Unpopular opinion: Mothers are mortals too, liable to flaws and aberrations
By Neelam Malkani
Now that the fervour for posting adulatory messages for mothers on social media is over and everyone has come back to the quotidian existence, I would like to posit an antithesis of this popular narrative: mothers are next to gods.
As profane as it may sound, mothers are subject to flaws and aberrations and are as liable to make grave mistakes and commit despicable sins as any other mortal human on this earth is.
This claim in no way intends to belittle mothers’ importance in bringing up a child or disregard the sacrifices they make in their journey of motherhood. The sole objective of this piece is to bring some balance into this lopsided and overly romanticized portrayal of mothers.
History, mythology and fictions are replete with the characters of mothers who were not the paragon of kindness, sacrifice and compassion, the attributes quintessentially associated with mothers. In the popular narrative also, we often read and listen to personal stories about toxic, abusive and manipulative mothers who scarred their children mentally, physically and emotionally.
These women carried their children for nine months, endured the pains, brought them into this world, and then did unspeakable things to their own flesh and blood. Clearly, childbirth does not magically transform a woman into a lovable, caring and affectionate mother.
The moot question is “are all women cut out to be good mothers?” While some women are biologically deficient to be mothers, some are psychologically unfit to raise children. They may be devoid of the essential characteristics a woman should possess to nurture a child. In some cases, they are forced into motherhood and see their child as a burden of responsibilities.
Some are extremely ambitious and don’t want their career advancement to be impeded by anyone or anything. Some women also see children, especially daughters, as their adversaries, subjecting them to ill-treatment and hatred.
Owing to the childhood trauma they faced, several women battle with depression and anxiety all their lives, and the additional responsibilities of motherhood only aggravate their sufferings. Ironically, being biologically fit to be a mother does not always lead to the presence of “mom genes” in certain women and guarantee the “symbiosis”.
On the other hand, the mothers who are capable of loving their children unconditionally sometimes mollycoddle their children to the point that it becomes suffocating and sickening. Instead of pushing them to face the harsh realities of life, mothers protect their children so closely that they end up stunting children's growth.
Using children as a weapon against in-laws and sometimes husbands is also not unheard of. Nor is the case of asking children to attain parents’ unfulfilled ambitions and aspirations, completely overlooking their aptitude and desires. Honestly, a woman does not necessarily have to be a biological mother to have a maternal instinct for a child.
In fact, one does not have to be a woman to have such instincts: several fathers are more motherly towards their children than their spouses. Moreover, such instincts are not limited only to human babies- any pet parent would vouch for that.
Although society has increasingly progressed and shown a great deal of openness, there still is a stigma attached to talking about abusive or ill-tempered mothers and their effects on their children. Those who were not gifted with loving and nurturing mothers feel it would be blasphemous to talk about the damaging effects of their mothers or they would be subject to shame if they speak honestly about their mothers.
As a result, they develop a deep sense of self –loathing assuming they are responsible for not getting their mother’s love. This collective silence perpetuates the faulty notion built about mothers. Mainstream movies and folklore too have played a key role in extending the myth of ever sacrificing mothers, entrenching the faulty image further.
Given the alarming rate at which the cases of psychological disorders and mental illness are increasing, there must be an objective discussion about this issue. The purpose should be to revisit and redefine the image of mothers to make it more realistic and workable so that women should also not feel stifled to venture into motherhood.
Children should also be educated to accept their mothers as normal human being who are not supposed to abandon everything to assume the role of a mother. This may require a huge paradigm shift and massive efforts from counselors, educators, therapists and family members, but it will be worthwhile.
However, the fact will remain that mothers will continue to be the first teacher to their children. Therefore, the onus will be on them to not become a template for their children for one thing: what NOT to do when they themselves become parents. [Photo courtesy: Daria Obymaha, Pexels]