How are mothers treated in Indian culture?

If Indian society and culture does respect mothers, then how does it show this respect?

Do we make an effort to understand how a woman’s life changes forever when she becomes a mother, how her health, body, emotional health and independence is affected? Or do we remind new mothers to make sure they remain attractive for their husbands?

Do women hear of examples of women who didn’t ‘whine‘ and who got back into shape and who got back to working in the fields within a week/month of child birth? Are women advised not to start looking like ‘do bachchon ki amma’?

Before a child is born – is there an effort to tell a woman how her life would change forever once she is a mother? Are women allowed to choose if and when they want to be mothers? Or do we start asking questions if they don’t get pregnant (with male children) when they are expected to?

Do we treat mother’s bodies with respect and care – by making fathers equally responsible for contraception and pregnancy and child-care? (And not just married fathers)

Do we allow mothers to add their own name in their children’s names? Are mothers seen as natural guardians of their own children? Do we complain when workplaces make it easier for mothers to continue working?

Do we ensure mothers (like all other parents) are not forced to choose between self reliance and good health, and motherhood?

Do we realise that the society needs mothers and fathers so that we have a new generation – and realizing this so we make it easier for women to choose motherhood, by ensuring they do not have to give up more than they need to, to be mothers?

How does the Indian society show it’s respect for mothers?

Do we make it difficult for women with children (mothers) to work, divorce or remarry, more than we do for other parents?

Do we penalize women for motherhood by making statements like ‘Pregnancy makes women workers cost-inefficient’?

Edited to add: Please also consider, Kunti’s relationship with Karan and Sita as a single mother.

And, how many empowered mothers-of-daughters can you think of in Hindu mythology?

Related posts:

Woman you are not doing anybody a favour…

What does it mean to be a mother – Shail

102 thoughts on “How are mothers treated in Indian culture?

  1. And how about respecting unwed mothers? Aren’t they mothers too?

    Indian hypocrisy is at it worst when someone glamourize Indian women’s ‘sacrifices’ and all the crappy talks.

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  2. Very well written, IHM.. Back here after a long time.

    Does Indian society really show respect for mothers? In some ways, yes and in some ways there is more pressure and there are many many expectations from a mother. But till date I think that in many communities men are not held responsible for contraception, pregnancy and child care. “Why do you change diapers of the baby? you are a man, don’t do such things”….I heard this when I visited a friend who was a new mother then. Her FIL was saying this to her husband. And this is an educated family. And I have to add that when a woman has only one child people repeatedly ask her “when is the next one coming?” as if a woman’s body is an assembly line and babies come out in sequence. And if the woman is working then the perception is that she focuses more on her career rather then starting a family(strengthened by stereotype portrayals in movies and teleserials). I seldom hear people questioning a man “so when are you planning the next one?”.

    I have seen that in some work places women are made to feel guilty for getting pregnant. In fact, I have heard of stories where in a female boss (unmarried in most cases) looks down upon a pregnant employee, making her feel that she is penalising her co-workers with additional work by going on maternity leave. And there is another side to such stories. Some women employees after claiming maternity benefits promptly leave the company that too within few days of receiving benefits. This irks the company and they feel that pregnant employees are liabilities – no extra work during pregnancy to avoid stress+ 2-4 months of paid leave+ maternity benefits.

    Hopefully the situation will change for good.

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  3. By and large, our approach to parenthood has been pretty much lopsided. All through the decades, a pregnant woman would be in her parental home for the best part of the pregnancy, during child birth, and post child-birth. A father was allowed little or no participation in the entire process. In a way the father was told ‘ once your wife is pregnant, your job is done’ – and the major responsibility, the nitty-gritty of child rearing fell on the mother. For ages, men came back home to freshly powdered, cooing babies; and promptly handed over the bundle to the mother when it pooped. This is what continues even today in many homes. The mother is seen as a nourisher and rearer, the father is seen as a provider – even if the mother is financially independent. And that is why, whenever the child misbehaves the first thing one hears is ‘Is this what your mother taught you?’

