Superwoman

Once you are past the age of 30, your Facebook feed invariably consists of baby posts and mommies posting about their adorable munchkins or how tough it is to be a mommy. There are those one-off posts from women who do not want to have babies, and are feeling pressurised by society to have kids.

Strangely, most of the women are sharing posts about how tough it is to have it all and how they don’t want their child to grow up being a ‘latchkey’ child.

The term ‘latchkey child’ apparently originated in 1942, but in India, I first heard it at the age of 18 when someone called me a ‘latchkey child’. And here I was thinking it was pretty cool to come home, open the door myself and decompress after school, and that my mother thought I was responsible enough not to burn the house down in the few hours I was at home by myself.

I loved coming back to an empty home, with the knowledge that others will be home soon. The house is quiet, nobody is asking you annoying questions about how your day went and you can just sit and stare at a blank wall and let all the stress of the day go away before the others come home.

I’d be mostly out of home in half an hour, playing with friends, so my mother had the same privilege of coming home and not having to tend to a child immediately, after a stressful day. She’d sort herself out with her stuff and was probably a lot calmer.

Looking back, I had absolutely no issues being a ‘latchkey child’ and would not want to change that for all the money in the world. It taught me how to be alone and keep myself occupied. I did not burn the house down. I did not even flood the house. I learnt how to sleep alone. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or cockroaches and lizards.

So when I hear about all the fuss and worry about mothers wondering how to let their kids alone, I wonder if it is more guilt on their part than about the child. With the numerous technology tools today, it is easy to monitor the child at home. And thankfully, being in India, you always have neighbours to look out for the child. Massive apartment complexes have enough security that you do not have to worry about your child running out on the street.

Being a working mom can be challenging, no doubt. I can only imagine the guilt you would feel for enjoying yourself when your child is home with the father or other family members. Perhaps you feel guilty about enjoying your work and wanting to go back to work. One of the Sex & The City Episodes is one of the few popular media to cover this logically… about a woman wanting to go back to work after having a baby. Fathers do. Perhaps they don’t have a choice, even if they wanted to spend the whole day with the child.

So why do women question themselves when they have another interest other than the baby?

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The Mother

A mother, according to most of us, is a nurturing, caring, generous soul. She’s always there for you and all that stuff.

Given the challenges of today’s world, a mother has to juggle several roles and many of them do manage that successfully. Of course, sometimes there’s a bigger scanner over her and she gets nasty/judgemental looks from people in the mall when she’s buying the kid a big bag of potato chips just to keep him/her quiet. But for most part, she carries on.

Sometimes, she has help. In the form of grandparents, neighbours, best friends or a nanny. They all need a quick back up when there’s something important and urgent.

All this is something I knew.

Then you see those movies like The Nanny Diaries or better versions of it where the children are primarily raised by nannies or their counterparts. The mother is more of the overseer rather than the doer. Those movies always end in a happy ending where the mother realises that she needs to spend more time with the children and the nanny goes off to find an awesome job (and subtly hinting that it is something ‘greater’ than nanny-hood, though that is fulfilling) and of course with a handsome companion by her side.

The daddies are completely absent from the scene – be in the movies, or as I realised today, in real life.

Till today, I was living under the illusion that mothers in India, for some reason, were well, taking care of their kids with the nannies being an add-on only. It perhaps sprang from my own experience when my mother would be my side or within calling distance, no matter how glitzy the party was.

But that was the last illusion of my childhood. Today was a strange awakening for me… I saw real-life nannies, dressed in uniforms and being all that I saw in movies.

Why is this so disturbing? Have I grown so judgemental that I would scorn at a woman for not herding her own kid?

No… I probably wouldn’t have commented if it was a business do and mommy had to go away for a little while to talk big stuff and the nanny entertained the child. This was a party, meant for children. And where I expected sexy mommies dressed in jeans, having fun with the kids. I was shocked to see majority of the kids in the care of other people while the mothers supervised and ordered.

Logically, I knew this happened. I had heard stories. But it is disturbing to see it happen. At a party, are you so busy with your socializing that carrying your kid on your hip is trouble? I overheard one kid yell at his mother and rather nastily. And he was all of 7 years old. The mother tried to soothe him instead of repriminding him. Really? The use of that word would’ve earned me a kick on the ass and privileges suspended for a year of my life. And my mother isn’t the kind to slap.

And where were the fathers? Sure, it is a kiddie party but hey! they are important too.

Of course, I’ve seen parties where the daddies are present… but with all that was happening, it was quite stunning to see that they weren’t present.

I know I’m being judgemental. But my little self found something bizzare in this. There was the nanny-crowd and the non-nanny crowd. Why I found this picture wrong is something I cannot put my finger on and I’m not completely comfortable with that.

I try not to be judgemental about other people’s lives and actions. But this disturbs me.