I am, I must confess, not the mom of the television commercials. You know the type, the one with the spotless kitchen, not a hair out of place, the floor sparkling with a just-mopped, blinding shine and disinfected-within-an-inch-of its-life glow, the dining table set with an array of food that would be seen on my table only if I'd called for takeaway, the one with the waif-thin waist and skin that has admiring men look surprised when a little girl runs up to her and hugs her, calling out "Mummy!" The one who wears a starched sari in the house, or an immaculate kurti that is spotless, despite emerging from the kitchen having rustled up a storm of delicacies. I am not that mom.
I am not that mom who agonises about stains coming off school uniforms, who looks enviously at another woman's white kurta and wonders why that woman's kurta is whiter than anything that exists in her own wardrobe, and then stabs herself with the letter opener in abject shame at her lack of domestic skills. I'm not the mom who runs her finger over vessels after they're scrubbed to check for powder residue or the squeaky sound that proves the superiority of her choice in scrubbing bar. I am not the mom who hangs around the toilet bowl the entire day, waiting for Mr Muscle to manifest in his tight costume and bulging biceps and show her how to get the grout out from between the tiles, and make the toilet so sparkly clean, no one would dare to actually use it. I'm not the mom who is so cheerfully organised that she can have trays of mouth-watering snacks ready when the offspring lands home with an army of pint-sized terrors fresh from scrimmage in the park, banging plates, demanding solid nutrition instantly, in 2 minutes.
I'm not the mom whose kid is taller, sharper, stronger. Not the mom whose kid comes home carrying a trophy or a certificate. Not the mom whose kid knows all the answers in class and never takes a day off because he's never unwell. I'm not the mom who insists that the kid disinfect his hands with a not-so-slow handwash before touching anything edible. I'm not the mom who packs nutritionally balanced lunch boxes every single school morning, which the child opens to envious glances from the rest of the populace in the class and has them dusting school benches in the hope that he shares them lunch boxes.
I'm just not that mom.
I'm not the mom who chooses her cooking oil keeping her husband's heart in mind, because she knows that there are other hearts in the house, her own workhorse heart, one little 10-year-old, easily excitable heart, and an older, staid, 70-year-old heart, and they all have an equal need for healthy cooking oil. I am not the mom who is calm and composed when the child arrives home covered in a layer of muck because he's done his good deed for the day. No. I shriek and do the voodoo dance and stomp on the floor and then soak the shirt with a detergent that came on offer or discount, because I'm a sucker for offers and have learnt not to believe what the ads tell me, even if serious-looking men in white coats assure me that detergent X is better than detergent Y because they did some test in some lab somewhere which they're replicating on the television screens now as proof. I am not the mom who must have fibre in her breakfast cereal to avoid being irritable with her family when they can't do simple things like locate items of clothing. No, I'm the mom who will bite their ears off even with said fibre-enriched breakfast cereal in my gut supplying me with all the roughage I need, if they even assume I will help them locate articles of clothing. I am not the mom who compares two health drinks and chooses one because a white-coated man on television insists that one of the two will make her kid zoom and whiz across the basketball court like an NBA player. No. I'm the mom who chooses the flavour her kid likes and sticks to it, regardless.
There definitely must be moms like these in the world around me, because that's where the ads get them from, but they're not me.
In my house, the kid's room is a happy mess, the bedsheets are often rumpled, the laundry basket is overflowing, the house plants, if not for the tender ministrations of The Brat's grandmother, would be wilting disapprovingly in the corners. I am always in my pyjamas, with my nose in a book, when I should be, according to the ads, in the kitchen rustling up gourmet meals; or at least in the bathroom, scrubbing the toilet bowl to levels of insane reflectiveness. In my house, my voice is raised more often than it is soothing, the dinner menu might have the kid groan more often than I like and when I am unwell, I don't soldier on bravely, I curl into bed with my blanket over me and expect the boys to fend for themselves.
But there are a few moms I'd like to be, few moms I am, few of the moms I see on the television. The mom who runs with her son and exults when he outruns her, without slowing down her pace in order to make it easier for him. The mom who wakes up at the crack of dawn and gets her sleeping kid dressed and ready for competitive-level training in a sport, the dark circles under her eyes not dimming the pride that shines from her eyes when her child wins a medal. The mom who googles up stuff so she knows the answers to her curious kid's questions, and has absolutely no qualms in admitting when she doesn't know. The mom who sheds tears when her child is up on stage performing, and unconsciously mouths the words her child is saying along with him. The mom who stays up all night, worried, when her child is down with a fever. The mom who kisses a wound to make it better, and then tells her child to get right back into the game. The mom who tells her kid that it is okay to fall, but it's not okay to give up. These are the moms I want to be, I try to be. These are the moms I wish they'd show more of when they decide which moms they're going to show us in television commercials. This is the mom I hope the kid remembers me as, a mom who might not have had her act together when it came to sparkling floors, and cordon bleu lunch boxes. A mom who wasn't perfect. But always a mom who loved him.