CHENNAI: Well, you’re not very maternal,” my best friend tells me, by way of explaining why she asked another close friend to be her soon-to-born child’s godmother. She must have seen my face fall, because she quickly adds, “neither am I. It’s not a bad thing.”
She has a point. I’m not maternal, whatever that means. I get along with children just fine. I’m endlessly fascinated by the minutiae of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, but I also want no part of it for myself. So, it’s curious that when being told I wasn’t “maternal” I still took it as a vague insult. Any newbie feminist will tell you ‘maternal instinct’ is a myth. Several mothers might too. It’s learned, taught, socially conditioned and chemically produced behaviour. My reaction here was a reminder of how being feminist involves constantly fighting your own conditioning. So I’m not ‘maternal’, meh, what’s for lunch?
The BFF’s observation also answers the question that I get from well-meaning uncles and aunties: “Shouldn’t you get married and have kids already? You’re 32. It’s time.” You know, lest everything inside me shrivel up and die. I don’t want to have kids, is the guaranteed gasp-inducer. “But why?” But why not! Why isn’t ‘I don’t want to’ a good enough answer?
I haven’t always known this about myself. Once upon a time, I assumed I would have children. Then I had a friend, my age, who was pregnant. Hearing her talk about the life of a pregnant woman, I felt green instead…as in nauseated, green. Out of resentment for what this being was doing to her. Like an alien invader. I didn’t realise how I felt about motherhood until I literally *felt* it. This was not for me.
I can rationalise it with some effort: the idea of a being entirely dependent on you, whose behaviour , character and future rest entirely in your hands sounds exhausting and stressful. Ditto the scale of responsibility and lifelong commitment. Also do you know what the school fees is like these days? I need a nap just thinking about it. Of course, this all sounds selfish and self-indulgent. But is that because I am those things or because I’m simply refusing (secure in some degree of privilege) to do what’s expected of me?
Society is not always fond of women like me. An unmarried non-child-having friend in her forties was told off by a bunch of parents in her apartment complex for insisting their spawn avoided playing cricket next to her car. They are children. Why can’t you just adjust for an hour a day? You’re heartless…snort.
The BFF’s child is now almost two. I’ve watched him grow from a wee bundle, who listened placidly as his mother and I sang him Bohemian Rhapsody, to a little boy I ran around trying to distract outside a restaurant lest he discover the open crate of eggs and go ‘hulk, smash’ on them, as is his wont. I dote on him and the children of other friends. I fully expect to babysit for them, buy them their first drinks, embarrass them at graduation and cry at their weddings (if they are so inclined). I will be the best aunt they could have hoped for but at the end of the day, I will give them a hug, hand them over to their parents and return to my dogs, books, vodka and wonderful, wonderful cocoon of childlessness.
What Pregnancy Taught Me About My Mother
City Express speaks to a few women who are a few months into their pregnancy. Though they knew theoretically that motherhood changes a woman, it was their personal experiences of carrying a baby that put everything in perspective
Like any other person, I would say my mom is special to me. But it was only after I became pregnant, I really knew the value of being a mother, and understood the responsibility of having a kid. My mom made sure life was easy for us
— P Nancy, Vysarapadi,5 months pregnant,
When my mother was pregnant with my younger sister, my dad was away looking after the business. Same way, now I am pregnant, my husband is overseas. This makes me understand what my mother went through
—Rekha Sridhar, Nanganallur,8 months pregnant
From the time I knew about my pregnancy, I was happy; so were my parents. But as my tummy gets bigger, my respect and affection for my mom increases. Because now I understand how difficult it is to be pregnant and still work
— R Lavanya, Thiruvottiyur, 3 months pregnant
Ma, Stop Doing this...!
If there was one thing — just one thing — sons would like to change about their mothers, what would it be? Here are a few namma ooru pasanga giving voice to their thoughts about the same...
I like my space and the only thing I ask my mom is three hours in a day in which I want to do things I like — listening to music or catching up with my friends. But she forgets and gives me some work, work and more work —S Siva Ranjan, a software engineer
She’s always scared about my future. It is the one thing I wish I could change in my mother. Since she was a teacher, mom gets worked up about my career. But she needs to relax and understand that I am aware of what I am doing, though I know she is doing it only out of affection —Arun Natraj, a techie
My mom still treats me like a kid. When I was young she would clean the fruits and give me. But even today when I ask her for fruits she does the same. It’s okay when I am alone at home. But when she does this in front of my friends and relatives, I feel shy. She should treat me like a grown up atleast in front of my friends
— Shanmuga Nathan, a freelancer