My hubby of twenty years repeatedly told me to stop worrying when our older child was leaving for college. I was beside myself with grief, and it took me over a year to ‘get over’ her departure, and be able to Skype with her, without collapsing in a heap of tears.
What was wrong with me? Or this “wrong” with me is wrong with scores of other women too? It wasn’t as if our daughter had left me with an empty nest- I had another demanding one; it wasn’t as if my job was only homemaker- I was in a job that had me driving out, to an institution where I had other children to teach. It took a toll on my physical being, and thereafter our younger child demanded my attention without fail. I was living many lives. The older one had moved from Delhi to Mumbai, that’s it. So why was I so distraught & undergoing such profound sadness? It was the impending vacuum, and the realisation that my child is no longer in as much need of her mom. I was being abandoned.
Today she’s an adult whose needs have transformed- our parental voice to soothe her on a bad day is what she yearns for. Now, we parents value her advice, and her wisdom. As a mother, I am pleased, yet I wait to feel her heartbeat, to know that her world is well.
The Maternal Instinct
Caring for elderly folk, for plants, for our pets- highlights the maternal in us. Fathers are often seen to be mothers too. And yet, it is undeniable that when the physical being comes into play, there is an enormous tug, that special something which is indefinable. There is something to carrying a foetus for the length of time we do, tying us indelibly to our offspring. Yet I’ve known mothers who don’t jump at motherhood, be it from the very beginning, or later. Emotional ties do not, automatically, stay as strongly embedded in a relationship; personalities come into play, egos do too. Not every mother is born when her infant appears wailing into our world!
As for me, am acutely aware that my children are always with me- I carry their lives in my back pocket, and their well being in my heart. I am the one who has (to have) all the answers, a smiling mien and meals ready at all times. Yet, there are late bloomers in this sphere too.
To protect and shield the child from all harm, be it emotional or physical, is ingrained in my psyche. That is possibly why I jump to their defence immediately, much to the annoyance of their father. And more so, to protect the weaker of the two kids as well, much to the chagrin of the stronger child. Why are the kids so much more important, asks my best friend, my spouse. My response: as long as I am needed, I will cater to their wishes first, always. So I slip into mother mode with him too, tending to his needs just the way I would my children’s, well almost. Yet we’ve partnered parenting, and he’s discouraged me, on occasion, to not get consumed by my strong maternal instincts. I’m grateful.
I am many people yet complete in myself
Children and their every need, apart their bodily nutrition, consumes most of us women. We are frenzied and dread the time when we have to let go. Will we survive a life without the focal point of our existence? They swallow us whole as we nurture them, and clearly forget to celebrate ourselves? We nigh erase our identity. What is this instinct that kicks in? Maybe it’s a combination of deep-rooted conditioning, and the maternal? So, are women, who aren’t mothers, incomplete? Society dictates that a woman must birth, that she is only half of herself if she denies herself the mantle of motherhood. It’s not just in age-old traditions like ours, it’s a worldwide phenomenon and a strongly held belief. It is not true.
A very basic truth is that only when we are complete in ourselves, can we complete anyone else, including our kids.
We are the first adults they come in contact with, and if we present ourselves partially to these little beings, they accept this you, as the whole of you. It is not okay to erase and snuff out parts of us, till we are ‘free’ again. That’s not going to happen- it’s in our wholeness that our motherhood is fully present.
I’m a mother, but as a whole person I’m also a singer, dancer, friend, wife etc.
I’m also a writer who is awaiting the appearance of her debut novel. I would like my kids to be proud of me- in my entirety, not just love and cuddle the mother in me. I shall continue to be as many people as I am, and combine all roles and be full and complete.
Procreation, it is said, is absolutely essential to maintain the human race but to maintain the health of the human race, the nurturing instinct is essential, an almost sacred thing.