Being a Mom

I am a mother of two children – a boy, 8, and a girl,6. I absolutely love being a mother and I embrace that role whole heartedly. My hope, and my dream for them is that they would grow up to be a man and woman with integrity, values and a sense of responsibility. At the same time, I also fear the world my children are facing and will face by themselves one day. So the question that drives me constantly is – am I equipping and preparing them well to make the right choices in life? Parenting has become even more challenging as we sometimes feel like we’re competing with so many other influences in our children’s lives.

The role of being a mother comes with great responsibilities and fantastic benefits. It’s one of the unique roles of women where we get to mould the life of our children preparing them for life. We as women have the privilege of nurturing our children to be agents of change and bring healing to a broken world especially when we hear of brutal incidents involving women and girls.

[su_quote class=”post-quote”]It is a role that requires highest degree of patience, commitment and consistency.[/su_quote]

Even at a tender age of 6, my daughter already seems to have very specific ideas of standards of beauty simply by exposure to various media. She even prefers a lighter skin colour as a standard of beauty. As a mother, I see these expressions as a great opportunities for teaching. It is in moments like this that I realize the importance of being a mother – I have the opportunity to directly impact my child’s perspective and teach her values that can not only impact her own life but also build her up to be an agent of change.

There is a constant need for attention and intervention – be it caring for a child with cold and fever or sorting out sibling fights at the back seat while trying hard to negotiate traffic on the road, the unending “why” questions, continual demand for help right away and so on. You mothers know what I’m talking about! It is a demanding role that teaches us patience and perseverance. The good news is we are naturally equipped to handle the demands. Each of us are unique and our demands are unique too. Some of us need to manage a full-time job and home. We have different roles and responsibilities that we juggle everyday. How do we manage without compromising on our role as a mother?

Firstly, I think when we realise that we are entrusted with an important role, a sense of pride and responsibility sets in. Unfortunately we shy away from being identified as a mother and are comfortable with titles and identities that our careers give. With this change in perception, we can make our role more meaningful and rewarding.

Secondly, an important piece in enjoying motherhood is working together with our husbands. A positive atmosphere at home with active involvement of the father and the mother together is where the child finds comfort, safety and security, and where preparation for life and learning takes place. This partnership not only models a good example to my children, it also gives me added space to concentrate on other worthwhile pursuits. When the responsibilities of nurturing the children are done in partnership, it is possible to be a great mother and have a fulfilling career at the same time.

We would all agree that being a mother stretches our limits. There are many days that we feel weary and wonder if its all worth our time. In a world where everything is instant, we expect our children to produce instant results. After all we want instant assessment and instant approval of our role as a mother. Only time will show us the results of our investment. It is a role that requires highest degree of patience, commitment and consistency. The struggles are real and so are our emotions when we face difficult times as a mother. Mothers I interact with discuss many of their struggles parenting their children. Times like these can easily bring us down and feel defeated.

However, something that helps me greatly is having a positive support system. These can be a group of stay-at-home moms, working moms or other families who are in the same phase of life as us. This platform gives me time and space to share my struggles and also helps me to encourage other women in the same boat as me.

This mothers day, I would like to encourage women who are feeling less important or facing challenges in fulfilling different roles as women, to realise that we in partnership with our husbands and with each other, have a vital responsibility in making a world of difference to our children’s lives – to help them be the best that they can be. I realise this can be very challenging to many women due to various family circumstances. In such case I would like to recommend that we seek help from our support system or even organisations like Women of worth who exist to help women to rise up to their fullest potential.

Mother’s day is not complete without realising and recognising that there are women who are yet to become mothers or who are aunts, sisters, daughters, who still play a vital role in our children’s lives . Your role as a women is important to make this world a better place for us and generations to come.

Happy Mothers day. Let this mother’s day be a celebration of all mothers, women and girls especially those who are silently fighting battles on their own and who are the true heroes of motherhood.

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Fenny Kanagaraj is Partnership Director at WOW and mother of two. She is a networker and bridge creator.[/su_box]

An Accidental Celebration

I have a room! 

The house we recently moved into was previously colonized by a furry feline and the master bedroom was its throne room. We discovered its existence without ever having the trouble of meeting it. The allergic reactions suffered by my husband and my daughter immediately informed us of this room’s previous tenant. 

