Of Finding A Purpose

A friend asked me on Facebook, “How is the motherhood experience, Priya?” The picture under which she posted this question shows Bela sleeping in my arms. My eyes are closed and I sport what I think is the most unadulterated smile of happiness there could be. It is so, I suppose, because being a mother has quickly become the most wondrous experience I have ever had.

We began on a slightly rocky ground, Bela and I. To begin with, she knew me more than I knew her, I think. She’d been studying me, my movements and vibes and thoughts for a good stock of nine months. When I fumbled, she waited patiently for me to get it. When I fumbled again, she wailed. When she wailed, I waited impatiently for her to relax. When she wailed more, I impatiently chided her. And then she wailed more. Somewhere in this strained love-dance, I forgot I was supposed to know her, too. Understand her needs and requirements intuitively. Was I paying attention? Was I fit to be a mother? Where was I going wrong? I was terrified, for one.

And then she smiled.

She smiled when she saw me. Held my hand when I guided her lips to my bosom. Before we knew, the love-dance had become the best there could be. What changed, I wonder. More sunrises got added to our efforts? More experience? Or did I find intuition hidden somewhere in the recesses of my very erring mind? We’ll never know, I fear. But I am confident that she and I won’t really care for the answer, for we have found each other again. Even though we won’t automatically know each other’s mind, we’ll know just how to understand. That comes intuitively, I realise.

All this drama may not be unique to just us. Perhaps many have experienced it, and overcome it. What joy! To hold your babe in your arms and know that she is safe there, for you know just how to keep her. And you pass on that emotion to her so that she knows you’re right there for her — capable and eager. Such satisfaction.

Motherhood is like an evergreen branch that keeps offering food, and fruit, to the tree. That keeps swaying with the wind, never to snap with dessicated innards. Motherhood is something that keeps you fresh, and surprisingly untiring in spite of wearing out. Motherhood is miraculous, for it makes you work little miracles every minute of the day.

And yet, motherhood is overrated.

There, I said it. Quite a number of months ago, this idea germinated in my mind and refused to leave. It took hold much before we decided to bring a baby to this world. I tried to shoo the thought away, believing people would finally be able to prove I was crazy. Heartless and shallow, even. Well, they would use unimaginable adjectives to label me. But the thought stayed right there. So I decided to explore it.

P: Is motherhood overrated?

B: Like how?

P: Like mothers are super-beings, they accomplish the unimaginable, so they must be, well, superior. Their accomplishment is superior to others.

B: Hmm.

P: Hmm?

B: I feel it’s a social thing. It is indeed a herculean task to first carry the baby in your belly for nine months, suffer the changes in your body (you alone are doing it, no one else) and then bring out the child with such pain only to yourself, and then stay up nights for months to feed the child from your breast and then bring up the child, suffer all the complications that come with it — all by yourself, mostly. Who’d have volunteered? So, society makes you believe you’re doing something ‘divine’, whereas all you are doing is procreating. Increasing the human race.

P: What about mamta*, though?

*mamta is Hindi for the maternal instinct, love, dedication.

B: That could be nature’s contribution. The hormones make sure you feel desirous of carrying and then nurturing the seed. Why do you think a pregnant mother’s immunity goes down? It must be so that the body doesn’t reject a ‘foreign object’.

P: So, all that mothers are doing is making sure there is safe procreation and expansion of the species?

B: No, that’s not all. They are making sure that the progeny is capable of carrying on the species. Making sure the babies are as best as they could be.

That’s a superior job, if there is any.

And yet, to claim or grant reverence to any task, especially if it is a natural one, is to demean it, somehow. If nature has created a system through which I am going to put my child before anything else, it will be so. Just like the sun rises, just as the rain falls. My intuition, my instinct, my overcoming of all little foibles to make myself a super-woman just so that my child can grow up to be a strong, independent example of the human race is all something that comes to me naturally. Just like the sun rises, just as the rain falls. Nothing, simply nothing, is superior about it.

