A Tale Of Two Mothers

 

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We roamed the mall side by side, me in my elastic waistband lounge pant and she in her jeans. We gawked the name brand stores, stepped inside H&M and walked out with bags. We sat by the water fountain, cups of coffee in hand and a box of pretzel bites on the table before us. The bags lay to the side. Her face was clear, her eyes lined with kohl. My reflection in the store window behind her showed a tired face with greying hair by my ears.

Sipping on the hot coffee we rested our legs and talked about our respective lives. She about what it was like to hold on to her career and try and balance home and life. Home as defined by a place across the globe. Her eyes had a faraway look when she spoke of her girls. One on the cusp of teenage and the other ready for kindergarten. The worries that weighed on her slipped away one sip at a time even if just for the moment. We mused on what it like to grow up a girl in India burdened by expectations of parents.

Raised to study hard, compete with the boys, make it to the working world only to step back as marriage and motherhood descend on us. She looked around as couples walked past us, her eyes wistful. The ache she felt for her family flowed from her in waves enveloping me. I wished I could reach out and smooth it away, reassure her that it will all work out. That her family will be together again in quite the way she wanted it.

As we got in the car and worked our way through the winding exit, talk shifted to parental influences and how they have impacted us as adults. She of parents who wanted her to excel at studies and work, to shatter glass ceilings and me of parents who were laid back and wanted me to have a good married life.

We spoke of the influences we have on our children. Her voice halted as she spoke of how she decided to pursue a career opportunity out of the country despite hurdles so her children would know that there is no stopping dreams, that it is possible for women (and mothers) to have a career that is not limited by their gender. My voice was quieter when I spoke of wanting to let my children know that all work mattered, even ones that were not paid, that the effort that went into making a home for them to come to each day, though invisible, was just as valuable as the one that I had held in the past.

Night fell and with it, our thoughts were trapped in our heads. Our identities are so intricately tied to our gender roles that sometimes it feels like feminism is indeed a battle. A struggle to just stay in the same lane without being swept off the race. Some problems have no clear solutions but sometimes, just sometimes, setting the gender aside helps us gain clarity on what we should be doing.

β€œWhat would a man do?”

This is the question I pose her and the answer is stunningly simple. Simple does not mean easy though. Even if we struggle to unlearn the biases that are strongly embedded in us, perhaps these questions will make it easier for us to be conscious of what we hold up for our children to emulate. Perhaps, that will give us the strength to forge ahead when otherwise we would be content to linger behind.

10 comments

  1. You speak for all women, Laksh.
    I used to muse these things too, but at some point, I stopped because it seemed that whatever I came up with seemed less than optimal. Such are the times I feel that the Bhagavad Gita (and Nike) may have had a point – “Just do it” !

    • This weekend was tough because I was with my friend who was struggling with decisions that would have been a non issue if she had been a guy.

      • 90% of stuff in the modern times are non issues for men, Laksh. That’s the unfair way the world turns.
        It bothers me, but what bothers me more is that not many people are even aware of this disparity.

      • Sorry for hijacking. When I was in grad school, my roommate was a woman, who left her husband and son behind in India to do her phd in US. She had her in-laws and parents to fill in for her. I always wondered if it had been the other way – her husband doing phd abroad with the woman taking care of children back home (as it usually happens), would the “backup support system” have mattered as much? No.

      • No. It wouldn’t have. Also unless she had a support system her PhD would not have happened. The other way around more than likely she would have moved here. πŸ˜ƒ

  2. Well, i feel a man would run away, as my father did. I know my mum had to dish it out with this unfair way of life. Reading this tells me, she never went after her dreams and now, I’m too selfish and obsessed with mine to bother about what she always wanted. It’s true ma’am, every thing women do I feel, are small investments towards the ideal life. My mum matters, you matter 😁 the lady along with you matters. All women matter 😊😊 pls excuse my grammar. Btw just a happy troller 😎 ‘Dont mind the comment

  3. What a brilliant article Laksh – you hit the nail on the head as usual. One leader I know casually remarked that he gauges people by the multitude of roles they can play well, and by that definition women won by a wide margin. It was one of those empowering conversations that was certainly not intended to be.

    It is always the marathon that is harder than the sprint.

  4. Great perspective. It’s hard for family to see the benefit in homemaking. If I can’t do or find something, mom is there to help out, right? I don’t know how often mom (or dad’s) unpaid homemaking is appreciated. I, myself, will be vacationing alone for 2 weeks this summer. I keep telling my family already, this is how you do this or that. Mom doesn’t want to come home to a wreck of a house. Once I am gone for a little while, maybe then they’ll realize how much work I do.

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