It is not uncommon among women to internalise failures of their loved ones, especially children. Mothers feel compelled to bear the burden of blame when their child “fails” to live up to certain expectations or match the standards set for her or him. Do we see it as a setback to our parenting skills? Or is it that we have been conditioned as women to internalise any blame which befalls our family since childhood? After all, it is we who are touted to be responsible for their well-being. Or is it simply that the burden of blame find its way to our shoulders because parenting largely remains women’s responsibility in our country, and children do not have the agency to live their lives on their own terms.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Mothers often tend to internalise any failure on part of their child.
  • Women bear the major chunk of parenting responsibilities in our society.
  • Add to that our misplaced notions of success and failures, and one can understand why women tend to internalise so-called failure of their children.
  • Shouldn’t mothers liberate themselves and their children from social constraints that define success and motherhood?

Every Indian parent is obsessed with success, in education, professional life and personal. However, the duties of parenting aren’t shared equally, as it is moms who are largely responsible to put a child on the road to lifelong success.

Mothers internalise failure of their wards in any walk of life, irrespective of their child’s age or gender. The problems change, but a mother’s approach remains the same. Every Indian parent is obsessed with success, in education, professional life and personal. However, the duties of parenting aren’t shared equally, therefore it is moms who are largely responsible to put a child on a road to lifelong success. It starts early with studies and manners and slowly the parental interference overtakes the agency of children. What profession to choose, whom to marry; Indian mothers get to have a big say in all the decisions their children take, or rather they take for their children.

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But are the very standards that are used to segregate children as successful or failures in life, even legitimate? Does scoring fewer marks in exams make your child a failure? Is a failed marriage, unsteady employment, lack of interpersonal skills or a personality which appeases the society a correct parameter to label a child as a failure? Should failure be dealt with a sense of finality, proclaiming the last verdict on a child’s present and future, or should we just treat it as a life lesson, meant for course -correction and tell the same to our children?

I know it is easier said than done. We live in a world where good marks, employment and marital prospect do influence your financial future greatly. No parent wants their child to struggle with money. Each one of us wishes that our kids “settle down” with a steady paycheck earned on the back of solid education, a good partner and life replete with familial, social and financial prosperity. But by refusing to free our children’s lives from these constraints, prioritising what we label as a secure future over their happiness, we are infact setting them up on the path of discontent and unhappiness, which is true failure on our part.

That quest for social acceptance and security makes us see failure even in aspects where there isn’t any. A boy pursuing an ill-paying job in a field that he likes is a failure. A forty something woman with a great career, a loving husband, but without a child is a failure. A child good in performing arts but poor in mathematics is a failure. An unmarried daughter or a son without a degree that parents can boast about is a failure as well.

This is why it isn’t enough to tell mothers to stop internalising failure, because we need to change our very perception of success and failure too. When the duties of parenting are equally shared, when children are given agency to live their lives as per their desire and not social constraints, this internalisation of children’s so-called failure will fade away gradually.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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