Who am I? Who are you? What defines you? What defines me? Before you get up in arms against me, let me clarify that I love being a mother and parenting is an essential part of my philosophy of life. However, when asked who I am and what I do I always introduce myself as a dancer. It does not come naturally to me introduce myself as somebody's wife or somebody's parent or somebody's daughter. I choose to define myself with the art that I have spent the whole of my life investing in. In an ideal world, I would just introduce myself as a 'human being' but I'm rather far from that sort of philosophical maturity at this point.
All the meandering aside, what I am trying to say here is that I cannot quite wrap my head around defining myself as an extension of somebody else : as a wife, a mother, or a daughter. I am proud of where I come from, love what I have chosen to be mine and adore what we have made of that but there is me above and beyond all of this. The me that is all about me.
Women are often led to believe that wanting a break from these popular identity defining relationships like those of a mother or a wife is selfish and 'not the mark of a good mother'. Who is this good mother? Who is this ideal wife? I would like to meet her and ask her how she survives without suffocating every day. What if she wakes up not wanting to be a mother or a wife for a day? What if she just wants to sit in a corner and do nothing all day? Does that make her a bad mother? I think not. Far from it. Motherhood and a healthy marriage cannot come at the loss of identity. I believe that pursing my career and investing a certain amount of time (yes, time spent away from my child and my home in furthering what i have worked all my life for) makes me a better parent. A parent who is willing to explore who she is and who she is becoming. A parent who will hopefully help her child explore and find out who he is for himself without deciding who he needs to be or what she expects him to be. I find it a dangerous proposition to pin ones identity on another person, especially when the other person is under two feet tall. It's not fair on the little person either, to have to grow up with the weight of an adult's identity on him either, is it? Same goes for the partner. It's hard enough to being an adult and being a parent without having to be responsible for your partners identity as well.
Every woman in a relationship needs to find this room of her own. This piece of her identity that has nothing to do with anybody but her. If could be a passion, it could be a career, it could be cooking, it could be having a beautiful home, it could be reading, it could be just a sitting by a window with a cup of tea watching birds! What is important is that this space is treated as sacred ground. A part of you that is not going to be over ridden by the demands of the society mandated everyday. You need to believe that this space is yours and non-negotiable. You may choose to invite your child or your partner into this space but that is entirely your prerogative. This makes you a strong person which I believe is the basis for being a strong partner or a strong parent too.
All that energy that we spend obsessing over and comparing notes with other parents is better spent on our own selves. 'Oh, you bought these things for your child? Let me go buy those too' or 'oh you buy so many books for you child. Give me a list so I can buy them too'. 'Oh, your child listens to classical music? Mine should too, no? Give me a song list.' Step back. Take a deep breath and look within yourself. Who are you? What about you, which quality, ability or talent of yours is magnificent? Share that part of yourself with your child and your partner. That is the best kind of exposure you can give your family. If you are a reader and were raised in a house full of books then give your child that by all means. If you love music then share that with our child. It does not matter it Illayaraja or Semmangudi or Pink Floyd or death metal or kuthu songs as long as it's something you love listening to. If it's cooking that you are amazing at then invite your child and partner into your kitchen space to participate in the joy it brings you. You don't need to go buy you child books that are 'ee conned' or toys that are 'in'. What you NEED to do is find yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses so you can share that with your child. Once you both have decided what you love doing together you can explore and grow together, be it finding new books to read or new kinds of music to listen to or new kitchen experiments or new science experiments or sport or anything at all.
Being a mother or a wife should not have to come at the cost of who you are. They are not as important as you realising your own self. We have been conditioned, for centuries, to celebrate an ability to dissolve ones sense of self into the common collective ( in this case, family) as being one of the defining qualities of a good woman. It's time for us to understand that this is conditioning. Responsibilities are the same for men and women. They are meant to be shared
at the personal decision of a couple and not along the lines dictated by society.
at the personal decision of a couple and not along the lines dictated by society.
I have been told I am vain because I chose to start training again very soon after the birth of my child. My body is mine and what I choose to do with it is my decision .my 'vanity' is my prerogative too.
I find it rather offensive when someone comes up to me and tells that my body doesn't look like it's made a child and that I don't look like a mother. What does a mother look like? Does she not dress like she used to before she had a baby? Does she wear 'mom jeans'? are there a pair of 'dad jeans' that the new daddy could wear? That would be great because it will save both our clothes form baby spit up and toddler food stains.
Before you say 'I used to love dressing up and wearing lipstick before the baby but after the baby prioritises change, don't they?' Yes, priorities change but do these new priorities include who you are or have you become an extension of this motherhood and ideal wife behaviour standards that are so freely beamed at us all day long from all quarters? These are questions we need to ask ourselves and have a long deep think about. Look around you. A college going girl in an ad wears jeans, an office going woman (read career obsessed) wears formals and everybody's favourite woman : the ideal daughter in law, the ideal wife and ideal mother wears a saree or a salwar depending on her age. Is this who we all are? Somebody who fits into one of these three neatly labelled boxes. Well, we can't make society be uncomfortable by choosing to be ourselves and not confirming to one of these boxes, can we? Oh no, that would not be polite at all! What would the maamis and maamas say? What would the other mothers and fathers at N's future school say?
I have been told that it won't matter even if I perform on the best stages in the world. I'm a mother and that should always come first. At the risk of being rude, I disagree with you. My child will have a mother who knows who she is, respects herself, respects him and is adult enough to manage her career and his little toddler needs without compromising on either. His father does the same. Why is he never told that no prestigious stage he performs on will matter if he fails as a father? He may be more amenable to this discussion than am I because he is a more patient and polite person than I am. Im sitting in my room with a cup of tea as I write this while the clingy toddler who has decided to drive us up the wall today is with the father who can be depended upon to the be the less volatile and more patient gentle parent in these situations. Do I feel guilty or less like a mother? Hell no! I feel proud of myself for completely losing it at the child and I'm going to take my hour of much deserved peace and quiet with my tea and writing. Room Of One's Own and a toddler lock on it, if you please. I'm busy re-claiming words and cosntructs and cannot be bothered about toddler snacks and diapers.