A Mother’s Dilemma
Whenever there was a tiff between me and my mother, her final words of all time were- “You will know only when you have your own kids…” and how true she was!
“Parenting”- for me was the easiest of all the jobs that I had seen during my childhood days- to scold, to refuse, to nag and to restrict- though I associated these more with my mother than my father! It took me really a long time to realise about all the other activities that she carried out so gracefully besides scolding and preaching. And guess what- my 6 year old daughter made me appreciate my mother more.
Today the world has become very different from what it was 30 years back. At that time, our parents were mainly worried about their children’s sincerity in schoolwork, honesty in their disposition, their scores in their studies, class attendance against class bunking away to watch a movie, or an early puppy love affair- tensions were limited to such issues. And in the later phase, regarding their career and earning a living.
With the advent of science and technology, (here I am talking more about the television and internet) the task of parenting has become more difficult today. To add to it, the unavoidable situation of having a nuclear family in the cities where the absence of grandparents and also relatives can be felt a lot, the concept of dual careers of the parents because of which the child gets less and less time and the beginning of a “rat-race” milieu, which is demanding that we too coach our children to cope up with the endless competition and pointless pursuit for excellence.
Away from home, when the mothers are in the work place, how can anyone hold them guilty for thinking more about their kids than work? Most of the time, the repeated thoughts that fly in and out of their mind is about the safety and security of their children at home or even at school, for such are the days that one cannot think of being protected in one’s own home now. National Statistics reveal that in the year 2007, 6,377 cases of kidnapping and abduction; 1,377 cases of child murders and 5,045 cases of child rape were reported. And all these news find a way to the ears and eyes of a mother through some or the other channel instantly. While browsing the net, I was shocked to discover a sordid fact. In the year 2007, a study on Child Abuse in India was undertaken across 13 states. It was revealed that Assam had the highest incidence of sexual abuse among both boys and girls. One of the reasons stated for it was poor parenting skills. Let us now look at the rising trend of inflation rate that was as high as 9. 41% in April, 2011. Is it possible for a single earner to look after his middle class Indian family comfortably? Both the parents have to struggle hard to earn so that their purchasing power against the rising prices help them maintain atleast an acceptable standard of living. So the mom staying back at home to look after her kids becomes a tough idea to accept.
Besides this, we also remain anxious about the kid’s future- will they get more than 95% in class XII, in case they don’t then we have to plan for their future and lo! all our annual increments and savings get transferred into “Child Insurance Policies”. Infact, my young single colleagues are much motivated by a new concept introduced during our discussions called the “The Powder Project”, an empty big lifebuoy talcum powder container where one can save all the cash received unexpectedly (birthday gifts etc.) for all the sudden educational expenses occurring each month in terms of donations, fees, aids etc. so that the routine monthly budget is not hampered! One can also plan for the huge capitation fees and admissions fees of their kids in this way. To every new problem, there can be a new solution.
Let us now talk about hobbies. At one point of time, children were encouraged to cultivate hobbies as it was believed “Empty mind is devil’s workshop.” Hobbies are practiced for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward. It leads to self-fulfillment. With the appearance of all the reality shows- Sa Re Ga Ma, India’s Talent, Dance India Dance etc. a major U-turn has surfaced up in this set-up also. Now, our kids have to be all-rounder! At one time when cultivating hobby was just an option, it has now become essential. Hobbies and Extra-curricular activities have become an alternative to education. There is nothing wrong if one can earn through one’s skills. However, the process has become stressful for the child. Dance Classes, Music Classes, Art Classes and definitely swimming…like a shuttle, not only the child but the parents also dodge to and fro from one class to another. I wonder how my sister-in-law manages her time with 50% of her weekdays and week-ends being spent on wheels or on benches- dropping her children from one class to another and waiting for them outside during the class hours. Looking at her, I wonder, will l be able to manage my time with this scary picture? At times, a faint hope also crosses my mind, that if a reality show on Philately (Stamp collection) and Numismatics (coin Collection) is introduced, this “hobby-development” part will become much easier.
