Universality of motherhood

Mother’s Day started as it always does for me.

Published: 16th May 2019 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2019 03:16 AM   |  A+A-

Mother’s Day started as it always does for me. I woke up, logged onto social media and began to feel it. Because many people use the opportunity to wish their mother ritualistically as if it were their birthday means one feels Mother’s Day really hard. WhatsApp messages arriving as broadcasts or group chats reading ‘Happy Mother’s Day! with a cutesy GIF as if it were Independence Day or a national festival holiday has begun to create a universality around this day assuming it is one that is celebrated by all those born. It’s impossible to escape this enthusiasm.

Several people shared pictures of themselves with their mothers, to introduce me to awesome moms. Others shared pictures of their kids, telling me that they were awesome moms. In both cases I am to believe mothers are naturally fantastic, mothering is easy, fun. Blissful and rewarding are regularly used objectives. I have a Mother’s Day ritual too. Once I have been reminded that the day has arrived I recycle from the previous year, and the years before that since 2014 (much like the way my friends use the same un-ageing picture every single year), I share Veena Venugopal’s ‘Stop the lies about parenting’. It is a truth bomb if there was ever one, written originally in response to then new-mother Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and all I did was to respond with ritual to its ilk. 

With that out of the way I had the time to take in other kinds of Mother’s Day posts. There were Vadivelu memes! If there is ever an undeniable fact it is that the comedian has a thought (in his case an expression) for every one of the world’s problems, ‘Vadivelu Mother’s Day memes’ do their job in capturing the essence of my thoughts perfectly. This year, I think I saw more than the mother-daughter pictures. I saw those from younger mothers, and many from sons (that was a first). More kinds of mothers (but only of the woman kind) were included in the celebrations and goes without saying, the sales offers: Those who have lost a child, those who have lost children to terrorism or police violence, mothers who are no longer here, adopted mothers, birth mothers, yearning to-be mothers, step-mothers, foster mothers, struggling mothers, surrogate mothers and single mothers, mother-figures and pet-moms (also human). 

From health to climate activists, everyone capitalised on Mother’s Day and I made a list of mothers we must include going forward: all creatures that birth, and those that don’t which care or nurture, mom’s who have lost their sons to honour killings/disappearances/death penalty, mother-figures in the queer and trans communities, nannies, baby-sitters and domestic help that bring children up and single fathers, too. If mothering is creating we should include all those who produce — food to philosophy, art and literature.

In the ways by which we celebrate mothers and motherhood, or certain types of them, we forefront certain types of expectations. Motherhood is often associated with unconditional love and selflessness. In a culture rich with it’s ‘amma sentiment’ and ‘maamiyar kodumai’ it is hardly the talk that mothers are often taxed undervalued and unappreciated for their never-ending ‘job’ and not so surprising that many mothers-in-law didn’t make it to celebratory posts. Motherhood is closely related to marriage, and vice versa although they don’t go hand in hand. There is a case to change this and include unmarried mothers on the list. While those trying to be mothers have included women who choose not to have a child, are shamed and called selfish. But they are to be put on the list too — because they are re-mothering, a practice of learning to care for your body’s needs, expressing your feelings, speaking healthy boundaries, supporting your life choices…”. 

And while we cry accolades of our different mothers and motherhoods, let us rewire ourselves, recognise that we first need to nurture ourselves, practice re-mothering. We should ask if the  mothers we celebrate on posts are re-mothering too, and do what it takes for them to have their own lives — outside of being a mother. 

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