This happened a few days ago when I was visiting my parents’ house in Ahmedabad. I was cajoling my daughter to finish her food. Being a Sunday, my father was at home and was observing the whole scene.
“You know, we never had our mother running around us to make us eat!” He commented.
I looked at him to elaborate on his remark, and he complied. “We were 11 brothers and sisters, and amma (he called his mother amma) was always overworked. She kept our food and milk glasses on the table – 11 plates and 11 glasses for each of her children. But, then she never stood there to see if everyone was having his proper share. So, there were a few who would drink 2 or 3 glasses of milk, and others would not get anything. No one went to amma asking for more; not that she wouldn’t have given us more, but no one had the heart to add on to her already big pile of work. And studies, well, being an illiterate woman, she could neither help us with our homework, nor did she bother. We sorted matters ourselves.”
A big insight into the days of their lives 50 years ago!!
We are three siblings. My mother made sure that we had proper nutrition, each one of us. Thankfully, processed foods weren’t that much in demands those days. Maggi had just been introduced, and breads (double roti) were consumed rarely. Having three kids and not having sufficient domestic help, she couldn’t sit with us and make us study, but she encouraged us to study ourselves.
I remember clearly the day, I must have been 6 years old, when I came home with a note in the school diary. I asked my mummy to sign it. She was busy with my 1 year old brother. She said, “Bring it later. I am busy!” Afraid to forget it later, I signed the note myself. Of course, the next day, the teacher realized it was me who had signed and called my mother to the school for an explanation. A big drama ensued!
When we went out to play, she never bothered to ask us where we were going. There were kids in the neighbourhood, and she knew we would be playing with them, however, we had to be back at 7:30 for dinner. There were no lessons on safety, no good touch or bad touch (in fact it was something I came to know when my daughter was 2 years old). Happier times they were!
And, then I see my style of parenting! My daughter being a single child, my whole focus is on her. Whether she has eaten enough, has she exercised well for the day, what’s her homework, has she prepared for the projects…!!!
And, of course, she is not allowed to go and play alone in the park or in the society compound. I know where she is at all times! Yes, gradually I am encouraging her to be more independent; she sets her own bag, bathes and brushes on her own, dresses on her own, helps in the house…but still I doubt she will be as independent as I was at her age!
So these are the 3 generations of mothers. My grandmother’s role was to provide food to her children. My mother saw to our health, education and comfort. While I am looking after each and every aspect of my daughter; from her nutrition to education, comfort and physical, mental and psychological development. With time, a mother’s role changes too! All mothers do the best they can do for their children, according to their capacity and understanding. There is no right or wrong, that’s what I have understood!