The difference is that you are not in jail for having done anything wrong, you are the one who put yourself there and the sentence you serve also depends on you.
I am ofcourse not talking about the physical jail here but rather the mental kind that mothers lock themselves up in on a daily basis. There is no banal rice & dal served here but rather a steady diet of judgement that is more often than not inflicted by ourselves or the ones closest to us. Also, you have to constantly watch your back for what you say because even the silliest comment about your child can be interpreted as a complaint and send you immediately into solitary confinement.
I didn’t wake up at 6am to steam fresh vegetables for my toddler. Jail. My son cried while having tummy time and I let him while people around me judged me. Jail. I didn’t change his diaper the second he pooped. Jail Jail Jail. In fact, I deserve to go to Jail just for even suggesting that motherhood is like jail (I already deleted and retyped that first sentence about 15 times before hitting Publish and have mentally also seeked forgiveness from my baby for even implying that he is a burden of any sort).
The thing is that motherhood is difficult. Now, before you jump on me and say that no one said it was easy, hear me out. It is not difficult because of the sleepless nights, or the lack of faith, or the constant juggling you have to do between your career and your children. Well it is, but I am not talking about those things. The reason motherhood is difficult for me – and a lot of new moms I spoke to – is because there is no safe space where you as a mother can complain for even a second.
As humans, this is hard. Because, in any other sphere of life – education, work, health – it is perfectly okay to drop your shoulders in defeat every now and then and indulge in a bit of whining. But if you are a mother and especially a new one, you will go to mental jail for even thinking for a minute that this breastfeeding gig is harder than you thought. Case in point, the other day we were discussing Baby M’s first birthday plans and I jokingly suggested that only the mom should have final say because it’s not only the baby’s first anniversary but also the mother’s anniversary of surviving the first tough year of motherhood. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I saw the jail bars being drawn.
From my side, I didn’t mean to come out sounding so insufferable and on the other side, immediately the other moms in the group protested saying ofcourse not, their first year of motherhood was the most amazing time ever. Why are we so eager to suffer and make our own feel so bad? The night before this discussion I had been up all night with my child as it had been unbearably hot. Also, we had been speaking about his birthday plans for weeks and nothing had been decided so I was arguably frustrated. But, the context didn’t matter because I had implied that becoming a mother was something that I should be praised about. In any case, since when did a pat on the back become so expensive?
I am not preaching here. I too quite often catch myself sending other mothers to jail and quickly correct myself. Yesterday I met a mom during my walk after many months – the last I had seen her she was four months pregnant. I asked how she was and she said, “Don’t ask yaar, we got twin boys and life has become mayhem.” Having tried for three years before being able to conceive, I caught my eyes narrowing at her comment for suggesting that her twins were a bit of unplanned chaos and sending her to jail. But, before I could even react aloud, she slapped her hands on her mouth, laughed guiltily and sent her brain to jail for saying such a blasphemous thing out loud.
The worst are moms who send us to jail by constantly saying “Oh, this is the best phase of being a mother.” Now that I have a 6 month old who rolls on the bed and is almost crawling, I can see how a 5 day old baby is easier. But we forget that at that stage I too was only a 5 day old mother who had no clue what I was doing. It’s like when our parents told us school was the best time of your life. You thought they were crazy for suggesting exams and compulsory sports was fun but then you went to work and realized what they meant. Suggesting that one phase of motherhood is less or more difficult than the other is a classic case of Jail Gang War.
I can’t speak about you, the fathers, the siblings and our friends & families. But, I will speak for myself. Going to Jail is no fun and I don’t deserve it. Neither do you. Every day as a mother, I wake up and resolve to do my best. I am sure you do too. So let’s skip going to Jail for all the things we didn’t do or did wrong and instead celebrate the things we did do.