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The many contrasts of motherhood

It's important to observe the contradictions of the self without judgement

When speaking with mothers about their childhood, the conversation steers towards parenting or rather their children.
When speaking with mothers about their childhood, the conversation steers towards parenting or rather their children. (iStock)

I plugged in my earphones and settled in front of my screen, ready for my appointment with a new case, staring at the name in my notes, trying to imagine what she was going to be like. Usually, I would confidently wait for my patients to walk in to start making my observations but I don't have that privilege anymore.

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The name was definitely Punjabi, the city mentioned, down south. "She must miss North Indian food", I thought, as I admitted her on my screen. She sat ready with a big headset, a steady stream of light and breeze on her face, keen, shifting eyes surrounded with dark circles, hair neatly tied behind her, still wet from her hurried shower as if she wanted no disturbance even from fly outs, pen in her hand and the corner of her paper flying into vision.

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I wrote, "motivated, driven, mother of - question mark".

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There was something about her virtual presence that told me she was a mother. There was an aura of restrained warmth, eagerness, tiredness, freshness and emotionality that came through even before she spoke.

“Hi doctor, I need to talk to you about my kids”, she started.

Its hard to get mothers to sustain focus on the questions I ask about themselves. Parenting or rather their children are usually the centre points of their conversations. For a question like “tell me something about your childhood”, it quickly circles to how it compares to what they do with their children, or "I want to make sure that my children don’t experience something like that". They exude a combination of awareness with confusion, humility with competitiveness, and self doubt with confidence.

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Even when a patient of depression or anxiety talks about trauma and challenges, many a times conversations drift into how they wish to feel better for the sake of their children, hope to enjoy and play with their children. Between the tears and regrets, they smile at the mention of their kids.

Mothers experience the miracle of creation, elated inside but calm and careful outside. We smile to the mirror stroking our bumps, wondering and marvelling, smiling ear to ear over our accomplishment, but walk out of the shower nonchalantly as if making a whole human being inside of us was no big deal.

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We experience birthing and rapid evolution of a small life in our arms, our insides screaming overwhelmed and overjoyed but expressing the same merely with cuddles, tears and sniffles. We swell with pride when we feed, when our baby smiles and eventually walks into our arms, clicking hundreds of pictures to save every first, second and the third even, secretly soaking in this phenomenon of glory and growth.

We observe maturation and learning, struggle and striving, regression or flourishing, churning on the inside to help and ease the journey, but stoic on the outside. They choose when to lean on us or shut us out, when to stay or move on, advancing and naturally progressing, making us crave for hugs and kisses but settling with stroking their backs.

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This is not duality, it is a rich and dense contrast that comes with motherhood.

As the mother I spoke to this morning, meticulously journaled our chat, I could see the debate behind our agreements, the rejection behind the acceptance, the fear behind her love.

Such is motherhood. An assortment of mush and determination, harmonious contradictions and lawless regulations. The beauty of motherhood lies in these camouflaging colours, these oscillations, in non rhythms and mysterious masks.

It is not to be judged, but embraced.

Motherhood is a journey of self discovery through observation and nurturance of another life in our arms. Only the self will know the whys and the why nots. Observe the contrasts and contradictions of the self without judgement, experiencing another creation, evolution and maturation, that of ourselves.

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Happy Mother’s Day.

Shwetambara Sabharwal is a Mumbai based psychologist, psychotherapist and a mother of two.

Also Read: How a mother created ‘lockdown lunches’ to bring the world to her daughter's plate



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