Friday, September 9, 2011

Motherhood - a COMPULSION or an OPTION

 
Yesterday and the day before I was at this strategic planning meeting for our organization where we were deep into visioning and strategising  exercises. As a Non Profit organization involved in the “Change business” visioning exercises often take on a dream like quality and people get quite emotional and poetic. It was while we were engaged thus that someone voiced aloud the thought about how maternity is central to a woman’s life and we cannot empower a woman unless we first address her needs as a mother.. Though there were counter arguments to this , the  gentleman maintained  that  womens’ choices in life always revolve around their motherhood.

While not disputing the fact that a woman’s choices may revolve around her needs as a  mother , I would like to reflect around a very basic  question about motherhood itself – what are the choices that women have around it?

We women are taught from childhood to aspire towards this one goal in life- to be a mother!! Motherhood in most cultures is the most exalted status that a woman can hope to achieve within her family and community. Despite education and employment outside the home, we still aspire for motherhood. But the question is – how much of this is our own real aspiration and how much of it is something that we have internalized in order to prove ourselves and our reproductive capacities?

In India, a woman who does not have children is called very derogatory names. She is shunned in society as an “unlucky” woman. Couples who can afford it, spend a lot of money trying all possible ways that science has to help them  conceive…!

It is funny that no one acknowledges it but  motherhood is a way that a patriarchal  society uses to  control a woman life and sexuality! If you ask those millions of women in our society who live in loveless, unhappy and violent marriages as to why they do so the answer would be “Because of the children”.  Most often women have no way out of these situations because their ability to cope alone with the social responsibilities of being  a parent is very limited. This would seem  ridiculous if we see that women in most families are the ones who are actually burdened with the responsibility of parenting. It is usually we women, who look after the children, feeding them, giving up careers and caring for them when they are ill. Yet to be able to able to do that while living alone without a man by our side is something that  we find very difficult – never mind if that man is a drunkard or an abusive person!  In my work I have seen that most poor women are not able to participate in economic activities as much as men and take risks around businesses because of this motherhood thing!

Yet we aspire for mother hood like nothing else in this world…!!! Why is it that everything about ourselves finally boils down to our wombs?  Aren’t there any other choices that we can exercise to prove ourselves in this world? Why is the answer to that even from someone like me a hesitant YES and not an emphatic one I don’t know…. Education has given us opportunities that our mothers could not dream of – yet we are unable to exercise them fully – we educated women live still in this “twilight” zone where we want to exercise the new choices AND continue with being mothers… “Either” “or” options are difficult to exercise but they give us a clarity of purpose in life. It gives us a direction to move with confidence.  Otherwise we will never be able to live life by our rules. By no means am I suggesting that we should not be mothers – my opinion is that we should become mothers because we want to and when we are ready for it and not because our inlaws or the woman next door makes snide remarks about our child less state.

And frankly, folks, womanhood is after all a social construction- the biological aspect is only a side to it! Let us move our lives out of our wombs and into our heads.



13 comments:

KP said...

Well said, and how true that even that cannot be decided by people on their own!

Ibhade said...

Another thought-provoking post Meera, and just like you, I DON'T REALLY KNOW! .... since Motherhood rub us off our FREEDOM! But the bible says CHILDREN are a blessing and heritage from GOD, hence the STRONG DESIRE to have a child?

KParthasarathi said...

Motherhood had always been a gender hazard.Luckily there are ways these days for a woman to decide whether she wants a child or not.This option she should exercise with utmost caution after ensuring her man would share the burden equally.There can be some failures but by and large unless the spouse accepts the responsibilities of being a parent, the woman should just refuse to bear children irrespective of what others may want or not.That children are assets in old age are all hogwash especially these days.The idea that woman is primarily a home maker to take care of food,laundry, cleaning and care giver is primitive and should be given the go by.She should be regarded as an equal partner in the enterprise called home.

Cloud Nine said...

Another thoughtful post, Meera. Though i like the questioning here, i still cherish the motherhood and the little troubles and happiness that accompanies the bundle called a kid brings us. To me, motherhood is something that MEN CAN NEVER EXPERIENCE AND CHERISH and so that gives us WOMEN THE UPPER HAND....What say?

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste....
A provocative ending...
The answer to the question I guess would be both a COMPULSION and an OPTION. The socialization of women is so oppressive emotional, physically, spiritually, politically, socially, and financially and in many ways so detrimental to psychological health of women that one wonders how to tackle the enormity of the tasks at scale of work that has to be done to be free of the ties of patriarchy.

It is like a great waltz three steps forward two steps back as some women who start off with the great intention of eclipsing patriarchy and its many institutional, psychological, political, social and spiritual foot holds end up participating and perpetuating it in the name of feminism and are unable to see the parallel to their practice.

Have a blessed weekend.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and ideology and thank you for allowing me to contribute my littel piece.

Rhapsody
http://twitter.com/rhapsodyphoenix

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Rhapsody, thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your insights.

@ Ibhade and Cloud Nine, motherhood is indeed something beautiful- the point is that we often do not look at it like that. We realize it later and enjoy it maybe?

@ Partha yes, children as an insurance in old age is stupid!

varsha said...

You raise important questions Meera.Good post.
Motherhood is a handy label a cosy identity and a soft focus lens ,a prison with silken shackles.
To realize that is the first step in rising beyond it -whether you biologically reproduce or not.So many women who go through hell in IVF's are mired in motherhood despite technically not being mothers.
Motherhood is a season in life ,I think,savour it and grow beyond it for your own growth.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Varsha, you have raised an interesting issue about women who go through IVF and those who do not biologically bear children. With "wombs for hire" becoming more and more common what will happen to the children who are looking for mothers? Thankfully adoption is still an option that is being exercised by those who truly want motherhood

Tomz said...

hmmm..i will answer with a cliched phrase, man is a (it includes women also) social animal. As long as we are social beings we are committed to live the life of a man or a woman..child bearing is also a part of it..

RS said...

Hi Meera, Thanks for dropping in at my space :-) And a very well written post, I completely agree - "we should become mothers because we want to and when we are ready for it and not because our inlaws or the woman next door makes snide remarks about our child less state". Now that is women empowerment - isnt it - choosing what we want and when we want it...

Meera Sundararajan said...

At Tomz and RS thnks for your comments. Tomz childbearing is more than what animals do as in reproduction of the species. When we are human we have the power of choice that is given to us.

RS thanks for dropping by. Hope to see you more often here

Gayu said...

Your post made me think. I have written my views on my blog http://gsaptekar84.blogspot.com/2011/09/complete-woman.html

Ashwini said...

Well said Meera. Finally it all comes down to how a woman sets her priorities.

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