My Daughter’s Mother

Saturdays With Shivani

When we moved from my husband’s childhood home to our own place, my daughter was around nine months old. She served well as a convenient ice breaker and a cute conversation starter for my MIL and their social lives blossomed and prospered. My job kept me away for the better part of the day and I was happy spending the rest at home playing and relaxing with my baby.

I was a new mom myself; still learning the ropes, struggling with my identity and figuring out the elusive work-life balance of a doctor. A major chunk of those years is a blur now but there are some flash -in-the-pan kind of incidents that went on to become the defining moments of my life and here’s one of those.

One evening when I was walking towards my apartment complex, a shrill voice made me turn back and look. It was a little girl who was yelling ‘Shasya’s Mummy’ and I took a minute to realise that it was aimed at me. No one had addressed me thus; not yet. She went her way once I answered to her call but I was left with a myriad of thoughts.

Call it an overreaction or blame it on the hormones but I didn’t want to be known as my daughter’s mother. To me that moment felt like a threat to my identity; something I had worked hard to build. There was a sense of déjà vu from three years ago when marriage had similarly loomed over but thankfully, I had chosen well and there was room enough for two headstrong individuals to coexist with their respect and egos intact.

In my nine months of motherhood when I was already dunked in diapers and drool, the thought of forever being known as Shasya’s mom was overwhelming. I had looked forward to being a mother but I wasn’t prepared to bargain my individuality for it. I spoke to my husband and MIL about this and both seemed to understand my fears.

My daughter is a teenager now and she is quite attuned to the idea that her mom is a lot of things besides being her mother. Apart from my career demands, since that day I regularly take time out to do stuff that I enjoy. I go out with friends, take random workshops or just be on my own. This consciousness has kept me afloat when motherhood could have felt like a millstone around my neck.

I cannot take credit of this alone. My daughter and my husband have rallied along to make sure it happens. When I told my daughter what I was going to write this week she immediately replied, “You would be quite boring if you would just be my mom. I like you more this way.” I was pleased until the snarky teenager took a pot shot at me, “Besides you would harass me so much more if you hovered around all day.” Oh well!

I know so many mothers who yearn to go back to their previous lives and when they are unable to, they end up bitter and frustrated. With changing times, we need to stop glorifying mothers and look at them for what they are and not what we fantasize them to be. I recently read A Mother’s Goodbye  by Kasturi Patra that raises uncomfortable questions around our perception of motherhood. While it zooms in and out of the lives of two teenagers struggling to deal with life without their mother who has chosen to walk away, we are forced to introspect how we look at mothers. Its time now to change it.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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