We talk about how our mothers had brought us up so well and with so much ease. We wonder how they do it. Our grandmothers had 5-8 kids and we struggle so much with the 1 or 2 we have. How did they do it??
I have worked so closely with moms for the past few years that I think I finally have an answer to this age old question. Why is modern mothering so tough??
Lets start from the beginning.
Our grandmothers- mostly uneducated, had 5-6 siblings of their own, got married off before the age of 14, never worked for a living, single handily managed house and kids, lived in a joint family and went on to bear 5-8 kids of themselves.
Our mothers- educated but mostly for matrimonial purposes, had 5-6 siblings too, married at the legal age but not beyond 22 or 23 years of age, some worked for a living, having a maid post marriage was becoming common, the rise of nuclear families had started in their era and they usually went on to have 2-3 kids.
Modern moms- highly educated, have 1 or 2 siblings, marriageable age is being pushed to over 30 now, almost all work or have worked at some point, maids have taken over most of the household work, majority live in nuclear families and they have 1 kid since raising two seems impossible these days.
What this shows is how society has changed by leaps and bounds in the past 3 generations. The condition of women in our grandmothers’ era was dismal. Women needed to be empowered. And rightly so.
Denying education to girls, child marriage and the extreme physical labour women had to do at home while bearing 5-8 children is reflected in the fact that the average life expectancy of a women pre independence was just around 30 years!! Also since children were born to underage mothers the infant mortality rate was as high as 280 which means 280 out of 1000 kids born used to die. This picture sure was grim. That is why post independence we see a lot of rise in causes related to women health, women empowerment, rapid decline of child marriages and steep rise in women education. As a result, in the modern age life expectancy is around 70 years and infant mortality rate is as low as 30!
While all this really is nice, how is it related to my post about making modern mothering so tough? All these changes especially women empowerment campaigns have rescued women and allowed them the freedom to move out of their houses and contribute to society. But the modern form of women empowerment it is taking away the respect women should be given for being women.
What is a woman?
Think about it! What is the difference between men and women? The difference is only in the biological roles of reproduction. Hence our bodies are made differently for these roles. No difference other than that.
So true women empowerment is when women are accepted as women and allowed their differences in biological role.
How is it empowerment when working women have to pump milk in their office bathrooms so that their child gets breastmilk? How is it empowerment when a new mom cant have a work from home option and leave a tiny 6 month old behind? How is it empowerment when big offices with huge women workforce don’t have daycare facilities in-house? How is it empowerment when an educated woman is ridiculed for giving up everything and becoming “just a mother?” How is it empowerment when a woman is shamed for breastfeeding without covering up?
We have taught the modern woman that respect comes only from visiting cards, salary slips and long working hours! Because that’s how it comes for men.
So what we have done is that we have rescued women from home but have enslaved her in a cubicle now!
And thats why it is not easy being a mom anymore. You are not allowed to be a mom. Because being “just a mom” is not a good social status. You have to be a corporate honcho, a social media queen and a crusader for women rights. You have to be everything to be respected in society.
Thats why it was easier for our moms to be moms. Because in the past women were allowed to give birth and be mothers. The entire household would make arrangements for her early mothering days to be comfortable, she was given the space and time to breastfeed, she was allowed to be completely invested in the early childhood of her child. So yes, women then did not have Google or parenting blogs to read. But they had a very strong instinct to be moms. Because there was no shame in being a mom. Nowadays “ghar baith ke bacche paalna” (be at home and raise kids) is almost a curse word!
How is it women empowerment when the most crucial biological role provided to you which defines your biology as a woman is undermined, overlooked and ignored? Working or not. Being alone or in a joint family. Having a full time maid or no help. These are all secondary. A woman’s most crucial role and contribution to society is birthing a child and then raising him/her to be a good person. Till women are not respected for this miraculous job, there is no use of any other form of empowerment.
So I plead women all over the world. Please raise your voice to demand respect for being a mom and for all roles associated with it. It doesn’t matter if you are working or stay at home. If you have a boy or a girl. If you have one or many kids. You are a mom. And you should be put up on a pedestal and applauded because you are doing the most important and rewarding job!
The day we allow women to be moms in peace having children wont be such a burden, birthing will not be associated with so much anxiety and raising kids would be a joy and not a liability.
In Susan Hallum’s words “I don’t understand when a woman says she is just a mom. Remind me again…which other job on the planet is more important?”