Sunita delivered a baby girl a week ago. She is beginning to understand her baby’s needs. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law has been discussing her breast-milk supply with every relative over the phone. “Iska to doodh hi nahin ban raha. Poora din bachchi roti rehti hai bhookh ke maare (She is unable to make breast-milk and the baby keeps crying the whole day because of hunger)”, she tells everyone.
Nisha gave birth to a baby boy a few years ago. Her mother refuses to stop taunting her for his lean physique. “Why don’t you feed him properly? He is all bones!”, she tells her. “If only you paid a little more attention to his diet and health, you would see the difference. You don’t even give him the chocolate drink that claims to increase growth in children”, she complains.
Believe it or not, Indian mothers are the favourite target for everything related to children. Right from the moment they conceive, they are given instructions to do or not to do certain things. These instructions never really end. What’s worse? Mom-shaming has become a common thing today. This is not cool.
The journey of pregnancy: More horror than bliss
Pregnancy is perhaps one of the most beautiful phases of a woman’s life. Perhaps. A woman’s body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and childbirth. It is not easy for anyone to understand these changes until they themselves go through them. Even then, why do the elderly ladies of the family make life miserable for pregnant ladies?
Obsession for a male heir is perhaps one of the main reasons that many Indian women are constantly stressed during pregnancy. They only hear “Putravati Bhava” as blessings, as if bearing a male foetus is the most blessed thing in their life. Mothers of daughters, who are pregnant for the second or subsequent time often hear “Bhagwan tumhein is baar beta de (May God bless you with a boy this time)”.
While it is not an offence to speak out your heart’s desire of wishing a male child, these subtle statements may leave a mark on the woman’s mind. Such statements are best avoided because they only enforce the superiority of the male child. How about “May God bless you with a healthy child” for a blessing?
We need to understand and discuss this topic more. It is scientifically proven that postpartum physical and emotional changes make women vulnerable. Thus, it is the duty of the family to provide ample love and care to a new mom. On the contrary, new moms face continuous additional challenges.
The first point in this list is the endless discussion on breastmilk. The quantity of breastmilk being produced by a new mom is nobody’s business. Whether a woman chooses to breastfeed her child or give the bottle is entirely her prerogative. Educated women understand the importance of breastfeeding very well. But it is important not to judge a mother by her choices.
Body shaming is yet another challenge that new moms (and not-so-new moms) have to face. After childbirth, the sleep cycle goes for a toss. There is hardly any time for sleeping or resting, forget exercising. How on Earth is a new mom expected to shed all that weight that she gained during 9 months of pregnancy? Even with a toddler, there is very little time for self. This becomes even more relevant in nuclear families or families where the mother resumes her office.
Child behaviour and tantrums
This is yet another glorious topic for mom shaming. Indian mothers are conveniently blamed and shamed for anything and everything related to their child’s habits and upbringing. Here are some very common statements that moms have to hear:
- Your child is still in diapers? Why didn’t you start potty training yet/ earlier?
- You should spend more time with your child. He/ she seems to be in dire need of attention.
- Why is your child such a cry baby? Are you not disciplining him/ her?
- How come your child hasn’t started eating regular food by now? My baby started joining us for meals when he turned 14 months.
- Screen time? Oh my God. You are such an irresponsible mother. Haven’t you read the XYZ book on parenting?
- You resumed office way too soon. You should have at least waited until he/ she started going to school!
One thing that we should not forget is that a mother only wants the best for her child(ren). She does everything in her capacity to raise a child properly. It is high time that we stop belittling her choices and judging her for her actions. After all, children don’t need a perfect mother, they need a happy mother.