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As A New Mom, I Admire Kareena Kapoor, But There's Something That Really Bothers Me

There's no one way to be a 'good mother'.

09/02/2017 9:53 AM IST | Updated 09/02/2017 1:16 PM IST
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It was heartening to see Kareena walk the ramp for Anita Dongre without caring about her 'post pregnancy weight' – three words designed to immediately convert the phenomenon of childbirth from a fact of life to a dreadful disease. But Kareena's confidence on the ramp made her incandescent and, one would hope, convinced millions of women that it's okay to not run towards the gym from the hospital after delivering a baby.

But then she said something that made me forget my Kajol– like 'bharat jeet gaya' jig and instead pull her 'phooldaan toot gaya' face: "many might look at (motherhood) as an excuse to hide, just because they aren't in the best shape. But I am not one to get conscious with skinny models around."

And what I want to tell Kareena is this: Pretty much no woman, who has chosen to be a mother, looks at motherhood as an 'excuse' to hide. If the said Indian woman has embraced motherhood out of choice -- some Indian women are still coerced to perform it as a duty -- she is really not looking to 'hide' at all.

Unless she is suffering from post-natal depression -- which is a medical condition -- and in that case probably needs more than just celebrity pep talk to deal with it. But yes, as a new mother, I can say, we could perhaps be a little more empathetic to each other? If Kareena and her ilk of famous women have the paparazzi and annoying fashion police rolling their eyes at stomach rolls, we have an army of relatives, neighbours, colleagues, random-people-who-you-run-into at grocery shops dispensing unsolicited advice on everything from how to burp the baby to how to hide post-baby flab.

But yes, as a new mother, I can say, we could perhaps be a little more empathetic to each other?

Yes, we do have our small bunch of enablers, but that's what they are -- small. In which case, maybe, it would be more helpful to not do this us-against-them routine when we are battling similar social evils.

Kareena's pregnancy, like Aishwarya Rai's, put on roll a media circus like no other. Only, thanks to the intervening years in between and possibly growing social media activism, the nature of the conversation was markedly different. While people were carping about everything from Rai's chin to her midriff when she finally started being spotted post-pregnancy by the paparazzi, the dominant social media narrative around Kareena was oh-so-cool-and-liberating. And yet, I couldn't stop feeling part-amused, part-irritated at this strange obsession with pregnant women doing perfectly normal things -- like eating out, walking, wearing nice clothes, wearing make-up, basically having a life. It's as if people were surprised that she had a life, despite being pregnant. And even that adulation, unfortunately, comes from a disturbing Indian assumption that pregnant women must stay at home and what, practice lullabies? So when you are out and about, that must be groundbreaking and brave.

I couldn't stop feeling part-amused, part-irritated at this strange obsession with pregnant women doing perfectly normal things -- like eating out, walking, wearing nice clothes, wearing make-up, basically having a life.

And in such a ridiculously frustrating society, when we, as women, start thinking of our choices/ lifestyle as superior to/ better than other women's, none of us win. Just like you don't need to shame skinny girls in order to celebrate the non-skinny ones, you don't need to shame the mothers who are 'hiding' because you have the privilege of not hiding yourself.

It's not easy being pregnant in India. The way people stare at your bump (men & women alike), it's like they suspect you of having stolen someone else's baby and then stuffed it under your top. It's a peculiar look: at once curious, suspicious and accusatory.

(Soon I figured it's a look that says 'Hawwww you had sex! And now look at you parading the fact! Chee Chee!')

Which is why it is such a welcome change to see celebrities like Kareena Kapoor Khan and Carol Gracias embrace pregnancy for what it is – no big deal at all.

But celebrities have power, and with power comes responsibility. And oh how I wish Kareena was a little more empathetic.

But celebrities have power, and with power comes responsibility. And oh how I wish Kareena was a little more empathetic.

Because this is a significant issue. The idea of Indian motherhood is changing and the unwritten rules around it need to change for the better. Any one who can influence it has a huge responsibility towards all other women. Because you see, everyone has an opinion on what mothers should be like, and they are forever looking for opportunities to disperse this divine knowledge. And that is annoying and tiring, not to mention intrusive and condescending.

For example, this ridiculous article from something called IndusParent that surfaced on my Facebook timeline right after Kareena gave birth to her baby. And it said, sorry, screamed: "Kareena is not following the 40-day confinement period but these REAL MUMS think she should!" I read, re-read the headline, finally concluding that something alien and weird must have possessed a computer and written this out -- perks of growing up on a Ramsay diet. Else, why are two words in the upper case in the middle of the sentence? And err, who are these 'REAL MUMS' and why is Kareena not one -- she looks perfectly human to me, unless these fine writers have special intelligence that she is a papier mache robot. And holy shit, why do women want other women to be jailed or confined for having a baby? The entire article had women wax eloquent about the completely unscientific belief that women must not step out of their homes for at least 40 days after delivery. Fun fact: they didn't ask either a gynaecologist or a paediatrician about medical consequences if any. But women, some of who claimed that not sleeping in the AC in the summer will make sure you don't get wrinkles in your 40s. Because, of course, wrinkles are the death of you.

This is what motherhood feels like in India -- that it's everybody's business and everyone knows better than the mother herself.

This article is a fine example of what motherhood feels like in India -- that it's everybody's business and everyone knows better than the mother herself.

Since my daughter was born four months back, I've announced a prize in my head for anyone who doesn't offer me either parenting advice or weight loss suggestions within five minutes of meeting me. No one has won it yet. None of this advice is directed towards my husband. His 'hands on-ness' is only applauded. As the hilarious Ali Wong puts it so beautifully: "It takes so little to be considered a great dad, and it also takes so little to be considered a shitty mum."

As the hilarious Ali Wong puts it so beautifully: "It takes so little to be considered a great dad, and it also takes so little to be considered a shitty mum."

And then there's this interview where the journalist asks Kareena:

"Have you figured out the kind of mother you are — overprotective, gushy or absolutely chilled-out?"

I must have missed the memo that puts kinds of mothers neatly in 3 boxes. It's so strange. We are obsessed with motherhood. We can't wait for women to get pregnant. And when they do, we can't wait to tell her how she should bring up the child. And when the child is born, we can't wait to tell them how she should conduct herself. It's like a never-ending, relentless cycle.

It is important that Indian celebrities are choosing to not hide their pregnancy. And it is important how they go about doing it, because it will affect all of us. It will alter the discourse of femininity. So while we are at it, let's try to humanize motherhood. Let's understand that while motherhood is beautiful, it's not essential to 'complete a woman' and is definitely not something that all women must want. Also, most definitely, there is no one right way to do motherhood.

And, very importantly, let's remember what the Dowager Countess said; "You know, my dear, there's more than one type of good mother."

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