Lessons From My Three Moms
Don’t be startled. My father didn’t marry thrice. Still, I have three moms.
Let me explain: I was born to one. We all are blessed to have this wonderful mother. I was handed over to one. Indian women are married more to a mother-in-law than to a man. Then, I gifted myself one. After being influenced generously by these two moms, I needed one to maintain my sanity. When I became a mother, I gifted my ‘mother-self’, to myself.
I got my first mother 40 years ago, and she still remains an influencer. I got my second mother 20 years ago, and she is integral to my life. I got my third mother 15 years ago and she keeps my head and heart in place, letting me adapt and evolve to balance the present, the past and the future.
Lessons from my first mom:
This woman is made up of all muscles, bones and tissues which shout “MOM”. Her personality is overpowering, and there is no madness in her methods. I wonder why she was not in the military, and it costed me dearly.
I had my clothes ironed and laid out, a home-cooked tiffin, and polished shoes every day of my school life. She stitched all my clothes (I never wore jeans, as she could not stitch one). I ogled at dresses hanging in shops, but never bought a single one.
She managed her time so effectively that every watch in the world should be proud of her. A cleanliness freak, an exercising enthusiast, a nutrition messiah, an avid reader... phew, I am already tired halfway.
I could never sleep till late on Sundays, as a child. I still feel guilty if I wake up late. I could never get less marks, even in a regular school test. She expected me to excel everywhere. She had her own way of pursuing her own umpteen interests. She would focus on one thing for a few days, and then focus on another for the next few days. When I was growing up, I saw a ‘bookworm mom’ for five days, a ‘cleaner’ for three days, an ‘artist’ (she painted) for a week, and a ‘tailor mom’ for a stretch. My doctor dad waded through these changing avatars every month, and I absorbed her focus and enthusiasm.
She always talked about the future and being future-ready. She raised two girls, and always missed being a professional. So, we grew up dreaming of making it big professionally.
Her punctuality and time allocation for tasks are internalised in my personality. Her passion for excellence cost me many nights of sleep, and dissatisfaction at many junctures. Her mindfulness is as permanent in my being as that vaccine injection mark on my shoulder.
At 68, she looks at a washing machine with disgust, and jumps at the mention of ‘junk’ as if she has seen a cockroach in her kitchen.
Her emphasis on working hard, managing time, sticking to discipline and updating knowledge all the time has stayed in the closet of my habits.
Lessons from my second mom:
My second mother was a working woman. She worked for the state government’s welfare department, and had met with a serious accident before my marriage which incapacitated her movement a bit. This woman is full of courage, determination and will-power. Her opinions border on the blunt; her responses meander between curt and candid.
Television occupied her mental space, and planning was quite an unwelcome guest. I went through tremors of cultural and psychological shock before understanding her psyche.
I saw her taking it easy, neither fretting over creased bedsheets, nor fuming over tasteless food (cooked by the domestic help). I could totally imagine her as someone who worked round the clock, but not in search of perfection.
She was happy that both her daughters were married and not working. She never seemed to have high academic expectations, and still loved her children. No regimentation, little discipline, and the straightforward communication rattled me for quite some time.
I loved the only son of this mother, and we married very young. My first mom disowned me for some time, while the second mom accepted me with an open heart into her unorganised, flexible, unkempt lifestyle. Life became a head-stand for me--now, I could wake up late (my mother-in-law never wakes up before eight) without guilt; I could study less (I was an MBA student) and nobody judged me.
She started believing in the positive acceptance of everything after her fatal accident, when she was hospitalised for more than a year.
Gradually, I created a disciplined, functional home, enabling me to work and enjoy.
Lessons from my third mom:
In the first five years of my marriage, I encountered many dilemmas in my mind, where both my moms pulled me in opposite directions. Their distinct life philosophies made me uncomfortable. One shouted achievements, while the other watched television. One believed in hard work, while the other depended on destiny. I would stand in the middle, trying to be a daughter they both would like.
Many of you will understand my dilemma. What was right? How I lived versus how I am living versus how do I want to live?
My third mom emerged gradually, with motherhood, after my daughter’s birth, and I discovered my need to have a ‘family vision’. I needed to piece together my fragmented future visions. The famous churning of the sea led to the emergence of amazing treasures. My churning, lessons learnt from these two dynamic, yet polarised mothers, led to an emergence of valuable lessons for the third mom. These are my learnings:
- I learnt to respect difference of opinion, and to disagree with them. It has helped me tremendously as a working mom--at work as well as at home. Different opinions don’t annoy me, and I politely communicate my view without offending the other person.
- I tried, childishly, to keep both of them happy, which was more difficult than climbing the Everest every day. Gradually, I shifted my emotional gear from pleasing them to living my life. Moms, even when unhappy, love you. If they don’t, unhappiness doesn’t matter. This revelation took two monkeys off my back.
- I believed in the fundamental values like hard work, discipline and integrity, but allowed myself discounts. My first mother focussed only on her family, while my second mother had dual responsibilities. Though I never saw my second mother as a young mother, I still wanted to fare better than her. I relaxed the perfection rule to some extent, while keeping the basics intact. I don’t lose sleep over my daughter's every grade, but I don’t allow her to neglect her studies. I enjoy my work, but family comes first. Since I wanted to spend more time with my teenage daughter, I have ventured out on own to be my own boss. I don’t live by the clock, but I do love to see the sunrise.
- I devised my communication plan after experiencing the communication wizardry of both moms. They are highly opinionated and convey their opinions unabashedly. One goes into a silent mode for days when angry, while the other erupts like a volcano. I took inspiration from a burger--a soft slice of bun followed by a hard cutlet and topped again by a soft slice of bun. I begin softly, put the hard-hitting or hurtful sentiments in the middle, and cover it up with some soft, polite and positive talk. After all, everyone has something positive in them that we can talk about.
Today, my daughter loves all three moms, and so do I. The first and second mothers have grown fond of each other, surprisingly. I don’t think they have any clue about all the heartburn they caused me. We all have evolved over the years and have morphed into a family that values each other, more than the differences. My first mother talks about fate and chance at times, while my second mother encourages my daughter to study harder. I, the third mom, nod on both sides, smile, and move on.