When my child was born, I made him three promises. These were based on experiences I have had with many parents and guardians, who I have seen making unfair statements about their children. It was hence a conscious decision to be careful that those won’t touch me or my child atany stage.
First was, I would not be stressed when the child exhibits qualities that don’t make me particularly proud! Whenever the kid does something nice, parents and families pounce upon them claiming credit. Everyone feels that the child has inherited them from him or her. But when the child goes for something awful, he is disowned! “No one among us has ever been so temperamental/hyper/ill-behaved/restless,” I often hear mothers saying. A friend of mine had told me once, how she was worried because some qualities she detested in her in-laws were reflecting on her daughter; she was forcing the child to give up those habits. And I have also seen how innocent faces go pale when children are compared to another “ideal child”. Setting a benchmark is good, as long as it doesn’t cost their confidence. I had hence promised that when it comes to my child, I would be there for him to take blame for all those things which wouldn’t be that flattering. I might try to help him overcome those limitations. But end of the day I will accept that he needs to lead a happy and healthy life and I will not pressurise him with my ideas of perfection! His first priority should be to feel contented with what he makes out of himself, so that he can pass on the pleasure to those around him. Given that our emotional attachment with everything about our kids is very high, it would be a difficult task to detach at times and leave the child alone with his flaws. But I am ready to take the plunge, as long as it doesn’t harm him beyond repair. In his journey, I would rather wait for him to select which are those areas where he actually wants to achieve perfection. For the rest that goes amiss, his mother would be there to say “I am responsible for the mess!”.
I will never say that my career breathed its last after the birth of my child. This was a realisation that came to me when I was pregnant. It is common for mums to blame the children for careers going downhill after having a baby. The truth is, careers face a stagnation when they are not planned well. There’s no “sacrifice” about it. It’s like either you go for it or you don’t! Your choice. Also it’s your problem how you work out the odds in your favour.
Second, I should be able to accept it when, on a given day, my child isn’t really happy. I have seen parents forcing their “solutions” on the progeny, the moment they get to know about some problems in their lives. People don’t realise that it’s selfish, and often unfair, to expect that your child will always be in a state of blissful jubilance. He needs his space on days when things aren’t bringing the best results and all his plans are falling flat. Those are the moments when he either needs to be left alone or supported like a friend to whom he can speak and bare his heart! Those are not the moments for parents to point out, “see I told you” or “why don’t you listen to what I say!” I know it’s too difficult for parents to let go; but had we possessed the great mantras of good life then we wouldn’t have had so many issues with our own lives. Many times my students confided in me saying that they can’t discuss their concerns openly with their parents, because the solutions they would prescribe won’t work for them! Each individual has their own sensibilities with which they approach life and work it out in their own way. Simply standing by them in times when they aren’t feeling the best, I believe would make more sense. At my end for example, whenever my little boy gets hurt, I try to hug him and assure that I can feel his pain. I would certainly not give him a candy to shut him off or inspire him to forget about it by distracting him. He takes his time to get over the bruise, and I would be there for him to share the tears. In future when they grow up, facing bigger problems with each passing day, it is just so important for them to know and trust, that their parents are simultaneously walking with them absorbing the same pain and they aren’t left alone somewhere.
Third, I will never say that my career breathed its last after the birth of my child. This was a realisation that came to me when I was pregnant. It is common for mums to blame the children for careers going downhill after having a baby. The truth is, careers face a stagnation when they are not planned well. There’s no “sacrifice” about it. It’s like either you go for it or you don’t! Your choice. Also it’s your problem how you work out the odds in your favour. Why burden your offspring with that emotional blackmail? When I planned for a family, I was pretty clear that I won’t ever name my baby as the reason for any professional stagnancy that I might face. Rather, with all my spirits, I wanted to have a resurrection of sorts. From an out-and-out “job” person earlier who would just earn her bread and spend and save and be happy with that, I suddenly grew very ambitious! Things that never really bothered me before, came back to me asking very fundamental questions. I wanted to have a specific vision for my child. I wanted to pave a clear path for those special contributions that I should make in his system. I wanted him to grow up knowing about the positive changes he had brought in me, my life and my career. So, when usually women take it slow and try to suspend work for a while, I was brimming with energy trying to build up an alternate model of my being which I never thought I’d explore. I took to voracious writing on art and artists, something very close to my heart, through my books and columns. This part of my identity is purely attributed to my child. After all, I could survive being a miscellaneous no one who never took that initiative to carve a difference; but my child’s mother won’t!
With these three promises, I know that I have multiplied for myself the task in hand and my responsibilities have increased manifold. But for me, the joy of parenting is all about “the road not taken”! And when did I ever declare that I would not experiment with motherhood?