35 thoughts on “Of Finding A Purpose”

  1. Wow. I will never know what it is to be a mother, but you’ve done so well at giving me a glimpse into this very, self-sacrificing and very natural role. You’re so right. Nature doesn’t need superlatives – it is what it is and that’s what makes it so very awe-inspiring. Beautiful, Priya.

    1. Thank you for your heartfelt words, Jean. I can see clearly that they, indeed, come from the heart and that’s precisely what a writer wants.

      Much love.

  2. I echo Snoring’s sentiment of “Wow”. Priya, without a doubt, your words – this post – is my absolute favorite post of motherhood. I was right there with you, as you were swept away during the first half of your post. I was smiling, and I was happily remembering the time I spent in a similar place. Then you said it … you used the word ‘overrated’. I was shaken from the daydreaming and curious about what was next. To use a phrase used frequently in the States, “You nailed it. You nailed it right smack on the head.”
    I so admire your gift of insight and your gift of sharing your insight so eloquently. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.

    1. I couldn’t find a better word than overrated, Lenore. But I guess it does, in a way, fit the overwhelming generosity motherhood receives in form of kudos. It is what it is, like Snoring DS above says.

      Thank you for being so kind with your compliments. They urge me to write more — something I need to do desperately.

  3. That the sun rises, that the rain falls, that you do listen to yourself, that you do listen to Bela, that you are a mother, all awe-inspiring realities. And really, I think motherhood is a bit like depression. It can be described and explained, and painted, and shouted, and sung, but it can never be fully understood or felt by anyone who is not or has never been that…mother or depressed. Weird analogy. Have no idea where that came from. You describe it eloquently. I ALMOST understand it. I am in awe of it. And I am so happy that you have become it.

    1. “And I am so happy that you have become it.” I cannot stop smiling with pride and love for you every time I remember this sentence. Yes, I have become it, and yet, there is so much more to become!

      Many new mothers go through depression, they say. So, perhaps your analogy isn’t so unfounded. Both are extremely trying times.

  4. Your beautiful post caught me in a sentimental mood as I try to write a speech for my first born’s wedding… I have to repeat Lenore’s “you nailed it”. I laughed and cried with you as you reminded me of those long sleepless nights and beautiful sunrise’s when it was just us three – baby, me and my breast – learning from, and teaching each other. I found it incredibly powerful to watch my babies grow big and fat (I love the rolls of fat around the wrist) just from me and my mother’s milk.

    Whenever our first born cried in the first weeks and months Mr F would ask me “What’s wrong? Why’s she crying?” and I’d say “How must I know?” and he’d reply “You’re her mother, women know those things…”

    1. I love the rolls of fat, too! Especially on the thighs. Weird that this very thing becomes a thing to avoid when people grow up — they no longer remain cute.

      Intuition is something that needs to be listened to hard. It isn’t loud, in fact it isn’t audible at all. No one can automatically hear it unless they are very attuned to the situation — it takes time. Mothers aren’t seers, they’re just normal humans doing something extraordinarily non-routine.

      You’re going to write just the perfect speech, Rosie. I know.

  5. 🙂

    By the way, why should people such as myself who are not on facebook be deprived of the wondrous pictures you mention?

    Also, I am leaning towards B, wherein he defines the social conditioning of mothers. From early on, girls (daughters) are conditioned to be caring, giving, sensitive; in preparation to become mothers & the glue that holds a family together. I fail to understand, why do we underestimate our men (sons) so much?

    1. I shall send you the picture. It is my favourite currently.

      I think you are right. We do underestimate the men a lot. I suppose that’s so because it is the norm to compartmentalise the duties — masculine and feminine. Perhaps the society would be chaotic if it weren’t so. Who knows?

      P.S. This question was rhetorical. About the other one, I like your response, but find it a little too demanding of time to respond to just yet. One day, for sure… Until then, keep picking your brain, and mine.

