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  • Monika Satote

What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang : A Must Read Memoir

I have seen my mother being perfect, always there for us when needed. I had very little chance to spend time with her as a kid and teenager. Now that I get the time and opportunity to spend time, I see the flaws. When we discuss something, I see the old missteps of my parents. They accept those now. But, to me, it looked perfect all along. So, how come I am seeing the flaws now? Or are my parents intentionally letting me know about this? Maybe.

Parents, especially mothers, are expected to be perfect, to know it all. But tell me, is there any handbook provided for being a perfect mother? Or a perfect woman? Even if there is, then how do we know that whatever is being told to do is practical? It is not. If we put ourselves on display as a perfect mother or perfect woman, our daughters are bound to follow in our footsteps. Or at least, they will take that pressure of choosing others over themselves. And the vicious cycle will go on.

My sister is pregnant. She is in her last trimester. She indirectly asked my mother a lot of times to be with her, but it was just not possible all the time. I do not know what she must have thought about this condition. She must be furious looking at this version of our mother. When I read a similar incident in the book, I was shocked and relieved. I am going to give this book to my sister. But not now. Some things may trigger her to some degree. So, maybe, I will give it to her postpartum.

All I want her to make feel is that :

She is not alone.

She can do it all.

All her flaws are acceptable.

She can still choose herself.

"What We Carry" by Maya Shanbhag Lang is a very candid memoir that talks about her being a daughter, being a mother, being a caretaker and while doing all this, being herself. We explore many supplementary topics while Maya shifts from one relation to another. Her mother solved all her problems when she was a child. She supported Maya well in her teenage years. So, naturally, Maya expected her mother to be with her forever. After Maya became a mother, her life changed upside down, and she expected her mother to be with her, but she refused which brought turmoil in their relationship.

As time passed, things got clear. But soon Maya's mother's health starts declining. The role reversal, letting go of certain emotions, unlearning - all of that happens. This impacted how Maya sees her mother, how Maya sees her relationship with her daughter and she also experiences the feeling of being both at the time.

“Maybe at our most maternal, we aren’t mothers at all. We’re daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we’d had and then finding ourselves.”

Reading this book was an enriching experience. I felt so relieved, and clear and positive after reading this book. The book touches upon sensitive topics like postpartum depression, mental health, mom-shaming, Alzheimer's and after effects etc. In some sense, it had been educative as well.

The book emphasizes how important it is to choose yourself as a woman. It needs to be done in front of your children and your family because that is how it will make a difference, to yourself and them. The book underlines different aspects of parenting and, for that matter, some very crucial ones.

It was not relatable as I am not a mother, neither is my mother old that I need to take care of her. But one thing I can say for sure is, this book is a must-read for every woman because we all have been there, at least a third person. This author’s relationship with her mother will make you recollect your own emotions and feelings for your mother.

The book underscores postpartum depression in the most practical way. Even if you have not been through it, you feel it.

The fear, the panic attacks, the terror. - It's all there but this book made me feel free.

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