On Mother's Day, let us choose to be more understanding and more compassionate in our social, personal and professional interactions with all women.
On Mother’s Day, the two most important persons who pop into my mind are my mother and grandmother. It is not to say that I remember them only on Mother’s Day. They are my daily inspiration – very ordinary women who have chosen to lead extraordinary lives by being brave about their vulnerability. They built homes for their loved ones, like architects design houses.
While growing up as a child, my mother and grandmother ingrained in me that to be financially independent and emotionally resilient is a woman’s most important accomplishment in life. Their own expression of vulnerability is manifested through their strong views that women should have an independent existence and that a woman’s whole life need not be centered around a man or children alone, but in pursuit of the Higher Self, for which emotional and financial well being are equally important components.
Today, however, a key area of concern is how working women are made to feel guilty for choosing to work, particularly among the middle class and the elite circles.
This reminds me of an observation made by best selling author Brene Brown in her book, ‘Daring Greatly’, as follows: “One of the most powerful ways that our shame triggers get reinforced is when we enter into a social contract based on gender straitjackets…Our relationships are defined by women and men saying – ‘I’ll play my role, and you play yours.’…Women are exhausted, and for the first time, they begin to see clearly that the expectations are impossible.”
To work or not work after giving birth is a mother’s personal choice. To have a second child or a third child is also a personal matter. These are not areas where any other woman has a right to make a comment or ask a question in a way that is insulting.
Yet as a working mother, nothing has wounded me more than the insensitivity of other women, particularly those who choose not to work.
My point is: If you do not want to work, don’t. Don’t mock other people’s choices because they don’t meet your expectations.
Comments vary from “I would never compromise on my child for a career” to “I would never neglect my child.”
Fair enough. But that choice cannot be a reason to mock women who choose to work.
When women stand resilient in the face of such bullying by other women, the next target is the child, who is then bombarded with personal questions by several family members and friends. The child is made to answer questions ranging from “What kind of work does your mother do?” to “Why is it that she works late?”
The belief that we live among “educated” women goes for a toss.
This is the grim reality of the supposedly ‘liberated’ working mother – battling in-built prejudices from extended family circles and social circles, day in and day out.
After a point, working moms begin to cave in and crumble. Then, families break down.
Talk to any working woman across any sector or domain. It is not their work that stresses them out. It is the bullying at different levels by other women who are usually outside their sphere of work but relevant enough in the family and social ecosystem to trigger shame.
In my opinion, it is no less a crime than an act of domestic violence against women.
Unlike physical wounds that can heal, wounds that are continuously perpetrated verbally on a person finds no closures and it is made worse by the fact that it has no logical closure.
My question is: Who is a mother’s worst enemy today?
Years of experience has shown me that it is guilt that is every working mother’s worst enemy.
Most disturbingly, this guilt factor is continuously planted and conditioned into a social system where a majority of women strongly endorse the view that mothers should raise kids, not do jobs.
The reality check doesn’t end here.
The judgments do not end with career choices alone but also with reproductive choices.
Comments vary from, “Good thing you don’t have a second child, less expenses to worry about anyway” to “Can you even afford a second child?”
These comments do not come from uneducated, rural women.
It is not rural mindsets alone that need to be changed.
While the issue of trust deficit between women across different social spheres may seem to be a pessimistic view to start with on Mother’s Day, it is a serious ground for concern. At the ground level where reality clashes with the country’s diverse cultural narratives, multiple challenges emerge for men and women, particularly mothers.
On Mother’s Day, let us choose to be more understanding and more compassionate in our social, personal and professional interactions with all women.
Let’s dare to be compassionate towards one another.
Let’s dare to not join in mocking other women for their choices.
Let’s dare to shine despite our vulnerability and not let anyone shame us.
Keep daring greatly! Remember, you are never alone.
As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “It’s not the critics who count.”