KATHMANDU - There will be few among us who will not profess great love for our mothers. And on occasions like Mother's Day, that love seems to intensify, become more vocal. To show our affection, we buy her sweets, take her out for dinner, and-more recently-actively update our Facebook and Twitter accounts to tell the whole world just how much we love her. But while engaged in all these attempts at demonstrating our feelings, how often do we sit and think about hers? We know she loves us, but how does she feel about her life? What has she given up for us? What unfulfilled dreams and aspirations does she harbour?
My mother, like most mothers back in the day, married in her early 20s and settled almost immediately into family life-her life soon devoted entirely to her husband, children and in-laws. But while housewives of her time were expected to enjoy their husbands' earnings and achievements, my mother was a restless woman and she eventually came to realise that she wanted to do something on her own. Her decision to return to college was fairly radical back then, although people were very disapproving of how it necessitated a relinquishing of household duties. But she was determined and fought hard, and it worked out well. She completed her education, worked for several NGOs, joined a political party, participated in the women's rights movement, co-founded a women society, learned dancing and performed on stage, and wrote a couple of books-and all after she turned 40.
At an age when most women would have been resigned to accept their lot in life-generally a life dedicated solely to the home and its inhabitants-my mother was unique in the courage she found to rebel against convention. It was, for her, a search for identity, something that could define her as an individual, and not just someone's wife or mother. It helped that she was educated; unlike my grandmother who didn't have that luxury and who had willingly succumbed to social expectations, my mother was well-aware, thanks to her studies, of the damning effects of our patriarchal culture. Although she'd been raised to accept and follow strict norms that dictated what roles men and women should play, she saw through them early on, and made sure that her own children were not subjected to them. She was adamant that her daughter be given the same opportunities as her sons.
My mother grew up in the 60s, the era that witnessed a man land on the moon, among many other developments. The world was heady with change in so many spheres back then, and she must've imbibed that spirit in some small part, her dreams and ambitions transforming in the process. But she'd gotten caught up in raising a family; in being a good wife and mother, she'd forgotten to take care of her own needs. Even though I'm glad she was able to rectify that to some degree eventually, and still manage her responsibilities as wife and mother, I can't help but wonder if she wishes she could've done more with her life had she tried harder.
In that vein, I recently went around asking some mothers to tell me about their hopes and dreams. One talked enthusiastically of wanting to travel-she wanted to see the ocean, in particular, she said-but she had never left the Valley in reality. Another had been a topper in her class, beating even the men. But while those very men had now become doctors and engineers, she hadn't been able to pursue her medical degree because she'd had to take care of her family. Another was a trained singer who wanted to do playback, but wasn't allowed to take it up professionally by her husband. With time, she lost her passion for music altogether. There was also the mother who was so keen to learn that she wanted to get as many educational degrees as possible. Though she'd been held back when she was younger, she fortunately managed to get two degrees at the age of 52. Then we had the artist, although she couldn't think of letting anyone in on her skills. What I discovered through these conversations was that most women of my mother's generation did not believe it was their right to find their own paths; and for the rare few who did dare to do so, it was still not an easy choice-uncertainty reigned all around. I remember my mother trying with all her might to convince others that she was doing the right thing. She'd once told me, "In the quest for self-discovery, I was wandering aimlessly. No one was there to guide me."
Most mothers of a certain age will have sacrificed certain dreams and aspirations for their families. Some will have perhaps even forgotten about them. These women are in their 60s today, and majority of them will find the notion of taking up those 'lost' causes preposterous. But, as their children, and the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, we should be supportive of these endeavours, late as they may come-we can help by offering them information and guidance, and most importantly, the encouragement that they never had. Taking her out on a trip, enrolling her in some singing lessons, encouraging her to write, or simply listening to her could be helpful. They say, "it's never too late to be what you might have been." These wonderful women deserve the chance to follow their passions and find themselves, at any given point in their lives.
Happy Mother's Day!