To add to all the woes is the “Idiot Box”, the electrical appliance commonly found in almost all Indian Homes. Studies reflect that children are among the heaviest users of the Television. They spend between 3 to 4 hours in front of the television every day. Through the process of “Observational Learning”, though there are positive influences of the TV on children regarding entertainment and information, however, it also results in a non-social approach, manifests aggressive behavior and reduces creativity. We cannot even ask them to stick to a cartoon channel – undue display of violence, romance and naughtiness in these channels no longer exhibits childhood innocence but only adds more negative ideas to their already urbanized full-blown minds. Trying to cultivate the habit of watching Animal Planet and National Geographic is ineffective as we cannot even keep an eye on them when we go out to work. Childhood obesity, decrease in physical activities and health, decreased school performance and disturbed sleep patterns are few of the consequences of continuous TV watching. Also, children tend to imitate the behavior seen in the TV which can be very dangerous. The question is how to reduce TV watching? Switching off is not solution, and the kids now are smart enough to open the child lock- the best way is to cut off the satellite channels…but again how permanent is the solution?
No doubt, at present there is no dearth of parenting tips, coaching and professional counseling. For any such problem, there are many points where we can go for some help. The importance of parenting is now growing. At one point of time, parenting was thought to be a natural skill. It is now believed that this skill can also be acquired through some conscious efforts, training and coaching. A child, who is the treasure of the nation, his / her development and rearing up, cannot be left upon natural uncontrolled processes. Every parent needs to understand and feel the specific requirement of the child, identify the problems associated as he/she grows and the most important part is not to ignore even the little signs of any disturbance observed in this course.
In 2007, the beautiful film “Taare Zameen Par” was released focusing around the life and emotions of a little eight-year old child. It was a must- movie for all parents and children…and we learnt a lot from it- to help our kids grow up naturally as every child is special. But today as a mother, my dilemma is- can I really leave my kids to grow naturally in this environment? If yes, how many more solutions do I have to find so that the recurrent problems due to the evils of cultural change, technology up-gradation and socio- political matters are defeated? At the end, with a salute to my own mother, I would admit that parenting is a real difficult job, more so as it is rightly said by Robert Brault- “The trouble with learning to parent on the job is that your child is the teacher.”
Hi Pubali, totally empathize with your thoughts and feelings on motherhood. I went from a workaholic professional to a stay at home mother in a day and this meant a huge change in my lifestyle. And of course, there was always a part of me that craved for that office environment and camaraderie that I so missed. It was a difficult but well thought out decision to stay at home, though I understand it is not always possible in today's inflationary times. We compromised on quite a few things people take for granted like a home (as opposed to a rented one), a car and my own bright prospects, but in the end it was all worth it!
All the same, hats off to working mothers!
If it is any consolation to the mothers facing similar dilemmas, I think each generation of mothers are going to find the choices more complex compared to the previous generation. When I listen to women of my mother's generation or the previous one, I always hear the same thing. The brighter side is, kids are getting smarter and quicker, and mothers are smart enough to understand all the implications of modern day vices and are empowered enough to have a say in such matters. Is'nt that a good thing?
Thanks Pubali for sharing this wonderful post, I can relate to each and every word of it! So very true...
@radhika You are right Radhika, moms and kids are very smart today, but it is also important for kids to listen and cooperate. Parents these days have to put more restrictions on their children because of more and more options kids have, first it was just TV, and now its laptops, smartphones and handhelds. This creates more conflict between parents and children. Parents who need time for themselves give them these devices to keep them busy (my child is also watching cartoons right now as I am typing here). So its getting more complex finding a balance.
@sonia_sm Yes you are right Sonia. One more thing that bothers me is that the kids and adolescents are spending more and more time with or in front of screens, instead of interacting and playing with kids in their age group , the latter of which is far better for their physical and emotional well being.