I don't want to be that mom...

1:30 PM

You may have noticed that I grew pretty quiet on the blog. This is because I have been busy with a lot of things in the recent weeks, as I am on a mission to shape myself as an artist and give a shape to my future.

Not so long ago, I have been asked to do two things. The first one was school related as the PTA committee is planning the annual fair in school and looking for volunteers to organise activities. The other was to give a talk about my journey into being an expat for a group of executive MBA students from around the world visiting Mumbai.

Hint, I only said yes to one of them.

Can you guess which one?

If you thought I signed up for the PTA carnival thing you don't know me very well, because I chose giving a public talk in front of 50 people and went in with less anxiety than just thinking about the prospect of finding myself in a group of 50+ moms arguing about cupcake booth and international arts and craft activities.

But you know what rubbed me the wrong way about the school event proposal? It's how the lady asking was pretty sure I would want to participate simply because I am Swiss and would have an opportunity to showcase my culture through a food stall (that would have to be purely veg and pass the approval of the food committee).
When I politely declined citing that I would rather enjoy the carnival WITH my daughter, rather than be manning a stall the lady tried to lay on the guilt trip :

"But it would be an awesome opportunity for our kids to see us doing this"

Internally I repressed the urge to say : And that would be what exactly? Showing that I devote my every breathing moments to school related events and cooking treats and dropping my daughter at a friend every time the committee group decide to meet? How is that possibly the type of example I want to set for my daughter? 

It's funny how this whole bunch of sacrifice for your kids bull crap comes up every time they want parents to do some school stuff.

And I won't even go ramble too long about the fact that this whole PTA crap is falling on women's shoulder. The class representative never asked if any of our husbands would want to pitch in...sexism is well and alive people! 

Let's be clear about one thing, once and for all, I do NOT live for my daughter. 

I live to set an example, to be a role model, and someone my daughter can aspire to be walking in my footstep. 
And I don't think volunteering to bake so treat for school and abandon her on the actual carnival day to sell those is an example I want to give her. 
I want my daughter to be a leader, an inspiration, a person who will live her life to the fullest and not putting anybody but herself front and forward. 

So, this past Sunday, after working on my public talk speech for over a week, I stood tall and confident in front of 50 people sharing the journey of my life in India, how I overcame obstacles, culture shock and re-discovered a stronger, more in charge of her life person that I am today. 

And guess who was watching me from the front row? 

My 8.5 years old daughter

Both she and my husband were invited to tag along as I delivered an inspiring talk to a live audience, microphone in hand. 
THIS is the kind of role model I want to be for my daughter. Not just through this talk, but through my everyday actions. 
I could be content to be a regular mom, the type that eat, sleep and inhale school stuff and devote all my free time to extracurricular activities. But that is not what I WANT. 

Not for myself, not for my daughter.

I want her to grow up knowing that she is in charge of her life. Knowing that she can be whatever she want to be. Knowing that being an artist and being successful at it is not a joke. Knowing that the real fuel of success is called passion. Knowing that stumbling on the path is not failure if you pick yourself up and keep going. 
I want my daughter to be independent, held accountable of her mistakes and learn from them.

I can't do that being forced to bake eggless treats that will be passed as Swiss (even if they aren't) just for the sake of showing my daughter how much hard work being a mom is and how much I sacrifice FOR her. 

Sacrifice from my part will not teach her she can be strong. We have reached an era during which parents are constantly pressurised to demonstrate how worthy of being a parent they are to their kids. In this crazy reality, we are pitted against other parents for cupcake baking supremacy, and recognition remain or kids BFF in the process, because yeah, apparently that is what being a good parent is all about. 

I am a parent, not my daughter's best friend

She can hate me, she has hated me a couple of times in the past, she will probably hate me some more in the teenage years. But being a parent is not about being all round likeable and winning affection from our kids. It's about inspiring them to become awesome adults one day. 

And if she wants one day to become a stay at home mom, and happily bake cupcakes for a school event in the future, it's fine. It will be her choice, and she will be able to make it, not because she watched me endure it in my mommy days, but because she got inspired to make her own choices. 

Watching me give a strong talk to 50 strangers, and seeing me do what I love everyday of my life (with my art) is what is going to fuel her and her choices in the future. 
I am raising her so that she can become a super-school mom if she wants to, but show her it's possible to do something else too. 

This is the kind of mom I am. 

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  1. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Bravo cyn you are a great example for your kid and not everyone who reads your blog. Parents have been expected to live for their children for a very long time and still do especially during the unfamous board exams. With the plethora of activities and what not, the schools demand even more patricipation. Not to mention them trying to teach higher concepts in lower classes. Believe it or not my son's school is trying to teach constitution and secularism to fourth graders. Since the books are mostly mumbu jumbo, it is upto the parents to put in more effort. Google is always there and the schools know it. In our times books were comprehensive. Yes, rote or not it was solid concepts.

