A girl I didn't really know that well said to me, "Boo, just do you!". I almost snorted as I burst out laughing. Did this girl know that I in no way in hell had the confidence to "do me". Although she meant Boo in a totally different context, what she said scared the shit out of me.
Good thing she said it. I started to think why the hell wasn't I confident, in myself, in my appearance and in my life decisions. I seemed to always look for the approval of others. This I get from my mother, who does a teleconference with all three of her sisters to decide if she should indeed go to Ross next Tuesday. But what I didn't get from her was her confidence in her identity.
I have never in my life witnessed a woman with so much confidence without conforming to the pressures of society to achieve it. But she puffs out her chest in her stylish kurta and alway keeps her hijab-cladded head high. You might think that this post, "The Unapologetic Mother" is about her, but its not.
It's about me and how I came to terms with my identity as a mother and how I hope to pass the this advice to next mother who feels at times that she's alone and crazy. I never thought I'd have a child at 23 and to be honest, I only dreamt of a career and flying around the globe till then. And even before my daughter grew inside of me and popped out of me at 23 and my son at 26, I was still learning how to be a mother. I always felt like a never fit in the mom club. Nothing came instinctively to me, as every auntie assured me it would. I never packed the diaper bag properly, forgot at least one baby item everywhere and most of all I didn't want the remainder of my life to only revolve around being the supporting actress in the movie of my kids' lives. I bought books titled "The Happiest Mom" and "How to Look Hot in a Minivan" which sound so stupid now... But when your overtired at 9pm and pretend to get groceries at Superstore to get a break... you buy these things.
And people talk smack man, especially about women they don't understand or have the courage to be. For every one empowering sista, there's 10 Negative Nandani's. As an International Recruitment Coordinator for KPU, I landed a sweet job travelling and getting kids to sign up for university in Beautiful British Columbia. It was my dream job that took me away from my kids for up to three weeks. And I never heard the end of it. No one else knew anyone else (Especially not a Indo-Fijian Muslim Mother) who did this, so I had to decide if I was gonna go or not. And I did. And I'm so f**king glad I did, because I saw cities and countries like Jaipur and Chennai in India, Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, Germany, Hong Kong and more. I love travelling, so much that I took a trip this year at age 28 with my mom to India for a non-work, more of a eat-love-pray type trip. And everyone died. "Like who was going to take care of my kids".
[Enter scene.] The father of my children. Who is present in their lives and a great father. Yes, and we're totally married too. So yeah, duh! He's gonna take care of them. And when he's at work they are going to go to day care with their amazing caretaker/teacher Miss T., like they did every other day when I was here and going to work. And when he wants to pursue his hobbies and interests, he can reach out for help. We live in a city with so many relatives and friends, that everythings gonna be okay people.
But honestly, I get why everybody gets so hectic when a man takes good care of his kids. It's kinda rare. And I appreciate him (ALOT) but I also have to push boundaries with him to remind him what our family normalcy will be. He can't sit there feeling like that he's a great husband because he "babysits" his own children (If they are your own children, it's not babysitting, its called parenting). As mothers, we have to raise the bar and the status quo of the distribution of our work and our status (Thank you Womens' Studies 100 for explaining the unpaid labour of women). Because that's what our kids see and accept as normal. We've made a conscious decision to use our privilege to be part of the solution and not the problem. We both have had no shortage of horrible male role models in our lives, always feeling sorry for our moms and aunties and the shit they had no choice but to put up with. But we do have a choice.
So my husband takes care of our kids. As do I. And that's normal. It should be anyways. And I'm gonna do everything it takes to make sure that's what my son and my daughter think is normal. Cuz I can deal with the Mom-police and haters, but I sure as hell don't want my son to think it's normal to get praised for being present in his kids life, (like you want a national holiday named specifically after you?! No. Your not Martin Luther King Jr., you don't get that). Neither do I want my daughter to think she can't pursue her hobbies, careers and interests and has to let herself go and "live for her children" but her spouse can. I really hope, they look back and think its cray cray that there was a time where spouses didn't evenly share the responsibility of raising their own kids.
(** As a side note, I realize that some women are stuck in relationships with dooshbag dads who are mean, close-minded, controlling and selfish. And they don't have the privilege to up and leave and do the single mother thing. I do empathize with you, but the more I realize I have to push the boundaries. These dooshbag dads are the same spoiled sons we raise. All that male privilege goes to their head and it's a sad life for someone else's daughter). Yeah, now you know why they cry so much at Indian weddings. (joke)
Most ironic thing, now that I've decided I want to spend more time at home with my kids, people still got opinions about that. I'll work or not work or only work a little bit. Like stop worrying about me. Im fine. Go worry about yourself (like in a nice way- self-care is more important than caring about others). Drink some water, eat some wholesome food, do some yoga, call and talk to your mom etc.
I've learned that you don't need anyone's permission to be you and live the life of your dreams (thank you little sister, Ateefa- most useful two cents ever). Just be bold and go for it. That's what your kids, especially your daughters will remember. I sure as hell want my daughter to remember that I was bold, brave and passionate about life, social justice, education, writing and reading, travelling and eating. That I lived my life to the fullest without anyone else's permission at the risk of losing it all at times too. In life, we have to make tough decisions, there is no choice to be neutral. You being the smallest version of you ain't helping anyone. You apologizing for being you ain't helping the world in anyways. We were born to be the most fabulous versions of us, so #BE YOU, BOO. #YOLO Build yourself a strong foundation with you first. Fall in love with yourself, be your own hero and teach her (your daughters, sisters, all women really) the same through role modelling.
Yeah, and now I do me, Boo. And my daughter will too.