Helicopter moms and tiger moms and guilt-tripping moms and single moms, all mothers everywhere dread only one thing after their kid/kids have flown the nest – the cry of ‘Mommy!’ This cry comes down the telephone line from across the city, country, continent, could be even from the moon.
Once we are done raising them, yelling at them and being yelled at by them, we wave goodbye without a sentimental thought in our head. Whatever we may have thought when we bore them, very soon it was clear that maternity was an eternity kind of thing.
We are forever cast as the Nag, the Repeater, the No-sayer, the Killjoy. We scowl, frown, rap knuckles and are always pointing at the clock or watch in pictures and everyone’s memories. We look stressed out on all public occasions because the unglamorous job of checking if the geyser is off and locking up the house etc falls on us. On the dinner table our jokes are dated and our comic timing flat; ‘Mom,’ they groan, as they ban us from joking in the future.
So we have these strong capable individuals who act like they were born adults rolling their eyes at us all their lives, that is till they exit residence. Once they are out they call back constantly. Not with good tidings. Not to say they won the Pulitzer, Nobel or the Oscar. But to ask how to take out the big splotch of blue ink from their white jeans (they presume we have magic remedies), why their alarm clock didn’t go off (it has to be set, my only son!), where is the shampoo you had packed for them (two months into their hostel stay? What does their hair look like, smell like?).
No mother gets a call asking, how are you, or, how we miss your cooking or even a happy birthday.
Suddenly we are the agony aunt, doctor, dragon slayer and astrologer. This, when we were just breaking into a dance on being free of all responsibilities and busy calling up other similar empty-nesters to run away to the Himalayas or at least the nearest cafe for some coffee that can be drunk when it's still hot.
Caught between self-centred offspring and parents feigning amnesia, we want to just put up our feet and think of... nothing. But no, once a mother always a mother.
And if you thought your job was done because birth to kindergarten they were the apple of your eye – traditional child experts said so, that we had to be careful what we said and did to them till they were six – new info says we really have nothing to do with how they turn out.
Apparently, it is all in the DNA – what they are, what they will be. New research from psychologists and behavioural geneticists of King’s College London says – after 45 years of looking into it – that we are all about our genetic make-up.
Well, there goes all our efforts and hard work. All the cakes we baked them, the hot milk we tricked them into drinking, the bedtime tales we made up... It is not education, not nurture, but who we are that they are.
If, like me, you have always secretly suspected yourself to be a bad mom, take heart from this latest study. Next time your baby says, ‘it’s your fault,’ just go out and get some coffee.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.