One of my most vivid and distinct childhood memories is watching my mother take an English lesson for her class at a local elementary school. She conducts the lesson in her bold, confident, and genteel manner as all the students sit there transfixed, listening to her in rapt attention. 25 years later, my mother continues to have a wonderful presence, both in and outside the classroom. She is often stopped on the streets by her former pupils, each one gushing with pride and adoration. It amazes me how profoundly my mother has shaped the lives of these girls, filling their heads with knowledge and their hearts with hope.
Was my mother always a natural teacher? What made her choose this profession? What activities was she interested in when she was a student? What kind of a woman was she, before she became a mother? Until I started working, I had not paid much attention to my mother’s identity aside from her role as a caregiver and nurturer in my life. I’m certain I am not alone in this regard, very few of us are able to ask these questions about our mothers until we get much older. We conveniently sidestep the women that our mothers were before they decided to invest all their time and energy into our lives.
Growing up, whenever I was interested in anything, all I had to do was mention it to my mother, and she would immediately take it upon herself to make sure I get what I want. She shepherded me lovingly from one stage of my life to another, letting me have a taste of this world while unfailingly tending to all my needs, big or small. I do not recall a single moment where she was not present for my brother and me but countless incidents come to my mind when she wasn’t present for herself. We grew up firmly believing that we were valuable, worthwhile and important, but it took us a while to understand that the rules of self-care are applicable to our mother as well.
My mother, like all mothers, has never hesitated in giving all of herself to her children. It does not come as a surprise to me that this thought is still considered to be essential to great parenting. Most mothers navigate acute guilt when it comes to creating self-care rituals but do not blink an eye when they have to hustle for tasks that will enrich their children’s life. Even though motherhood brings immeasurable beautiful gifts to experience, it is also a bewildering blizzard of endless demands, rewards, sacrifices, sleepless nights, and unscheduled interruptions. During my quest for self-care I have learnt that the consequences of not taking care of yourself are tremendous. Most of the women I know are aware of the grave reality that they cannot continue to neglect themselves forever, however, almost all of them end up taking too much on themselves only to feel depleted.
Even though I always knew this fact, I now recognize it with complete clarity that my mother is the vest that keeps our family afloat. I can now view her from a place that allows me to see her as an individual with her own accomplishments, dreams, choices and demons. Together we make sure that self-care for her is not something that visits occasionally like a distant cousin, but instead is embedded in her daily experience. This is not an easy mission as all mothers struggle with the guilt of wanting to be everything for everyone. However, I can see the seeds of self-care in early bloom as my mother has consciously started thinking about what she can do for herself each day.
When I propagate self-care, I am in complete cognizance of the fact that most mothers do not have the luxury of having even a few minutes to themselves as they struggle to balance work, family and school. However, the rules of self-care are simple and no matter where you are in your journey, you can create your own hands-on guide about what refuels you. There are days when we all will fall short of it, but deciding to prioritize your welfare will free you from all resentment and guilt that comes with the sacrifices. Whether it is enabling them to write a book, watch a play, exercise, catch up with friends, or carve out daily consistent time to do what they like and enjoy - all of us can be the forerunners of our mother’s well-being. The purpose of self-care is not to equip mothers so that they can share more of themselves with us but the simple reason that their well-being is significant for their own journey.
Anushka Bhatia (Writer)