    Things have changed in certain sections of society today. With more and more couples living independently, fathers are more hands-on and are loving it – it is something which their own fathers did not experience!

    Corporate India is grudgingly making allowances for motherhood – though unlike many countries, my Indian colleagues have had to go on loss of pay when they needed an extended maternity leave. As far as fatherhood is concerned, the less said the better. It is only in the last decade or so ‘paternity leave’ was introduced. It’s as if fatherhood is a ridiculous notion, and just because a man cannot breastfeed, his presence with his baby is not required all that much.

    I feel as a society we need to focus on the concept of parenthood in its entirety.

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      • Reminds me of my old workplace.

        One of our senior associates gave birth to her second child and the firm made sure it was a huge ordeal for her.

        Thanks to a combination of bad luck and managerial incompetence on the part of the clients, we got into a real emergency at work. Ergo, mere days after delivery, the poor woman had to take part in meeting after meeting through video-conference from the hospital. This, at a time when she would’ve wanted to spend time with family and friends, and most importantly, just take a well-deserved break.

        If I was in her place, I would probably have quit immediately. What compensation justifies this kind of crap? It just points to a toxic, insensitive management culture, and since it wasn’t my department, I could do very little about it. Bad stuff.

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        • yes praveen..i’ve seen this happen elsewhere too…and all are companies that make right noises about being ’employee friendly’ and all that tosh. really, really sad.

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      • Same here. I’ve had male colleagues take skiing/Vegas/golf trips with their buddies during this break. Because they think of maternity leave as no more than a paid vacation, and see no reason why they shouldn’t get theirs.

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    • Can someone elaborate on why women go back to their parents’ homes during pregnancy and/or stay there for some time after delivery? What is the reason/ purpose? I’ve heard it so many times that I believe it’s a common practice, but nobody was actually able to explain why it happens.

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      • Because in many cases the husband’s parents are toxic and not to be depended upon to put the wife’s priorities first. So women go back to the only source that they think (and hope) will support them during the pain and suffering of pregnancy and childbirth.

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        • Sorry, I beg to differ.

          Any childbirth is a traumatic experience for the would-be mother and she feels more comfortable where she has been bought up as a child. They normally are more than happy to acknowledge her for this ordeal.

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      • EM – In the earlier era, at least in India, a pregnant girl was almost treated as if she were ill – ‘don’t eat this, don’t drink that, don’t go out, don’t walk about’ and so on. The fact that she was pregnant ‘meant’ she had to be on a special high calorie diet, with all kinds of sweets and savouries; she was supposed to have all kinds of cravings for all kinds of tastes at all kinds of times which had to be immediately attended to by fresh preparations of said dishes. Needless to say, a pregnant woman was considered more than a handful. Now – which mother-in-law will be ready to do all this for a daughter-in-law? oh no no…let the woman’s mother handle all this craving business! And the son…what’s he got to do with a pregnant wife? He got her pregnant did he not? Besides, the arrangement would also prevent any pregnancy sex.

        Even if the couple were living by themselves – the notion that a husband can be a source of help and comfort never existed. Of course most men were brought up so ‘independently’ that they had to look up a recipe book to prepare tea for themselves. What will such a man do with a pregnant wife? A man who has never washed his cup, plate spoon EVER in his life; a man who has no clue how to turn on the stove using a lighter?!

        The ONLY information a woman had regarding pregnancy was whatever her mom said/remembered about her own pregnancy decades ago. Rest was all ‘learn as you go’.

        I guess things have changed a bit today. but at the end of day, I suppose women feel most comfortable taking help (and getting pampered :)) from their mums during pregnancy.

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      • And also the in-laws want the DIL’s parents to pick up all tabs and send her back to them with the next batch of goodies. (Adding to PGW’s comment)

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        • I am surprised at vitriolic comments against men on this. Anecdotal, but most people I know of pay their in-laws for the cost claimed. Some never sent their wives to their in-laws place as they were willing to pay for the cost.

