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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Challenges of conscious mothering

For about twelve years before Isha was born, I was a vagabond. Traveling thirstily to different lands to understand India and the world; meeting different people to see if I could connect and collaborate to change the world. I was preparing well (or, so I thought) to accept my new role as a mother – to deal with restricted mobility, inadequate sleep, giving a big part of my time to preparing food, feeding, changing nappies, cleaning, nursing, putting to sleep, etc. They say ‘You can never prepare enough for motherhood.’ and it is so true! Though I willingly signed up for the job, when I became one I did go through some kind of a shock; even depression accompanied by illnesses that took a while for me to recover from. Looking back, I was actually grieving the loss of a free-spirited life. We, as parents, made some choices like giving Isha only homemade food, using cloth nappies, not having a nanny or a TV, etc. which made our days so overflowing and overwhelming.

Little ones come with their own personalities and there is no way to know them before hand. They bring along with them surprises and challenges you never even remotely expected! At just one month, Isha would wiggle her way out of my lap on to the floor, ‘claiming her independence’. At 10 months, she started climbing the window grill all the way up to the ceiling. She could climb up the slide and come down all on her own. When only a month old, when I tried singing a lullaby to put her to sleep, she started screaming and wouldn’t stop until I stopped singing. To this day, Isha gets very distressed whenever I start singing (for unknown reasons) anything other than her rhymes. Music being a big part of my life, this has been very hard on me! Uninterrupted conversations with friends are almost never possible. Being a writer, when words come bursting out of me, I would almost never be able to get to my paper or computer in time. I used to beat myself up to keep up the deadlines for an article series I was writing for a magazine. Just when I’d sink into a chair to rest, I’d have to clean up spilt food or ‘poopy’, being unwell myself, being groggy after a sleepless night. It’s a very long list of things that can be frustrating, sometimes even traumatic! 

I would wait for my break every day. When I did get it, I’d get super-anxious about how I should use that precious time. ‘Should I be resting now? Should I be blogging? Finishing up my article? Cleaning up? Reading a book? Just sitting quietly with some hot tea?’ I would never make peace with whatever it was that I chose to do. No matter what I did, I was always thinking of all the other things that I was missing out on. And before I realized, the break would be over. And since there was no predictability to these breaks, I lived in perpetual anxiety about when my next break would be. Phew! It has been one long exhausting ride, physically and emotionally!

From what I have observed over many years, I’ve seen that motherhood, especially with an intense and spirited child like Isha, where the primary care has not been outsourced to a nanny or a day-care centre, can have such a profound effect on the mother. (On the father too, but that is Rajeev’s personal story.) And the nature of the profound effect depends on how the mother chooses to respond to the challenge of the critical few years bringing up an infant. In our strong areas, it makes us stretch and become stronger. In our weak areas, it really intensifies and brings up our issues and challenges us. Complaining mothers can become unrelentingly negative. Worrying mothers can become neurotic. Controlling mothers can become control freaks and nags. Submissive mothers can become more submissive to their children and spouse, feeling lost and victimized by motherhood. Mothers with low self-esteem can become more guilty and miserable and feel like losers who aren't anywhere close to being enough!

Between spouses, it intensifies issues that already existed, but could earlier be brushed aside more easily. Parenting makes them stare at your faces screaming at you for urgent attention. 

If you are wondering how all this is related to not sending children to school, here it is. Most parents choose to send their children to school early (sometimes as early as when they are one-year old) as a way to find respite from the intense experience of parenting. When children are out of sight, parents seem to have some sense of ‘peace’ at home. Isha is going to be three soon, and many parents wonder why I have not decided to get some of my (our) own time by sending her away for a few hours everyday.

The truth of the matter is that, for exactly this reason, we did try out two playschools for her, and pulled her out as we saw damage happening to her. After just a couple of weeks subjecting her to unhealthy treatment, we chose to be with her until other healthy options opened up for us.

If we choose to not get neurotic, negative, submissive, guilty or controlling as parents, then there is only one other way that I know of. It is the one where you choose to see motherhood as a wonderful opportunity to become stronger, more peaceful, more loving by going on a zen retreat, with a live-in zen master, your child. I chose that way. 

I would like to share what a fulfilling journey it has been so far! Read The Motherhood Retreat 


3 comments:

Hazaron Khwahishein said...

Sounds like my own story... This writing makes me feel good that after motherhood I have become stronger, more aware and responsible about myself, more confident....

Never knew that something as common as just being a mother can give one such a sense of achievement and fulfillment... Have experienced it... You feel like God's blessed and chosen one for entrusting a living being's whole life to nurture...

Sangeetha Sriram said...

I agree. But it is a tricky path. I've seen mothers who curse being born a woman and having to be the one 'dumped with the responsibility'. They feel all beaten up and defeated! My heart goes out to them!

sowmya said...

I was visiting your blog to learn about gardening and instead wandered around here!

I love articles that just state rather than preach. It felt like talking/listening to a close friend.

How do I get in touch with you - email? FB? Phone?

I am a novice in gardening and at the moment have just a terrace. Would love to learn more since you're in Chennai as well. That is, if you still are :)

Thanks
Sowmya