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Motherhood, as in bringing up children, is far behind me now. Both my sons are adults in their own right. But I will take time to look back and tell you what I thought fit to teach my children before letting them loose on the unsuspecting world, so to speak.

By the time I was at the threshold of motherhood, I came face-to-face with the scourge of them all as far as women are concerned, the institutionalized practice of women making life hell for other women. Until then it had been something I had heard of as happening to women far removed from my world, or seen as a tale unfolding on the screen in movie halls. But I found out the hard way that it was a stark reality and so widespread a practice that it had almost become an accepted part of married life. No one turned a hair when the young married woman was harassed, least of all her own parents, shame on them. Disadvantaged as she was, she was left to fend for herself as best as she could with not even the man she married willing to put in a word for her.

Tell me again, how an unhappy, discontented, frustrated, downtrodden, controlled, belittled woman can be of any use to society or to the yet-to-be born-children of hers? How can infantalised sons, frustrated and unhappy themselves, kept secure under the thumb of dominating mothers make good husbands, fathers, create happy homes for his children? What I saw around me seemed to be a an ongoing process. Mother controlling son and as if to get her own back the daughter-in-law, the next in line, falling into the same trap and doing the same thing in a couple of decades to her own son.

I decided I was going to break that pattern and give a future family the chance at a happy life, free of guilt-tripping by a possessive mother pulling strings, reining the son in at every step. Besides, where is the joy in bringing up yes-men?

Thus was born the first and most important lesson I wanted to teach my sons. Be your own persons, not mere extensions of the one who gave you birth. It was okay to speak up to mother and air differences. The umbilical cord is cut at birth for a reason. The truth is, even when inside a woman, a child is never her part, but a new life form using her body and the resources therein to grow to term. The moment the child is pushed out of her body it is a clear message to her that it has become a whole new being and has to be treated as such. But how many hear or heed that message, even in the present?

When you teach a child to be their own person, everything else pretty much falls into place without extra effort. They learn to think for themselves and make choices. They not only take decisions on their own but also take responsibility for those decisions instead of blaming those around, or the world, for their lapses. But you will have to be patient and wait for the difficult teen years to pass to see the results of your work manifest.

As for other lessons of life, like the values to uphold, I have relied more on being an example myself rather than getting down to teaching them as lessons. Children pick up things unknowingly, or with just a nudge, and that according to me is the best way to teach. At this point I have to admit that I failed miserably in one thing, and that’s in making them keep their rooms tidy for longer than ten minutes, and/or stick to a definite sleep schedule each day and surprisingly enough it was for these I yelled the most. You win some, you lose others.

Before I wind up let me just add one thing. Moms can definitely make the world a better place, but let’s not forget, so can Dads.

©Shail Mohan 2015

Written for the #MomsforaBetterWorld Project at Women’s Web.