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     Volume 4 Issue 45 | May 6, 2005 |

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It's a Tough Job
Being a Mom


If anyone ever asked me what the toughest as well as the most highly compensated job in the world was, I would have a simple answer: motherhood. Now, before armies of irate mums go up in arms at the 'highly compensated' part of the comment, let me explain myself. True, being a mother is an apparently thankless job which you can never resign from -- until you drop dead from the sheer exhaustion of it. True, the object of a lifelong period of suffering, sacrifice and excruciating worry, will heartlessly opt for going to Nandan Park with friends over some quality time with mum on a rare, free weekend. True, they think you to be the cruelest parent on earth because you refused to let her build a house with your silk sari or cut up her school socks to make endearing puppets. True, at times you want to run away from home after a bad report card, a prolonged tantrum or when his room looks like the aftermath of a cyclone. Yes, being a mum can get quite overwhelming, but ask any of these harassed, weary, irritable mums whether they would prefer not to have any kids and they will be horrified at such blasphemy.

So when does this unconditional falling in love begin? I'm not so convinced about the 'it all starts from the womb' theory. Rather, I think it really begins when you realise that this perfect, beautiful creature-- definitely a better version of yourself -- is completely dependent on you. The baby years are especially trying when every waking moment is spent caring for that helpless being and tearing out one's hair over every unexplainable cry. But all this is forgotten in a split of a second when that amazing being breaks into a toothless smile or incomprehensible gurgle. Perhaps it is the idea that they are extensions of us that we find our children so precious. They are the link to life after we die, the ultimate continuation of ourselves.

Yet as they grow older from infants to children, it becomes more than obvious that they are individuals with their own likes and dislikes; with minds of their own. This is when the fun begins. While you spend most of your energy trying to create a 'mini you', dressing her the way you want, instilling the same ideas as yours or even trying to influence who she should like or dislike, your child will surprise you by being diametrically opposite. If you say 'the white dress' she will go for the pirate's costume (complete with eye-patch and sword). If you say 'egg and milk', she will say 'pizza and chocolate chip cookies'. If you think sleep is an essential part of child development, she will think 'waste of time'. If you want to watch the news, she will convince you that American Idol is far more educational.

Very soon you realise that you have become a life-long slave to someone who is a fraction of your age and at least for now, only a quarter of your height. What's more, they also have an uncanny way of completely brainwashing you. So much so that you begin to talk about shows on Nickelodeon as points of reference while speaking to your somewhat bewildered colleagues. You watch 'Sponge Bob Square Pants' even after your child has sneaked away from the room in pursuit of more exciting adventures. You can't eat ice-cream at a dinner because your kid at home has a sore throat and surely you can't lie to the poor mite. You stop enjoying holidays in the most romantic spots of the world -- even Hawaii -- unless that sweet little face keeps popping out between the two of you.

Perhaps the trickiest stage of motherhood is when we get so engrossed in our mothering roles that we play them out everywhere we go. Thus a mother who takes her job a bit too seriously will give unsolicited remedies of 'chicken soup for colds' or 'fruits to avoid constipation' or 'mashed raw banana for indigestion' to everybody she knows -- even if it's her boss!

But the best thing about motherhood is what you get from your child. The thrill you feel when she is up on stage singing, or when the class teacher says he is an exemplary student. It's the tug at your heart when she sobs into your shoulders over some hurt or disappointment that only your arms seem to soothe, that feeling of sheer joy when you hold her hand at night or listen to his heartbeat. It's that incredible sense of security, peace and unadulterated happiness when on an impulse she throws her arms around you and says: 'I love you ma'. That's when you realise, no matter how difficult or exasperating it can get, motherhood is a gift, a precious blessing that just has no substitute.


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