Most mornings, when Maya’s husband left for work, in their daughter’s presence, he would kiss her goodbye. Their daughter saw this interaction daily as on his way to work, he would drop her at school. For a long time, she would express a look of wonder and shyness. On some days she would say, ‘daddy kiss mummy!’ But lately, Maya noticed that this display had lost its charm and had become habitual. Her daughter no longer acknowledged it.
Why did that irk her? What bothered her more? The fact that her daughter had stopped reacting or her casual acceptance of this physical act?
Her mind raced back. She couldn’t recall how old she was but once she had absentmindedly walked into her parent’s room. The door was always open and only when changing clothes would the curtains be pulled across. It meant you couldn’t walk in without asking or knocking. It was an unsaid rule which wasn’t taught. Everyone simply followed it.
She had stopped short when she saw them lip-locked, her dad kissing her mom. Even at that age, she knew that this was a private moment. So, she tiptoed backwards and left. Reflecting back, she didn’t recall being filled with awe or unease. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their closeness was comforting. She couldn’t remember any other instance when she had seen a physical side to her parents – she still couldn’t use the word ‘sexual’ in relation to them – simply because she never thought of it like that.
That was it, right?
She had never thought of her parents as sexual beings. Of course, she knew she wasn’t an immaculate conception! But still, she was just never aware that there was a side to them where desire or lust had a role to play. Guess that’s the role they play in our lives. They give birth to us – the ‘how’ is never questioned or wondered upon. They take care of us, educate us, take us travelling, buy us things – all this falls within the ambit of their duties – all this makes sense to us – but being sexually attractive beings? No way!
Having become a parent herself, Maya wondered why do we forget that parents are human beings in their own right, with their own set of values, outlook, desires, needs and wants?
Is this why most often we fail to understand, comprehend or accept that a father can fall out of love or a mother may want a divorce and the concept of an extra-marital relationship sounds unfathomable? Instead, we become reactive. We may argue, rant and question about how they can possibly do something so degrading, something that makes us feel ashamed or allows people to sneer at us. But the moot point is that it’s never about them! It’s about how it makes us feel within, how their behaviour reflects upon us.
It belittles us to hear other people say nasty things about them – and when we lash out, we’re not protecting them but instead protecting ourselves. It’s simply because somewhere when they become parents, in our eyes (their children) they stop being just a normal human being. We either put them on a pedestal or create this persona about them that makes them larger than life. We begin to believe that their very existence is only for us.
Maya felt conflicted. For some time now, she had been struggling with her need to feel like an individual again and it had nothing to do with her responsibilities as a wife or mother.
The requirements of her role and everyday pressures and stress had already downed her inner voice and being. She was caught between being a SAHM and a work from home mother. Whenever she went out, it was either to run errands or do school duties or after school activities or to the playground. For years, she had stopped dressing up for these mundane tasks but lately, she had begun to make an effort again. She liked what she saw in the mirror, it made her feel attractive but not a sexual being. She did share a relatively good sex life with her husband but somehow that act had begun to feel boring. Seeing good-looking, well-toned bare bodied men, sexual acts onscreen or dirty talk hardly aroused any excitement anymore. She hadn’t flirted in ages.
Suddenly it hit her. Was this the actual reason why she was upset? She had begun to feel bored with sex herself and when she saw her daughter reflecting a somewhat similar attitude, it suddenly made her feel as if she had become her parents!
Argh! Now what? Had she fallen into the ‘circle of life’ trap?
(As Parents, When Do We Stop Being Sexual Beings, And Become ‘Just Mom-Dad? was first published in Women’s Web on January 10, 2018 / Featured image via Unsplash)