"Mother’s Little Helper"

I have always been concerned with the golden years, and have been silently preparing myself for those impending years of decline. But when I heard those two ladies talking last night, at the party, it really shook me up.

These women were seven or eight years older than me. Their kids are either approaching or are in their teens. They work full time and are stretched thin in all directions possible. Shammi and Shubha. Shubha is a scientist at a major pharmaceutical company and Shammi is a professor of architecture. Every single moment of their day is dedicated to either keeping their employers or their husbands or their children happy and their homes in order. Tall order for one woman. Most women I know are capable of complex multi-tasking. It seems it is our lot in life. But is it too much to ask that the members of their family or their employers show some appreciation in return for draining every life-affirming moment out of these women’s lives? Why must they always give and give and then give some more?

Shubha started telling us about the rough spell she went through last year. At parties, during random conversations, we always share our private woes and slices of our lives with others, however, rarely has the telling driven the narrator or the listeners to tears.

Shubha was in tears as she relived the horrific moments of her life from last year. She was talking about how hard it seemed to get through her days, the work was demanding, the house still needed to be cleaned, the kids still needed attention and she just didn’t seem to have the energy. There was constant and chronic fatigue, the crushing weight of universal demands and the haywire hormones of any woman in her forties. She went though an episode of heavy and uncontrolled bleeding, so much so that she was afraid to get out of bed or to go to work, she ended up soiling her clothes with blood at work and did not feel like getting out of bed when she was home. But the chores didn’t go away. The kids never asked how Mom was, the husband was too engrossed in his job, the employer is not in the business of caring. Yet if she had simply stopped, all these other lives would have come crashing down. People like to say that no person is indispensable and even if there is a ring of truth to this saying, even if life does seem to go on when someone makes an exit, people like Shubha would never believe they are indeed dispensable and that their loved ones would find a way to function if they were to take a break. Her conscience would not allow her to take a break. So they carry on, stressed beyond endurance, with no succor from any quarter. She wasn’t comforted by anyone. No one understood what she was going through. Shammi echoed Shubha’s problems. She too was facing health issues and apathy from all the lives she touched.

The Rolling Stones immortalized the mothers’ plight in a song written in the late sixties. This has been going on for years. Over the years, a woman who starts her life as a frolicking daughter, grows up to be a desirable girlfriend, a coveted wife, an extremely productive executive and a happy mother ends up becoming a very useful object, nothing but a”Stepford Wife” whose opinions don’t matter and whose sorrows are irrelevant. She absorbs the joys, the sorrows, the trials and tribulations of all and reflects nothing of her own. She loses her identity and any sense of self. She is just a shell now, a mere shadow of her former self.

What could be a scarier prospect than the one described above for someone nearing her forties? What can one do to maintain ones vitality and meaninfulness in a society that has a tendency to render one so completely forgettable? Are “mother’s little helpers” the answer, the medium that would deliver her to an oblivion that is infinitely more preferable to the alternate, terrifyingly shell-like existence that beckons?

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