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The 'mother' of all problems

The 'mother' of all problems

The 'mother' of all problems
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By Shinie Antony  Mar 8, 2019 12:03:25 PM IST (Updated)

Time with mothers is all about hurt, full of drama-queen moments and high-pitched accusations and teary forgiving.

Mothers don’t always mother. We can only lament that they are not like this one’s mom or that one’s mom, that in fact, they are like no mom at all! All our failures in life, all our tragedies, we trace back to them. We would love for them to take a bow in agreement, that they are indeed the source of all our troubles, if it wasn’t for the fact that they embarrass the hell out of us when they speak.

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How much of this is true though? Are moms taking the fall for our own spinelessness? Perhaps we are indulging in some latent form of misogyny. As women, we know best how the dice are loaded against our gender – and how we can be party to this.
Expectations from the maternal are eternal. To be nurtured, understood, supported endlessly. It is at best a love-hate relationship, especially for daughters. Conversations turn into entangled arguments with loaded statements. Advice is viewed with suspicion – always given, never taken.
Suddenly one party accuses the other of hidden agendas, of manipulation, of generally not being there when needed the most. Fathers, husbands, brothers and sons – the men-folk – are mere props in this universal oestrogen warfare.
Even Hindi films, the slow-moving beached whale on cinemascope, has started to go into the complexities of motherhood.
Rather than depicting blind widows in white with that beatific smile through every sorrow, they are now women with stylish haircuts and track-pants who are sometimes even single moms of a witty kind, no papa in sight.
What is peculiar to us perhaps is the ability to see ourselves as daughters against the inability to see ourselves as mothers. What we say to our own moms is valid, but when our daughters talk down to us we bristle and bicker right back. The cheek of it!
Once a woman multiplies, she is judged 24/7 and this not by society at large but by own offspring. Very rarely are speeches dedicated in a vocabulary of gush. Mostly it is a blame game, fingers pointed, a very precise A to Z dictionary of Mother’s Faults.
When women of any vintage get together a set amount of time is dedicated to mommy moans with eye rolls. If things are too hunky and too dory with mothers, said daughters say nothing. Attacks are the norm, defence is only a murmur.
It is the female parent who gets all the bad press; fathers are hunters and gatherers, fathers provide, father go out the front door and we know not whither they go. Mothers, of course, are working or non-working, legendary bad cooks and too old to ‘get’ it.
Mothers also bail you out when you are caught smoking in school, mothers nag you very minimal when your dream-man walks away with your best friend. They see you at your worst even if they never appreciate your best.
Time with mothers is all about hurt, full of drama-queen moments and high-pitched accusations and teary forgiving. Something about the tie too basic, too intimate to be picture-perfect. Conscious as we are of ourselves as perfect mothers, we are very, very sensitive to bad parenting when it is done to us. A daughter’s work is never done.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bengaluru. 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.
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