I love my mom. I cannot thank her enough for birthing me, but if I could go back in time and ask her if she would really want to have me and my sister, I’m not sure the answer would be thumping positive resounding yes. Not because she doesn’t like kids, or being our mother, but because she may not have wanted to be a mother at all. Maybe she could have done other things with her life if she had known the choice existed without her being labelled ‘barren’.
What a wonderful world we live in, where a woman who chooses not to, or cannot have children is regarded as a piece of farmland that grows nothing. The value we place in the womb of a woman is of the whole woman herself. And just like agricultural land that grows nothing, a woman without a child is often overlooked, abandoned, or not considered valuable enough.
My mother was a top-notch student; she has an MA in applied psychology and would have probably gotten a PhD, had I not been born. She would have perhaps been a successful Urdu Journalist or at least written tonnes of beautiful ghazals and sung them as well. She could have also been on the cover of Femina, because of her sultry beauty and long curtain of hair, and they did ask but she refused and alas life gave her two daughters, and now she is known as our Ammi.
Nothing wrong with being a mother, if its 100% what you choose to be. But nothing should be wrong with not being a mother to a human, if its 100% what you choose not to be as well. For the flag bearers of ‘every woman is a mother’ and ‘a child will complete you’ it may come as a surprise that women can be maternal towards more than just human children. For some women, their child is the work that they do, how they nurture each project and how they are worried sick when something goes wrong. For others, their kids are their homes, the neatly arranged drawers, the meticulously planned kitchen, the stacks of fresh laundry and they may get a bout of anxiety thinking about running low on supplies. And for some, it could be their pets, managing a pet's eating, exercise and doctor’s schedule for vaccination is as tough a task as tutoring your 15 year old for their board exams. Lastly, for some, it could be a combination of a few of the above scenarios as well.
Women don’t necessarily have to call any of this maternal or motherhood either. It is just another label. As long as we are happy with the choice we made, the label shouldn’t determine whether our worth as a woman goes up or down. It probably appears like such an obvious truth that no one should have to even say it, but here we are, repeating it year after year just to ensure that people who missed the memo perhaps don’t this time.
That someday, children will not be the only social capital that women can amass to prove their worth in this world and more women like my mother may end up achieving even greater genius and the only social currency they will need would be their right to choose being called a mother or not.
Tanzila Anis is a media professional from Delhi. She usually expresses herself on Twitter at @aaliznat on all things sundry.