"Beta bus baat ye hai ke ab zamana pehle jaisa nahi raha hai," comments aunty, as she stomps disapprovingly out of the room. "Jo karna hai karlo..."
As the awkward air surrounds us, I can feel the subtle taunt slowly finding its way into guilt-tripping my friend, knowing fully well the hot tears of rage are about to pour out.
I look sideways at her helpless face and then at the baby chuckling between us. No matter what the young mommy did, she always somehow did it wrong - or so society said.
These new moms, they either go out too much or leave their kid alone too much, work too much, or make their bechara husband contribute too much.
Yet if they stay home, pay attention to their child, be a good housewife and handle everything alone, they’re also somehow the mothers who whine too much. There is just no winning.
After witnessing a healthy share of supermoms struggle with convincing society they knew what they were doing with their kids (yes, the ones they gave birth to), I asked them how they aced through toddlers, taunts and travels with a smile on their face. Here's what they answered.
The 'clever' mama who knows team work makes the dream work
Asra who comes from a very close-knit conservative community, speaks about her experience of shared parenting. As a 22 year old mother, she confesses how the society forces you to have a child, then criticises you for not being prepared enough.
“I get a lot of help from my husband, which in my community is still considered to be a bit odd,” she reveals. Close relatives, distant cousins, and opinionated acquaintances all make sure to raise an eye on her partner's relationship with their one-year old.
“He helps me during shower time with my baby girl and a lot of people make that... weird. He’s the father of the child, if you don’t trust him around your baby, you’re married to the wrong guy!” she exclaims.
Unlike traditional gender roles where most fathers secured contribution to their child’s growth only financially, Asra makes sure the duo is equally present in the baby’s milestones. Like her, many new parents disagree with the idea of overworked mothers and barely available fathers.
“When you and your partner bring up the baby together, it makes the journey even better, you bond together more as a family, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?”
The 'oversmart' mom who's besties with Google
If you're the child who got away with too much, chances are, you'll be the parent who will know too much. The new generation of supermoms is tech-savvy and knows it all.
Gone are the days when desi totkas and duas are the only solutions to all life problems, contest new mommies.
"I like being up to date on everything rather than blindly following every advice, without doing my own research," said Mashal.
"Everyone calls me the Google mom because I refer to the internet for a lot of things. I find it to be extremely useful from as little as what you need to do for your baby’s rashes, to how you can cook nutritional well-balanced food for them. You just need to understand how to filter the right information."
Mothers of today refuse to believe everything they hear. For example: "I found out honey is a big no-no for babies under one. It can cause infant botulism. Their digestive systems aren’t developed enough to deal with the bacteria,” one of them explained.
The 'modern' mummy who advocates for sex education
“All children start getting curious at a certain age, so instead of closing my eyes and believing that my child doesn't know anything, I'd much rather accept the reality and have an open talk,” says Mahvish Ahmed, a lifestyle blogger and mother of two currently residing in Rotterdam.
Many new moms like Ahmed understand the intricacies of raising children in a digital world. A one click access to the internet opens unhealthy avenues for child predatory behaviour, or exposes the little ones to unrealistic information that might be confusing, harmful or too overwhelming for them.
“I don’t want my children seeking answers from wrong people and at the wrong place. This is why I discuss with them the taboo topic of sex so that I am able to guide them when they have questions, or something they see troubles them.”
Mothers of today acknowledge that despite keeping a close watch on what their children are watching, there is no way to assess every random pop-up advertisement, redirected page, friendship invitation, or flirtatious inbox message. They are thus, confident in addressing sensitive topics without associating them with shame.
“I feel as parents this is how we educate them about consent, about right and wrong touch, and through an open channel of communication we allow our children to trust us without being scared.”
The 'outgoing' mum who leaves the baby at her own mum's
Unfortunately in a society like ours, the strength of a woman is measured by how much suffering she can endure. This is why behind most adults, there is a mother who has done it all alone.
However, as times progress and gender roles evolve, many agree with the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.
“I leave my son with my mom and go out a lot, and people see it as me being a careless mother,” says Ayla*, a 24 year old mom and recent graduate from LUMS.
“That really pisses me off, because hello, what do you know about the time I’m giving him at home or things I go through for him? You’re just looking at those two hours that I go out without him.”
Her concerns originate from preying eyes that attack millennial moms for reaching out to available help. Like her, many confessed being the target for having it too easy.
They collectively agreed to refuse to be crushed under the expectation that motherhood means bidding farewell to their own personal lives or doing everything themselves.
From the world around them, the moms of today recognise that devoting everything to a child without nourishing their own growth came with irreplaceable damage and regrets in the long run.
“Every couple needs quality time together. A refresher for themselves. Otherwise they will be frustrated and that’s not good for them or their child. You ultimately take it out on them. Because a child is a child. He will throw tantrums and he will be difficult. You can’t help that but you can keep yourself sane by taking some time off.”
The 'busy' mom who has to go to work
"There are days where juggling work and motherhood gets extremely exhausting," says Sidra Nadeem, the CEO of Sindbad.
She laughs tells me about an intimate conversation with her mother-in-law. "On one of these days I exclaimed, I don’t know how your generation did it, managing to raise [over three] kids without any help. To this she responded that 'it’s because when we had kids, we were just mothers and nothing else, and you guys are trying to be everything at the same time'.”
Like her, many mothers are working to build a kingdom in their homes and an empire outside, and they don't receive as much credit as criticism.
"I think one thing I have been doing differently, is taking my son along with me when I run errands. He accompanies me for grocery shopping, clothes shopping and to work as well at times."
"This helps me take out time for him, while getting my work done too, and he seems to enjoy this time together and learned quite a bit from this time out. We have to multitask."
Each one of them, being a stay-at-home mom or a working mother, confessed to feeling guilty for a while but "as a mother, you live in constant guilt anyway, so you make yourself feel better by telling yourself that you're doing the best you can."