To save time, we chose, on the spur of the moment, to go to the local park nearby instead of our country club. By we, I mean hubby, baby and I. As we got out of our chauffeur-driven car, assembled our one-touch baby travel system in front of curious eyes and strolled into the park, I could see what a picture we made. Designer shades, sundress, chi-chi baby outfit…it felt incongruous among the many who strolled along people-watching by the sea. As I reached forward to wipe some baby drool, I looked up and met the eyes of a simple, sari-clad lower-middle-class lady, who was resting her feet on a nearby park bench. She had a baby tucked into the crook of her arm.
There would be many differences between the upbringing of that child and mine, largely material in nature – those of opportunities. And yet they looked peaceful. Flashback to a conversation with a few new mothers, who spoke in feverish agony about the sorry state of schools in the city – the horrendous situation of demand and supply, where their kids may not make it to the best schools, may have to do with second tier and even then wheedle their way in. How different is life for a person with means and one without? Both often need to snatch opportunities and push to get in – just to different places. One believes that the best is a basic right, the other hopes that somewhere along the way a better life may appear.
What is a better life? A bigger classroom, a fancy school bus, a posh car, smarter teachers? Life itself is a great teacher and sometimes, we forget the most basic of lessons. We are all born with the right to live. How we choose to live is a complex twist of fate, luck and opportunity. Motherhood can’t be that different across the board – every baby will poop, cry and laugh while learning to crawl. Possibly one will poop in the comfort of Pampers and soft linen and soundless air conditioning. But at the end of the day, each process remains the same. Their self-worth should be independent of the quality of their lives, rather should depend upon their desire to be someone.
Can the two be separated? Aren’t we constantly defining ourselves by our ability to attract wealth and power and the symbols of such derivates? I believe a society’s material image emerges from the “best” that we want to give our children. We believe that a fluffy eiderdown will make a better person or human being when maybe a hard bed is what is required. (I don’t mean that one should make a child suffer the rigours of life when there is no need to.) The fancy trappings are – if we admit it – for ourselves. To make ourselves feel better about being parents. In our desire to provide the best, we often create the worst. A society of weakening self-worth. All children need love, affection and food. The rest is – as the word states – immaterial.