Mother's Day 2021: Painting a picture of parenting, then and now!

That voice in my head telling me I should be finishing this column to deadline? That’s her. The person whom I can communicate with in our own verbal shorthand, where words are redundant and a glance can speak volumes? That’s her. And when I look at my messy wardrobe and feel that wave of guilt encompassing me? That’s all her too. It doesn’t matter that I am now a much-married (10 years!) grown up, who doesn’t live with her anymore. Because, wherever I go, my mum goes too. She’s not just in my DNA, but in every pore of my being. She’s my conscience, my saviour, my friend.

But wait, this isn’t just another sappy Mother’s Day tribute to yet another wonderful mum. Although, of course, she’s wonderful and kind and patient and all those other things that everyone loves about their mum. But what I wanted to talk about today, when the online card and cake stores are peddling their wares with a vengeance only slightly concealed by the pink ribbons and red roses, is how being a mum in today’s world is especially tough.

Sorry mummy, I know you had a rough time when the doc had to give you a C-section because I was too lazy to meet the deadline. And being a working mum who packed yummy tiffin boxes for her daughter while planning fantastic family holidays must have been a lot of multi-tasking too. But aren’t you happy you didn’t have to take a thousand photos of the food you cooked and post to Instagram and find the right hashtags for each? Instead, you spent that time talking to me about life, the universe and everything.

And those lovely family holidays you planned and booked? I remember how much we truly enjoyed them. Especially after that time daddy, you and I were lying down and staring at the sky after climbing up that hill in Pachmarhi and I kept asking you what we were going to do next. And you explained to me the importance of being in the moment, of savouring it and just relaxing. And I could suddenly see the swoosh of the grass swaying in the breeze, feel the tickle of bees buzzing, hear the silence of the mountains and a sense of all-pervading calm washed over all three of us. Now, if you were the typical mommy of today, that would have gone into your blog, #momentofepiphany #momlife. And you would have judged it by how many comments it got, rather than how it shaped your daughter’s whole life!

Those were certainly simpler times. You could just give me a book to read and have me out of your hair for a few hours. Today’s mums have to sacrifice their smartphones (if they don’t have an iPad) at the altar of Peppa Pig if they want a piece of peace. I think I was easily entertained too. Remember those bedtime rituals when you’d make up new lands at the top of the magic faraway tree (yes, my favourite author Enid Blyton wasn’t considered a racist, sexist blight back then!)? Ever so often, you’d drift into dreamland instead and I would have to nudge you awake to tell me more about fairies and goblins.

Cut to the present where I’ve seen so many friends struggling to explain complex plots of animated kiddy films to their little ones. And then there’s all the adult humour slyly slipped in that makes for some priceless mum-child conversations. ‘But mumma, WHY foot size doesn’t matter to Anna?’ after watching that scene in Frozen when Kristoff is questioning how she can marry a guy she knows nothing about, not even his ‘foot size’! ‘Ummm because he’s a prince and can buy new shoes whenever he wants. Now eat up your soba noodles quickly, Sasha!’

But going back to how mums today have a lot more on their plate... Sometimes, quite literally. You could just whip up a custard from a box of powder and I’d love it. While modern mums analyse the sugar content, check for banned ingredients and dates of expiry on everything. And that’s not even talking about the supermums who make every single thing from scratch, right down to growing the ingredients organically, grinding their own grain and ditching all that’s processed. Luckily most of these mums don’t give their kids glasses of milk, else they’d probably be milking their happy cows at dawn themselves too!

And then there are the playdates to arrange. You didn’t need to be on those endless WhatsApp group discussions, no major spending, no detailed spreadsheets with allergy information to be shared. You just set me out to go hang with the usual jing-bang. There were always other kids to play with and if I didn’t like the games the majority decided on, I had to deal with it and learn to live in the real world without you blowing in like the answer to everything. There was no stranger danger and even though nothing in our building was child-proofed, we miraculously came back home in one piece every day. And that Mercurochrome you slathered generously on bruised elbows and knees? It didn’t poison me or any of my friends although it’s now banned in seven countries because they are suspicious of its mercury content.

I understand you didn’t have a full team of specialists to consult (if you don’t count the grandparents, uncles and aunts) so you did what you thought was best for me. But it’s not a joke to sift through all of the advice that mums today get. Whether to listen to the Childbirth Consultant or the Ob/Gyn. Whether to heed the advice of the Paediatric Nutrition Expert or the online mommy forums. Whether your child’s teacher is to be believed or the play therapist you’re spending a fortune on.

You didn’t have too much time to practice a fitness regimen although juggling a career and childcare responsibilities sure kept you on your toes. But mums today have to work extra hard to keep up with the Kardashians and the Kapoors to get that ‘yummy mummy’ look too. They have to fit in everything from accessing Asos for stylish co-ords to practicing Intermittent Fasting to going full Zumba on Zoom, even as they are constantly coordinating coding and cooking classes for their five-year-olds!

They say a mother knows best but there’s just too much pressure to be perfect on modern-day mums. But then again, just as every child gives birth to a mother, every mother is perfect for her child. Happy Mother’s Day!

(The columnist is an independent lifestyle journalist and bespoke Mumbai tour specialist. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @priyapathiyan and @thehungryhappyhippy on Facebook. She blogs on thehungryhappyhippy.com)

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