A young mother of an infant and another baby on the way came by the other day. “Now that your kids are grown up, what advice do you have for someone just starting out?” she asked me. “What kind of a mother should I be?”
“Be a happy mother,” I said.
It’s not as simple as it sounds. When women become mothers, we give up so much, it is easy to only see the losses: your sleep, your beauty, your peace, your privacy, your freedom. As the kids grow older, the list of sacrifices grows longer: you’re not respected enough, your love isn’t reciprocated enough, your dreams aren’t coming true the way you expected, no one listens to you.
If you’re in a bad marriage or if your husband believes raising children is none of his business or is abusive, you have more things to crib or cry about, your emotional or physical wounds clawing at your insides all day. If you don’t get along with your in-laws, or your own parents or siblings, either you are in real danger of harm or your mood is just rotten all the time. And if you have a sucky job, then life is one long torture chamber.
It’s not so easy being a happy mother. It means you learn to treasure those few moments when the baby is asleep, smiling like an angel, or making eye contact with you while breastfeeding with all the infinite wisdom and knowing only a newborn can have when it looks at its mother. And you pack those precious little moments of magic deep inside your heart to give you warmth when life throws tomatoes at you.
It means you learn to stand up for yourself when someone disrespects you, or hurts you, or treats you as lesser than an equal, so that when you look in the mirror you see a goddess not scum, and you hold your head up and smile when your child comes home from school, and you shower her with all the divine strength that glows in you.
It means you walk away from toxic people and situations, and even if you have to walk on hot coal after that, you do it with a big mad joyful grin on your face because by god you are feeling alive for the first time in your life and you’ve never been more present and attentive to your child when she looks to you.
It means you learn to truly love, besotted with ishq for yourself, so that you can only see god in all creation.
It means you are stoic when everything is falling apart and you can jest even when your daughter’s face is half-paralyzed, because laughter is the best medicine. It means you learn to be furious when your child’s wellbeing is threatened, and not shake in fear. It means you never give in to fatigue or pessimism, and are undefeated to the end. It means you seek meaning, joy and love in all that you do, follow your heart, and allow others to do the same.
The path to bliss is not through codes of conduct or morality, it’s through truth and consciousness. No one else’s rules can work for you (not even mine); you have to find the way yourself.
A ‘good mom’ is usually described as a paragon of virtue. Make your own definition, and be a paragon of happiness instead.
Photos: Unsplash. First published in eShe’s February 2020 issue