Motherhood stereotypes that we need to unlearn: Why must a mom put her life on hold always? Motherhood remains a phase in a woman’s life that is used to define her existence. Well, as soon as you embrace it, there is no going back. Once a mom, always a mom. No matter how old your child is, even if they are married, or have children of their own, our duty as mom lasts for a lifetime. So then why do I refer to it as a phase? That’s because contrary to social stereotyping, there is more to a woman’s life than motherhood, and her passions, identity, opinions etc., matter as much as her duty as a mother. A woman shouldn’t have to put her life on hold, just because she is a mother.
Putting one's life on hold is open to individual interpretation. As a young mother, I did have to put my life on hold for sometime because I was responsible for my child all on my own. For single mums, it is even more difficult to move away from motherhood, and focus on themselves and their needs because they do not have a partner with whom they could share the chores of parenting. And then I know numerous women for whom life took a 180-degree turn after they embraced motherhood. They let go of good professional opportunities, opt for freelance or part-time work. Some eventually make it back to a regular nine-to-five job. Rarely are there women who go one step ahead and shift their focus to work and passion. For most, life as a mother is all that is left. But is this how things should be?
Here’s a motherhood stereotype that we all should unlearn: motherhood is all about sacrifice and putting yourself second.
In India, parenting still remains a gendered duty, falling mostly on women. While dads are gradually warming up to parenting, they return to work much earlier than moms. As men are mostly primary earners in a family, women are expected to pick up the remaining duties, when it comes to running a home. All this could change if only women have a support system in place. But there is another important factor: that of guilt and sense of accountability that is piled on by society on moms.
Ask a new mom off to work, leaving her young child in the care of a nanny. Ask a mother who dared to take a trip on her known, with her child in care of her husband or grandparents. In fact, ask any woman who dared to contemplate restarting her career after a hiatus due to maternity, she’ll tell you at length how social scrutiny and the guilt that has been drilled down in women’s conscience plays a big deterrent.
Being a mother is a privilege, when it is something that happens to you voluntarily and when you are blessed with a people in you life who have your back. But here’s what every mom should unlearn: motherhood is all about sacrifice and putting yourself second. That’s not love, that’s conditioning. When someone loves you, be it your husband and your children, they eventually understand your need for individual identity, personal space and having some time just for yourself. They do not hold it against you if you desire to be financially independent or take a vacation on your own every now and then, or pour your time in pursuing an art of your choice.
Life cannot be restricted to just one aspect. Imagine what it would be like if you were expected to work all the time, or to cook all the time, that is exactly what society and families do to women when they limit their existence to motherhood and try to guilt them by saying that you do not love your child enough if they challenge this stereotyping.
We owe it to the future generation to break these regressive stereotypes and to liberate women and men from gendered duties that constraint their growth as people and eventually leave them feeling unhappy and dissatisfied. To put it simply, a mother has every right to be a woman too.
Views expressed are the author's own.