As a woman in desi society, the 3M’s are deemed non-negotiable. Menstruation, marriage, and motherhood—in that very order. The absence of any one of them in a woman’s life is enough to get the chachis, masis, and neighbourhood aunties talking. Today, let’s speak about the third. Motherhood.
In a country where we’ve seen an entire bouquet of mothers—from the stereotypical Mother India to the controversial Radhe Maa to yummy mummy Kareena Kapoor, we know that despite the difference in size, age, and shape, motherhood stays an evergreen topic of discussion in our society. In most cases, a natural given for any woman, whether she wants it or not. After marriage, it is motherhood that automatically indicates a woman is “settled” in life. If a woman doesn’t want children, she’s labelled heartless. If she wants them but can’t have them, she’s termed barren, like that’s her only identity. Mom, barren, heartless—which of these labels would you be more inclined to take on?
Socially, the image of the Indian mother has evolved over the years, and how! If you watched any Bollywood movie in the 80s, the Indian mother was the white-saree-clad, usually widowed mother, whose blessings brought good luck and whose curses brought about devastation. Such was the power of the great Indian Maa, that her summons and negotiation with God did miracles like bringing back dead sons as identical reincarnations!
Then came, what I like to call the 90s Tulsi and Parvati mothers, also known as the saree-sindoor-mangalsutra-clad moms. Ever caring, ever sacrificial, ever-loving. Mothers who would baulk at the idea of unmarried sex, parties, alcohol, short skirts, vagerah vagerah. Ready to shed a tear at a moment’s notice. Ready with piping aloo ke parathe whenever you crave them. And ready to school you about the sanskaar, and the family’s izzat, and the khandaan’s parampara (and all the things that come with that).
Cut to the 2000s, the generation of Yummy Mummies. The influencer and blogger mommies. The mompreneurs. The seek-inspiration-from Instagram & Google moms. Mothers who juggle work with chores. Mothers who rock maternity fashion, fitness, and food. Mothers who strive to maintain a balance between wisdom passed down from their grandmothers (eat your besan ka ladoos coated in ghee, beta. It’s good for the baby!) and more contemporary trends like prenatal yoga, baby showers, and baby gift registries.
What I find rather fascinating here is that despite the idea of motherhood remaining constant, every generation, including ours, has taken the concept of motherhood and moulded it according to them.
Then why is it when Sushmita Sen chooses to adopt children, we question her choice of not marrying first? And more recently, when Priyanka Chopra chooses to have a child through a surrogate, we think it’s inappropriate because she didn’t really carry the baby or give birth – Tauba, did she not want to ruin her figure? And when someone has a child out of wedlock, we call them characterless.
In this day and age, the definition of motherhood has evolved, and I believe we should make space for this change. Take the custom and shape it our way. Motherhood for each woman should be a journey that every woman should be encouraged to embrace in their own time, space and comfort. Through carrying their biological child for nine months and delivering. Through adoption and fostering. By bringing home four-legged furry individuals instead of a two-footed ones. Raising a plant from a seed to fruit. Through surrogacy. Through scientifically assisted methods. And more.
Motherhood is an emotion. Of raising and nurturing. One that deserves to be respected, and celebrated no matter in which shape or form it exists. Let’s focus on celebrating the emotion, not the method.
Signing off! Until next time.
Your one and only, Next Door Naari