Sunday, June 21, 2015

Of Life, Of Choices - The Evolution Of 'Stay-At-Home Mom'

By Raj Khanna - Group Bureau Chief
SPECIAL FEATURE: A woman fresh into motherhood was told by her midwife that along with the joys of motherhood comes the dreaded mother's guilt as a package deal. This kind of takes me back to my very first blog in which I thought it best to start with introducing myself in a nutshell. 

It was hard condensing all that I am into a few short sentences. I relied on the assistance of the many labels that society has coined in a bid to help each of us find our place and neatly fit into the mosaic; God forbid one of us actually stands out.

The questions that followed, 'Am I stay-at- home mom?' 'Am I a mommy blogger?' These are the nutshells, but do they really define me as a person? Each one of us is bestowed with multifaceted personalities, full of paradoxes, contradictions and unexplored terrains, which make it impossible to define ourselves by any one word or term. Yet we find refuge under the umbrella of these definitions as if once we find the best fit, our existence, dreams and choices will suddenly be vindicated and become more valuable. 

It is not that I am against these labels as much as I question whether they are really helping us find ourselves. Apparently the term 'stay-at-home-mom' was coined to redefine and modernise the term 'housewife'. All it really did is shift the focus of the woman's existence from being a wife to being a mother. Maybe these stereotypical labels came about for good reason but they do more to divide than define.

Often, I come across the blog about the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) sometimes by the SAHM herself, sometimes by the appreciative spouse of the SAHM and oddly enough sometimes the writer isn't a parent at all! Generally these blogs serve to inspire and support others who are sailing in the same boat; but perhaps hidden between the lines lies a hint of justification. When a woman gives up a career for motherhood, it may suddenly leave a void in her identity. Not knowing what to write under the section 'occupation' in a form can be confusing. 

When you fall under a bracket there is a perceived sense of order in things. We live in a material world where to understand the value of something that cannot be quantified numerically is almost impossible. The fact is, no label can suffice because being a parent is not something you do as much as it is something you are. Whatever you may do, whether you work inside the home or outside it, you never cease to be a parent. We all do what we have to do, so shed the guilt or need to justify. Nobody will value your choices until you do. We have become so used to judging and being judged that there is a lack of understanding and appreciation of our life choices. 

Ironically, the biggest judges and critics are other mums themselves. I am reminded of a scene in the movie Jerry Maguire in which a woman's support group is discussing how women are always competing with each other, " we see each other as enemies..... It is true and terrible." It takes honesty to admit that this women Vs women competition does exist - for the better figure, the better marriage, the better career, and so on and so forth. However, ideally there should be solidarity instead of competition. Luckily, today through social media and other platforms women are coming together to help each other cope with the trials and tribulations of family life. And that I believe is truly a great thing.

At the end of the day we are all merely doing our best to master the impossible task of parenting that brings with it unique challenges. To sum it up in the wise words of Baz Luhrmann "whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either - your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's".

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