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        • “sent” their wives.. sounds like the wives are cattle. The man has no right to ‘send’ or ‘not send’ her. She is a fully capable thinking feeling human being it would more appropriate to say that she went or didn’t go. I assume we expect the woman to have some part in this decision, no?!

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      • Mainly because they wanted the girl’s parents to take care of all the bills relating to the many tests that happen both before the birth, cost of the birth itself as well as the costs that come later. In my own office, we have medical insurance. But, many male colleagues do not use it. Their attitude is, girl’s parents are supposed to pay for it, so they will not use the insurance. In fact, i know one case where the guy used up his insurance, but his mom made sure that the girl’s parents paid back their son in law for the actual costs incurred!!!

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  4. To put it in not-so-polite terms, we do sweet bugger all. We do nothing.

    The so-called ‘respect’ is shallow and superficial, an illusion, a lie, an untruth, a myth, a mirage, fabricated by a breed of apologists trying desperately to justify the practices of a culture that is devoid of the most fundamental aspects of human dignity for nameless millions who labor day after miserable day under the cruel heel of a bloodcurlingly patriarchal society. We see it by now, we know it by know, yet we deny it, over and over again.

    What tall claims we make! What stories we tell! We talk of gods and goddesses and sophisticated Sanskrit proverbs and even before we’re done talking rubbish, we point to someone like Sita, someone forced to risk death merely because some inconsequential person had doubts about her virginity. We point to stories steeped in medieval morality and ask women to see them as examples.

    Respect for mothers. I’m sorry, but we have none. Men who change diapers are JKGs and women who don’t are selfish, stuck-up snobs. If you want to have kids, you shouldn’t have a career, and if you give up the idea of kids, you’re a bad, evil person. Checkmate! Women can’t win, not unless they accept their traditional role of co-dependent TV serial housewife.

    It’s this gentleman’s PR manager who is goddamn cost-inefficient. That’s all I have to say. Apologies for ranting, but it really was in order here.

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  5. We do not respect mothers in our society. We take it for granted that they have the easiest job available. You just have to sit and home and take care of the baby – that is what we hear.
    I do not expect this mentality to change. Its convenient. I believe, this is somehow linked to our fabric of joint families and nosey relatives.

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  6. Women who are pregnant are treated with more care than otherwise. This is a fact. One can ask as to why is this not the case always but not when they are pregnant.

    Secondly, given the ignorance of many here, let me give my two cents about women having no choice about motherhood.
    Ladies, reliable contraception is only about five decades old. It was in the 1960s that the pill was invented. Rather than whine about women not having choices, contraception was welcomed by men also as well, as it allowed them to have smaller families.

    Secondly, with rise in human lifespans, fall in infant mortality, better health care and children requiring long years of care, it made more sense to have fewer children but invest more in them. With most children surviving into adulthood and reproducing, it made sense to have smaller families. The richer classes have tried to limit their children earlier also (more to bequeath to their children), but contraception was largely a hit and miss affair.

    And since I am ranting, let me add-
    1Things which have benefitted women and enabled the rise of feminism —
    artificial contraception, entry of women into the workforce as work became less physically demanding, labour saving devices.

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    • Women who are pregnant are treated with more care than otherwise. This is a fact. One can ask as to why is this not the case always but not when they are pregnant.

      IHM – A large number of Indian women are told not to ‘whine’ when they complain about morning sickness. Women are also pressurised to ensure they are carrying male children – Apart from that pregnant women are also seen as ‘burden’ at their workplace. None of these can be seen as treating with care.

      Secondly, given the ignorance of many here, let me give my two cents about women having no choice about motherhood.
      Ladies, reliable contraception is only about five decades old. It was in the 1960s that the pill was invented. Rather than whine about women not having choices, contraception was welcomed by men also as well, as it allowed them to have smaller families.

      IHM – Now that contraception is available – are married or single Indian women free to choose how and when to use it without facing any stigma or restrictions?

      Secondly, with rise in human lifespans, fall in infant mortality, better health care and children requiring long years of care, it made more sense to have fewer children but invest more in them. With most children surviving into adulthood and reproducing, it made sense to have smaller families. The richer classes have tried to limit their children earlier also (more to bequeath to their children), but contraception was largely a hit and miss affair.

