When Shashi Kapoor said, “mere paas maa hai” in the Hindi movie Deewar released in 1979, the teary eyed mothers felt vindicated for their sacrifices and sons like Shashi Kapoor were eulogized.  

When Rajanikanth carried his ailing mother and sang a paean for her, the audience wept in unison and a man who reveres his mother thus was considered the ultimate mannan (king)!

There has been a paradigm shift in the concept of mothers and what mothering means to every subsequent generation.

The tears and wringing of the hands of mothers like Nirupa Roy have given way to strong mothers onscreen as in the Hindi film ‘Paa’. Here, the mother unequivocally supports an unwed daughter (played by Vidya Balan)  helping her handle the care for a son who suffers from progeria, a rare genetic condition. Similarly, in the not-so-recent comeback  of Jyotika to the Tamil film screen, she pushes herself to be more than just a ‘taken for granted’ mother to her teenage daughter. She teaches through precept that opportunity and growth need not stop once a woman becomes a mother.  Today, the film industry which was extremely biased against married, leading ladies a few years back, has some amazing ‘real life mothers’ playing leading roles without being relegated to acting as ‘reel-mothers’ to ageing heroes.

Are these possibilities only in movies?

Mothers today are comfortable donning a sari but also equally comfortable in a palazzo or jeans. This evolution goes beyond mere appearance. Mothers feel less guilty going on business trips,  staying back late at work, catching up on a movie with friends, or going on a holiday either with friends or with like- minded souls. They pursue their passion or re-invent themselves once the expediency of being with their little ones is complete. “They need to,” says Sujatha Suresh who has had three avatars in her career;   education consultant, event planner and she currently works as VP Americas for Keystone Integrated marketing services and lives in Cupertino, California. “If they don’t plan ahead, the empty nest syndrome will have dire consequences on their own emotional selves and will affect their relationship with their children,” she warns.

Many of today’s mothers are allowing their children to spread their wings after delineating the limits and they are also willing to explore similar possibilities for themselves. These mothers support their children but also learn to follow the concept of, “you live by your terms and I live by mine,” particularly as children become adults. Renu Kannan, a New York homemaker and mother to a young adult and a teenager, believes, “it all depends on one’s individual mindset whether to pursue a full time career or to strike a balance, regardless of geographic location. There is no right or wrong way about the decisions women make in these situations.. My friend, who lives in India stays apart from her husband due to the demands of her career and joins him abroad  only during the children’s holidays and it’s apparently working for her. On the other hand, another friend living here in America chose to change her department from internal medicine which can be hectic to geriatric care so that she can be home when her children come home.”

Sangita Viswanathan, who lives in New Jersey says, “Sure, parenting has changed, especially so for people who have moved away to a different country and have to balance different cultures and parenting styles. At the same time,  despite caring for kids we also make an effort to care for ourselves – our personal, professional and physical well-being – for instance developing and sustaining a career, a fitness schedule, and spending time with friends, – while providing for kids and families at the same time. One doesn’t have to necessarily suffer due to the other.” In trying to achieve this, women are smart enough not to do it all and also seek and harness the support of the extended family to manage this balance. The key is to, “not overcommit,” feels Sujatha. “Some of today’s mothers are too stressed for they over commit at work; over commit at home and they actually want to live two lives within one  life.”

Demands of the role of mothering have changed and expanded significantly in some ways today. The role of the extended family in child rearing has shrunk and nuclear families have become the norm. In this scenario, the role of the mother takes on new meaning. “Yet, the role of the mother is perhaps more significant today than earlier, because grandmothers and aunts are slowly disappearing from children’s lives,” feels Dr. Ali Khwaja counselor, life coach and chairman of Banjara Academy in  Bengaluru, India. “The new age mother goes beyond the role of one who cooks and washes for the child. Today a child can look up to his/her educated and working mother as a role model and even a protector. The mother still continues to be the binding force of a family, but more by her abilities, independence and management rather than just by “being there” all the time. So if the new age Shashi Kapoor does not have his mother sitting at home in a white sari waiting and praying for the son’s safe return, he has a mother who he can rely on to take care of many aspects of the family and its needs even as she multi-tasks with work, home, husband and children.”

Renu  goes one step forward saying, “Communication…that’s the key. I strongly believe that if you are not actually there for your children when they are young and if you are more worried about the multitude of chores, then they won’t approach you or need you when they are older.”

Karthik Rao, a Wellness Coach and  Counselor at worldofwellness.me says, “Parenting and family are becoming much more fluid today compared to the rigid parameters our parents or grandparents experienced. In today’s world, especially with the dissolution of joint families,  parenting has become much more democratic with individual freedom and space expanding within members of a family. Whether this manifests into something beneficial or detrimental to the family is resultant on the value-metric that is brought into the family environs.”

In this day and age, mothers have to constantly follow and reinforce Superman’s words, “with great powers comes great responsibility.” This becomes  feasible only by setting up a fabric of communication, trust and transparency.

Sangita  says emphatically, “Like any generation of parents, I think we all have to balance when to give in and when to hold back. The ‘asks’ from kids remain, it’s just that the items might have changed.”

It is far from an easy task.

Chandrika R Krishnan is a freelance writer and a freelance soft skills Facilitator with 150 odd articles, Poems and short stories to her credit. In her own words, “I have an opinion on most things and love to voice it irrespective of an audience!” She also conducts a storytelling and reading club for underprivileged children and volunteers at a local hospital. For more of her articles visit https://chandrikarkrishnan.wordpress.com/ 

She can be reached at chandrika1306@gmail.com