‘Keep Mum and Carry On’…a message for Mother’s Day!
The world I grew up in was very different to the one I live in. I watched my mom and gran quietly go about their business of running a home even when things were falling apart. They would ‘Keep Mum’ and carry on. Keep Mum..it’s a code that Indian women live by and a phenomenon that makes no sense to me at all! Trained to see everything and say nothing, an Indian women is pushed to the very edge. I was warned as a child not to say anything and to never ask questions. If i ever raised a difficult topic with my mom or gran, their immediate response would be, ‘Keep quiet, your father/grandfather is going to hear you’. It frustrated me that no one wanted to discuss what was obviously huge issues. From domestic violence to alcohol abuse, financial disasters or gambling, there were no discussions.
I got into lots of trouble…asked too many questions and questioned what should not be questioned. My childhood was punctuated with beatings from my father. But I never kept mum, I would question and it would be like somebody pressed play, rewind and play again. I watched that movie too many times and the beatings did become easier to deal with. At first, it was unbearable to accept that a parent could behave in that way but the regularity of it numbs the soul and it becomes an out of body experience. There is no pain but I still think about how a parent could be so messed up. Nobody spoke about what really went on in their home and my situation wasn’t an exceptional case. It plagued the community and silenced women.
Life wasn’t a cake walk but I don’t regret the decisions I made, questions asked and the person I am today. It shocked everyone and it surprised or horrified them even more that I would make the same choices over again knowing that I would get another beating. So my childhood was spent living from one catastrophe to the next, one beating to the next. I was not allowed to complain about it to friends, neighbors or family members. That was considered as bringing shame upon your family. Is it possible to shame a family already living in shame? What happened at our house, stayed in our house. Life was lonely and the burden of keeping mum weighed heavily on my spirit. I felt ashamed through most of those years.
We live in a different world and parenting is different. Our kids question freely, tell us how they feel and blatantly tell us when we fail. It hurts to hear it but being a mum isn’t for sissies. Being a mum is different and so is being a daughter. Over the past 18 months I have taken a long hard look at myself after the worst arguments with my 15 year old daughter, Hetal. We lost each other over a dozen times thinking that there would be no way back. Hetal also had issues with her mom being a workaholic. It’s the world we live in but also a personality thing. Being a workaholic is not something to be proud of, it comes from my childhood fears and my children have to live with that. The issues left a huge crack in our family but miraculously it changed. Hetal came back into our world. It was a long hard road back but we took some time to appreciate each other, discovering facets of our complicated personalities. Life is tough for our kids too and my mistake was assuming that it was tougher for me. I got so caught up in the daily grind and assumed that she understood that.
My kids asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day and I said, ‘All I want is for you to be really happy’. I don’t want a day off from being a mum or to be left alone, fragrant soaps and body butters. I just want to take a day to appreciate each other, for the day to be filled with love and laughter. There is no special recipe in this post but a request that we find ingredients to make our relationships work! For this Mother’s Day, I would like for us to get to know our kids better, build a few bridges, break a few walls and share a few secrets. Our time with them is precious and I plan to make the most of it.