Every evening after classes, I had to hurry home. Mother would be waiting at the wicket gate, anxiety writ large on her face. The minute she sighted me, she’d heave a sigh of relief and her face would break into a smile.
I wondered how she could sustain this anxiety-filled love for me day in and day out. Perhaps it was because she had nothing much to do at home but worry about her brood.
Twenty years later, I must confess to a similar situation vis-a-vis my children. With a fulltime job, tensions of modern living plus the hassles of running a home, my imagination still has time to be overactive.
No letters from my son who is in the hostel, for two consecutive days and I’d be close to a nervous breakdown. When the boys went swimming or sailing, I sent up a hundred requests to Neptune; when they went cycling or just to the store across the road, I kept my fingers crossed.
If my mother has a mellow glow on her face, it’s because she didn’t have to contend with the pressures that I have to. Beyond a ‘Oh! Mama, why do you worry so much’, uttered in plaintive tones, I never pounced on her the way children do these days. “Give me a break – what do you think will happen to me, I’m an adult…” all this in return for my care and concern!
Over the years, the role of a mother has changed, There was a time when motherhood was ‘thrust’ on a woman; today one ‘achieves’ motherhood by more than the act of offloading after a nine-month-stint of weight lifting.
I have to be a friend, guide and critic to my children. My mother had to be just ‘mother’. She was there to tend to my creature comforts and worry about my well-being, I have to meet my children’s teachers; take them for their swimming lessons; keep track of their immunisation shots; encourage them when they are feeling low and discourage their flights of fancy which might singe their wings.
I have to mediate between them and their papa’s difference on long hair, stuffed shirts and fading jeans. There’s no way I can look like the serene Madonna clasping her darling child to her bosom. I must be game to go on picnics, struggling into my too tight jeans; cook for an army of friends who suddenly decide to stay on and watch a movie on the video with my son; stand in as a jiving partner for a rehearsal before the college jam session, and succumb to irresistible entreaties to “be a darling mom” and make French fries, after a hard day’s work.
My mother had a role to fill which she did and does beautifully. Yes, she deserves the halo around her head- as one who has suppressed her individuality for the sake of her children. But I know I have a halo round by heart, for I have achieved motherhood by keeping my individuality and also giving a part of myself to my children- that part of me which even when surrounded by a sea of sharks can think of only one thing: the well being of my child