Motherhood is beautiful, so much so, that it has often been declared a rite of passage for women. And there could some truth to it, that’s only for mothers to tell. Which begs the question, why I, a cishet man is writing this. Well, I… have a mother!
I have seen her being with child (my sister), and I have seen my aunts, and cousins have babies of their own; friends, colleagues even. And as much as they love being mothers, seeing them you can’t help but hear yourself think about what a pain in the arse all of it must be.
When a woman becomes a mother, she is ‘bestowed’ with the responsibility of being the primary caregiver, thus affecting every aspect of her life, from the moment of that first urine test to pretty much the rest of her life.
It changes everything for a woman. Working women, if they continue to work after having a child, are often termed ‘selfish’ by our society. You will always hear men with greying hair and saggy skin unironically talking about how back in the day their wives would sacrifice everything to raise children and how children need their mothers to be there all the time.
This shaming happens to this day and not just in small towns and villages, it happens to people living in the capital and other metros all across the country, and not just in our families but in workplaces as well.
Roughly 40% of Indian women who complete higher education and join the workforce drop out within the decade because of family commitments.
According to a survey in 2018-19, employers were simply hesitant to hire women because they didn’t find maternity leaves financially feasible.
And you can actually ask your colleagues about the questions they often get asked in job interviews, questions about if they have families or plan on starting one and if they do, how would they be able to take care of their children and do their jobs at the same time.
This is something that stays with women for as long as they are employed or looking for employment.
And career is not even the worst part of it. For a country where a baby is born every 2 seconds, and that is a conservative estimate, we sure as hell know very little about Post Partum depression or any of the ailments that come with pregnancy.
One survey of OB/GYNs suggested perinatal anxiety; a predictor of PPA and PPD, was as high as 68% among pregnant women in India during the lockdown.
We just expect women to pop out babies and roll with it like it’s no big deal.
They are growing an entire human being inside them, their bodies are going through changes we can’t possibly fathom. Their hormones are all over the place.
Oh, and let’s not forget the actual act of giving birth. Labour is the right word for it because that’s just what it is.
Did you know that vaginas can actually tear during childbirth? 9 out of 10 women will have some form of perineal lacerations or tears that need stitches to repair.
The final weeks of pregnancy and the delivery itself can cause tears in the joint around the hip. Oh, and labour can last for hours, days in certain cases. And yet we see casual memes comparing the actual act of delivering babies to getting hit in the nuts.
If a woman decides to have your child, you should be at her feet worshipping her everyday of your damn life.
But we don’t do that, do we? We love women being mothers and wives and doing all the work so that we can post about how strong and brave they are. Every now and then you will see a post about a woman returning to work with a breastfeeding baby by her side and every comment will be praising her and calling her strong.
That’s like calling a goat strong before it becomes mutton. “Aww goat, you’re so brave for doing this”. NOOOO. The goat doesn’t have a choice. Women are supposed to. They are not goats. If a woman with a newborn is returning to work, the employer should be held responsible, for it is inhumane. My mum had to get back to work 3-4 months after I was born; night shifts at the bloody hospital! She shouldn’t have had to, it was messed up that she did.
Also, this doesn’t get spoken about enough but we have guilted women into feeling like they aren’t doing enough for their children, which has serious mental health consequences.
We expect mothers to be superheroes, donning a cape and a mask and just saving the day at our beck and call. But they are not superheroes. They are just regular people, stronger than we can ever hope to be but regular people regardless. We need to stop glorifying the work we are accustomed to putting them through. It’s not their job. Being a mother shouldn’t strip them of their personal life or choices.