And from different parts of the house emerge shouts of “Dosa!” “Upma!” “Rava Idli!” “Vada!”
The mother cheerfully springs a few pairs of imaginary hands and sets to work, and within no time, all these yummy breakfast items are ready on the table. (Not to mention the chutneys that go with vada, sambar that goes with the dosa and whatever it is that goes with upma.) Did I mention that the mother is smiling all the time?
I can’t speak for all mothers, but I know that many bristle at this advertisement. (In defense of the ad, it does convey that these easy-to-make breakfast items are very easy to make.)
There is another breakfast ad featuring the gorgeous Madhuri Dixit. While we all love the way she looks (we so missed her all these years!) when she works out with her family, I (we?) can’t help but wonder, how can a mother be so stress-free? How on earth does she look so refreshed? Does she have no worries or has she learnt to get past (rid of) them? Did she not have to work late last night? Does she have no deadlines today? Isn’t her boss sitting on her head? Are her children so perfect that they get up and work out so well with family without whining and have a “healthy” breakfast without grumbling? Do they do their homeworks on time by themselves and help their mother keep the house clean? Do they (Heaven forbid) do their own laundry? And does her husband behave and do as he is told? What in the world is she so excited about? (Is she high on something? Does yoga or meditation keep her so happy? The string of questions keeps on going long after Madhuri and her entourage have vanished.)
Oh, come on, it is an ad, you say. There is no truth or sense or fact in it. Just watch and forget. Buy their product, if you like.
But this does give wrong ideas to people – that mothers are or ought to be like these moms in the TV. (We already know the power of ads.)
Have you noticed that the mothers in the ads know everything? (Except for that one mother who is surprised when the doctor talks about oral hygiene. Cavities? she asks, as though she is hearing it for the first time.)
I must mention another ad featuring Rahul Bose in which his wife lazily says “I will make tea in a while” – ‘lazily’ being the key word. I can’t explain how relieved that makes me feel.
Mothers try to convince themselves that they are not supermoms, and that they can only do what they can. But with this type of competition (people like Madhuri, for God’s sake!) they have to at least pretend to be 90% super. I am not saying there are no supermoms. I know a few (though they do not know it themselves. They almost kill themselves managing everything and are happy when they do it.) But the pressure it puts on the rest of us is considerable. It takes all my willpower to convince myself every day that “there are things I can do, and there are things I can’t. For the latter, I have to seek help without considering it a weakness or a failure. For the former, I should be proud of myself.” It is by no means easy. I have to go through this self-convincing routine for a long time; it is an effort in itself. I can’t explain how many times I had to face the caustic response when I said “I do not enjoy cooking”. The listener immediately assumes that I starve my family. (How can a mother say such a horrid thing??)
Someone recently told me that all comedy shows, movies and TV shows invariably have at least one wife who makes her husband’s life miserable. There: you see her nagging him, finding fault with everything he does, shouting at him, jealous about him, never supporting him – that you feel so sorry for the poor, wretched man. “There must be some truth in it.” How many scenes do you see where the situation is reversed (except when the husband is the main, evil villain of the story)?
So we struggle to not “nag” even though a worry has been gnawing at our hearts for days or weeks that we need help with. We try not to complain, even though we feel we deserve a little more support or compassion. We try not to shout even though the splitting headache on top of everything is making us to. In the end, the whole thing accumulates and piles up and causes a suffocation that transforms into an atomb bomb that is merely biding its time. (And then comes Madhuri with her family dance and all hell breaks loose.)
What we see is what we believe. Our systems are tuned that way – if that’s how it is on TV, it must be true, in general. We subconsciously arrive at the conclusion that we are so incomplete, incompetent, inconsiderate, below-average. There must be something wrong with me if I cannot be at least half of what those mothers are. I must be so nasty and evil if I am at least a fraction like those nagging wives. If I am not a failure already, my plane is definitely headed there.
So what do we do to find some steady patch of earth to stand on? We pretend that we are supermoms and perfect wives like the ones on TV. It is a survival tactic. Darwin must have written about it.
To all those who will say “it is better to be yourself”, my answer would be, “It is much easier and safer to pretend otherwise. It is heartbreak either way, but at least when you pretend, you don’t make it to the family gossip.”