      IHM – The person whose life is most affected by these choices – how much say do they have in making these choices – even today?

      And since I am ranting, let me add-
      1Things which have benefitted women and enabled the rise of feminism —
      artificial contraception, entry of women into the workforce as work became less physically demanding, labour saving devices.

      IHM – What about women in the North East, who have been treated as humans without any of these?

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      • With due respect, your questions seem like rhetoric.

        IHM – A large number of Indian women are told not to ‘whine’ when they complain about morning sickness. Women are also pressurised to ensure they are carrying male children – Apart from that pregnant women are also seen as ‘burden’ at their workplace. None of these can be seen as treating with care.

        Me: Morning sickness is a problem but get some ovaries and woman up. With the risk of being labelled insensitive, I will say that everyone’s mother went through that issue so this is not a special one.

        IHM – Now that contraception is available – are married or single Indian women free to choose how and when to use it without facing any stigma or restrictions?

        Me: That is the issue between Husband and wife. Your point?

        IHM – The person whose life is most affected by these choices – how much say do they have in making these choices – even today?

        Me: Family is made by learning from each other. That is why its complicated. Men do give up late night drinking, partying after shaadi (most I know of). So unless you live in a family of Saas Bahu TV serials, entire thing is between Husband and wife. Its their choice!

        IHM – What about women in the North East, who have been treated as humans without any of these?

        Me: Sorry, irrelevant reply. Every region / religion cherishes the motherhood and respects it.

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    • “Women who are pregnant are treated with more care than otherwise.”

      Please don’t bet on that. A size-able chunk of the population don’t even have the decency to do that, especially in-laws, husbands and in some cases even parents.

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      • Maybe she modify the statement as “Women who are pregnant are SUPPOSED TO BE treated with more care than otherwise.” But the fact is that often a pregnant women is actually treated even worse because of her helpless situation. I can make the discussion tangent if I say – all the more if she is not bearing a male child !

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      • Women who are pregnant actually face more discrimination than anyone else….some might treat her with empathy but the ones closest(In-laws, husband and Outlaws) will be the ones who say things like “You arent the only one who has ever been pregnant, suck it up and act normal” Excuse me!!! but what is really normal for a woman who is having her first child or subsequent child? and look at it with objective eyes, will it ever get back to NORMAL after the baby..Yes, That is the care I hear come out of some people’s mouth. Thoughtless people amaze me.

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    • Thank you KC for telling us that contraception is five decades old.

      Have you heard of Margaret Sanger perchance? Birth control? Planned Parenthood?

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    • Contraception is a big fail in India because it demands from people to a) break a taboo b) talk about intimacy c) take mutual responsibility.

      Neither of these are traditionally engraved in arranged marriage. As anything else, the woman is supposed to take what comes, and if that means having 6 kids, then let it be.

      Mother-in-law treats you badly? Tolerate!
      Husband has too many demands? Adjust!
      Got pregnant? Live with it!

      There is no place for contraception in-between this kind of mentality.

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    • “Women who are pregnant are treated with more care than otherwise. This is a fact.”

      Not always. And in some cases where they are, it is made very clear that they, or in fact, their womb, is more important because it is with child. Sorry. This is the full fact.

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  7. More often than not, motherhood is glorified of sacrifice and giving. So is womanhood but a tad less in level than the former. Once you become a mother you raise to level higher than any other, but merely in words. I’ve heard people say there can be bad children but not bad mothers. Really? Such is the glory which comes with motherhood.
    But when you come to home, how is a mother, regardless of her job status, treated? Its sad to see that we haven’t gone much ahead from the 80s in this department. Women still have to be up most nights, feeding, rocking, singing and still manage the household chores while most men still cringe if asked to change a diaper.
    Maternity leaves are much talked about while hiring a newly married girl. I agree, it is a loss for the organization to be paying for someone who is not working for months together, but trust if a man could carry, women would happily give it up. So this is a small price everyone has to pay to get the world going.
    Why not for a change treat mothers like humans, give them a shot at things they would do if they would not be managing a needy miniature which seems to be attached to them all the time? Why not treat them as humans who make mistakes, who need a break, who can become exhausted and not the eternally present and responsible mother that all expect them to be?

