It's not you, it's about being a mother

Being a mom ain't easy on the heart, mind, or purse.

 |  4-minute read |   05-04-2016
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Just the night before I had loaned my patience, plastic smiles and wisdom to a slightly younger mother dealing with truant teenage daughters. Gently floating on the cloud of now-I'm-done-with-the actual-mothering-bit-of-my-life, I had fallen into a deep, relaxed slumber. My girls were sorted, one still studying to specialise in clinical psychology (trauma) and the other working (read doing what she loved best).

A phone call at 7am on a Sunday morning jolted me straight into the homepage of something like momknowsbest.com. Between the sobs, I heard my 23-year-old postgraduate, working girl sound like the little girl who had rammed her bike into a pole and landed on her nose, all bloodied, then sobbing, "Sab khoon khoon ho gaya".

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All my oh-I-am-such-a-cool-mom-air vanished like a cloud of face powder, my mind and heart stopped - "what the f**k happened?" She had broken up with whom we had also lapsed into thinking and believing, the love of her life. I didn't know how to comfort her. So much for being a mom for 25 years, not of one but three children, I was once again thrown into the mixed bag of parenting, grasping for a sane solution, something sensible to say, to calm my daughter down.

690ratna-pathak_041916071123.jpg Ratna Pathak plays mother to two sons in Kapoor And Sons.

Lame sentences like "you'll be fine", "you are a strong girl", "it's his loss, not yours", "may be it's for the best" - I didn't want to say all that. Instead I told her to call a friend, not be alone till I reached her side, asked the cook to give her a cup of strong coffee, booked my ticket while talking.

On my way to the airport, I called a couple of my friends, "I don't know how to do this. Don't have a go-to plan for this. My bedside manner is very matter of fact. What do I do to make her deal with it? How do I make it as painless as it can be? Now that was asking for a lot.

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The sound of her crying grated harshly, reminding me of the time when she had burned with fever, lying in my office while I worked on conference deadlines. When she stole out of the house to meet a boy from her class who didn't figure in my "approved list", bunked classes and chugged beer in a friend's apartment, when there were carefully measured footsteps late at night, walking into her room, trying to hide from me that she was smashed drunk out of her brain, I always knew. Mom always knows. It's just that you choose your own ways of dealing with your kids. I chose mine - I let them be.

Holding her while she cried it out, telling me all about how she broke up with her boyfriend felt no different from holding her when she was five and had fought with her best friend. She hardly cried then also. But needed to be held.

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A certain degree of stoicism is required to face the world but this time I told her, "Cry, just cry when you feel it coming, drain yourself out."

"No drunk texting, no replying to messages, block all contact", "he doesn't deserve you after all those demeaning statements", "your self-respect and dignity is premium", "no man is worth it", "there will be torturous withdrawal tugs at the heart. Plunge into diverting exercises" - I realised I was just another agony aunt or an avatar of a cosmopolitan mom.

I have to admit that I couldn't resist the typical "I told you so" moment. It was just too good to let it pass. She had called a couple of weeks before when disaster struck, saying, "Mom, we are fighting a lot..." describing what the issues at stake were.

I had mumbled to her over-concerned father, "They won't last for over a month." It happened two weeks faster than anticipated. My call for help in behavioural strategy to my friends had yielded, "Avoid the 'I told you so' stuff that you do."

Sigh... didn't quite happen that way. "Just be with her, do your normal thing (which was disappearing behind my laptop screen), hang around, let her talk when she wants to." Okay. So I said, "Go back to dancing, you love it, join a theatre group, go for a food walk (or many such walks), talk about it, swear, cuss him but remember the good times you had."

And of course, we did land up falling victim to retail therapy. Being a mom ain't easy on the heart, or the mind, or the purse. And of course, I can see my daughter reading this and saying, "Mom, it's not always about you."

Writer

Mita Kapur Mita Kapur @mitakapur

The writer is the founder and CEO of Siyahi, India's leading literary consultancy. She is the brain behind various annual literary festivals like

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