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Understanding Our Mothers…

Mothers often shoulder the enormous burden of raising their daughters into defined or acceptable gendered roles or ideals, going at extraordinary lengths to suppress her own and daughter’s aspirations.

Its sad how for many mothers, mothering becomes a tedious task of making sure she does everything for her daughter to be easily accepted into her tribe/community.

A mother who encourages her daughter to spend excessive amounts to look like actresses or models so that she’s popular among her peers and not abandoned by her husband for another women, a mother who lets her daughter seek higher education so that she meets the criteria of the perfect wife to a would-be-husband, a mother who advices her 17 yr old daughter that a ‘women is nothing without a man in her life’, a mother who thinks the father knows best for her daughter, always. A mother who refuses to be with her daughter during the first delivery of her child because she thinks she would be interfering with daughter’s in-laws or young girls expressing their desire to have sons when they become mothers because raising daughters is hard and all girls are drama queens..

I wish all these statements/occurrences were unreal. But I have seen, experienced and heard it all and it keeps repeating and revolving around me.

Pure economic empowerment does not itself enable women to make decisions within a family or allow her to take decisions that are contrary to rigid social norms. I have met daughters of mothers who can be characterized as dis-empowered and repressed , but their daughters are far more free spirited and remains true to their selves than women technically deemed as empowered because they have a degree or a job.

It’s funny I say that as an economics major student!

My mother openly and secretly wished I become a doctor, some type of a surgeon to be specific. –“Don’t you think the human body is so fascinating?!” she says.

‘Err….yes it is, but you know I can’t stand the smell of medicine and pain, the white corridors and coat of doctors, handling red blood is fine but it’s the white color in hospitals terrifies me the most ‘.

I am happy my mother accepted my apparent silly reason as a genuine one. The bottom line is, I have never seen myself as a medical professional, and I can’t work or function as one, either.

I am privileged to have my mother always letting me stay true to my passion and have always communicated her wishes as well – we always communicate to establish a balance. And if I disagree with her angrily she thinks I’m hungry.

I am glad she wanted me to be a doctor because she thought it was fascinating and not because the high status associated in our society or because every other daughter is becoming one or just because this profession is seen as more ‘noble’ and since I am a woman I should go for noble professions etc.

My mother is an adventurist, a devoted learner and remarkably patient. I like to think I inherited at least one of her traits, I thought I inherit her curly hair as well but somehow it turned out straight as I turned 7.

The status of Mothers in our religion is way many times higher than father but it’s not reflective in our wider society. As a practicing Muslim family, my dad often warned against misbehaving or disobeying our mother. He always made sure we respect mom more than we respect him, and I say that with absolute confidence because it has been so. It was instilled inside us from a very young age and we embraced as we, all five sisters, grew older.

Towards the end of last year, my younger sister spent a month in isolation room receiving treatment for TB. My dad took hours off from office since it was easy for him, I took off hours too and we both cooked or aka (he cooked the whole meal I just packed) since my sister didn’t like hospital food. Everyday the timing of visiting hours was prescribed, limited.

We didn’t let mom take a leave since she works at school and a lot children depend on her.
I was surprised when quite a lot of people exclaimed ‘Oh! Why didn’t your mom take days off from work, her daughter is more important!’

My first reaction was “Oh yes, my sister is my father’s daughter too” and I couldn’t help but explain how unnecessary and unreasonable it would have been for my mother to take leave from work. She met my sister every single day and visiting hours were after school hours, and in that one month I have never seen my mother so worried for my sister. But for most people, she had to take days off from work to demonstrate she’s caring mother!

I dislike how Mothers are often judged harshly in comparison to fathers or any other living creature. If she gets one thing wrong or we think she got it wrong; the whole family starts questioning her. And I can contently say I, perhaps, have not been one of those children, or more candidly, I continue to fight that ‘side’ residing inside me – inside all of us. As daughters we can help make our mothers lives easier, healthier and more purposeful despite the limitations within our society. But the question is – how we as a family or community stop making our mother’s lives a living hell! Or (to put it in a polite way) how can we truly empower our mothers within the family structure and make mothering easier and joyful...

      • South and Central Asia
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