Why do we need to sugar-coat motherhood?


Along with the mercurial rise in temperature that puts us in a constant state of discomfort, there are a few other things that do not fail to annoy us year after year. One such thing is the celebration of random days. From World Bakers’ Day to World Pancake Day to Mosquito Day to Blame Someone Else Day… all the way up to Mother’s Day, it is a ridiculous array of days which have now become almost ritualistic to celebrate. Besides making one feel irritated or inadequate, I see absolutely no purpose behind these so-called circled dates. I mean, what on earth is a Pancake Day for? Why should there even be such a date? Thrown in with silly ideas like these and a smattering of store offers, spa discounts, et al, Mother’s Day too has become a marketing bonanza attempting to pull at the heart/purse strings of consumers.


Becoming a mother is an extraordinary gift, one that changes a woman in many ways. Some are welcome changes like the miracle of crazy unconditional love and some are uncomfortable, difficult-to-navigate changes too, like change in life choices with regard to opportunities. Being a mother is a complex and intense job. No, one is not taking away the role of the other parent, but just saying that putting the mother on this high pedestal for one day in a year (cooking breakfast and calling it her ‘day to chill’, etc) is really lip service to motherhood. So, instead of one day of so much noise, it will be good to appreciate that there are all kinds of women and many definitions of motherhood. How about dealing with folks who are mourning the loss of a mother, how all this hurts them in the gut? Or women who have not been able to be mothers? Or don’t wish to be mothers? Or have tough relationships with their mothers? Or have given motherhood a new definition like mother-in- law who fills in for Ma, stand-in moms, stepmoms, teachers who bestow motherly love, trans-Mama, Mamas of fur babies, bosses who give tough love like moms, aunts, grandmoms, nannies… it’s a long list, with many shades of motherhood. Do we ever think of them while spamming people’s timelines and every possible media vehicle with syrupy sweet Mother’s Day messages?

Think about it. It’s the ad and marketing world’s doing. It has painted this perfect picture of a mother – forever pleasant, smiling goddess dressed in pastels in a spotless home. The working mom simply is given the blazer and the rushed look, but the rest is constant. The reality could be a Momzilla (as I am often referred to), with challenges, failures, angst and inadequacies. I am blessed with a totally hands-on partner, who often does a lot more in the child management department than me, yet I have my moments of feeling totally imperfect. So, one shudders to think what a working woman without such support goes through, where the multi-tasking is neither easy nor fun. Mothers would resonate better if more brands portrayed them as regular people instead of unrealistic entities. A handful of brands attempt to do that. But the unreal spiffy moms with velvet track pants and perfectly poised ponytails at the breakfast table are very far from the reality of me until my second coffee in the morning!


It would be nice if we attempted to understand what mothers – or all women – want. They want to be treated as people. With equal rights. It’s really very simple. They want to be paid equal or more, depending on their capability, and not gender. They want active participation of fathers in child-rearing, and not tokenism. They need corporates and agencies to make it viable for them to be productive and capable working mothers. Please don’t scorn maternity leave or stall promotions and increments because of a baby. It is cruel and totally unfair. (At the same time, do not be rough on single or unmarried women, but simply respect their choice.) We all know how challenging it was to return to work post a 90-day maternity leave back in the day. But many did. Now, even with double the leave time, many people find it tough. They have their reasons, but what about a lot of us who made it back, on time, to take hold of the jobs we loved? We also managed the kids we love. No, no one wants a medal or preferential treatment. Just equality.

A few companies are certainly changing their approach and policies for the female workforce to maximise its potential. Improving the gender ratio, encouraging different work modules, being inclusive and gender fluid. Trust me, those agencies will ace the future. But to really change the narrative, we will need to move beyond mere tick-boxes or quotas. We need the way of life to change. Of course, a handful of women have smashed the glass ceiling to become leaders and they lead from the front, but we need more of them.

Perhaps next time, instead of the mere ‘Thank you, Ma’ we can see more of ‘I understand you, Ma’ to say ‘Yes, you have earned your degree, worked hard, built a career, given us life, been there for us, missed football practice, made awful pancakes, given solid career advice, been a coach, a friend, a mom, and you are loved always, even when you are not so loveable (especially then)’. Here’s a big shout-out to all kinds of mothers and every shade of motherhood. We are all unique and doing our bit. Sometimes failing and often shining, and that is just fine. Let us stop sugar-coating motherhood and painting these lofty pictures. It’s a tough job being a mother, but it’s been done forever with panache and strength, just like most things women do. We can do without this one-day celebration, thank you very much.

(The author is an independent brand curator, coach and consultant)

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Published on: Monday, May 23, 2022, 10:57 AM IST

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