  6. Having gone to Face Book, I looked for a “Priya…” holding a baby and…no such luck! I love the photo that is here – not sure if it’s the two of you.

    Priya, I was overjoyed to read, “being a mother has quickly become the most wondrous experience I have ever had.” That makes me very happy for you. I may not be able to understand even a teensy bit, but once I thought I was pregnant. I was filled with wonder. The miracle of it suddenly filled me to overflowing. Love probably leaked out from under my fingernails! When my husband arrived home from work, I excitedly told him of my suspicions and he said, “Huh! Well I hope you’re wrong. We don’t need a baby yet.” I was floored. One wonders what on earth my life would have been like had it been true! (He was a man with a sad story – which I wrote about somewhere in this blogging world! :D)

    I once read a supposedly channeled answer to the question, “How do we know if we are good parents?”

    The answer was so similar to your conclusion that, as far as I’m concerned, you just confirmed your brilliance again: “When children have evolved beyond the evolutionary state of the parent.”

    1. It is creditable if the parents are able to teach the child through example that it is essential to let go of the unnecessary, and even if it doesn’t happen immediately, a concerted effort makes all the difference. At least you’re trying, and are aware that you are in possession of something dispensable. I have great regard for such parents.

      Thank you for your time and wisdom, Amy. I am still a fledgling mother. I don’t know how I’ll fare, but I am trying!

      1. Oh, and yes, that’s me and Bela! I am subscribed to your Soul Dipper updates on Facebook! Since I’ve disabled search for my profile, you’ll not be able to find it otherwise.

  7. Ha-ha… I want to laugh for the way you completed the post 😛 I am not a mother, so may be I don’t have the right to say, but still I have thought on those lines. I think it is overrated too! Undoubtedly, it’s one of the beautiful thing in the world, and I adore my mom, but as a spiritual aspirant, I think of universal love and Motherhood, more often than not, is biased. It makes you closer to your own, and distances you from the rest… the concept of family I mean. No?

    PS. Not a very apt comment at this time of your life, is it? Sorry! 😛

    1. I do not know about bringing you closer to your own while distancing you from the kutumba elsewhere, but I do know that it makes you covet all of the happiness for yourself. But these are high ambitions to aim for — happiness for all when all you’re thinking of actually is whether your kid will have another gassy evening! 😀

  8. It’s fantastic that you are, in a way, chronicling your daughter’s and your lives from her inception. What an amazing gift she will have in her hands one day! I shall never, ever know my own mother – not in the least! She will always be a mystery to me. And so be it. It has formed in me an inner resolve to always be honest with my daughters, and I always have been, to the best of my ability. Still, I wish I had written with the heart and soul you convey to your little Bela from early on. Blessings to you both and all.

    1. Thank you, Bela, for seeing this work as a chronicle of our lives these days. In a way, it is. We accept your blessings with a happy heart. We’re blessed, surely.

      Mysteries sometimes convey more than revelations, friend. I am learning so, slowly.

  9. Hi Priya, I am so happy for you, my dear friend, to see that you are so swept up in these throes of early motherhood. I was there too, down to every detail, and it is such a wondrous time. Makes me smile just to think of you as a new mom with a new life totally dependent on you, and know that the joy is yours alone, that greatest gift of seeing little Bela smile and reach for you. It’s a powerful present, that can never be overrated. Come what struggles the daily routine, or the future, bring you — you will always have this bond and these early memories in your heart. And that, my friend, is why I smile for you.

    That said, of COURSE there are parts of being a mother that are overrated! 🙂 You picked the perfect word. To get is to give, right? And on no one is this more demanded than a mother.

    1. “To get is to give, right? And on no one is this more demanded than a mother.” For the life of me I cannot understand this, Melissa! Can’t wait to know.

