Parenting isn’t as easy as our parents make it out to be. My mother always tells me how it is impossible to know how difficult it is to understand a parent’s sacrifices until you become one. But I do know for a fact that the person I am today is because of everything that I have learned from her.
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Like my mother has told me countless times, parenting is no easy task and not everyone has the temperament or patience to be one. I have been lucky to have a mother who is not just patient, but also understanding and respectful. Her parenting methods have always been unconventional, she is more than just a parent for me. She’s been my friend, confidant and guide. A lot of my friends have a rather strained relationship with their mothers. They barely tell them anything about their lives and reveal as little as possible for fear of being reprimanded. My mother, on the other hand, has always been the first person I go to whether it is for ranting about my problems, gossiping about my friends or seeking advice. She’s always made me realize my mistakes not by harsh words, but with kindness and patience.
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I’ve learned a lot from my mom’s unconventional parenting methods, and owe it to her for whatever I have achieved. Some of the things I have learned truly make her an unconventional mom; and here they are:
- Importance of being self-sufficient
I have learned that no one in this world will go out of their way to help me with something. My mother has always stressed on the importance of self sufficiency and has reminded me time and again of the importance of relying on my own instincts. Unlike a lot of conservative Indian parents who teach their daughters to be forever dependent, whether it is financially or emotionally, my mother has taught me the exact opposite. Women are first dependent on their fathers and mothers, and later on their husbands. But no one can truly help us other than ourselves, not even the people we call family. Thus, it is best to learn from a young age that we are our own saviors. I have seen my mother be her own savior from a lot of unpleasant circumstances that life has constantly thrown at her, and in that process she’s saved me and taught me to do the same.
2. Physical acts of love are nothing to be scandalized by
An unconventional mom is one who is comfortable with conversations about sex. In spite of being a massively overpopulated country, it is ironic how Indians are still so uncomfortable when it comes to openly discussing sex with their children. One might argue, it is this lack of conversation that leads to such skewed concepts of sex and sexuality that in the long run do much more harm than good. I remember watching a Hollywood film with my mother when I was really, really young and gasping at a scene where a couple was making out. Even today, I vividly remember her response. She sat me down and explained to me how physical acts of affection are nothing to be scandalized by, that they’re just a way of expressing love and fondness for someone; they’re a form of expression used by the human body to convey certain emotions and feelings.
3.The value of an open mind
I have been taught by my mother to always keep an open mind and be accepting of change. The ability to change with the times is, I believe, what makes parents unconventional. To be able to look beyond the experiences and notions of one’s own generation, and to be accepting of change is something we don’t find in a lot of parents. I have seen my mother grow from someone who was uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality to someone who understands, acknowledges and supports the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, when I wrote an article on the LGBT movement, she was comfortable enough to discuss the various aspects of the movement, empathise with the people and even offered constructive criticism of my writing. I’d like to believe that my constant attempts at educating her did have a part to play in this, but it would be unfair of me to not give her credit where it’s due. Another thing that I learned from this particular experience is that it’s okay to accept that you are ignorant of certain aspects of life and to allow yourself to be educated by others.
4. Marriage is not a goal
In an Indian society, no matter how professionally successful and financially independent a woman is, it is only marriage that gives parents the peace of knowing that their child has made it in life. Right from my childhood to the present, my mother has always taught me me that marriage is a secondary goal in life and that it doesn’t matter even if it remains unfulfilled. While parents and family members joke about their children getting married someday, my mother always has joked about how I will grow up to be a woman who will apparently have several flings and many attractive partners. What matters here is not that she condones a lifestyle of philandering, but that it’s okay if I choose this over marriage because neither is a marker of my success in life.
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5. Judge yourself based on your own abilities
I have never been forced by my mother to excel in everything that I attempt. She has never judged my skills, talent and intellect by comparing the same with someone else’s child. In school when our exam results would come out, I remember how my peers would lie to their moms about the marks obtained by the toppers in class because they would always compare their results. I’ve heard friends complain about how their moms are always comparing them with their siblings, cousins and friends. As a consequence, a lot of them continue to measure their worth in terms of others’ achievements, which obviously leaves them feeling miserable and with a low self esteem. While I am not the epitome of a self confident individual, I have certainly learnt to judge myself based on my own capabilities and not on someone else’s. I believe this is solely because of the fact that my mom always did the same when I was a child.
6. Pursue your dreams
Parents often tend to impose their unfulfilled dreams and expectations from life on their children. They see their children as an extension of themselves, and thus, tend to use their lives to fulfill their own aspirations. I know so many people who have been forced to study a subject or take up a profession just because their parents wanted them to. They never had a say in what they wanted to be, and that is a privilege that I have always had. After my 10th grade examinations, when I told my mother I wanted to pursue humanities in spite of having the requisite marks for studying science subjects, I was not discouraged in the slightest. I was taught to pursue my dream, to pursue something that I like and enjoy doing, instead of going into a field that I do not possess the skills or interest for. I have been taught to never compromise on my dreams and to never settle for less.
7. Never treat fire with fire
This is something I’ve learned from watching my mother tackle all the unpleasant people and situations in life. She has never compromised on her kindness just because the other person did. I once asked her how she has the patience to treat someone the right way when they clearly aren’t reciprocating her efforts. And she told me that for her, keeping her conscience clear matters much more than exacting revenge on someone. Never stoop down to someone else’s level, remaining true to yourself is much more important.
8. Be comfortable in your skin
It’s my mother who taught me to grow comfortable with the way I look. She’s always been insecure about her complexion, especially since she was a product of a generation that believed in the power of fairness creams. It was her mother who taught her to take pride in the way she looked. There cannot be light without the dark, my grandmother had told her. This lesson was then passed on to me. I’ve had a bad case of acne since I entered puberty and my self esteem really hit a blow from which it still fully hasn’t recovered. Random people on the street have come up to me to suggest some home remedy or the other which can magically make all my spots disappear in three days. My mother may not have found a fool proof solution to making those scars disappear, but she did teach me to love every single one of them.
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Had it not been for my unconventional mom and all the things that she has taught me so far, I wouldn’t have turned out the way I am today. Right now, I feel proud of the version of myself that I am and have learned to love myself for who I am. And this has all been possible because of her.
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