The only other room available was being used as a home office which now had to accommodate our master bed as well, rendering the actual master bedroom into a storage space. Most of the office furniture including some bookshelves and a couch were moved into the master bedroom. Slowly, other items that needed to be stored away clumsily made this room their abode. This was now the forbidden room which had an invisible sign: “No Trespassing. High Risk of Itchiness and Sneezing.” 

Wait! What? Recap: There now exists a room that nobody wanted. More like, a room that nobody could have even if they wanted it without risking lung infections or asphyxiation…except for yours truly! 

I knew what I had to do; Rearrange, reorganize, stack all the shelves, create floor space, use the couch, add some curtains, maybe some pictures, some things I’ve collected from my travels, and a floor rug for the dog (yes, the dog is always welcome. Besides, the room intrigues her senses). And before I knew it, I had a room. 

I have since heard that other women have created rooms for themselves; they are called she sheds. But this was no fantastical, whimsical, Pinterest-worthy she shed. It really was a glorified storage closet. But to me, it was what the DeLorean was to Marty McFly – a time machine – transporting me to explore interests I’ve ignored or discarded. It was what the Fortress of Solitude was to Superman – a hideout – giving me space and time to actually experience silence and meditation. It was what the pages of Mein Kampf were to Max as he hid in Liesel’s basement – a scabrous canvas – to paint my story about how I reconnected with myself.

Out of unplanned, unintended, and unexpected circumstances, I discovered how to celebrate me. 

Dear DISB campaigners,

We’ve been selfishly and gloriously focusing on YOU all through the month of November. You are valued and worthy! What you celebrate expands you. So tell us how you Celebrate You – flaws and all! Send in your stories. #DISBcelebratesYOU

Flawesome Jaya

  1. What was it about the flawesome series that got you interested in sharing your story with us ?
    News is that none of us are flawless and it was my desire to share my common place story so that it would make a difference to atleast one person.
  2. Give us a bit of your background for starters.
    Unexpectedly arrived as the seventh child after a gap of seven years and weighed 10 pounds. Not much has changed in the physical realm – even now I look really healthy. Grew up in a simple home where academics were high priority as well as exposure to multiple activities while community engagement was also a priority. I put my hand in various activities in school and did relatively well in most of them. School and college were well invested years.
  3. What event/incident turned your life around or was pivotal to you?
    I have had many a challenge that I have faced all through the years of my life though one of them could be a fairness cream and whitening cream concept defeating piece. It was in my mid-thirties that I suddenly began a journey of an auto-immune condition called “vitiligo”- the loss of melanin and of course your skin tone takes on a new shade- undefined by color schemes of cosmetic companies. Though I turned white quite quickly – it was interesting as my husband’s little boy day dreams of marrying a fair girl came true as he got a fair wife after 7 years into mariage. Look and feel chemistry definitely did not decide our marriage as the proof of the pudding is that we have held on together through it all for many years thereafter.
  4. What were the challenges you faced because of your condition and how did you cope and overcome them?
    People and their questions were an unresolvable lot. Their curiosity was way beyond our comprehension. They were more bothered about my condition – both in good and odd ways. Personally, I could not look into the mirror for a year. And that’s the year my husband as an adult began to smoke cigarettes. The not-so right treatment that I received bloated me further. Use of any make-up and the like was hard as colours did not display the same on my skin. My hair turned 90% grey and it was strange to see a new – not so likeable you.
    That’s when I turned to my faith and got the strength and confidence I needed and believe me in 12 months time I had a break through where I could stand in front of the mirror and look at myself and say to myself that I am beautiful and wonderful.
  5. Have you struggled with feelings of inadequacy?
    I believe it was a struggle of accepting my physical condition and not one of comparison. So I used to just lie low and quiet without doing anything frontline except at work.
  6. If we asked you what some of your wildest dreams are, what would you say?
    I desire to collaborate in the area of academics and work as an influence. This has become a reality now. I am able to coach those who cannot afford it and that has really taken off. I make others grow tall on my shoulders as I can’t grow any shorter(did not grow tall from 8th grade). I love making others look their best at my cost. I love people and help them to walk in freedom and fullness of life here on earth.
  7. What has been the greatest achievement and joy of your life so far?
    My faith has been my greatest strength. My relationship with God has carried me through the greatest struggles of my life and has given me great joy.
  8. What is your advice to our readers today?
    Focus on another even when you are going through pain and believe me “People are important” will become your mantra.

