My mother and I often connect as two mothers from different generations. We connect in the sense that we both are mobile mothers; she had no choice as she was married to an army man and I (and my husband) have chosen mobility for our living. We experienced the challenges of relocations, reset and restart many times as mothers. We both believe in hobbies like gardening, writing, appreciating art and music. I started my parenting upon taking cues from hers but with each passing year my own parenting path is paved. A path which has colors from my exposure to the world, changing structure of the world we live in, and my understanding.
Girls and boys were and are raised differently. In India of 1980’s when I was growing, mothers had different strata in the society depending whether they had daughters or sons (may be even now in many parts). Dowry killings, abortions, were common news to read in the newspapers then. My mother had a paradoxical way of raising her girls. On some days she would want us to study hard, be independent and strong and on other days she would panic that we were not learning enough about how to run a home or be submissive, very similar to what Indra Nooyi said about her mother in this interview. She was burdened being mother of girls and that affected her parenting too. Women issues are still rampant in India, but women in India are breaking barriers in each field, having had a global exposure for many years, higher education, I have taken a pledge to provide gender neutral parenting to my daughter. She is not much aware that she has to be different because she is a girl at least at home.
My mother never tries to be our friends. She could be either a soft or a strict mother. With her is a hierarchical relationship, instruction based. Discipline and obeying the family rules were important for us kids. I wanted to be a friend to my daughter and that gets quite confusing for both of us at times, that is what I have chosen for myself anyways, a flat structure of parenting.
Deficit in mother tongue and religion
My mother too had to relocate in various cities of India but she never had any trouble teaching me our regional language, we followed the major festivals of our religion. Being an army kid I got exposure to other languages and festivals of India too. I have lived for almost a decade outside of India and in places with no big Indian associations. This has impacted my early years of parenting, with my daughter I have failed to teach her our mother tongue after a certain point. Excessive availability of books and other materials in English and no updated reading materials in regional languages added to this. She is also not much aware about our festivals other than the major ones. We don’t practice daily religious rituals, fasting, or food related religious biases. We celebrate the festivals of the place where we live, so for some years Christmas was my daughter’s major festival and then it was Diwali or Holi. Recently we have moved places again and we are open to getting influenced once more.
Don’t always obey, negotiate and ask
I was expected to obey my parents, elders, teachers etc. We were not encouraged to ask questions. Child abuse, menstruation, sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, divorce, rape, and domestic violence was never discussed loudly. We did not discuss periods with father at all. We were given hints by our mother. She would assume I would learn about these from somewhere else. I try to be the first person to discuss with my child about these topics, as she is growing up. She and her father are encouraged to discuss anything and everything. We give her leverage to question why she is asked to do something, to the extent that at times I crib to become an authoritative parent. I try to keep those instances limited when I say “because I said, so” or “I don’t Know”!
Judge less and support more
Our society is judgmental and more to a woman and women did not give respite to one another either. Our mothers generation thrived on negativeness between mother in law and daughter in law be it real lives or on television. Anyone who is trying to live differently (read marrying late, opting for no kids, getting divorced) are criticized to the core. I try to cut that cycle for my daughter. To grow in life it is required more to clap for others, compete with conscience and be the team person. This needs to be sowed in our children. It is easy to fall into the ongoing clichés of being critical and judgmental to others but with conscious effort we can turn the table. In the same time it is time we teach them to say no to guilt and be kickass in whatever they do and decide.
Don’t just follow, Go chase the world
My mother was a stay at home mother, she has many hobbies but she never thought of monetizing them. She was happy keeping her desires hidden and always thought about the family in terms of food cooked, materials bought, and did not push her wishes to be fulfilled. This did not make her a happy woman all the time and we took her for granted easily. But as Apoorva Purohit of Lady you are not a man book fame showed it so aptly (see video), sacrifice was and still is a glorious goal for women. We are more of followers while living. When it comes to my daughter I totally push her to take her decisions, grab things first and fast, and most of all to go chase the world!
Image credits: Google Images