The 84-year old granny was visiting a few weekends ago. D, as usual, gave a warm welcome and promptly retreated into one of the rooms while Grandma and I caught up on family gossip and so on. Eventually the conversation turned to the time when she was a young mother.
Grandma was married to Grandpa, who was employed in a humble, transferable and low paying government job. She had to manage the household with practically no help in every new town/village they lived in. Which back then seemed to have involved a lot of physical labour given the lack of equipment (think mixie, fridge, washing machine, grinder, vacuum cleaner, aqua guard, microwave, oven etc).
Like all women her generation, Grandma also began to have kids as soon as she got married. A process that went on to the end of her reproductive years.
Her first three boys were born within a span of 4 – 5 years
‘Good Lord’, I asked ‘How did you manage the house and three boys?’
Grandma thought and said ‘I spent a lot of time before and after the baby in my mother’s house. I would usually come back only when I thought I could manage’
Then she added, ‘But yes it was getting to be tough managing the three of them’.
I could understand. My dad and uncles are hyperactive even today.
She continued ‘So I kept the elder one with me and sent off the other two to be brought up by my mom’
I rolled my eyes, aghast. ‘And?’ I asked.
‘And’ she continued, ‘they studied there till high school, I think’. Details which she sort of knew but being busy with the other kids that came after, she really did not fuss about.
Apparently she did not worry much about the children developing ‘attachment issues’. Infact I am quite confident that she must not have heard of the concept. As long as they were taken care of by a loving adult and were well-fed, she seemed to have been quite ok about where they were. This way, they got some attention, she got some respite and there was peace all around.
This story came back to me when I was going through the comments about the new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s impending maternity leave. As expected some people had pointed out that the only way the CEO would be able to manage in her new job would be through hiring a nanny and letting someone else bring up the kid. Naturally there were a lot of remarks about what a bad mother that would make her.
Then I thought of my dad, uncles and aunt, all in their 50s and 60s, leading ordinary normal lives with nothing more than the usual share of angst and joy.
Perhaps our generation has given motherhood such an apple-pie sheen that we forget it is just another job to do and each one does what works best for her and her child.