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Jaya is a trainer and motivational speaker.
She resides in Mumbai with her husband Abraham. [/su_box]

Flawesome Savi

1. What was it about the flawesome series that got you interested in sharing your story with us Savi?

Nobody is born perfect or even becomes perfect. Everyone has some flaw or the other. I wouldn’t even call it a flaw, that’s a big word, it could be a limitation. It’s how we work through the limitation that matters. I am not sure whether my life or condition even qualifies to be spoken under this flawesome topic, but yes I have had limitations and I have learnt to overcome them. So I am happy to share my journey and experiences.

2. Give us some idea of your background for starters.
As a young girl I was very active, bubbly and an extrovert, who always wanted to be happy and always dreamt of this world to be a bed of roses. I was a dancer, singer, artist, you name it. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis(RA) at the age of 19. RA is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints. The body’s immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. The synovium makes a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly. If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves. Over time, there is loss of cartilage, and the joint spacing between bones can become smaller. Joints can become loose, unstable, painful and lose their mobility. Joint deformity also can occur.

My joints used to pain to the effect that I was unable to even lift a single sheet of A4 paper. Doing my daily chores was becoming difficult, like bathing, dressing, eating etc. All of a sudden I found myself totally disabled and crippled from even taking care of myself. I was unable to walk, sit or stand for long and soon I was limping badly. I was gradually slipping into a depression because no one would understand the kind of pain I was going through. Everyone had great advice for me. Over a period of a few years I tried all kinds of treatment ranging from allopathy, ayurveda, therapeutic yoga, sindha, accupuncture and accupressure to herbal diets and what not. Nothing improved my condition, one by one every joint of mine was getting affected. I was on steroids and pain killers and mild chemotherapy drugs to keep things under control. Life went on but with difficulty. I used to cry it out in the night and wet my pillow with my tears because no one could feel my physical and mental pain. The fun part of me was still wanting to have fun, but now there were limitations. I could not do all that i used to do and had to stop dancing which was a long standing dream of mine.

3. What event/incident turned your life around or was pivotal to you?

I liked a guy in my workplace. I knew he liked me too but I was never going to take the step, my condition always kept me at check. We were good friends. He would always say to me, “What u have is not a killer disease, always be content and happy with what you have. There are many who dont know if they will live another day”. He showed me how to trust God, to have hope and he gave me a life I thought I could never have. I tried to convince him not to enter into wedlock with me, because I feared that I would not be able to lead a family life. But he was a man of faith so he asked me what if I had got this ailment after we were married? His support would not have wavered for me. I had great support from the Church who always prayed for my healing and stood with me in the low times. I remember popping two strong painkillers before walking down the aisle. Because it was like a dream come true, I did not see any decoration or the guests in front of me. My heart was filled with Gods promise and hope for a good life.

I started pursuing all my passions once again, painting, crafting, dancing, holidaying. I started taking my inability as a challenge to see how much I can do, how far I can go. And I used to do everything till the time that it would become unbearable for me. I would only say tat my pain tolerance increased exponentially over all these years.

4. Have you struggled with feelings of inadequacy
Most of the time, Yes. I had and have many limitations in terms of lifestyle. I cant dance so freely, but I still do with my crooked hands and legs.
I cannot dress myself so easily, it takes some effort
I cannot reach my own back
I cannot sit on the floor and have eye contact with my kids ( I felt bad about it but my husband used to say, no issues, sit on the couch)
I could not carry them when they were little
I could not take care of my children when my knees were severely affected and I had to go in for a knee replacement surgery
I cannot go on long treks
I cannot sit on the beach sand and enjoy the waves
The list is long….

5. What were the challenges you faced because of your condition and how did you cope or overcome them?
I did face many challenges due to my condition at home, workplace and outside. I was always mentally ready and up for anything, but physically I had limitations and that sometimes pulled me down psychologically.

  • I had challenges in raising my kids, I cannot do things tat all mothers do very easily. But tat did not constrain me, I had my own parenting style.
  • I had difficulty in standing and taking long trainings at workplace. I never was hush hush about my condition, I openly spoke about it and made myself comfortable.
  • I take the stairs one step at a time so people get frustrated standing behind me. I tell them tat I’m going to take a long time so I let them pass by.
  • When I am unable to do something, I make a joke about it and laugh it out.
  • I have already had one of my knees replaced at a young age, I proudly call myself an ironwoman.
  • In a public place, in a confined area like an elevator or a waiting room I have heard people whispering about me, my crooked hands and bulged joints. I have learnt to brush them away. That doesn’t affect me at all.
  • I have had relatives mock me saying it beats them as to why I decided to even get married because I cannot possibly be having a good life. But God gifted me a great husband and two adorable children. Many were astonished to see that I could become a mother and have an uncomplicated smooth delivery. I wanted to show them all that life is not easy for anyone, its not a bed of roses after all.

