In the last few weeks I’ve been getting a lot of work. I am barely out of one project and I’m thrown into the next. I’ve begun to landscape gardens in my free (?) time and am working on a couple of house interiors. And I’ve finally begun to make invoices to go with the work. As I sat there trying to create the template I realised I had no idea what to put on it. Neither do I have a visiting card to hand out when people ask me what all I do.
I’m suddenly, no more just a journalist. I never was, to begin with. I was sister. Daughter. Mother. Wife. Lover. 2am friend. Hand holder. Tree hugger. Squishy cake baker. Compulsive tidier. Obsessive reader. And more. How do I define myself and put it on a card? What, by the way, is this desire to be able to define yourself in response to the question – What do you do? I do so much, that I don’t know how to answer that one.
Which is when I think of a friend of mine. I think she’s a wonderful mother. She works herself to the bone, cooking healthy and interesting food for the kids. She takes them from one class to another to see what interests them. She doesn’t have a TV so there is no question of plonking them in front of it. Unless she is ill, she is out in the park, encouraging them to run and jump and play – she even cycles around with them. And while they are in school she studies, taking various exams so that her own skills don’t rust. She learnt to drive so that she never has to worry if one of them falls ill when her husband is travelling. She learnt to swim so that she could join in their fun. They’re lovely kids. Bright, intelligent, polite, gentle, and aware. And yet when anyone asks her what she does, she shrugs and says, ‘Oh I’m just home with the kids.’
I wonder how one could put all that she does on a visiting card. And I wonder if that is what the pressure often is about. To be able to define yourself in a couple of words on a visiting card. Filmmaker. Designer. Writer. CA. Software architect. HR Consultant. I wonder what it would be like if we handed out little rectangles that said – Maverick. Spontaneous. Impetuous. Fun lover. Happy. Lover. Or just, mother.
And then I realise, that no one, is just a mother. Even those who call themselves that, are learning Spanish. Or reading up on Mughal history and can rattle off numbers, dates and wars. One is volunteering with the blind. Another is doing the grocery shopping for the infirm old couple next door. Yet another is learning to salsa. One is conquering her fear of the water and learning to swim. Another is the PTA representative who ensures that your kids have a smooth journey through the year in class. A fourth is volunteering for the horticulture department in your apartment complex and ensuring that water tankers come in during the worst of summer. These are the people that keep your life running smoothly. Who pick up the slack when you let go. Who will babysit your child while you attend an important meeting. The glue that holds everything together. People have layers. And if we don’t recognise those layers for what they are, it is entirely our own loss. And to those who continue to think of themselves, apologetically, as ‘just moms’, I say – don’t. I’m not asking you to go ‘I am mother, hear me roar’. I’m not going jingoistic and asking you to “celebrate” it. I’m asking you to accept and say it with the same pride and grace as someone who says ‘CEO’. Trust me – it will make a world of difference.
These days we’re so supportive of people who make different choices. We are very understanding when young couples choose not to have kids and keep dogs instead. We are proud of women who refuse to settle for just any man and prefer to stay single and independent. We’re happy for the man who gives up the MBA degree and goes off into the hills to help villagers with sustainable livelihoods. We would never, ever, dream of telling them that they’re not attaining their full potential or living life to the fullest by not being spouse and parent inspite of doing well professionally. So why don’t we extend that courtesy to the oldest (non)choice in the world? Why tell someone that being a parent and spouse and friend is not enough?
It’s Mother’s Day and my FB newsfeed is full of people thanking their mothers and singing paens to them. A sudden, annual realisation of what you owe that person for the human you are today. A gratitude for all that was done for you even though that gratitude was never demanded of you. All achieved without a visiting card printed ‘Mother’ or an invoice with an hourly billed rate. Clearly this is something that matters. Being a mother, just a mother, matters.
Happy Mother’s Day, ladies. Can’t remember life before I became one and can’t imagine it any other way. Such a fullness of life. God bless us.
PS: Tambi sent me this article on mommy bloggers and I laughed. Clearly I am missing the bus!