We’re all aware of how deeply our parents affect us. All of us are shaped by our childhood, and carry some part of it with us until we die. It is my personal belief that most of our behavioural patterns, traits and flaws can be traced to something or the other in our childhoods. An authoritative environment will yield traits like low self-esteem and shyness for years to come, while an overly casual environment will yield over-confidence, narcissism and recklessness.
This is the reason why parenting is a tougher task than waging war on an entire country with the help of nukes. Every little thing matters, and adds up to what will eventually turn out to be the child’s personality. Trying to be too perfect as parents will make the child wary of ever making a mistake, while being completely irresponsible will mess up the child’s life in numerous ways. Both the father and the mother have to be equal participants in the process of parenting. This article, however, focuses on the unique relationship between that of a mother and her son. It has always been pointed that a man looks at other women the way he looks at his mother. Consequently, he expects the women in his life to live up to the same standard. This is very much true, even when he may not be aware of it consciously. A mother’s influence over her son is so subconsciously ingrained, that it affects the smallest of decisions without either of them even knowing. For example, a son may not like bright colors because he never saw his mother wearing them during his childhood, He may be inclined to follow a particular religious ritual (without knowing why) because he saw his mother doing the same, He may not understand why smoking is proclaimed to be a ‘bad habit’ by everyone else, because his mother smoked too.
A mother also has a deep impact on whether her son grows up to be inherently strong or weak. If a son is brought up by a weak mother, he will tend to be weak, even if he becomes successful career wise. He will always view his mother and consequently himself as a victim. His consistent lack of being decisive, confrontational and courageous will make him identify even more with his mother, and instead of fostering a healthy relationship, it will breed a co-dependent, toxic relationship. On the other hand, if a son if brought up by a strong mother, who knows how and when to set limits to her affection and spoon-feeding, he will grow up to be an independent individual himself.
In the Indian society, men are known to be more inclined to follow their father’s footsteps, mirror his opinions, beliefs and thoughts about world, religion, politics and life. A son born into a businessman’s house will continue the business, a son born to an engineer father will become an engineer, a son born to a father who supports BJP will support the same party. So on and so forth. This may be true, but these are choices that a son is conditioned to make by the family and society in general. A father always wants his son to be 10 times the man he was when his son grows up. It’s natural progression and evolution. However, these are not subconscious decisions. Like mentioned above, a mother’s influence affects the smallest of things in a son’s life.
Specifically in India, where mothers treat their sons like kings and hold them dearer than their own lives, and fathers are not as deeply involved in the day-to-day upbringing, sons tend to mirror their mother’s likes, dislikes and choices much more. This is the reason why an adult son may get caught up between his wife and mother. I have observed that Indian mothers find it hard to let go and accept the fact that their now adult sons are capable of leading separate lives. They cling onto them, because their sons were their only mission and accomplishment. To let go would be to let go of all meaning behind their lives. The consequent effect of this coddling is that the adult son finds it hard to view any relationship in his life objectively. Every relationship in his life gets coloured by his mother’s opinion in some way or the other, just like his relationship with his wife. He might be deeply in love with her and respect her choices, but if his mother’s opinion of her isn’t as good, then he will doubt his own feelings. He needs validation from his mother for everything.
And as heinous as it may sound, most of India’s mistreatment of women (rape, molestation, violence, domestic abuse, eave teasing etc) can be attributed to the women themselves. A mother can be a role model for her son on how he will grow up to treat other women. If she herself lets herself be treated badly in her marriage, then the son may think it’s ‘norm’ for women to be treated second class, and that they encourage it. If the mother doesn’t use negative reinforcement when the son commits a mistake or crosses a boundary, then she ‘enables’ him to think that it’s okay to behave in that way. All these factors and behavioural missteps combine to encourage a man to commit violence against women, and even more alarming, to think that it’s alright.
In conclusion, our mothers are a vital part in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether you share a healthy relationship with her or an unhealthy one, whether you are in touch with her or not, she will continue to affect and impact you in a multitude of ways for a very long time.