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Mother’s day euphoria hasn’t died down yet. So it is not surprising that I came across a poster on Facebook that gives the story about a son brought up by a single mother, who it seems wrote his mother’s name against the column that asked for the father’s. There is more. The mother on seeing that sheds happy tears. His mother could not have asked for a better gift, it goes on to say. Oh what a reward! My life has been made. End of story.

How many of you went ‘Awww…’ on reading that? Did the story move you?

Not me. It pissed me off, royally. Catch me shedding happy tears because my son called me Father, for whatever reason. In that mother’s place though, I would have shed tears, but for a different reason altogether: for my failure to have taught the son an important lesson, that a woman’s worth is not measured in terms of man.

Mother and Father are words indicative of difference in gender of parents, and should not be representative of the roles they play or the duties they perform. The male parent is called Father, the female parent is the Mother. That’s it. Fathers who cook or do household duties do not become mothers. They still remain fathers, fathers who do housework or fathers who cook perhaps, but still fathers. Mothers who work outside home and earn don’t become fathers. They remain just that, mothers. Mothers who have a career outside the home, mothers who earn or some such, but nevertheless, mothers. Even those fathers and mothers who do all of the parenting single-handedly, still remain either a Father or a Mother, not both.

Now we come to the implied elevation in status by comparing a woman to man. Some time back there was a hue and cry because the actor Priyanka Chopra’s parents said of her, that she is like a son to them. Such a shame actually. Why isn’t she just the daughter? Pray what’s wrong with being a daughter? Why was it said of her, ‘like a son’? In fact I have heard MANY parents repeat the same of their own girl children or about other girls they know. Earning, taking care of work that involves going out, fetching and carrying heavy things, all these when done by daughters entails parents sighing and dramatically announcing that their girl child is like a son to them.

Do you think these girls were special in any way? Do you think other girls would not have been able to do the same work? Of course they also could do the same things. When your mother sends only your brother to the corner shop to get onions, it is not because the shopkeeper will not sell you onions or because your legs won’t carry you there. Your parents have been conditioned to believe that going to the shop is a boy’s duty. And then when one day your brother has gone away to college or something, with no one around your parents want you to run to the shop, start doing all of the same things your brother had been doing. How do they reward you? They tell you, you are like a son to them. More importantly what would you do on hearing that? Simper proudly (like the mother in the story) or roar like a tigress at the insult? Okay, don’t roar, but would you at least explain to them how that is an insult?

I have two sons who cook, tidy up, serve. I don’t call them daughters, not because I consider it demeaning, but because I don’t believe these are jobs only daughters should be doing. If I have been asked once I have been asked hundreds of times in the past why it was that I was the one supervising school work of our children, how come the L & M was tidying up the house? Other males in my extended family snigger when they see him making the bed, stating you wouldn’t catch them ever doing what he does, as if that somehow makes them more of a male than he is. Another thing is how everyone thinks that disciplining the child is the father’s forte, pampering is the mother’s. And all I can ask is, ‘Says who?!’

None of us of either gender are born with roles assigned. Roles were assigned by the humans before us (no God does NOT enter the picture), not infallible ones at that, but pretty ordinary ones, people like you and me, who divided work according to what suited them best at the time. They are not rigid or unbreakable that we should treat them as sacrosanct and continue following them religiously. Besides a lot of them are just plain stereotyping being touted as veritable truths by the token of having been repeated more than a thousand times. (Men don’t cry, men cannot multi-task, women cannot drive/park, women are best suited to cook and take care of home, women are ambiguous, men come to the point, and the biggest lie of them all, that men don’t gossip) But when you in the present times do not question, only reiterate such preconceived roles again and again, at the same time projecting yourself as modern (pray, in what respect?), you are left standing at the same old spot where your previous generation stood, treated the same way, a woman whose glory comes from being compared to man. Is that what you want?