A few days ago I was talking to a friend who is in her mid-thirties, married, no kids. I love her. She has a great sense of humour, warm, intelligent, good fun to hang with. She loves kids, just doesn’t want to have any of her own yet. In fact, maybe never. Who knows and really, why should it matter to me.
The thing is, while I’ve fallen into the mommy blogger slot, I’m probably one of the few parents I know who doesn’t spend my time talking about my kids. That might be in part because I vent here and get all my kid-related chatter out of my sytem, into this space. And for all of you who listen so patiently, I am duly grateful.
Anyhow, she mentioned to me that she is rather uncomfortable with the way mothers seem to be glorifying motherhood on various platforms like blogs and FB. Just constantly talking about their children. It made her feel like she had nothing left to say about them. I quickly ran a mental check on my last year of FB statuses and it was mostly about music, whining about my knee or work and least of all, references to my kids. That made me feel I was in a better position to have that chat. I rushed to reassure her because I knew exactly what she meant and where she was coming from. And I felt she’d misunderstood the whole movement.
So here’s the thing. I don’t think it is motherhood alone. We’re all living our lives out loud. Photographers are putting their pics up on blogs, professional sites, flickr, FB. Music lovers blog about music. People who are in to IT blog about IT. As a result just about every topic is now glorified thanks to the easy availability of platforms to wax forth on. Read this awesome piece by Anil Dharker on how ‘food, fashion and an unmentionable four-letter word’ have taken over print space. We’re all aware of the information overload. I write nothing earth shaking on this blog, yet so many of you read me every day. I have at least three friends who gives daily updates on their cats and another who has opened an FB account for her dog. They read this blog and I’m not judging them at all. These are things we love, and its only natural that they feature prominently in our conversations and our online lives.
As a society we seem to be focussing more heavily on things and this virtual existence gives us that space to obsess (if you must use that word) over them without harming anyone. Because this online focusing doesn’t impose on a person. A century ago people lead very different lives. You studied, you helped out at home, you got a job, got married, had kids, whatever. There was little space for hobbies and passions. You couldn’t say, “hey, I don’t want to get married or have kids or a permanent job. I just want to take photographs.” Today you can do just that and even find a platform to reach other to others like you. Today there is room for passion, specialisation, obsession and focus. Put that way, it seems like glorification. So why deny those who in a world of choices, choose to have kids and talk about them? More importantly, why single them out, or judge, or fear, or worse, be intimidated by them? **
Why is it that mothers, yet again, get the bad press? I know she meant no harm and neither do I. I want to reach out reassuringly and say ‘Hey, I can talk to you about other things too.’ Parenting does tend to take over your life in the early years. Especially if you’re the mother. Its a little tough to ignore your swelling belly and breasts. Your swollen feet. Your leaking bladder. The morning sickness. I could go on but I’ll stop. If it’s acceptable to hear about a person’s scary accident or a new job, why is motherhood and any discussion around it so infra dig? Actually, I won’t even call if infra dig, I think it made her uncomfortable.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here. All of you who read my blog clearly don’t feel uncomfortable hearing me talk about my babies. But then I do talk about other stuff often. I think my nick was all a matter of timing. I just happened to start blogging when my baby was a year old. I was in a strange city, I had no friends, I had no househelp, and I was struggling with breastfeeding, teething, sleepless nights and dirty diapers, all while I did the sweeping and swabbing and cooking. If I’d started blogging 2 years before that it would have been about work, music, the OA, and books. It’s just a matter of timing. There are plenty of bloggers who are far younger than me and were part of the internet wave at age 20 when they had no kids. At some point they began to blog about their kids too, but refuse to be called mommy bloggers. I don’t care either way. The point is, this is an important part of my life and I share it only with those who matter in real life, sparing mere acquaintances. And in the virtual world I get it out of my system knowing fully well that you will click the X on the page if it doesn’t interest you.
None of this is to say that my friend objected to people with babies or thought that people should never talk about their kids. I think she was intimidated by what she felt was the ‘glorification’ of motherhood – the status messages, the photos of babies, the blogs. To that I say, welcome to the culture of glorification of everything. Books, music, film, fashion, food, sickness, technology – you name it, there is a group that focuses solely on it. And yes, most often it is about the good part. But I see no reason why you feel that anyone owes you every side. You don’t owe me your attention and I don’t owe you the three sides of the story. It’s a free world, the internet is free and so is choice. Unless its a magazine article or a desperate plea for help, most people who record stuff online, do it as a sort of record book. To look back on fondly, in the years to come.
It is in no way meant to glorify. As our lives grow more nuclear, we no longer have aunts and older ladies who can help us rear our children, give us home remedies on stomach aches and pat us on the head when we leak and say – It’s going to be alright. She is right. You’d never have come across this baby talk twenty years ago, because twenty years ago, when your friend had a baby, she fell off the social circuit. She lost her voice. She got relegated to the mommy group. Today even if I am tied to the house, I still have the internet at my finger tips and with no family around, its more imperative that I get a voice and an outlet. That I get to share.
And so friends, both male and female, parents and non-parents, bear with us as we prattle on about our children, just as we listen to you talk about work, that hot guy in the gym or anything else that interests you. Because thats what friends do. They are interested in each other’s lives. It’s not glorification. It’s just gratification. After ten minutes of talking about that part of our lives, we’re going to be back on common ground be it politics or literature or Bollywood. And because we’re good friends, we’re never going to judge each other on these matters. I’d hate to think that I have to guard my tongue and not talk about this important part of my life (and as a parent, if my children are not an important part of my life, I should be ashamed of myself) because it makes another uncomfortable. By the same token I can appreciate that there are plenty of parents who feel that being a parent is important yet don’t feel the need to talk about their children. Fair enough.
And oh – even if after ten minutes I continue to talk about my kids and you about something else, maybe we’ve just lost our connection. I’m okay with you talking fashion all evening (even if it doesn’t interest me to that extent) and I hope to hell that as my friend, you’ll be as tolerant of my interests without letting it intimidate you. Now then, you can start talking about foreign cinema while I nod along and pretend that I agree and understand every word you just said.
** Edited to add: Okay so this is a bit I wanted to add and forgot, related to the choice part. The thing with choosing to have a kid today is that it is all the more wanted. This element of choice means I’ve chosen to do this, just like you’ve chosen to save Rs 7 lakh and buy a Harley. Is there any doubt that I am going to be excited by it? We plan our careers, organise our lives and then have the baby when we feel the time is right and we want one. So many of us go through so much medication and surgery and IVF and maybe adoption, to get the baby we hold in our arms. A far cry from the day when 20 year olds were having kids because life gave them no choice and they didn’t have any means of birth control. Kids just arrived when they did and you miscarried some and lost a few in childbirth and there was nothing you could do about it. They were taken in your stride. Today I can’t take my baby in my stride because I’ve actually planned this child, put my career on hold and done this because I wanted it so badly. Surely you can appreciate that I feel about this just the way you do about something you earned?