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OP-ED: A mother is allowed to be ‘off-duty’

  • Published at 12:23 am June 1st, 2021
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Let's not take mothers for granted

If you’re active on social media, chances are that you’ve already seen the picture that is recently being circulated over and over again -- the picture which shows a lady standing near a stove and cooking, all the while breathing through an oxygen mask connected to a cylinder. 

The picture, which bears the stamp, “Unconditional Love= *Mother* She is never off duty” immediately went viral on the internet; however, in many cases it did not end up invoking the sentiment the poster had hoped for.

A terrible practice

I would like to believe no child, no matter how narcissistic and entitled, would ever have the heart to stand there taking photos while his or her sick mother, while on oxygen support, slaves away in the kitchen for the family. However, even if symbolic, this picture is a testament to the gross mistreatment meted out to women under the guise of “appreciating their love.” 

That a person would actually be comfortable posting this picture speaks volumes about our mentality and the internalized misogyny in practice in most households.

For generations on end, mothers have been taught that their main job is ensuring the comfort of their spouse, children, and family members, and that their own comfort means nothing. The ideology is so deeply ingrained in the minds of the people that most advertisements and TV shows also always depict the mother in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning, or serving the family at the dining table. The only time a woman is shown to be resting and enjoying herself is when she is being served by yet another woman who is, in most cases, her daughter-in-law.

Oddly enough, the idea that a woman must give her children her all starts long before she even becomes a mother. From teenage girls to women who are engaged to be married, from newlyweds to expecting mothers, from new moms to moms of three -- society has the same message for females:  A “good” mother’s love is proportional to the sacrifices she makes. Taking her own comfort into consideration, even in times of difficulty, is really not becoming for a proper lady.

‘My child, my world’

As a mother myself, I have no qualms about admitting that my entire world revolves around my child.

I probably speak for most mothers when I say this is completely normal, and the children do become the most important people in the mother’s life, and everyone else  -- including she herself -- takes a backseat.

So, is my child the most important person in my life? Absolutely!

Would I drop everything to be by her side when she needs me? In a heartbeat.

Will she still remain my first priority even when she is a grown up? Forever, as long as I am breathing.

Does this mean I should be serving her even when I am old or ill or physically unable to do so, while she stands by without lifting a finger to help me? No.

It breaks my heart when I see posts on social media going viral, where young newly-married women pen notes to their mother, saying that they understand that a woman’s life is about sacrifice and they enjoy serving their in-laws, but long for the chance to come back home and be pampered themselves. 

These notes go on to reminisce the fun life these young women had prior to marriage, when they would be pampered by their mother endlessly, but do not for a second consider that maybe it’s time to reciprocate that love to the woman who literally brought her up.

Changing the narrative

It’s high time we stop taking women’s and mothers’ contributions for granted, and start thinking about being grateful for what we got. Even a bed-ridden mother’s love is unconditional love, even a mother who sometimes takes a break has unconditional love and yes, even the mother whom we have to help with household chores (both as sons and daughters) has nothing but unconditional love for us. 

She won’t stop loving us under any condition, but that doesn’t mean we get to take her for granted. Let us pledge to never be off-duty when it comes to valuing the women who love us the most.

Naira R Nizam is a journalist, development practitioner and gender specialist. She is currently a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune.

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