    Everyday i see my wife putting superhuman effort. Her problems are accencuated by the fact that my son is a visual learners cannot quiet grasp from books. He has all the problems of kids of his age plus a few more. It is quiet a handful. In the case of women multi tasking is not a medal but a necessity borne out of circumstances. They become multi tasker by being in that position by default. The society just expects women to take up more responsibility. I believe everyone must have basic survival skills to cope up with any circumstance. The key is to involve children in household work without discrimination otherwise it is infinetely more difficult to learn skills at an advanced age.


    1. Exactly! Life skills aren't taught in books, and neither is being independent and able to make decisions.
      Fortunately, curriculum wise our school hasn't lost their marble and is going about it in a sensitive way, encouraging kids to connect the dots between subjects and come up with solution. But the Parent Teacher Association is a whole different ball game of crazy. Some of these ladies clearly have no lives beyond their kids and they drive the lot of us who do have a life crazy.

      This nonsense has to stop, if we want to raise the next generation to believe in gender equality, we have to stop expecting women to be the only one asked to volunteer to bake and do craft project for school and guilt trip them into doing it by assuring them they are showing a good example to their children.

    2. Anonymous3:42 PM

      I would love to hear the inspiring speech that you gave. I was wondering, if you could send a video clip of that speech, that is if you do not mind.


    3. I don't have a video of that speech, nobody took one that I know of. When I prepared that speech I wrote short paragraphs and key points and reharsed a lot and added details, knowing well that I would add to it after getting a feel of the audience, so I could not even share that speech. I talked non stop for about half an hour before answering questions from the audience, so that was a big talk.

      But it was roughly about culture shock every expat go through, what I learned about myself more than anything else, and how this whole process of self discovery is both scary and empowering at the same time.

  2. Bravo!
    I could maybe go along with baking a few treats for a 'bake sale' at a school carnival- but running a food stall? NO WAY!I think a better idea would have been to have all the parents prepare a treat to donate to a food booth & let the kids manage & sell the food in 1-2 hour long shifts.

    "Let's be clear about one thing, once and for all, I do NOT live for my daughter."
    This is big problem in the US as since the 1950's America has become more & more a 'child centered' culture rather than an 'adult centered' culture like France. Judging by what's going on in the US today the 'child centered' culture has resulted in a fear of adulting & the problems & pitfalls of what I call a "Peter Pan" nation.

    1. This whole event is a PTA stuff for the kids and is sadly marketed as a "Let your kids see you like they've never seen you". This year the theme is "around the world" but as far as food is concerned at least, it has to be as international as the strictly no-egg vegetarian policy allows.

      The moms in the lead for that event are mostly the type that are living for their kids, and often are seeking to be validated and recognised for the effort. Not all, but a lot of them. I have friends who signed up because "why not" and they all report going insane because of those "alpha ladies" ruling over, one of my friend even got kicked out of the food committee when she announced she didn't want to man a booth.

      The thing that is even more idiotic, especially for the food is that these ladies are expected to all come together and prepare enough food for 3-400 people in their kitchen! Because yeah, living in Mumbai, having an industrial large scale grade kitchen is a standard in every flat...DUH!

      I think we are going to see more and more of this fear of adulting in the coming years, and this phenomenon seems to be full on in middle class urban Indian families these days. I've seen many instance of helicopter parenting on steroids around here, and moms that forgo hobbies, social lives, and apparently sleep and free time in order to micromanage their kids and do everything for them.

      One of my favourite "issue" in our school is the whole "Why make kids wear the regular school uniform on Swimming class day". I am not a fan of the regular uniform for many reason, but the reason quoted by parents having that issue is that it's too difficult for their 3rd grader kids to get dressed back into their uniform because it has a button down shirt!
      Yep! That's right, 3rd Graders still need their parents to button their shirts. Ishita is one of the very few who can do it on her own it seems, and apparently when I say that I only showed her the first few weeks how to do it in Grade 1 and then let her do it makes me a crazy person.

  3. "these ladies are expected to all come together and prepare enough food for 3-400 people in their kitchen!"

    What? And then transport food for 300-400 from their kitchen to the event too?

  4. Anonymous5:22 PM

    Good on you! This is one of the best blog posts I have read in a long long time. I recently read an controversial and thought-provoking piece on 'Why children are not the most important members of your family'. Try to give it a read if you can (Google can help). Though controversial on the surface, that article and every word you have written in this piece rings true.

    1. I have no idea when and where this whole "Kids are the most important people in the world" trend start but it bugs me to no end :-)
      Growing up, I was certainly not the centre of attention in the family, my parents still had lives of their own and my mom was never under pressure to cook healthy organic gourmet food, volunteer at every school events, create themed activities for us or be told that if she didn't spend every minute of her life fulfilling the lives of my sister and I she was going to be a bad mommy.

      Our generation seems to be the generation of the wonder-moms, superwomen extraordinaires that need to just have it all as long as the DO it all. This insanity really has to stop.


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