      Like everything, motherhood must also have unclear striations — some definable, some not. Some over-emphasised, some deservedly so (and some forgotten or misunderstood). I disapprove of the word overrated because it categorises specifically. Whereas the topic we’re discussing is too huge to categorise. What I mean to say is, I think, that no matter the unique blessedness of the office, motherhood must and does originate from nature and anyone following its natural path is not unique or ‘superior’ (another ill-used word, I am afraid).

      1. Hi again dear friend, hmmm… Let me think of how to explain what I meant. 🙂 As you said in your post, and in your comment above, the word “overrated” can be too narrow or specific. Perhaps. But I believe it is a good word in that it encompasses the vast, sweeping oceans of emotions that a mother, or father, or caregiver, can feel.

        If we are to “rate” something, then by definition there must be a start and end point to the measurement. But with motherhood, I feel the good times and the hard times fall way beyond any conceivable chart. There can be no rating, no start and end points.

        The good parts of motherhood, to me, are better than anything else I have experienced in my life. There simply aren’t words to express the love I feel for my children, which grows with them each year, each day, each new experience. Some things may be equal (love for a spouse), but not better. That is how I feel. Not everyone may feel this way, but I do. Does that make sense? So to overrate it? You simply can’t. It is the best, and it is always growing.

        As for the “to get is to give” part, I meant something very special by that, too. I believe that what you put out into the world, you will get back. In whole, or in part. I feel we are all connected, and it is our duty as humans to do the best we can by each other. My son is learning about this concept in kindergarten now, “The Golden Rule,” which means: Treat others how you want to be treated.

        This must hold true between parent and child.

        On “giving,” specifically, for mothers, for fathers, for caregivers of the elderly and infirm — the opportunities to give to our children and our loved ones are endless. It’s hard to convey this idea through a comment form. But here’s what I mean. When I think of the times my children have suffered — for example, the three surgeries my young son has undergone — I “get” so much from him during those times. I get his strength. I get his smile. I get his good health in the end. These things are given to me. I get to have them, enjoy them, revel in them. And I am eternally humbled and grateful that he is happy, and well. In return, I pull from the depths of my heart to give back to him. To comfort him. To hold his hand when he is in terror of “going under.” It’s not even an option. I don’t “try” to pull from the depths of my heart, it just happens. To hug him and hold him when he is shaking and thrashing from the side effects of anesthesia and nothing and no one in the world can reach down into his heart and his mind and ease his pain, not even me, and in those times when I’ve sat with him in the hospital and people have come and stared and I have hugged him and whispered to him and held back my tears so that I could wipe his and draw him gently out of a pain from which, each time, there was a chance might not end — I pull from a deep reservoir, one not easily accessed, one beyond the normal, beyond the broken bones, beyond the great pains to the exquisite pain of surgical procedures with unknown outcomes — I demand, demand of myself with a silent vow that I will be there for him and I will help him, even if medically it is not possible. There is no more raw feeling in the world, than that.

        And that’s the give. I have seen other parents go through similar times with their ill children. There is no end to the give, and no end to the want and the fear and the hope.

        And when it works out? And when my son pulls through and comes ’round and stops shaking and screaming and something switches in him and I see it and he takes his first real breath in? There I am. Getting, again.

        It is a balance. I get so much, I give so much. The hard truth is, though, I am at all times, off-balance.

        And so I muddle through. And enjoy the good times give thanks for the glorious, off-the-charts times. And as Arpana said below, I just try to take each day in its stride, and hold these enormous feelings of get/give at bay, to just, be.

        It is not a superhero’s role, that of a mother. But the super power that comes with it, is that motherhood is a role that can be abused, or adored, with so little effort either way.

        Some people say children are little adults in small clothing. I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that children are better than adults. Naturally. They accept “getting” with a simple grace. And they accept “giving” with a humble heart. When I discuss and involve my kids in charity work, which I’ve done since they were babes, they are so eager to help it carves out in my heart my “give” reservoir deeper and deeper. And I give thanks for what I just got.

