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The Stress of Being a Mom

Dr Savita Date Menon

Mother’s Day is celebrated every May in recognition of mom the parent, her challenges and rewards. The father will have his day too, but it’s Mom who we discuss now.

Neera Chopra had a daughter and was pregnant again. When the second daughter was born, her already turbulent marriage crumbled. She and her children were not welcome in a home that awaited the arrival of a son. The father may have given himself a choice. The mother had none. The buck stopped with this otherwise homebound lady who pushed herself to become a working mother. The challenges were many – bills, job, time, fatigue, society, to name a few. The reward – the daughter who broke the marriage was crowned Femina Miss India World 2009. Pooja Chopra feels her mother was the wind beneath her wings. Neera feels the reward was well worth the challenge.

The two Ambani brothers had a business ‘guru’ for a father. But after his demise, when leadership became an issue, with both wanting an independent piece of the pie, it was the matriarch Kokilaben who had to step in and take a tough call on division.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has been guided by the ‘mother’s voice’ for two generations now. While Indira Gandhi ruled the country with an iron hand, she also nurtured the political ambitions of her two sons. Both broke away from conservative governance, but in totally different ways. The next generation also sees two mothers nurturing their sons towards political leadership. One mother had to rise from the loss of a husband, become resolute in her vision, learn and master a foreign language and hold steadfast on to the seat of power. The other mother did the same, a little differently.

Julia Roberts wanted it all in the unforgettable movie, Pretty Woman. When asked what her dream was, she said: “A knight in shining armour, who comes on a white horse and rescues me.” - A sweet, romantic dream. In today’s reality, the knight does come. But often, the princess and he fall out of love, and he leaves, alone, on his horse. It is the princess who is then left, holding the baby!

But don’t despair. Not all moms are single. The majority come with the usual package – husband, in-laws, home, hearth, kids. To this, some add work as well. With all this support, the buck still stops with her. She learns to play multiple roles with ease, switching from sari to skirt, all as part of life. Multitasking becomes the rule not exception, and she reinvents the principles of planning, prioritising and time management. The cordless phone and the hands-free mobile were surely invented for the busy mom – shopping, while giving instructions to the help at home, telling the daughter she will be back in time to drop her for tennis, all the while planning the menu for the dinner party at night.

No wonder women complain of the glass ceiling at work. They choose to focus on work, home, relationships et al. Men are single minded. Like Arjun in Mahabharata, they can only see the eye of the bird. And the arrow of career success finds its mark. The rest of the clutter fades into the background, important, but clearly in second position.

All said, if you want to be efficient and effective, if you want to nurture your kids but not neglect yourself, if you want a happy family and fun friends – in short if you want it all, then you will have to learn to be a happy mom. A friend says the troubles are many, but the returns make every trying moment worthwhile. In a school debate on working vs. stay-at-home moms, her daughter argued for working moms. And won. She said her working mom knew how to keep daughter and herself happy.
The Ten Commandments to a Happy Mom
  1. First of all, STOP WHINING!
  2. Plan and prioritize your time and day. Be a little flexible and don’t pack in too much.
  3. In the fight to cook your kids yummy treats vs playing games with them, decide what you would rather delegate.
  4. Be a calm but assertive mom and teach your kids how to stand up for themselves.
  5. Academics can be delegated to the tuition teacher. But you have to be well clued in to your child’s studies too.
  6. If you advise your daughter to reduce her phone chatting time, you may want to do so yourself too.
  7. Work on your child’s talents. But how about taking care of your own too.
  8. Remember your kid’s immunisation dates, advise your husband to have his annual health check. Don’t forget, you need a regular check-up too.
  9. Your kids need swimming classes to keep healthy. You need an hour of exercise too, daily.
  10. Children, husband, all are important. But so are your close friends. They give you a shoulder to lean on, an ear to ventilate to, a hug in tearful times and most important, a good laugh to look at life in the right perspective.
Dr Savita Date Menon is a clinical psychologist, popular speaker, columnist and guest faculty at Harvard Medical School, USA

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