Parenthood is undoubtedly a colossal responsibility for a couple but every time a child makes a mistake, why blame the mother? Raising a child is a mammoth task for both the mother and father. Hence, when kids achieve something, bring laurels or get praised, the parents are elated and proud. In fact, they consider it as their own accomplishment. Not just the parents themselves, but the society also applauds the parents. However, when the child does something wrong, most of the times, only the mother usually gets the blame. Here are some ways in which that manifests.
A common occurrence in Indian households is that when a child does anything that is worthy of praise, a father would usually say something on the lines of, “Mere beti/bete ne kamaal kar diya!” (“My daughter/son has done a great job!”) or “Mujhe mere beti/bete par naaz hain.” (I am proud of my daughter/son). Evidently, the father takes pride in his child’s achievement. Although he might also include the mother in the verbal expression of his parental self-credit by saying ‘hum/humaare’ (our) instead of ‘main/mera’ (my/mine), he would still associate himself to the feat.
On the other hand, when a child does something wrong, the father would say something to the mother like, “Dekho kya kiya hain tumhare beti/bete ne!” (Look what your daughter/son has done!) or “Apne beti/bete ko kuch sikhao! Tumhara bachcha haat se phisal raha hain!” (Teach your daughter/son. She/he is getting out of control!). In fact, other family members, especially the paternal kin, also tend to blame and rebuke the mother of the child. This way fathers not only absolve themselves from the accountability for what goes wrong, but also conveniently put the entire blame on the mother, as though it’s her fault that the child did something wrong. Are women solely responsible when their children mess things up?
What transpires between the couple, spills over to the rest of the family too. Like a mother-in-law blaming the mother among other relations.
In Vidya Balan’s critically-acclaimed movie Tumhari Sulu, where she plays the role of a quintessential home-maker turned radio-jockey, Sulochana aka Sulu is held responsible and chided by her family when her son got suspended from school. Her ‘odd job at night’ is regarded by them as the reason behind her son going down the wrong way.
However, Sulu stands up for herself and refused to take the sole blame for her son’s misdeeds. Not considering what happens later, this scene showed a social anomaly where a mother did not give in to the societal attitudes and perceptions towards how a child ought to be raised right by a mother. Unfortunately, not many mothers are able to break away from the reins of such blame and guilt-tripping.
One important question which arises is that why only mothers are expected to take the onus when her child goes astray?
Why blame the mother?
There’s no doubt that mothers greatly influence how their children turn out to be, but the society would never acknowledge that fathers wield the same influence, if not more. The blame is always unequally shifted to mothers when some wrong befall her child.
There’s another aspect to be taken into consideration. In Indian, which has systemic patriarchal roots, women are mostly relegated to the tasks of home-making and child-rearing. So, the most common argument one finds to justify the blame is that the mother stays with the child far more than the father does.
Dr. Lauri Umanksy, history professor at Arkansas State University and co-author of Bad Mothers, said in an interview, “Part of the blaming of mothers lies in the gendered structure of child-rearing, with mothers doing most of the labour still associated with children.” She added that the social conditioning of lauding the men for doing the bare minimum has made us give ‘undue adulation’ to the father when they come anywhere close to being a part of raising a child. That is why it’s both the parents who are credited for their child’s accomplishments and success whereas a mother get blamed for her child’s wrongs.
In fact, she also mentioned in her book how ‘blame the mother’ is used to reinforce the status quo of unequal power dynamics based on gender. This works as a form of societal control which confines women to household chores and raising her children.
The taunts and rebukes are a subtle yet profound way of implying that child-rearing is a woman’s ultimate job in her life.
The Guilt Trip
It’s high time the society realised that it’s unfair to guilt-trip mothers for their children’s shortcomings. In fact, it’s necessary to ponder over how a child is not only conditioned by their parents, but also by other factors like peers, schools, media and various other factors in their milieu.
Why blame the mother: Part of the blaming of mothers lies in the gendered structure of child-rearing – Dr. Lauri Umanksy
Furthermore, how a child or person turns out to be eventually depends on a person’s temperament and personality. Parenting does matter, but it can’t be the sole factor which determines what a child does or goes through in his life.
Moreover, to err is human. Children will make mistakes as they are naive and immature. So, it’s extremely insensitive to shame a mother for her ways of parenting when a child does something wrong.
Also, fathers also need to be more considerate towards how they choose to deal with the accountability for their child’s mistakes and misdeeds rather than blame the mother. If they can take pride in their children when they do anything right, they should also own up to their responsibility (if needed to for both the parents) when their children do something wrong.
Views expressed are author’s own.