Becoming a mother may be easy but being one is not. I may sound harsh because motherhood is considered an exalting experience.While one can be considered a bad daughter/teacher/sister/wife etc. it is difficult to be a bad mother. However, with all good intentions, motherhood also means a lot of responsibility and accountability.
A mother is a child’s first teacher and the example set by her is keenly observed and emulated. It is natural for a mother to vent her frustration on her child merely because he/she is an easy target. Very often the child takes it in his/her stride and a mother’s outbursts are not taken seriously but there have been instances of a mother’s attitude and outlook that have had an adverse effect on a child’s personality and perspective. It is therefore a mother’s duty to take care that she does not rub in her own disappointments onto her children to the extent of affecting their lives.
Sujaya was an ambitious mother and although her husband was not a high ranking officer she nursed hopes of educating her daughters well and ensuring a bright future for them. Being ambitious was one thing but constantly drilling into their minds that they deserved the best in life and that their lives should never be like her own was something else. The disappointment that she felt at being a middle class housewife rubbed into her daughters and they in turn chose to look down upon anyone who was not so well placed in life. When the question of marriage arose, no proposal seemed good enough. If the boy was well placed in life, he had to support ageing parents. If his parents had enough resources to take care of their expenses and the boy himself was earning a good salary, his English had a Bihari/ Bengali accent and he was not considered suitable. The boy’s sisters were snobs or the mother seemed dominating. The father was just a clerk or the quarter allotted to him was meant for workers and supervisors and it was impossible to adjust to life in his home. This went on and on and at no stage did their mother explain to them that it was not possible to find a perfect groom. It was unfortunate that the girls had a skewed idea of human relationship and marriage. While the older one found herself a matured partner who was able to bring about a positive change in her attitude, the younger one was not so lucky. Her marriage failed and ended in a divorce.
Bamini had a tough time at the hands of her parents in law. In fact the entire household including her husband would tremble at the sight of her domineering father in law. It was no wonder that she filled her daughter’s mind with negative thoughts about one’s in laws. Her daughter today is suspicious even when her mother in law showers genuine affection on her. She feels that there had to be an ulterior motive behind the seemingly kind behavior on her mother in law or sister in law’s part.
There are many other examples that come to my mind where I’ve felt that had a little caution and self - control been exercised by parents, their children would be better adjusted individuals. A father who humiliates the mother in the presence of his children, a mother who suppresses facts or lies to her husband or a parent who supports a child when he/she is wrong are all accountable for the kind of adults they become later.
No one is perfect and this applies both to parents and children. The reaction to a particular circumstance also varies with individuals. The mother who is at the receiving end may evoke sympathy. However, she could also be considered a weakling and as being responsible for the situation. The daughter who watches her being abused may turn out be an aggressive individual.
What then is the solution? I am no counselor but I do feel that two adults committed to each other by marriage as well as members of the extended family on both sides should be mutually respectful, at least once children arrive. I know of a lady in her seventies who has an only son. It is to her credit that none have heard her complain about her daughter in law. The girl is just picking up the nuances of house keeping and very often messes up things. The mother in law understands, that with all her faults, she is an important person in her son’s life and mother to her dear grandchildren. She therefore needs to be treated with love and affection. Criticizing her or constant faultfinding will not help. Accepting her for the person she happened to be and gently trying to initiate her into the customs of the family without imposing her own will on her would perhaps bring about a positive change in her attitude and very soon she would be a second daughter to her.
I end with a story that my mother loved to repeat-
A woman has four daughters and an only son who is the youngest among her children. The son gets married and the daughters who have arrived for the marriage advice their mother to treat the new bride well – ‘like one among them’ to quote their words. The mother is all too willing to pamper the daughter in law. The daughters leave and the house is back to normal. One afternoon the woman is heating milk for the afternoon coffee when the postman arrives bringing a letter from her mother. She calls out to her daughter in law asking her to keep an eye on the milk and starts reading the letter. The daughter in law has either not heard her or did not take her words seriously, the milk boils over and the kitchen is in a mess. The woman gets upset and starts cleaning up. She is also cross at her daughter in law for being careless and asks her to pay more attention in future. She then prepares coffee and takes it to her DIL’s room and finds her sitting on her bed and sobbing.
“Am I not supposed to say even this?” she asks her husband. “After all I would have said the same had it been one of my daughters in her place.”
“You cannot take the same liberty with your daughter in law as with your daughter” advises her husband. “ You can pamper your daughter in law as much as you want but you have to wait for a while before you take the liberty of admonishing her. She needs time to accept you as her mother. Right now you are just her mother in law.”
He was indeed correct and this story is true in every relationship. One needs to give it time to grow. And like any other relationship, motherhood also need to grow and develop along with one's children!