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June 23, 2017

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On Mother's Day, encourage our moms to chase unfulfilled dreams

There will be few among us who will not profess great love for our mothers. And on occasions like Mother's Day, that love seems to intensify, become more vocal. To show our affection, we buy her sweets, take her out for dinner, and — more recently — actively update our Facebook and Twitter accounts to tell the whole world just how much we love her. But while engaged in all these attempts at demonstrating our feelings, how often do we sit and think about her? We know she loves us, but how does she feel about her life? What has she given up for us? What unfulfilled dreams and aspirations does she harbor?

My mother, like most mothers back in the day, married in her early 20s and settled almost immediately into family life — her life was soon devoted entirely to her husband, children and in-laws. But while housewives of her time were expected to enjoy their husbands' earnings and achievements, my mother was a restless woman and she eventually came to realize that she wanted to do something on her own. Her decision to return to college was fairly radical back then and people were very disapproving of how it necessitated a relinquishing of household duties. But she was determined and fought hard, and it worked out well. She completed her education, worked for several NGOs, joined a political party, participated in the women's rights movement, co-founded a women's society, learned dancing, performed on stage and wrote a couple of books — and all after she turned 40.

At an age when most women would have been resigned to accept their lot in life — generally a life dedicated solely to the home and its inhabitants — my mother was unique in the courage she found to rebel against convention. It was, for her, a search for identity, something that could define her as an individual and not just someone's wife or mother. It helped that she was educated; unlike my grandmother who didn't have that luxury and who had willingly succumbed to social expectations, my mother was well-aware, thanks to her studies, of the damning effects of our patriarchal culture. Although she'd been raised to accept and follow strict norms that dictated what roles men and women should play, she saw through them early on and made sure that her own children were not subjected to them. She was adamant that her daughter be given the same opportunities as her sons.

My mother grew up in the 60s, the era that witnessed a man land on the moon, among many other developments. The world was heady with change in so many spheres back then, and she must have imbibed that spirit in some small way; her dreams and ambitions transforming in the process. But she'd gotten caught up in raising a family; in being a good wife and mother, she'd forgotten to take care of her own needs. Even though I'm glad she was able to rectify that to some degree eventually and still manage her responsibilities as a wife and mother, I can't help but wonder if she wishes she could have done more with her life had she tried harder.

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