Monday, May 8, 2017

If You Believe You Are A Supermom, You are a Victim not a Victor

avoid socializing with women who cannot talk beyond their kids. No, it has nothing to do with them making me feel like a useless Mom. An alien who can’t even recall the name of the papers her daughter is appearing for in her final exams next week among a sea of women who know each chapter of the course-book by heart. Rather I am filled with dread as I hear them discuss their sons and daughters’ goals they have set and make plans for a future that’ll have them at the steering wheel.

Like any mother holding her baby for the first time in her arms, I too was overcome with a resolution of being the best Mom in this universe to my only child. The one I had birthed after 12 hours of excruciating pain. I read up all the books that were ever written on childcare in the history of humanity. I constantly exchanged notes with other Mommies on diets, regimens, early habits that should be inculcated to bring up a superkid. I slogged, stressed and worried incessantly. But somewhere along the line I realised no matter what I did, there were always tots who were brighter, better, chubbier than my baby.

Our neighbour’s toddler was a sterling example of everything my daughter wasn’t. All I had to do was step out on the balcony and our neighbour’s 2 and a few months old kid would start reciting the alphabet song with sickening accuracy. Two taps on the kid’s back he would start quoting from Shakespeare and three taps was when he’d launch into his take on quantum theory. It was as if his Mom had made it her sole mission to dazzle me with her son’s brilliance. My 3 year old daughter unmindful of her mother’s crippling feeling of inadequacy would continue caressing the utensils that she’d dragged from the kitchen with the broom.

It got worse when Tee started school. This is where I had my first taste of supermoms. This specimen was always found hovering near the teachers, could be spotted at all school events volunteering and never missed a PTM in its life. Its offspring was half a dozen chapters ahead of the class and usually had a super-achieving elder sibling in the same school. After school these alpha kids were carted to their theatre, dancing, piano, painting, gymnastics and math-for-genius classes.

These kids stood out from the rest of the class. They believed they were better than the rest and had this vicious need to assert themselves by ganging up their friends against students who couldn’t care less about their supremacy. It was as if they had internalized their parents’ aggression and anxiety to excel.

As a mother I understand this need of working ceaselessly towards making your ward outshine others. Then there’s maternal instinct that makes you do everything possible to protect her from despair, failure and hurt. But when this extends to micro-managing her life - treating her school projects, assessments, exams, even disagreements with friends as your own, you encourage the apple of your eyes to absolve herself of responsibility and accountably. You end up raising kids incapable of handling stress, failure on their own. And this extends to their adulthood when you are no longer available to fret and fuss around them.

It’s not as is if being a supermom is a cakewalk. You end up devoting all your time, your pursuits to orchestrate and fine tune your offspring’s life. So even when you take some time off to meet up friends, all you can talk about is curriculum, exams and results. Also, when you sacrifice so much, hoping your efforts will translate into success and happiness, you also expect your child to reciprocate as enthusiastically. But that doesn’t always happen, does it? Especially when they grow up and realise there’s a world beyond their Ma’s protective embrace. The obedient ones continue toeing the line. Some are unable to tackle the guilt being unable to live up to their parents’ expectations and others rebel.

So if you are busy congratulating yourself for being a multi-tasking diva, let me tell you, you are but a victim to the biggest con in this world. First of all there’s something inherently wrong with this title. It assumes that working yourself to exhaustion, donning multiple roles as a caregiver, decision maker, and crisis manager is normal. It is not. Also, parenting is not just a mother’s job. It is meant to be shared by both the parents.

So stop fancying yourself as a superwoman who can set the world right with a cape slung on her shoulder as she whizzes from one task to another. When you strive for this level of perfection and set unrealistic expectations, you end up being super-stressed. You put yourself last in the list of your priorities and pretty soon your family starts taking your superpowers to do everything right for granted, while they put their legs on the table and relax.

In fact it’s you that needs to relax and take it easy. Believe me, your child can manage better without you hovering over her like an anxious bee. It stresses her as much as it stresses you. And I have noticed, the more instructions, diktats and advice you give them, the less they listen to you. You become just an annoying noise that needs to be blocked.

Try being just a Mom. Be her friend. Let her know you will love her and support her no matter what. Listen to her.

The path to becoming just a Mom is simple. You need to accept the more you protect her from vagaries of life, the more you cushion her fall, the less you allow her to mature and reach her full potential. You wouldn’t want to become like that tall leafy tree that dwarfs the little plants growing under its shade, would you?

Don’t be afraid to let her fall. Let her know, mistakes are normal and failure is not shameful. As a mother there’s no greater satisfaction in seeing your child make her own decisions and take responsibility for it. Help her choose her goals, let her chart her own path to happiness. The more you loosen the strings, the higher she will soar with confidence.

And always remember, just because you think you know her best doesn’t mean you’ll live her life for her.


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