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  8. Hi IHM,
    I recently discovered your blog and am now a regular reader.

    Especially pondering over this one: “Before a child is born – is there an effort to tell a woman how her life would change forever once she is a mother? Are women allowed to choose if and when they want to be mothers? Or do we start asking questions if they don’t get pregnant (with male children) when they are expected to?”

    No – In my case NO is the answer to each of the 3 question above. Despite being married into a city based family where my husband is a 3rd generation graduate. Hubby saves me from the direct questions – he simply tells my MIL/other relatives to not discuss the topic and that we will decide between us about it.. still I am not spared those indirect jibes and indications by my MIL and all those complaints she makes on phone to some relative.. my MIL even tried claiming we are denying her her rights as a grandparent or something..
    My SIL married early, succumbed to all the pressure and is a mother of a beautiful boy. She even gave up her career and my hubby pains over the fact that his sister did it not for herself but for all those relatives who wanted it – especially when she was super educated and ambitious about her career..

    But I am proud of the fact that my parents raised me to be empowered and never pressurized me or my sis about having a child. My dad actually gave my sis a lecture of what changes she should expect after becoming a parent. And back in 80s, when my sis and I started school, we were given 2 initials – one each after my mom’s and dad’s first names (i’m tamilian – no family names).

    And I agree with Sandhya above.. Even in multinational companies in India managers who are Indian definitely think pregnant women are a liability. During a recent down sizing at my workplace, some pregnant women were almost terminated (apparently our labour laws are not quite clear in this regard) and a senior non-Indian manager in our site interfered and stopped this on humanitarian basis..

    -Keerthana

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    • Your dad is gutsy and has a far sighted vision. Kudos!

      Yes, motherhood in India is seen as a liability by corporates focussing purely on profit. There are simply too many people who can be replaced!

      “Before a child is born – is there an effort to tell a woman how her life would change forever once she is a mother? Are women allowed to choose if and when they want to be mothers? Or do we start asking questions if they don’t get pregnant (with male children) when they are expected to?”

      Nope, there is no sex-ed in India to discuss about the reproduction and so why should this be expected? Most of the this ‘life’ education is taught by learning from others.. who became parents at 21, and slogged for life. The option is to think for self sans giving in to pressure.

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  9. So, even if Kunti or xyz or abc wanted, women could not be liberated. I wonder how feminists never ask that why is it that women were “held captive” for eons and “suddenly liberated”. Men must be fools for doing so.

    The change is socio-economic structures enabled women to become more liberated. To think of women’s liberation in the medieval age would be foolish. Life was brutish, nasty and short. Artificial sources of energy (Oil, coal, gas), a surplus in goods, rising affluence, all have enabled feminism. The pill and labour saving devices have done more to liberate women than any ideologue. It is not that ancient or medieval India did not want women liberated or anything, it is just that speaking of flying from Lucknow to Delhi in 1857 would have made no sense to inhabitants then, just as artificial wombs and asexual reproduction among humans may not make complete sense now. Most women and men completely leave out the role of science and technology in changing human life.

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    • So, even if Kunti or xyz or abc wanted, women could not be liberated. I wonder how feminists never ask that why is it that women were “held captive” for eons and “suddenly liberated”. Men must be fools for doing so.
      IHM: Traditional societies were more biased and survived on Might is Right, some women and many men did their best to control the lives of most other men and women. As humans became civilised everybody became more humane, not just women, all underprivileged people (men or women) were able to fight back, though there is resistance, even children who have always been oppressed and bullied, the differently abled men and women, the LGBT, and those who were denied human rights because of their skin colour, or race, or class or caste – all are in a better position to fight back today.

      The change is socio-economic structures enabled women to become more liberated… Most women and men completely leave out the role of science and technology in changing human life.

