‘What Kind Of Mother Are You?’
“What kind of a mother are you?” asked the KYC form of a playschool I was checking out for my son. I HATED the question almost as much as I hated being asked what kind of music I liked when I was a teen. How was I supposed to answer? Was “a good parent” a reasonable answer, or did it have to be trendier, like say “helicopter parent” or “attachment parent”? Back in my teens, it had to be specific, too. “Rock music,” I would say confidently, before running back home to listen to anything but rock. You have to answer the question to get away from the question.
The question on parenting is a tough one because I suspect there is no real answer to it, as there never was for the question on musical taste. Even though, as a first timer, it is not easy to define my parenting style, I can certainly see some aspects of myself in the other mothers around me. There are some mothers I gravitate toward, and some I just don’t get. But I try to learn something from all of them.
The Herding Mother
Until I had my baby, all of these moms looked the same to me; they just blended together into a giant, amorphous blob. Constantly worried about their domestic situation with their nannies or the in–laws (who may be doubling up as nannies), the kids’ school, homework, PTAs/PTMs, herding moms had the same problems and they all seemed to have the same point of view. After my baby, I entered the blob and saw a whole new world. This may feel like the world of the Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms, but it is homegrown. I don’t know my way around it well, yet, but I have begun to understand my small corner.
The Smoker Mother
Yes, it is a group. I know them and I like them. They are heavily judged — judged for being women and smokers, judged for being mothers and smokers. So they have reached a point where they don’t care. They are honest. They will tell you things that you may have thought to yourself but won’t admit. Even as experts, doctors, magazine articles bombard you with dikhtats on how to be a good mother, they will tell you that there is no one way to be a good mother. They will be honest about mistakes, and the fact that mistakes are not uncommon. They will tell you that mothers come in all moulds. They have flaws and bad habits — even terrible ones, like smoking. In many ways, they are a subversive bunch, so they are more interesting and fun to be around, despite the second-hand smoke. They really take the edge off the parenting thing, and around them, I stop taking myself and every little thing I do as a parent so seriously.
The Gurgaon Mother
Not to be confused with any other urban moms, like moms in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, Gurgaon Moms are a high-powered group of supermoms. You thought they only existed in the movies, but no, they are for real. (Don’t believe me? Check out their closed group on Facebook. You don’t just become a Gurgaon Mom by living in Gurgaon — you gotta earn it!) As professionals, they are the who’s who of the corporate world, or they are professional mothers. They have all the hook ups: the organic, wholegrain vendor who will deliver to your place; the best yoga instructor who can sweat you back to your svelte shape; the best doctor for IVF or heart disease or something (because, hey, it is their neighbour!); the most creative balloon decorator … the list goes on. Their homes are fortresses of safety, manned by verified help, with CCTVs or nanny cams in all rooms. And still the grandparents are enlisted to monitor all on-the-ground operations, because there are no shortcuts or chances to be taken; there is no room for slack. Maybe that is why they are able to do it all. Time with them is not to be taken lightly. I watch, imbibe and learn.
The Park Mother
They are a beleaguered bunch. After a full day of housework, getting kids ready for school, office work, commuting, dealing with the in-laws, supervising homework, maids and so much more, these moms accompany their kids to the park, mostly to hang out with kindred souls. They are superwomen in their own way, although less glamourous than the Gurgaon moms. Juggling multiple tasks and multiple demands at any time, they find their outlet as their kids run around outdoors. They commiserate with one another. They have a small window in the day to do this and, come 6:30 pm, the window closes and they have to be back. I understand them and often feel like them, but I am not one of them; day on day, I can’t juggle and please like them without feeling resentment and exhaustion. I admire them and I hope their families appreciate them.
The WhatsApp Mother
These are the mothers in my corner. They, like me, don’t have the time or the mindspace to have full conversations in person or on the phone. They understand that the curt Q&A via WhatsApp is sometimes the only thing you can manage. They don’t expect niceties and are not offended by the frustrated messages you send at 3 am as you struggle to get your kid back to sleep. They hold your hand (virtually) as you writhe as your child screams while being bandaged, or dressed, or sleep trained, or disciplined. They understand the pain and can assure you it is momentary and will be forgotten in time. These are friends whose hand-me-downs my kid wears, friends who are always available to help with names of medicines or doctors (reliable, if not The Best), friends who assure me that the things I worry about are typical and the things I am not able to do as a mother are not deal breakers.
Mothers need other mothers, be they smoker moms, who help you laugh at even the most frustrating situation, or the Gurgaon moms, who can connect you with the right resources, or the park moms for their shoulder to cry on, or your friends for just about everything.
What kind of parent am I? A Work in Progress mother. It may not be the answer the school is expecting, but it is an honest one.