Every so often, you’ll hear someone say that women are superheroes. We can multitask. We can bring life into this world. We’re naturally empathetic, kind, and emotional, which makes us a species different from men.
And yet, we’re guilted for choosing the life we wish to lead.
Mothers are often expected to choose between their careers and familial responsibilities, and strangely enough, they are shamed for their choice. If you’re a mother choosing to stay at home to take care of your child, you’re not ambitious or ‘open-minded’ enough. If you choose to leave your child at home to make some money, you’re selfish, ‘career-minded’, and a bad mother. For a world that tells us we’re special, we are constantly forced to fit a mould against our wishes.
On the occasion of Mother’s Day, we’re here to switch the narrative.
Kool Kanya is starting a conversation around motherhood in all its glory. We’re celebrating by saying #MumsNotTheWord, inviting mothers to share their experiences.
Because we are shamed for our choices, many of us suffer in silence, lest we face judgement. But today, we’re talking, sharing, and owning our choices as women and mothers.
We spoke to entrepreneurs and leading figures of some of our favourite brands – Zouk, MissMalini, The Baker’s Dozen and more, to hear their perspective on motherhood. Here’s what they had to say.
Redefining the ‘supermom’
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t refer to their mother as a ‘supermom’ – implying that they have superhuman strength to deal with the superhuman demands of childcare. While it may seem like a compliment, it often implies that they are being lauded for handling it all without adequate support or help.
“It’s overrated. I just wish I were half as good as my mom,” says Disha Singh, founder and CEO of Zouk, when asked what she thinks of the label.
Sunaina Rekhi, India’s representative for Yoga at the United Nations, concurs. “For me, the need to reach this supermom status perpetuated the idea that I needed to be perfect, or else will come falling down around me [sic].”
She concludes, “The supermom trope is a completely unrealistic ideal that hurts women.”
But this does not change the fact that women indeed do most of the child rearing work, along with household chores and holding full-time jobs like these moms. A 2020 LinkedIn survey among 2000+ working individuals revealed that around 31% of working mothers were providing childcare during the pandemic, as opposed to merely 17% working fathers. Along similar lines, 47% women reported that they were facing pandemic-induced stress and anxiety, as opposed to 38% men. The narrative of the ‘supermom’ wrongly glorifies this overwork.
How do we change it? By owning it for ourselves instead of having others call us ‘supermoms’.
“Every person who has taken on the job of being a mother is a superwoman. Having said that, a superwoman doesn’t necessarily have to do everything all at once,” says actor Shruti Seth.
“The burden of being able to juggle a career, multiple roles, friendships, and sisterhood brilliantly at the same time is a false notion.”
Sucheta Pal, the global ambassador for Zumba, remarks that the idea of the ‘supermom’ goes beyond the woman giving up some aspect of her independence for the sake of her child.
“A super-mom is one who takes care of her baby and work and is okay to say she is winging it, and who is okay to say she is super because she is human and not perfect.”
Motherhood – the good,the bad, the ugly
As much as we’d like to put moms at par with other people, especially in a work environment, the fact remains: motherhood is a life-changing experience. It can be beautiful, joyous, and even painful, but it has the ability to alter one’s life.
Yuvika Abrol, an award-winning digital creator, says, “Every hour, [motherhood] brings you different emotions – happiness, sadness, anxiety, worries, fear, frustration – to sail through all of it together is the hardest part of motherhood.” Snehalata Jain, a mommy blogger, believes the hardest part has to be juggling work and children. “Since my work as a blogger and influencer is all about posting the right thing at the right time. So, I have to manage both my kids and my work simultaneously.”
Hardships aside, however, motherhood has brought to the fore some harsh truths for these mom entrepreneurs, making them look at life through a renewed lens. “Life will never be the same again,” says Karishma Govil, Director of Social Media & Creator Relationships at MissMalini Entertainment.
Shrima Rai, a digital creator, says, “No one really knows the right approach for your child because every child is so different. You really have to learn and introspect and navigate through it all.”
For Prachi Jain, Creative Head at Teabox, a harsh truth was to watch her child learn from their mistakes. “All your instincts may be screaming at you to protect them from hardships when your logical self knows better. To sit back and simply let them [learn] can be really hard.”
For Aditi Handa, co-founder and head baker at The Baker’s Dozen, the harshest part of motherhood was dealing with postpartum depression (PPD), which she did not take seriously at the time.
“I prepared for the pregnancy, I prepared for the kids, but I never prepared for the toll it would take on me.”
But with these truths come rewards, often in the form of a renewed sense of self. When asked about the one thing motherhood taught her about herself, Govil remarks: “That I would be capable of loving someone more than myself.” For Aparna Vasudevan, co-founder at The Nestery, it was how she could “transform into a fierce person if needed to protect my child.” For Handa, it was a little different: “Being a mother is so much more difficult than being an entrepreneur.”
No time for mom-shamers
Regardless of how the experience is for working mothers, judgements on their parenting styles and decisions are a dime a dozen. Despite it being no piece of cake, why do people judge moms?
Rekhi explains: “I believe that women who feel they need to shame another mother, even if unconsciously, want to feel a little better about themselves.” She continues,
“Most of the time, people who shame others for their parenting decisions feel inadequate in their own parenting abilities. Other times, moms will shame other moms because of sheer jealousy.”
But the advantage of being a mom who can handle it all is that there’s room to ignore the noise.
“I try not to hang out with them,” jokes Singh. Pal adds, “Who are we to decide what success means to any mom? If you are mentally satisfied, that’s success. Do you have great relationships with family and friends? That’s success. Do you have time to travel the world? That’s success too. Can we please redefine success?”
Every working mother has endured some form of pressure to be the best mother she can be, but what we don’t consider is that our idea of the ‘perfect’ mother is broken. These working mothers are redefining what motherhood is for them, and we’re excited to see how this turns into a strong new wave of mothers who refuse to be put in a box.
Concluding with Vasudevan's brilliant remark: “Women – mums or not – can and will be successful, period.”
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