      IHM: Those who understood that equality and fair play resulted in happier individuals and hence healthier societies, did their bit even in the last century. Someone did work to ban widow-burning and girl baby poisoning and drowning in Indian families?

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  10. To end my rant. Most men do not understand that there is nothing new or dangerous about feminism. Its been there before, it would be there again. When survival is at stake, rights are curtailed, when there is affluence, rights are there (There can be no feminism in civil war Afghanistan). Similarly, rather than denounce ancient Indian culture or whichever culture, I would simply say that neither Manu or Viswamitra or any of them could envisage widespread artificial contraception or sheer human power being replaced by machine power. In that way, not only Indian culture but all other cultures “suck” as well. And as far as why societies do not prefer single motherhood, there are valid reasons but I would leave this rant here.

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    • Unfortunately, your rant is full of pop-sociology and unwarranted conclusions.

      You are ignorant of the situation in Afghanistan, and rely on assumptions you have tailored to substantiate your point. Let me attempt to correct you.

      There is in fact a very large amount of feminist activity in Afghanistan. Women’s rights groups have made tremendous headway in that country from the days of the Taliban, and those groups continue to demand rights for women.
      .
      Let’s talk about richer places. Many Saudi women are extremely affluent yet have no rights to speak of. From Japan to Singapore to Malaysia to Ukraine to Italy, I can name society after society which curtails the rights of women in varying degrees, either explicitly or through cultural repression, in spite of relative affluence.

      Germany is almost as affluent as Iceland, yet in terms of gender equality, they are worlds apart. Canada has only a slightly higher standard of living than the US, but is far more equal on almost every measure of equality.
      The North Eastern states have been grappling with insurgency for years now, but do tell me how many north-eastern women have been burnt for dowry to date.

      Science and Technology are only enablers. Change is cultural, and change is brought about by PEOPLE. Indian society sucks a lot more than many other societies in terms of equality, but a lot less than others. Let’s not try to draw out some kind of false equivalence between every society in the world and more importantly, let’s stop being yellow-bellied apologists for a fundamentally unequal culture.

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  11. This might seem like a gross generalization, but I am going to say it anyway. Thank you for the thumbs down in advance.

    Mothers in Indian society are nothing more than camels in a desert. They are given a lot of lip service and thats it. The treatment meted out is usually that of emotional manipulation via guilt, sacrifice, martyrdom, lack of empowerment and generally that of a doormat. Of course, most mothers are so naive that they dont even realize that thats what they are, or they turn blind eye to the treatment cause thats one of the coping mechanisms of life- deny what is painful to bear.

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  12. Let’s first start treating Women as human beings and then move on special respect for mothers!!!! we are far far away from that.

    I know quite a few women who were pressures to have kids, quite a few to have more than 1 and quite a few to have as many as 3 in the hopes of a boy!!! and yes they were taunted and coerced to becoming mothrs by all and sundry and subtle hints and threts of abandonement…

    so let’s start by giving womenfree choice na dlater on we can move on to respect.

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  13. My mum and I are both exercise buffs. While I gym, my mother usually prefers running early in the morning. Sometimes I go with her. On one such occasion, mom and I were running through one of the lanes in our area and we ran into this lady we meet at the club once in a while. Her daughter wasn’t much older then than I am now (this happened approximately 2 years ago)..at the most 23, 24 years old. The mother looks at her daughter and then my mom and says ‘isko weight loss sikhao na, uske liye rishta dhoondhna hai’ (‘teach’ her how to lose weight, we have to find her a groom). We were shocked, but just let it slip. Then the lady tells her daughter.. ‘dekho aunty ki beti bhi exercise karti hai’. . Ok, fine, let that pass too.

    The last straw was when she looks at my mom and goes “par tumhari ladki toh itni badi ho chuki hai, tum itne saalon se shaadishuda ho.. Ab exercise aur achche dikhne ki kya zarurat hai?”

    (thought I’d post it in Hindi for the full effect.)

    We pretended to have something to attend to, because we didn’t know what to say.

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    • par tumhari ladki toh itni badi ho chuki hai, tum itne saalon se shaadishuda ho.. Ab exercise aur achche dikhne ki kya zarurat hai?”

