To live only for your child


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Category: Women Date: 02 Sep 01

When I hear a still-young woman with children say “I live for my children now”, (I’ve heard it at least six times in the past few weeks, which is why I’m beginning think there’s an epidemic of it), I hear a wild jangle of alarm bells in my head.

“Get a life!” I want to shout.

“Shake yourself out of this self-righteous stupor!”

Because a stupor it is.


None of these women looked as if they spent five minutes of the day on themselves, intellectually, emotionally or physically.  They sound like they are not interested in anything beyond their domestic lives. If they work, it’s a means to fuel the low fever of domesticity.


To be brutal, many look variously unhealthy, unhappy, unfulfilled, and worse, self-righteous, as if convinced by history and religion that has always kept women in their place, that the wretched shall inherit the earth, as if happiness and a little self-love and indulgence here precludes being a good mother, would mess up their chances of going to heaven.


Their faculties, which refuse to engage with the world, and only sharpen when it comes to dealing with the physical needs of their children, demonstrate they’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have needs of their own.


They are using their children as a shield, sometimes as an excuse, not to engage with the world and are placing the heavy burden, actually the responsibility of their own destiny onto their children.  There is a subtle difference between being a good mother, and doing that. (I’m being brutal, but the soft approach doesn’t work towards women who have been conditioned by history not to shine in the world).


It is not their fault.

I recall a female politician who was told by her opponents in the heights of an election campaign to “go home and take care of your children.” It’s a deeply-rooted, insidious self-censorship that comes from inside and outside and is now lodged deeply in many women’s hearts at some level.


Unable to sort this out, many women, including myself, simply think this feeling of guilt is part of our conscience, when in fact it is hundreds of years of conditioning. Thankfully, this is fast changing, as many young women without children impatient with waiting for the other half, have decided to make themselves whole as we all should, by refusing to divide essential human attributes into female or male, but by being all the human-being they can by using all their facilities.


Women, let us call ourselves Ying, are compassion to men’s Yang - physical strength, the creativity to their rationality, the patience to their need for adventure.  It’s a very gut-level way of separating men and women, a caveman approach, and coloured by the haze of a vast generalisation and does not deny man’s (not the generic) humanity.


It is also the subtle, dangerous way men and women have used to undermine women and keep them from being all they can be.


History and humanity acknowledge women have, throughout time, perhaps because we have been given the gift of childbirth, held the almost magical seeds of humanity in their hands.


It is not a dried-up, wretched of the earth virtue, but a living one that allows a mother to see what her child is up to with the back of her head, that has a third eye that is universal because it is ever vigilant, to ensure that ultimately, they produce a child that not only advances its own cause but develops empathy so it can also speak up for the underdog and protect the weak.


That is the essential seed of what it is to be human, because without it, we are all just self-indulgent, hungry, greedy pieces of living meat. Women do that for humanity, are essential to it because ours has never been a history of war or cold-blooded decisions to shed blood for the sake of power.


I say all this because I acknowledge the responsibility women have in bringing up children, towards the pool of humanity. (Oxford Dictionary definition of humanity: kindhearted, compassionate, tending to civilise). But dedication and denial of one’s own self are two separate things altogether. As Nelson Mandela said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”


Women who pour hours of their time into making finicky meals for their children or sterilising that bottle to death, so that there’s no time left for them to look at their own map of destiny, no time for them to stay healthy, or savour the adrenalin that comes from taking risks or fulfilling their own potential, have copped out, banged the door shut to their own lives.


By filling their void by pouring all their own thwarted ambitions and expectations into their growing children, they are unconsciously not giving their children permission to let their light shine. Instead, they are burdening their children with guilt that will not allow them to shine when they are older. Their children will forever be looking back at their mothers with regret, guilt and fear, feeling wrongly responsible for the lonely, unfulfilled state of their mothers. Instead of shining, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to make up, or escape.


So next time you hear yourself (and all women are guilty of going back into their cocoon when the world seems difficult) or another women say “I live for my children”, reply, “No. If you continue to do that, you are really dying for your children.”


Instead, nurture them, love them, but also shine your own light. Theirs will be so much the brighter for it.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur