It’s hard work being a parent. But you’ve probably heard that one before. What is more intriguing is why people have kids in the first place. All through those nine months of nausea, I kept feeling that motherhood was evolution’s biggest joke on women. I figured the first time round you could get conned into it, but why would you do it a second or a third time?
There is of course a good measure of self-love involved in having a baby. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Look ma, I made a little human and it looks, talks and behaves like me. Also, as humans we love to be needed, and after six to eight months of being needed so viscerally by a small human being, you sort of begin to get off on the feeling. No one else looks at you with such adoration, no one else smiles with such delight when he sees your face (he’s probably thinking of lunch, but we'll let that pass). No one else, frankly, needs you with such abandon and such fury. Parenting can give you a heady sense of power. The nicest parents, I guess, are those who don’t misuse that power.
Though it isn’t apparent at first, this need to be needed contributes to some extent to most parents taking the plunge again. Five years after cribbing about pregnancy, when my child was beginning to become her own person, I was willing to go through all of it again just to have another needy little butterball in my arms. At some level, I’m guessing we're hard-wired to procreate, to make copies of ourselves and fill the planet. We could slow down now, because the planet has more than enough of us. But I guess our psyches haven’t heard the news yet.
Having a child is not just one long ego-massage, though (praise from passing strangers dries up after your kid hits seven). An emotional knuckle-duster waits just around the corner. Forget all the physical effort: the night feeds, the colic, the teething, the falls, the terrible twos, the preschool-admission rush, the homework, the tiffins you’ve packed andthe various illnesses and accidents that will have your kachhas in a twist forever.
That’s the easy part compared to the painful realisation that no matter what you do, no matter which toys you get and what theme parties you throw, one day the apple of your eye will turn into a Cynical Young Person. She will probably gobsmack you when she looks back at all your years as a devoted helicopter parent and smirks: ‘Well, I didn’t ask to be born, did I?’ To kids of a certain age, the only perfect parent is their best friend’s dad or mom. You just about manage not to disgrace yourself by starving her to death or something.
Six years back, between spraying out jets of vomit, I paused to ask my mother why women went through so much physical stress just to have children. Convinced that I was insane, and being the queen of understatement that she is, she shrugged and said, ‘Because when you have a child, time passes.’ It’s been over six years now that I’ve been a parent myself, and with every passing day, I realise that raising a child does play tricks with time.
Moments get stretched into lifetimes, so that you never forget that first smile, that first word, that first step. But days turn into liquid whirlwinds and simply swish by, till, before you know it, the adorable little cuddlebunny is a snarling teen. One more swish and he becomes a parent himself, aware of how much trouble raising a child can be, and finally, finally ready to be grateful for all you did.
Maybe mom was right. Maybe it’s worth it after all!
This article appeared in the DNA on Sunday, Sept 26, 2010
Link here: http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/comment_mama-knows-best_1443353