      ROFL.

      This explains so much.:/

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    • “par tumhari ladki toh itni badi ho chuki hai, tum itne saalon se shaadishuda ho.. Ab exercise aur achche dikhne ki kya zarurat hai?”

      LOL!!! I would have thought “I am Draupadi, so I am still looking for the other four”😛

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    • Of course, makes complete sense. A woman’s only goal in life is to get married, and once that is accomplished, she can have no interests and desires of her own. Everything, including jogging, must then be done to please “patidev” — or not if he so wishes.🙂

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    • And I was asked why I was not putting on even after 2 yrs of marriage. Looks like I was too thin to look like a married woman. Duh!
      And ROTFL for the comment from the weird aunty.

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    • hehe! Amusing how people always equate exercise to looking good and not “being healthy”. Someone threw a gem at me when I got married, “ab to gym band ho jayega tera..shadi jo ho gayi”😀

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    • “par tumhari ladki toh itni badi ho chuki hai, tum itne saalon se shaadishuda ho.. Ab exercise aur achche dikhne ki kya zarurat hai?”

      Rofl?? I would have been more like ‘aag-baboola’. Seriously, over the years I have lost patience with the idiotic comments that people tend to spout without thinking twice. I give as good as I get and refuse to take sh**head comments quietly.

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  14. I am not a mother, and it has been a choice due to circumstances beyond me.
    I am happy with my choice, my life but the world views me very differently. They seem to think that my life is incomplete without being a mother. Even the nicest of people don’t stop from advising me, pitying me, judging me…and that is the only thought they have when talking to me.
    I only wish people respect others choices and leave them alone. Getting married, staying married, having children and living for your children is not the only thing in life.

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    • I totally am with you on this. From pulling a “I am higher up than you in the society” to “Oh I know a very good who can help you”. The decisions are already made– you must be pining for a child; you are so sad; you are not laughing whole heartedly (eye rolls).

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    • Totally agree! Is it very difficult to respect someone’s choice? Why do people think they have the right to advise others? My daughter is four years old. Friends who have two children leave no stone unturned to convince me “you should have another one Sandhya, this time a boy, ok.? (as if I can decide on the gender). They do not pause to think if I have other priorities in life. A friend asked “so when are you having the second one?”, I told her “If you can babysit until 3 years. I will plan accordingly.” She did not ask me again.

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    • Let me provide you the benefits:
      1. Travel to ANY bloody part of the world with the drop of a hat? Check.
      2. No need to save, sacrifice life for selfish (till 15 at least) person ? Check.
      3. Sleep whenever you want to? Check.
      4. No need to ‘control’ tantrums in public? Check.
      5. Can buy anything without cringing about its value when it breaks soon? Check.

      Any more benefits, you know them!🙂

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      • o absolutely at least 1000- for few basics
        ur personal space is urs…days r urs…nights r urs..wekends r urs..sleep is urs .. u cn go directly frm ofic to eat out or dance ,spend on urslf… cleaned stuff r cleaned ..u gt things whr u kep thm.. no need to act “good”, no pressures to imaprt morality…u r responsible for ur actions n not the poor kid..whu is naive to undertstnd public behaviour…..live the way u want save a lots of embarasment in public…the list is endless:)

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  15. I think in India a certain image of a mother is respected. The sort of ideal of a mother that every woman should aspire to. As long as one fits into that image perfectly, she probably has a chance to be glorified on quite a few instances.

    Unconventional mothers are a totally different story.

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  16. I strongly suspect that were it not for our son-bearing wombs, Indian society would have finished us off a long time ago.

    That’s why it still tolerates us and that’s why we valorise motherhood — “putravati bhava”.

