I HAD planned to write nice things about mothers on their day on the ninth of this month, but got a little delayed. No matter.Mother’s Day has not become a universal tradition celebrated on the same scale as Christmas or Labour Day. Nevertheless, its significance is to be appreciated when one recognises the multiple roles of a mother the world over.
For only one day in a year, the idea is to relieve mum from her ordinary chores and pamper her with valuable gifts, if any, but the most important and priceless gift of all is the love and affection from her children and husband. That’s all she yearns for.
All these parties held at posh hotels or restaurants are for mothers whose children can afford such luxuries; for many others, a ride around town to see the city lights would do.
Yet for those in the rural areas away from such sights and sounds, visits by grandchildren are no less significant. Fun and laughter plus some hearty screams from the youngest member of her brood would fill her heart to the brim with happiness and a sense of fulfilment.
Female members of my family were complaining that even on her day last week, mum was washing dishes and daddy was watching TV. A summit should be called soon to pass a resolution to reverse the role — when Father’s Day comes around.
The mother’s job specifications are long and varied; her responsibilities are inexhaustible.
For nine months, she is heavy with the baby, she is responsible for the choice of right food she eats and shares with the baby. She craves for a kind of food, not always available: craving for durian when the fruit is not in season, for seafood when the sea is rough. That’s rather stressful for her. She has to go for regular health checkups just to make sure that everything is all right before delivery.
The day she gives birth to the baby is the most critical stage of her life and that of the baby. Her joy in bringing a human being into the world, if all goes well, must be tremendous — only she herself can describe; otherwise, the heartbreak.
Then begins her focus on giving the baby the best treatment she can? tender affection. This is the time she needs others to help. Where is the daddy? This is the beginning of her hopes and fears.
For the baby’s informal education, mother is the first teacher. Then comes preschool, followed by formal education as far as university, if possible. That, one can safely assume, is the vision and mission of every mother.
She is a consultant in the choice of the right dress for her girl, including the choice of a husband. If any young man is interested in her daughter, mum wants to have a say in the matter. However, I’m told that the old strategy ‘Mother to begin, daughter to win’ does not always work these days.
She insists on picking the right girl for her son. Often her opinion is overruled as being undemocratic and anachronistic.
Her mission is full of obstacles and challenges, but she accepts all these as part and parcel of her duties to humankind.
It is a battle that lasts her life time.
As Joaquin Miller says in the poem:
“The bravest battle that ever was fought;
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not;
It was fought by the mothers of men.”
At this juncture, we must spare a thought for the solo mothers and appreciate their battling with life. Whatever little support, moral or financial, that the neighbours can render, it will be a true kindness amply blessed.
There is no suitable tribute for the mother, solo one included, than that song called ‘Ibu’ (mother) by the late Tan Sri P Ramlee, who regarded his mother as the Queen of his Heart.
To me my mother was the mother of all mothers.
Let’s pray for the souls of those mothers who were caught in the crossfires and killed during current wars in many parts of this world as well as those who died during the recent natural disasters.
If the mother is the first teacher of a child, father must be the headmaster. Both are to be role models for the baby.
All parents wish their baby to grow the way they wish it to be — a good man or woman.
As Confucius says: “The sapling is so bent so shall the tree grow.”
Of course, in real life, many other factors and influences affect the behaviour of the child in later life. The Freudian psychologists of the 20th century would put the blame on the mother whose son has eloped with the neighbour’s wife, or whose daughter has gone out with wrong company.
However, the surrounding circumstances in which she brings up her child have a lot to do with the traits of the said son or daughter too.
The availability of drugs, the easy access to news about copycat crimes and material affluence? all these have contributed to social problems beyond the power of the mother who is mostly stationed in the kitchen.
Little wonder then that many women — and mothers among them — have been trying to change the world by participating in electoral politics, introducing reforms and change.
When Corazon Aquino saw that crime paid in respect of her husband’s assassination and that rampant corruption by people in authority went unpunished, she rose to put things right in the Philippines.
When the moguls and the maharajahs were so filthy rich while the millions of ordinary Indians so dirt poor, Indira Ghandi initiated reforms to the system of government. When she died from an assassin’s bullet, her death was for other mothers in India.
Many other examples of mothers doing more than their fair share of duties have been written about. As more Malaysian mothers are on the field now as politicians or captains of industry or in positions of responsibility, perhaps, one day soon, we will be able to write about their roles and legacies. For now we wish them well in their pursuits to improve the conditions of our motherland for the sake of those children who will inherit it.
Another tribute, a cliche, paid to a mother is her role as the woman behind the successful man. Not any woman, but his wife. Can it also be said that behind every successful woman there is a man? Not any man but her husband.
Not all mothers are perfect; they can’t be. As human beings, they fall by the way side from time to time. Many mothers cannot cope with the stress that their jobs demand. It is easy to say that it is the fate of womanhood. They need the help of others. Where are the children?
For the sake of the family, society expects that the father and the mother go back to their original pact — the terms and conditions that they agreed upon during the courting days and repeated at the wedding ceremony: to stick by each other for better or for worse.
Next time someone else must write about Father’s Day and his role in the family. Let’s watch how he handles the nappies.