You have struggles all through, if you are going to give them importance, they will overpower you but if you learn to live with those struggles and brush the negativity away, you have a beautiful life to live.

6. If we asked you what some of your wildest dreams are, what would you say?
Hmm… wildest… I don’t know if its wild but I have done a lot of adventurous things in my life. Went on an offroading kinda trip on a hilly/rocky terrain when I was 8 months pregnant.

Just a few months back I went diving in the Andaman Islands (after taking the total responsibility of my health condition underwater).

I want to give back to society in some way, do my little bit. I don’t just limit myself, I try, if i can do it well and good, if not its okay. I know I at least tried. All this is possible for me because I have put my trust in God. He has brought me this far he will take care of me so I enjoy life!

7. Do you think, from your experience, that every obstacle or set back is actually training ground for the next big success or breakthrough in life?
Yes definitely, but as an individual one needs to take control of it. Unless I want to come out of the struggles and difficult times in my life, unless I create the will power in me, I cannot overcome any situation, I will only be pulled into it deeper. If I had started to pity myself due to all the limitations/flaws I had, I would have only ended up in depression. That’s killing myself.

Whenever there is an obstacle in life, try to create avenues to get out of it, these avenues might lead you to a new chapter in life.

When I was down at the thought that I’m unable to take care of my kids I started watching some youtube DIY videos to keep away from those negative thoughts. This brought out the creator and crafter side of me. I started making hair accessories for my daughter. It made me happy that I’m finally doing something useful plus I got appreciation from many. This spurred me on to open a Facebook page to market my handmade products. That’s how “All Things Beautiful” evolved. Its a passion/hobby turned into a home business. Its been 3 years now and I’m happy crafting and doing what I like with my own limitations. It creates an identity for oneself.

8. What has been the greatest achievement and joy of your life so far?
Knowing God had been the joy of my life. Even now I feel inadequate and depressed many times, but when I think of the blessings, I just smile.

Hope and belief is something that changes your perspective in life.

I cant say I have achieved anything great but I can say I am trying to live the life that was given to me to the fullest. I have so many more things that I want to do in life.

9. What is your advice to our readers today?
I cannot advise but I would like to say that there’s no problem in life that cannot be overcome with positivity. There’s nothing so bad to lose your life over it. Be happy, enjoy, do what you can and all that you want to. Trust in God. Life is beautiful.

Savi

A Masterpiece

“If only your nose was straight and sharp like your father’s…and if only your skin tone was a bit lighter..” These were the words spoken by my grandmother over and over again for much of the first 27 years of my life. A retired surgeon, a very accomplished one at that, she raised me up entirely on her own. She sacrificed everything to give me the best I could have in life and she did that exceedingly well. She is no more, unfortunately, and not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.

My Grandmother was a very elegant and classy lady, with beautifully sharp features and fair skin. She always knew she was a beauty! Truth. She was surrounded by the British during her childhood and hence was influenced heavily by their culture and ideology. She grew up with the notion that being fair with sharp features was the quintessence of beauty and she identified herself with that common opinion.

My gramma was my everything on earth. My only “go to” person.  She introduced me to God, to fine dining, manners, character, inner strength and what not. To me, she stood tall, being the perfect role model as I grew up and needless to say, every sentence and every opinion that came from her, began to mould my thoughts and influence me.

I grew up believing in that very same opinion of hers that one needed to be fair with sharp straight features to be categorized as “Beautiful”!  I thus developed a complex that i wasn’t any of that. I detested my tiny little nose. I detested my lovely ebony skin tone.

When in school and college, I have heard teachers and seniors compliment me saying, “You are a black beauty!” . I chose to not believe them.

Unfortunately for me, my grandmother was the only critic who told me the “truth” and everyone else lied to please me!

I also happened to not be a cosmetic- loving gal. My skin was very clear naturally and i felt that was the only good thing left in me and that i should protect it and hence never applied makeup on my face. I’m glad and eternally grateful that i never went after Fair and Lovely, the then most popular brand or any fairness creams for that matter.

