It was a seemingly innocuous conversation about advertisements that led me to the complicated depths of Kiran’s mind. Our discourse centred on the idealistic portrayal of mothers in advertisement, for products ranging from instant noodles to health drinks and detergents. But she wasn’t particularly interested in the feminsitic aspect of gender stereotyping, but rather how alien the concept of motherhood as a paragon of love and solace seemed to her.
I had always known about her strained relationship with her family. She was that person who hated vacations as a student, for it meant spending time with parents at home where she felt disregarded. She preferred being with friends at hostel to home, where she was invisible.
Hers was a tough childhood, dealing with an alcoholic father and an emotionally distant mother. The lack of emotional security, a safety blanket that all children deserve, made life difficult for her, especially during the formative years. Her father’s obvious condition made it easy for others to tag him as the bad person, but no one had a clue how irresponsible her mother too was as a parent, for the latter benefited from the victim status.
True, her mother was a victim, but so was Kiran. As a child and a teen, she had to live with constant anxiety and stress, suppressing all her feelings to herself, for there was no one to rely on. Drowning in self pity, her mother made it a point that no pain is worse than her own, thereby creating a wall between herself and her daughter. When the young girl was disappointed, scared, or happy, her mother nevertheless failed to understand.
To not feel connected to one’s mother—considered epitome of unparalleled love—is a horrible feeling that can have long-term damaging effects on people, leaving them in constant struggle to seek security and trust in any relationships they form in the future.
She didn’t cut herself as a teenager, didn’t do drugs, didn’t fall into any abusive relationships; she fell way off the predictable path where emotionally abused kids are likely to belong. Her life meant walking on eggshells, trying to avoid causing further distress to her mother. Kiran used to feel a strange sense of solidarity with her mother when in despair, as it saved her from feeling guilty about being happy.
Desperate search for validation and security took a toll on her emotional well being. It was the myth of unconditional love of the parents, especially that of the mother, that exacerbated her pain and made her sow seeds of hope in the wrong soil. While she had no problem in censuring her alcoholic father, she couldn’t bring herself to finding any fault with her mother, who had monopolized the right to victimhood.
Accepting that a mother’s love may not always be unconditional is what eventually gave her peace, than the many advice that focused solely on forgiveness. She now maintains a functional, polite relationship with her parents, albeit with a healthy distance, about which she feels no guilt. It was essential to prevent herself from falling into the vortex of misery where her family belonged.
We take a lot many things for granted, especially when it comes to placing our trust on parents. Most of us are indeed lucky to have loving and considerate parents who bend over backwards to ensure emotional and financial security for their kids. But there are exceptions too. Some might have genuine reasons like being trapped in abusive relationships or suffering from mental health issues. No matter what the reasons be, the child’s suffering too is a reality which shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Refusal to acknowledge problems pertaining to parenthood, often regarded irreproachable, forces the victims to bottle up their misgivings, thereby leading to unforeseen consequences. Untended emotional scars can have an impact on their future relationships where they will be further subjected to rebuke and misunderstanding.
The stress Asian culture puts on filial piety makes it hard for children who are trapped in dysfunctional families to confront their issues in a truthful manner. To move on with life, some sweep the problems under the rug and become Pollyannas while others fall into the path of self destruction, because it’s easier to unleash the pent-up emotions on oneself than being perceived as an ungrateful child.
If you could relate to the warmth of unparalleled parental love often lauded in the stories, consider yourself lucky, but strong belief in its absoluteness will only make you blind to the sufferings of the less fortunate ones. Addressing the shortcomings, along with acceptance, is the only way to bring the cycle of abuse to a halt.