In the last week of August the world woke up to a pleasant news. Indian power couple, actor and producer Anushka Sharma and celebrated cricketer Virat Kohli made an official announcement about their pregnancy. Pictures of a beaming Anushka with her baby bump and Virat spooning her, were all over the news.
As a reaction to this news, a clever tweet by a young Indian girl stole the thunder away from the power couple, if only momentarily. The tweet read “Can Virat handle the captaincy once he is a father? Will he be able to focus on the job? Career ending move this”. The satirical 240 words became viral quickly after and were appreciated by women all over, who are constantly troubled with these irrelevant questions whenever they decide to embrace motherhood.
Even before the buzz around this tweet could settle down, we witnessed new posts by Kohli where he could be seen practicing in the nets, declaring his happiness of being back on the field for the IPL Tournament in UAE. Meanwhile Anushka has also started posting her pictures in awe of the natural process of bringing life in this world.
It was then that it struck me that no matter how much we fight about the unequal division of responsibilities or the societal expectations with respect to motherhood and parenting, ultimately the biological role division cannot be ignored.
The nine months ensuing the birth of a baby are the most important days in a woman’s life. A woman has to slow down and take good care of herself. This is not to offend the ones who carry on with usual vigor. She has to give her body a congenial environment to nurture the being inside. These are some of the motherly roles that cannot be done away with, one of them being breast feeding. But the social responsibilities of child rearing are definitely man made and conveniently thrust upon women in a very unequal manner.
This reminds me of an interview of our home grown Hyderabad tennis champion Sania Mirza with a senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. While the occasion was the release of a biography of the tennis star, Mr. Sardesai ended up asking Sania when she was planning to settle sown – aka – have babies and retire from the sport. Trained in the art of answering problematic sexist questioning, an agitated Sania lashed out at the journalist asking him, why he didn’t consider her settled, despite all her achievements. Sania did mention later that being a woman she was used to such questions and no amount of Wimbledon wins is ever sufficient for the society, unless the woman decides to have a baby.
Sardesai realizing his mistake did apologize soon after on national television, but his problematic question is a mere reflection of the embedded belief systems of our society. It is a notion ingrained in us that a woman is incomplete without motherhood and that motherhood cannot be enjoyed unless it is a full time job.
The problem lies in the outlook. When we look at the concept of bearing kid/s for a woman as a sacrifice, we often override her freedom of making the choice of motherhood; of wanting to be a part of the process of continuation of life. I feel that motherhood can be spoken of more as a choice and a privilege.
Modern parents now consider parenting a carefully considered decision taken only by mature couples. Some of us fear parenting as the end of personal space and freedom. The obsession around one’s babies often gives the impression of loss of personal life. After bearing a kid and having closely observed parents around me, I have realized the conflict is based more on the outlook towards parenting, parent roles and work division. It is only when you give up the need to obsess over this new member that that parenthood begins to feel like less of a mental load and more of an intimate and joyous experience.
Sania proved the journalist and the society wrong on both counts. She did have a baby boy later in 2019 and has ever since been the epitome of working moms balancing both her career as a professional tennis player and as a happy mother. Unknowingly so, she inspires mothers like me and many more regularly.
I intend to look at motherhood with less guilt and with more pride – one that comes with free choice and privilege. I am a mother to a toddler and my life around my kid each day gives me immense happiness. Am I making choices everyday – Yes? Am I sacrificing my personal life at the altar of her upbringing – No!