Why I could never be a 'perfect' modern-day mother

Anu Vaidyanathan
Anu VaidyanathanMay 02, 2016 | 15:23

Why I could never be a 'perfect' modern-day mother

A few month’s after Women’s Day, I catch myself thinking about a time when I was running through Bangalore’s streets, which were almost all named after men. Almost every other run I have been on, seems to present a similar fable.

Running through Madras, there is T Nagar, Anna Colony, Boo(hoo)pathy Nagar, Rajamannar Salai, Lakshmanaswamy Salai, Jaferkhanpet and Usman Road. Running through Christchurch, New Zealand, there was Fitzgerald Avenue, Moorhouse Avenue, Dean’s Ave and Harper Avenue. Running through Austin, Texas, there was San Gabriel, Robbins and David Street(s), one after another.


Although, in Austin’s defence, they also like their mathematical progression, with the most spirited congregating on the many bars on Sixth Street, which had more glitter on the West-end than on the East-end.

Maybe U2 would not mind it if I composed a spoof on their song and called it "Where the streets have (other than a male) name", but, what would that do for meter and sentence construction?

I must admit that while all athletes have a complicated relationship with their bodies, mine is presently simple and cemented as gospel from my academic leanings - garbage in, garbage out. How I feed myself, literally and figuratively, goes a long way in deciding how I feel about myself.

While in my other, more-athletic world, it was a rite of passage to have the smallest chest possible, it did not help the cause with breast feeding. So me, and my new curves, post-partum, have had a lot of quality time pondering disappearance.

I see this happen to the section of women I know, that work big careers, with little or no support system outside their partners or spouses. We seem to disappear into some new rhetoric post-partum about what motherhood should be.


More time with the baby. More time ensuring what you already used to do well (say, cooking) needs now to achieve a new gold standard. More time researching organic non-plastic products for use in the kitchen.

Maybe I am not the only first-time mother who thinks no one else besides her has ever given birth. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get a lot of things right. It took about 15 months but I cracked, big-time, finally.

It took that long to understand that life is better lived, focusing on a series of small joys. I could never be a perfect, modern-day mother.

Maybe our miracle of an economy, advertising and liberation is actually entangling us further and further in a labyrinth of new-age consumerism – information.

Women (being fabulously more intelligent, of course) are probably more subject to painting themselves into a corner, due to this information. Work that career. Work that household. Workout. When was working multiple jobs ever fun?

Pursuing retail therapy as the answer Google gave me, I bought myself a self-liberating magnet, which cheekily read, Its either me or the house, you decide, and dropped a host of activities unrelated to childcare and career, for a little while.


The workouts went through the door as well. The untidiness quickly made me unhappy.

Anywhere But Home: Adventures In Endurance, by Anu Vaidyanathan.

Depending on someone else to clean the house did not add to the party. The lack of training was the final nail in the coffin. I realised that the myth around balance be damned, I was going to do one thing at a time, even if it took that much longer.

What is with all these celebrities endorsing multi-tasking anyway? Sounds like humbug to me. What is wrong with single-tasking? Oh, is it called excelling? And who said that did not involve a lack of balance?

Who defines the word balance anyway? Is it the people naming the streets we run on or the ones feeding us with so much information that we have no room left for even lacklustre introspection any more?

Yes, it does irritate just a tiny fraction that I am no longer thinas I used to be. In becoming zaftig, I have violated the first rule of being a decent Beat, according to Kerouac anyway, who famously said, "I'd rather be thin than famous." But then, Kerouac did not give birth.

It irritates me another tiny fraction that competing is now a privilege, one not to be taken lightly, specially in the light of the other disappearing commodity, time. That my career will always take a year (or more) longer, if I am a mom, to arrive at the same place it would have if I had not been one.

But, the saving grace of all that information is that I also know, from stories big and small, personal and overheard, that other women and some men, have figured it out. The trick, that is.

The trick to enduring life, circumstances, relationships, demands, their own shortcomings, when their spirit soars and what they would rather not be a part of.

My partner has opened my heart up to a kind of deep empathy I lacked before I met him. My child makes me look at the world with more possibility than before. My running takes on a whole new dimension when I am in the company of other runners.

I appreciate how difficult and satisfying writing is when I try to put something beyond a few hundred words together. Why would I give up any of the above? A strict definition of time in days, weeks, months, years, or purpose, athlete, mother, wife, worker-bee, always felt so much more confining.

As I celebrate belonging to the smarter sex without requiring a "day" associated with it, I will remind myself that I am allowed to do whatever makes my heart happy.

To whatever degree I respectfully can. To pursue and to relent, in equal measure, without being dictated on when and how.

Last updated: May 02, 2016 | 15:26
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