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  17. I know you asked about Indian culture, but mothers aren’t truly respected in any culture. In Indian culture all this “respect” is just talk. In the US, we celebrate “Mother’s Day” , but new mothers get about 8-12 weeks of paid leave, and that’s it (have heard in Europe/India is better for postpartum leave). After that it is either report back to work, pumping milk at work, or stop working. The back-breaking work of parenthood is mostly a mother’s only – and then mothers are “judged” on their motherhood : good mother/bad mother? Feeds formula/breastfeeds till kid is 7 years (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/never-mom-enough/)? Doesn’t teach child good things/isn’t perfect enough blah, blah, blah. We shrug off labor pain. We (mostly) ignore postpartum depression. We gloss over the fact that mother’s careers take a hiatus/backseat. We paint motherhood in rosy hues – pregnancy/labor can be extremely painful, and the exhaustion of taking care of a newborn is something else. We do not educate our young women about what motherhood actually entails.

    If this is not gross dis-respect I’m not sure what it is.

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  18. I think in most cases, motherhood stops at giving birth and changing nappies and breastfeed and later feeding. I think mothers need to be more active in the actual decision making of kids. Be more active where it really matters (instead of being active just in the kitchen deciding what the kids will eat). Be connected to the kids by conversation.
    First and foremost, they must have a choice of having a baby or not. Then later, when to have a baby, and how many to have. Also, if they have two kids, then things like sharing the surname. One kid takes dad’s surname and other one mom’s.

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  19. You have said it all IHM!! Loved it…

    The conclusion is NO! Indian women in general are not treated well during or after pregnancy(not just pregnancy, I should say in general they are never treated well).. People only think or say that women are “praised” and treated well, but their actions speak a whole different language..

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  20. Motherhood, like many other things, is an exaggerated idea in our culture with so many farcical definitions that as a society we seem to be confused about what it should really mean. On one end we are mean to women who bear daughters, on the other, we over-glorify the “mere paas ma hai” concept for sons, as if daughters cannot and do not share a special bond with their mothers/parents. I feel that empowering mother-daughter relationships never find their due share in Indian CInema (as in the movie Paa). There is a beautiful book edited by RInki Bhattacharyya by the name of “Janani” which has autobiographical writings by women from many walks of life-as mothers, daughters or both. It also explores the idea of not choosing to be a mother and how it is perceived in our society. [http://www.amazon.com/Janani-Daughters-Motherhood-Rinki-Bhattacharya/dp/076193510X]

    We do not have children so that we can control them someday and blackmail them into keeping us happy as we sacrificed for them. It is a choice we make as adults, it is(or rather should be) an informed decision, their childhood is a gift we wanted to enjoy and find joy in. It is sad that the social pressure of having children makes us misunderstand the whole idea. We seem to sometimes focus less on creating a non-judging space of comfort and love for them and concentrate on creating conformists out of them. I think it is a vicious cycle that goes on and on.
    Also wanted to share an article about a mother’s note to her daughters : http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/18-life-lessons-i-want-my-daughters-to-hear/

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  21. Pingback: She chose to get pregnant so that she can miss all the work, enjoy attention and eat to her heart’s content. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  22. I’d love to see a post on ‘How are women who are NOT mothers treated by society’.
    (Seriously).

    1. If you’re not married and over 30- “Don’t you realise your biological clock is ticking, why dont you get married?’
    2. If you’re married and over 35- “When are YOU giving me grandchildren”. “You’re not having children ‘cos you’re career oriented and a feminist” “Not having children ‘cos she’s worried about her breasts sagging” “She doesn’t have maternal instincts”. etc etc etc
    3. If you’re married, over 35 and have friends who have small children (the friends have known you for more than 2 decades)- “we are inviting only people with children to our child’s birthday party this year.”

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  23. Ah!! A topic close to my heart!! Mothers are humans first.. and then mothers next. I think I had mentioned this earlier a couple of years ago in one of your posts!
    And yea, I have heard plenty of scornful remarks because I’m not a mother yet!
    One of the gems – “Her husband cares for her so much, let them have 1 child, then things will get back to normal”!
    Eh?! I was like WTF?!!
    We want kids of course, but we are taking time and thats looked down ! A lady had asked me – “Do you feel bad that xyz is pregnant?”
    sheesh!! And all this not from elders or nosy aunties – but from ladies my age! That’s the sad part

    Like

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