Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The mommy stereotype

This happened on my trip to Switzerland a few months back. After a day of sightseeing, my mother and I were on the train back to Zurich, wrapping up our travel for the day. A station or so later, we find a woman, perhaps in her late 20's or early 30's, enter the compartment with three kids on tow and no one else to accompany. This surely struck us as something not so common. Firstly, the fact that she had three kids, all of them quite small (and no twins or a triplet for sure), and the fact that she had to manage all the three of them alone.

Swiss trains have this family compartment in them which has a kids playing area with stuff like slides and toy cars. The eldest had gone over to play slide with an another girl in the compartment. The middle one was left to drive a toy car with one more kid, who was refusing to give him the driver's seat (Some sort of a first come first serve mechanism, I would guess!). That made him all angry and the two got into a fight. The third was still an infant which had to be held on by the mother, while she had to separate the kid fighting. And while the kid was fighting, the youngest started crying, and she had to breastfeed it, while the ticket checker came and was asking her for the tickets. It really amazed us as to how calmly she was able to handle all this commotion. My mom went forward to help her, but that I guess that was more out of an assumed sympathy. The woman looked completely in control, not even slightly perturbed or irritated. Not even panic, when the fighting kid later came over to his seat and lied down on it to only roll and fall down. While the two of us let out a gasp of shock at the kid falling, she calmly looked down, and realised that nothing had gone wrong.

Some people cross our lives and make us smile. Like she did when she finally got down an hour later, with the three kids following her. Stereotypes talk highly of the quintessential Indian mother who is the very epitome of patience and endurance, while the Western woman is considered her antithesis. Yet, we don't know too many Indian mothers today who would like to parent three small kids like these. As my mother pointed out to me, "And I have the woman in the neighbouring flat pour out her agony on the miserable train trip she had with her only kid alongside her and curse her hubby for not being able to accompany"! So much for our preconceived notions of people...

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