Most of our perceptions are a result of the relationship we share with our mothers, and I believe that they shape who we become as adults, to a great extent. Our moms lead the way for us and show us how to handle life in a way nobody else can. I mean, I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that my mother’s been a prime example of what self-care and Independence can look like in its most raw and unfettered form.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seen my mom look after herself really well. I grew up seeing her put DIY facemasks on, ones she had scouted from magazines such as Sarita and Grihshobha and carefully noted recipes of down in her notebook.
But it wasn’t just that, in all these years, I’ve never witnessed her put her own appetite and health on the backburner. Even today, she makes sure that she eats properly, and nourishes her body before she cooks for anyone else. Which is something I’ve not seen many women and mothers do. Because so many of us are conditioned to feel guilty about serving ourselves before others.
But I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to how much she’s taught me about valuing ones health. My mother taught herself how to ride a bicycle in her late 30s, then when she mastered it, she taught me how to ride one too. And that’s because she prioritizes physical activity and health like no one else in my family.
She taught me how to do the Suryanamaskar when I was a teenager, and constantly nagged me into going on evening walks. Every time I ask her how she became so health conscious, she says this one thing. And that is, “Apne liye time nikaalna aur kuchh karna zaruri hai” (It’s important to do something for yourself). I think she says this because us women rarely take out time for ourselves, and invest in ourselves, in our health properly.
As for her sense of independence, it can only be understood and seen in the tinniest things she does. When my dad was away from home, on his postings, my mother handled all sorts of responsibilities. I saw her grab screwdrivers and nose pliers and open up gadgets and electrical wiring to fix things.
She drove us to school, to the doctor, literally everywhere, and managed finances like a pro. When we spoke about this, and I asked her how she did all of this, she casually said, “Bas kar liyaa, aur koi option nahi tha. Aur mujhe interest tha, kyunki curiosity bhi hoti thi“ (I just did it, there was no other option. And I was interested in learning, because I was curious about it too).
My mom is independent not just because she can drive or do cool things with a toolbox, but because her mind is independent. She rarely attaches herself to outcomes, and people. She allows people the freedom to be themselves, and knows when to delegate responsibilities and tasks. She knows that there is no glory in taking on the whole world by yourself, and that women are often goaded into doing just that, and being everything to everyone, and that that’s why we MUST prioritize ourselves.
She knows all of this, yet she doesn’t think of herself as exemplary or a crusader of women’s rights in any way. In fact, when I ask her if she ever felt like rebelling against her parents or society for how women are treated, she says that she never really recognized the ways in which she was treated unfairly as a woman until it was too late.
She said “Kabhi realize nahi hua, aur aadat bhi nahi thi bolne ki”(I never realized the ways in which I was being held back, and I wasn’t used to speaking up for myself either).
She just made the best out of the cards she was dealt, she educated herself, and has kept learning with life.
The truth is, my mother, like many other mothers, is a feminist without even knowing it. It’s because of them, that our generation has the wings to fly, that we can even fathom retribution for the troubles patriarchy has caused us all.
And today if I know anything for sure, it’s that as a woman, you must take excellent care of yourself first, especially if society expects you to put everyone but yourself first – all thanks to my mother.