In 2013, I had an opportunity to visit Brasil. It was one of the best times of my life.

During my stay there I had countless number of people , including absolute strangers, the young, the old, men and women, walk up to me saying, “Você é muito linda. Sua cor é bonita!!” (You are very beautiful. Your colour is beautiful). I am not exaggerating when i say “countless”. It was overwhelming to have strangers in a restaurant or at the metro station walking up just to say they thought i was beautiful! Initially it was my bestie who had to translate every time somebody approached me with this compliment. Poor thing, she must have gotten tired translating for me during the initial days when i was not familiar with their language. After a few weeks though, this sentence became very familiar to me and i learnt to say “Obrigada” (Thank you) in response to all those who walked up to me.

I visited most of the coastal cities in Brasil. One common thing i noticed was that the people spent hours on the shores applying sun screen lotions and sun bathing just to get our dusky skin tone. They find our tone so beautiful. I thought to myself, “Why have I and all the Indians been brainwashed all these years by media, family, friends and cosmetic companies into thinking that dark is not beautiful. This is absolutely crazy!!”

That brought an end to my thinking that being fair was beautiful. I began to embrace my complexion and everything about me completely. It took an experience in a strange land for me to know and understand what it was when God said I was His Masterpiece!”

Remember, the grass will always look greener on the other side. The only thing that will keep you content is appreciating your own uniqueness and consciously making a shift in your mind to accept who you are created to be and celebrate the remarkable handiwork that you are. You are absolutely stunning just the way you are!

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Anita Esther Joseph is a multitalented dancer, singer and freelance photographer.[/su_box]

Redefining Beauty

We exist in a time where information is more easily accessible than ever before. Along with information, we are often bombarded with opinions, and at times it can be hard to discern the difference. One of the areas this difficulty arises in, is in defining beauty. Not only are we often presented with fake images as the truth, but we are also presented a fixed notion of what can be considered beautiful in the society we live in. This becomes increasingly problematic when what is considered beautiful is influenced by businesses who seek to profit from people’s insecurities.

Dr. Gail Dines concisely puts this idea across as “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” It may appear quite simple when you consider that all industries depend on demand for the growth of their businesses. But unlike in the case of food, these industries seem to create an artificial desire and pump in their products to try to fill that void. These industries are built on the insecurity of women, and they position themselves as trying to help women attain happiness and success. They do this by equating a particular standard of beauty with prosperity and affluence in all aspects of life, be it career or romantic. Often this standard is one that is unattainable, allowing a constant stream of purchases in the hopes of improving their lives. When the idea of beauty remains something unattainable, basing one’s self worth and happiness on this idea is damaging. It may seem impossible to truly be satisfied with oneself.

Instead of chasing this idea, maybe the answer lies in redefining beauty. To pushing its boundaries beyond what society tells us, to include our own definition of beauty. In this, lies a choice. We can either accept the definition of beauty presented to us, and continue to be dissatisfied with our appearances and critical of those around us. Or, we can choose to see the beauty that exists around us. We can choose to see beauty in confidence and smiles. We can choose to accept that society’s definition of beauty is not the only one. We can make our choice based on what we want for ourselves, not on what others want for us. But one must remember, that beauty is not the ultimate goal. Colorism is not only a problem because it values one shade of skin over others, it promotes the idea that people, and women in particular, should base their self worth in their physical appearance.  Health, knowledge and kindness are far better parameters on which to measure self worth. So, it seems to me that if we want to be more satisfied with ourselves and self confident, there is a twofold task before us. We must redefine what beauty is to us, to include more than unattainable standards, and simultaneously recognise that our worth does not lie in our physical appearances.

I started to think about this idea of redefining beauty when I first joined college. One thing I hadn’t expected, was how this turned out to be an entry into an immensely positive community. I remember having conversations with my friends about how beautiful the people around us were, and not beautiful in the way society conventionally defines it. These conversations with my friends helped me see that when I started looking beyond conventional beauty in the people around me, I started to feel more beautiful as well. I believe that developing this sort of positive dialogue, by complementing the people around you instead of commenting about them, and looking for beauty rather than looking for flaws, goes a long way in building your own happiness.

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Sneha is a 19 year old who is currently pursuing her B.A Economics in Azim Premji University in Bangalore. Because of her interest in pursuing a career in development, she is currently interning at Women of Worth. [/su_box]