From Surabhi’s Notepad – A column that brings us personal essays and stories, frivolous and serious, inspired by real-life events and encounters of navigating the world as a young, Indian woman living outside India.
Ideally, this article should have been about pregnancy during a pandemic, how I dealt with it, how I managed without any family, and how it turned out. And, ideally, this article should have come out a few months ago but we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? I am a new mom who is terribly lagging in life in general. I keep trying to catch up but sadly, I find myself failing. A lot.
I read a quote somewhere and it resonated with me so well that it’s stuck in my head and on my WhatsApp status and my IG feed! It said: “Being a working mom is not easy. You have to be willing to fail at every level.”
Let me be very clear that this article is not an attempt to glorify motherhood or to paint me as some martyr. It is an account of lessons learned as a 30-something new mom who works and is failing at a lot of things. I am afloat because of a thousand pieces and people that are working together to help her in their own ways.
Let Us Be Human
First things first, we need to stop glorifying motherhood. The media, especially Bollywood, has been aggressively glorifying motherhood for ages. For example, in Vidya Balan starrer Shakuntala Devi, the protagonist’s daughter says,”Maa ko bhagwan ka nahi, bhagwan ko maa ka darja diya jaata hai.” (Moms are not equivalent to God but God is equivalent to moms.) Another example can be the epic Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham scene where Nandini ‘instinctively’ understands that her son Rahul is back home. Mothers don’t have such ‘supernatural powers’ and this is a perfect example of the unrealistic portrayal of motherhood in films. This kind of toxic glorification prevents society from seeing mothers as human beings who can very well commit mistakes. Moms are put on high pedestals and the expectations that come with being a mom are thus extremely unrealistic. I felt this, along with postpartum hormones, is not a good mix.
When my daughter was born earlier this year, I was expected to know everything. “It will come naturally” — this was the most common response I got when I expressed my concerns about not knowing how to change a diaper or how to feed a baby. I mean I got three degrees and completed two internships before getting hired as a Trainee Writer. How in the world am I expected to conceive, carry, birth, and raise a child without any guidance at all. Where is this divyagyaan (ultimate knowledge) coming from? Please treat moms like humans and guide us through this journey. We are humans, we need to learn, and we deserve the margin to err.
Social Media Is a Set-Up For Disappointment
Now, don’t get me wrong I love being a mom, in fact, I am proud of that fact. However, if you don’t already know it, let me break it to you. Instagram, Pinterest, and movies are lies. Research has shown that moms who engage in social media comparison feel overwhelmed and less competent than moms who don’t. We see motherhood through filtered (pun intended) lenses on social media and television — moms immediately “bouncing back” to a small size and twinning with their babies in sponsored clothes. Everything looks effortless. Well, motherhood can be many things but it is most definitely not effortless — at least not for me.
Momfluencers, you need to do a better job. If you have taken it upon yourself to be a peer leader, do better than selling diapers and giving away toys. Show us your real journeys and talk about real issues. Flaunt the good days, but also discuss the struggles. If you were working out five hours a day to “bounce back”, tell us that you had three nannies, or mom and sisters taking care of your baby. Don’t make us think — how does she get the time to do all that and look like this without any help?
Thankful For My Virtual Village
Enough complaining, it is time to share some positives now. I was alone, yes. In Singapore, I was far away from my family back in India. I conceived in July of 2020 right in the middle of a global health pandemic. However, to be honest, from pregnancy to delivery and postpartum, have I really been alone? No.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we had a virtual one — it was there and it meant a lot. Both sides of our family, friends, and relatives were on video calls day in and day out. Bosses, seniors, and colleagues allowed us the time and space to nurture the new life with utmost patience. In fact, on that note, I want to give a special shoutout to all my editors that I work for around the world, especially to Srishti and Vandana from India Currents, for being so kind and patient and allowing me the time to fight my worst writer’s block yet. Support means a lot during this journey and it can come in any form — flexible work hours, extended deadlines for submissions, an e-gift voucher, a bouquet of roses, a phone call, a text. I am glad that I had my virtual village during this time, and I wish and pray that every mom gets hers.
Signing off with one of my most favorite Tina Fey quotes: “Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.”
Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. Surabhi’s work has appeared in various publications in India, Singapore, and the US. She writes on topics related to lifestyle and travel and is an active reporter on the tech startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia. Website | Blog | Instagram