        To get is to give. Two halves of the same whole.

      2. Ah so. Now I understand. Thank you.

        “… the super power that comes with it, is that motherhood is a role that can be abused, or adored, with so little effort either way.” This is where I agree with you completely, dear Melissa. And this, perhaps, is the reason why motherhood is often given the accolades it allegedly deserves.

        When you talk of your son’s illness, it breaks my heart. I am no one in your life, or in your son’s — and yet it effects me. I hurt for you, and your little son. There must be thousands who’d feel the same. Compassion and love and understanding of pain is something sentient beings are blessed with, I believe. When a mother gives all of this, and more, to her child (and receives the same from her baby) she is overcoming all the challenges life might throw at her. How splendid is this bond! And how very natural.

        You are absolutely right. It is a gift, and I feel so honoured to have been given an opportunity to make the best of it. And am sure you know just what I mean. 🙂


    2. Priya, what a beautiful reply. Yet in sharing your compassion, you said you are no one in my life, or in my son’s. I cannot disagree more. You are someone. You are a friend, if in spirit only, and for that, I am lucky.

  10. Priya, your argument that it’s pointless to describe your natural tendencies as superior could be applied to all beneficial behavior by all people. Maybe nature has given you no other choice, but we can still appreciate your attitudes and actions. There are mothers and fathers in this world — plenty of them — who don’t take care of their children. They, too, could blame their negligence on nature, on the traits and personalities they were born with. Clearly, there are actions that are preferable. Even superior. I think it helps to acknowledge them, if for no other reason than to reinforce what comes naturally.

    1. Goodie. Here comes a gently disguised disagreement.

      People, who do not take good care of their children, or undertake other such actions that are not preferable, are anomalies. Without anomalies, there are no rules. Unfortunately, since there are probably 15 billion people in this world, the number of exceptions and anomalies must also be great (poor children).

      I think acknowledging a well carried out natural task, or for that matter any good task, somehow contributes in making that task seem more difficult than it actually is. I’ve stumbled upon this idea very recently, but I think I must agree with it without much protest, because it makes sense to my sense of logic. I cannot explain it very well, sadly. Maybe with a little more time, and enterprise, I will.

  11. Motherhood isn’t all about giving as most people come to think of it.. there is so much learning, course correction, strife, struggle, give and take, choosing your battles, giving up control, holding on – mostly believing that you are OK… no super-hero feeling that. Simply taking each day in its stride, like a garderner who plants his seeds and knows that nature does most of the work while he provides constant
    (not unusual) care and watches patiently.

  12. My experience agrees with everything you said. And you said it so beautifully!
    And yet, there are those who don’t ‘get’ the gift of motherhood. Some hate being a mother, don’t seem to know how to mother, don’t want to. Others depend too much on their motherhood to fulfill all their needs. One wonders what happened to their mothering hormones. Did they get lost in a maize of unhappy life experiences?
    We all make mistakes. No on is perfect. But some people are just not mothering material. It would be interesting to learn how different their chemistry is from those who are. Thank goodness most of the female population welcome, and enjoy, their roles as mothers
    You just got me to thinking..
    Thank you for this thoughtful wisdom on motherhood. I’ll be following you and look forward to reading more of your beautiful writing.

    1. The ones who don’t ‘get’ it, Sunbird, are the ones who have probably seen through the tricks of nature and society. They choose ‘freedom’ from stereotypes of a woman and a mother. Sadly, they also become irresponsible in the process, making bad citizens out of their children. But getting into that would be tiresome here, wouldn’t it?

      Motherhood, I feel, is and should be out of choice. If you choose to bring a life here, you jolly well take care of it, then. But before you do begin the process, be very sure you’re prepared for the unpredictability of it, too. For unpredictable it is, isn’t it?!

      I’d love to have you over again and again, Sunbird. Thank you for visiting.

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