A woman`s magazine posed a question to its readers a while ago, asking its readers to consider the last ten years of their lives. It was an oppurtunity for everyone to pause and think of their lifes events of the last decade. Something none of us ever do.We rush through life, without stopping to take stock or ponder about our destination.
Looking back at the last ten years of my life, the most significant seems the period when my children flew the nest.
They saymothers, especially Asian mothers cling on to their children.They never want to relinquish control over their lives.They dont want their children to grow up or move away.I thought I was a liberal, westernised,and broad minded Asian mother. I had my career and my interests.I was not going to be like them.Wrong!
My world almost fell apart when my youngest reached adulthood and independence.It seemed only yesterday that she was born. When and how did she turn into this self assured, and decisive young woman?
It seemed only yesterday that she was born, a bundle wrapped in green surgical towel Placed in my arms when I was just waking up .”Here is your daughter” the surgeon said.I glanced down, and could see a head full of dark hair.She squirmed and made some strange noises. Then her head sort of turned and two dark eyes met mine.I was smitten. I lifted my arms and hugged her.And she went all quite.As if she has come across something worth noting..Her fist closed around my finger and I was enslaved. Her carerer,and protecter,ready to die for her. And like every other woman ,motherhood gripped me , for the rest of my life.
Motherhood is considered sacred in all Eastern religions. Islam says that the Heaven can only be found under the feet of your mother. Hindus and Buddhists too preach serving your parents,they also prescribe a very high status for a mother. In those countries you will rarely see an elderly mother living on her own. Or having to fend for herself. If there are no daughters then the daughter-in-laws look after them
Living in the west, I regularly see old and frail women,lugging their shopping home. Tiredness and loneliness etched on their sad faces. Going home to empty houses,sometime only a dog or a cat for company. A lonely old age is on cards for most people.
Often people in India used to talk about the “selfishness ” and the materialism of the people in the West. They dont value relationships, they would say. It was implied that the Europeans dont have a heart, they left their parents alone and make them go into a “home”.
The Easterns, it was claimed; looked after their own, cared for thier elderly parents and they revered and idolised their mothers.And they would never allow their parents to go into a nursing home.
But now that India is on the road to becoming a rich and prosperous nation, its values are changing. More and more young people are moving away from their parental home,and with both partners working ,the parent, and more so the sacred mothers are having to fend for themselves.
So it is not just the West which is heartless, but it is the life style. The pressures of every day living and earning which makes people take such decisions.
So motherhood is something which cripples us emotionally.Taxes our looks and handicaps us from going up the career ladder. But not many of us regret being one.From the sanctimonious beliefs in the East , to the pressure cooker life of the Western woman, we all are previllaged to be one.
This is not to say that fathers are not important, I see young men playing, caring and being with their children. Some change careers to spend more time with them. I also see old men, walking slowly , carrying their burden. And I think that they have given the best years of their lives, working hard to provide for their children. When you are raising a family,all your decisions are taken to fit in with their needs. Prents put their children first in everything. They make sacrifices, in poor countries they go without a lot themselves, so their children can get the best of what they have to offer. And then the children, once they can, leave and find their own happiness. We all have have done it. Mum or Dad asking you to visit seems an inconvinience.You can have a lot more fun with your friends than go andlisten to your parents talking a lot about the past. Which is boring, you want to look forward, not back.
This cycle is repeated when the young ones have their own children.
Have we ever wondered as to what is it that makes us give the best years of lives looking after our children,just to spend our old longing for them?
I must admit the Asian woman in me longs for the Eastern tradition of late, where you are surrounded by all the family, and living and dying with my loved ones. But I know this is not going to happen. But I cant help wanting it.