. They have a unique ability to foresee and predict the needs of their children. They know that your kid is going to ask you to help with his homework, but they also know that he is going to bring only half of the books needed. So you fetch them from his school bag before heading to the study table. You know that after an awesome outing where they hogged on ice cream, they are going to cough all night and hence you have that warm water ready next to their bed. You will always remember that the school teacher had asked children to bring leaves of different shapes for a science project and the little one might forget, so you pack a few in his bag so that he does not feel left out in class. He comes home excited and says. “Thank you Ma, the teacher would have scolded me if I didn’t have those leaves”. That’s all you need to hear. You know that you have saved the day.
Mothers find out if something is off just by looking at you. They are experts in digging out your secrets, so when you say that you don’t smoke, of course, they don’t believe you. They know that you do, they will list out all the health hazards for you as if you are not aware of them, and then they will wait. Patiently. They want you to give it up by yourself. Deep down they wish they could just hide or throw the cigarette pack away and never let you buy it in the first place just like they did for chocolates and ice creams.
The day you fight with your partner, they know. A mother knows you in and out and if she knows your partner a little, she may as well guess what the issue may be. But she will never probe until you say something first. She knows she needs to give you space. The worst fear a mother has is her child drifting away emotionally from her. Probing and preaching you will lead to that, she fears. It actually kills her inside every day she sees you low and sad. She lets you go through it, till the time she feels it is okay. The day she feels it is getting worse or may do something to hurt yourself she will kick you in your butt and get you off the bed. She will wake you up, shake you, and stir up the sense and confidence inside of you with her loving words, her harsh words and with her silence. In my experience, a mother’s intuition of the people in your life, whether those people are good for you or bad, has always been correct.
There is really no manual on being a perfect mother, no one should even try to be one. Bring down the unrealistic expectation from women to be perfect, all-knowing mothers. And what can I say about our own kids... well we can only wait for them to realize this on their own. Until then, let us get back and check why there is so much silence in the house. Hope they haven't coloured the walls with crayons while you were reading this. :)