Late to the party as usual, but having tried to briefly rant at various places on this article, I finally decided to just rant about it here. To say I was annoyed with this column would be an understatement. My peeves:
- It smacks of facism and policing to claim that a woman’s account of her own experience as a mother is nothing more than lies damn lies and that all accounts of motherhood (of the rose-tinted variety) should be banned for being false and misleading. It is possible that “bliss” is indeed Aishwarya’s experience of parenting, after all, I’m sure she has adequate support. Nor does having this support disqualify her from being a parent or being allowed to talk about parenting. Also, she was asked this question at Cannes and probably reached for the ‘safest’ response she could, knowing full well her words could be mangled. Unfortunately, it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
- Aishwarya’s own experience of parenting is not that far-fetched. There are non rich-and-famous peeps like myself who have a similar experience. My experience of the early months was hellish, and from there on, once I gained the necessary distance and reclaimed pieces of my own life by availing of the support and help available to me, I find a lot of joy in being a mother. This is not to say that there are no sacrifices but they pale in comparison to the happy parts. Really. This is my experience. It does not negate anyone else’s experience that might be exact opposite.
- While Aishwarya and I are possibly lucky in having good support so that we are not floundering on our own, I know women who lack this support and still testify to child rearing as a mostly positive experience. Hell, these women want to have more children! So, there must be something to it other than all the exhaustion, anxiety, blah blah. This is not to say that there are no women who regretted becoming mothers. I am quite sure there are and those women find it hard to speak up. But it does not make the rest of the women who do enjoy motherhood liars.
- Mommyblogs are not all about glamour. I have come across the most honest and gritty accounts of childbirth and childrearing on blogs and internet forums.
- It is extremely condescending to assume that if people feel their children are the “best thing they’ve ever done”, it’s an excuse to do nothing else in their lives. First of all, why does anyone need an excuse. Noone is obliged to do or achieve anything in life. If having a child, pointless or selfish as it may be, gives a person joy, that is enough. No further justification should be needed nor should they be silenced for saying so. Moreover, there are many people who have done many things and who still feel their children are the best part of their lives.
- I realised that a lot of people who liked this article had chosen not to be parents, and they felt it validated their choice. Well, honestly. If the best argument for not to have children is a one-sided rant which polices and silences other women’s experience, then you’re in trouble. I’m sure I’ve come across arguments for the childless state that do not seek to condescend to women who have made the other choice.
On an allied note, may I mention how sick I am of the fetishisation of some nostalgia-inspired standard of “real” (women, men, parents). If I hear one more person ruing the day parents decided to outsource cooking, playing, entertaining, having birthday parties for their kids, I will stab myself in the eye with a blunt teaspoon. May I point out that:
- The current model of two adults providing relentless care and supervision of their offspring is a historically recent phenomenon. In the past, various family members, neighbours, older siblings and in elite families nannies took care of children, and children were left to their own devices (sometimes at their own risk) a lot. Thus, if we’re on an old is gold trip, the parents who farm out aspects of parenting are the older model not some new-fangled invention.
- In the modern model, a lot of the homespun goodness we obsess over was provided by women who were stay-at-home moms or moms who worked outside the home and were stretched to capacity. Often, there was no choice in the matter because alternatives did not exist.
- For many, the stay-at-home option is a luxury they cannot afford. And working parents, would like to not wake up at the crack of dawn to make chutney sandwiches so sue them.
The fact is that as long as children are reasonably well fed and given a decent amount of attention they will be fine regardless of whether an entertainer was hired for their party. The fabric of society is not going to be rent by the odd pizza and the neighbourhood clown.
Thank you for your attention.