MUM’S NOT the word
The middle-class Indian woman has come a long way from the time her role was confined to home and hearth. However, mindsets have remained caught in a time warp. She might have traversed a long distance but societal and cultural expectations are still to catch up
Aruti Nayar

COME Mother’s Day and there will be a lot of hype and hoopla about the occasion and the sale of greeting cards, discounts in eating joints and deluge of syrupy messages and advertisements. 

Sample this: Rushing from a meeting at office for a parent-teacher meeting, the doctor skips her breakfast and returns to the clinic to attend to her patients. She could not persuade her husband, also a doctor, to step in for the PTM because he had to attend a conference. The young bride, corporate honcho by day and ideal bahu in the evenings, struggles to get the taste of the vegetables just right as the in-laws give a vapid smile saying, “She’s too busy to look after us.”The mother’s preoccupation with her career is blamed for the teenage son getting into ‘bad’ company. “It is the duty of the mother to do character-building,” pronounces the principal as the husband nods in agreement. If one were to use the day to do stocktaking and look at how though the role and the function of urban, modern-day mothers has evolved considerably, whereas societal expectations have not changed or even modified to factor in the double burden on women. Neither have workplaces become more mother-friendly to enable flexi-work hours, job sharing and enabling an early return to the work force after child birth. What, in this scenario, are we doing to take care to lessen the load on women, at an individual level as well as officially. The volume and nature of change has been so much that neither societal expectations nor social norms have kept apace. Women revel in the fulfilment of the need for validation and identity that is being met but they are also running to stay at the same place and do get breathless at times. The support system that can enable them to perform the often conflicting roles (of the nurturer and achiever) to the best of their abilities is yet to evolve. A Nielsen study, “The Women of Tomorrow Study,” was conducted early last year and covered 6,500 women from 21 developed and developing countries like Sweden, the US, the UK, France, the BRICS economies. It was to find out levels of stress among women. It concluded that 87 per cent Indian women were stressed out. That made us leaders in the world as far as stressors were concerned. It was conducted online among women (over 18 years of age).The biggest stress is among women of 25-55 years of age. Many women joining the work force are first-generation workers struggling to maintain continuity with older patterns of child rearing. While there are many studies in sociology and psychology based on data collected in the West, why are there so few studies by Indian academics of stressors faced by women of a society in transition? We need more indigenous studies. 

Wanted: Training in parenting

SL Sharma The gender equation is in transition and here we are talking of the urban, educated, middle-class women who is professionally accomplished. There is a distinct change in motherhood from being a measure of womanhood earlier to now a matter of choice, where one can even postpone having children.The quality of parenting has changed because earlier a woman was only an emotional leader and father was the instrumental leader who was a disciplinarian. She has also become the disciplining parent and is also focusing on the child’s career. The cultural expectations of the men are not undergoing corresponding changes and this has created an overload for women. If there is a training these days for everything, why not training in parenting? There is a serious and urgent need to train young parents in cultural and participative parenting.While the “practical needs” of women are being met but what about her “strategic interests”?
— SL Sharma is former Chairperson, Department of Sociology, Panjab University and president Northwest Indian Sociological Society

She has DoUBTS

Nina KahlonToday’s mothers have to raise children being mums as well as women in their own right. 
Going beyond boundaries of child-rearing and homemaking, comes with a price tag of a guilt: “Am I putting my needs before the family?” These are challenging times for mother and child, whether from behind the kitchen counter or office desk she is less clear about where to draw the line. She has doubts about boundaries she has to set for children. What with such a deluge of information on the subject of “child rearing” by “experts”. Breakup of traditional family structure and myriad temptations and pressures on the child of today all add up to her consternation. 
— Nina Kahlon is a life skills counsellor, who runs her own counselling and guidance centre 

A tough call
Rajesh Gill Due to the “unchanged” and multiplied expectations, motherhood has become tougher for the middleclass woman. The dual role of balancing home and work requires her to possess additional skills viz. cooking (multi-cuisine), washing, driving, shopping, attending parent-teacher meetings, and doing bank-related tasks. She has to excel in her profession, meet social obligations, monitor her children’s career and peer group. Tasks traditionally performed by the father have shifted to the mother, courtesy her ability to drive and her efficient multitasking.A large number of women are opting for one child only since they feel completely drained out in their experience of motherhood. While at work, especially when she is in a non-conventional profession, she is expected to exude professional commitment, but the moment she comes home, she is expected to take off that robe of a professional and get quietly into that of motherhood, giving out her hundred per cent to the children. In case of a lapse, viz. academic failure or erratic behaviour or ill health of the child, she has to bear severe criticism. Can society, which constantly celebrates human rights and freedom, be more kind towards mothers? 
— Rajesh Gill is the Chairperson, Departments of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Panjab University