A couple of weeks ago, as I was penning down a parenting article for a magazine, a strange thought struck me.
When it comes to making a transition into parenting, Motherhood is not equal to Fatherhood.
In fact, motherhood is several tiers above fatherhood. But perhaps, that is one of the causes for many of the challenges that ‘mothers’ face in our society today. This being ‘put on a pedestal whether you want it or not’ comes at a price.
Confused? Let’s look at this : Isn’t it strange how a woman’s identity suddenly changes as soon as they become an expectant mother? Yes, impending fatherhood changes your identity too, but only marginally so. Plus it is relatively ‘less exciting for society’ who seems to relate a woman’s identity with her ability to bear and raise a child (or children).
Take the next stage of this ‘pregnancy journey’ - up until the point where the baby can no longer remain a quivering secret inside the woman’s body, expectant mothers are treated just as how they would have been, prior to conceiving. However, once that skin across the stomach starts to higher and the tummy starts to expand, the stomach itself has a new identity. Suddenly there are strangers who want to reach out and pat the expanding stomach. Why? Do they expect it to be some sort of good-luck charm that could change their fortunes. The expectant mother continues to be given some attention because hey, the stomach is still hers.
And then of course, with the baby comes brand new identity - that of a mother. But most of the attention now goes to the warm, cuddly, fuzzy-haired infant who now holds the key to your identity closet. From being a woman who has carved a niche for herself in the professional world or having a number of degrees, you are now known as ‘the infant’s mother’. Suddenly, you are now this virtual ‘frame’ that holds the ‘picture’ that is your child.
Yes, a lot of you may say that it’s a biological process. And while I will award you 5 points for that ‘Life-Process’ reference from your Grade 8 biology text-book, here’s why I say motherhood is not equal to fatherhood. Despite all this, you wouldn’t hear a mother complaining about playing second fiddle to an adorable little munchkin.
As a man (and a father), I can almost certainly assure you - if a man’s identity was in question, adorable or not, the baby would have witnessed a tantrum from a fully grown adult male. So yes, mothers and women rock.
PS: The above example can also be used in the context of 'marriage', where a woman's identity changes as soon as they're married. For some inexplicable and bizarre customer, women are 'expected to sacrifice' their freedom, names and what nots. More on that discussion in a later post.
The other day, while in conversation with a 30-something happily married woman friend who had no immediate desire to have kids (yes, they exist. Perhaps, you’ve heard of the this thing called ‘choice’), we briefly touched on the topic of why she was apprehensive about having kids. And then she suddenly asked me ‘How it felt to be a parent?’. Now, if you’ve been a relatively frequent reader of this blog, you will know that I will never every quote parenting as being ‘full of rainbows and sunshine’. In fact, I try to focus on ‘real parenting’ - yes, the things that are difficult to sell. In fact, I’ve already written a post where I’ve tried to explain how it feels to be a father. Think of this post as Part Two.
I will not deny this. Being a parent is perhaps one of the better things that has happened to me. While it’s not all fun and games, personally it is one of the most deeply satisfying personal experiences that I’ve had. Of course, there are times when I question the sanity of our decision to have kids, but yes, very often the innocence in his smile and the twinkle in his eyes are enough to make me realise that it’s a futile exercise to try to even imagine a life without him.
[tweetthis twitterhandles="@iwrotethose" displaymode="box"]As a parent I'll say this: It is entirely possible to have a fulfilling life without having kids[/tweetthis]
But once you have them, it's a whole new experience unlike no other.
Most of the diaper, baby-wipes and kid-stuff commercials have already portrayed parenting as this ‘cuddly, cute lifestyle’. And that’s what the issue is. Those instances are far and few. In fact, the rest of the time, parenting is a constant battle between :
- wanting the best for your kids yet understanding that it is imperative for them to fail in order to succeed
- wanting them to be liked and respected by all, but also realising that there will be people that they absolutely do not get along with
- wanting to step up for them when they’re bullied, v/s learning to let them fight their own battles.
- wanting them to find someone they love, while also preparing them to deal with the loss of someone they love.
- wanting them to grow up so they’re less dependent on you versus learning to let go, when they’re ready to fly away.
But perhaps the most challenging part of being a parent is that you suddenly find that you have the ability to both mould and destroy your kids.
Use your powers wisely.