Why mothers cry.

©2013 Nim Gholkar All rights reserved. Driving to work a couple of days ago, I slowed down as the light turned red and glanced at the car next to me. Usually I see the same old predictable snapshots: well-dressed young women powdering their noses or applying mascara, businessmen checking their phone messages, a wife eating her cereal and drinking coffee while her husband drives. This time I was taken aback by what I saw. A young mother sat clutching the steering wheel, tears rushing down her face while her little baby slept peacefully in the back seat. Something about that sad image tugged unbearably at my heart-strings. What was she crying about? I doubt she could put a finger on it had she been asked the question outright. For a new young mother has so much to cry about. Maybe she hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in months. Her body was not what it used to be before motherhood. Her house was probably a mess, with toys scattered everywhere, laundry piling up before her eyes, the kitchen sink groaning under the weight of dirty dishes. She had probably wanted to catch an hour’s nap every afternoon when baby slept, but instead chose to run around finishing the chores that never seemed to end.

I felt tears fill my eyes as I looked at her. How well I remember those sleepless nights when I rocked to sleep a colicky baby who refused to stop crying. How well I remember those days, weeks, months when morning dawned and evening approached and no household chores were done because I had spent all my time fussing around baby.

I remembered an incident from two years ago, when I was flying from Sydney to Mumbai for a holiday. Sitting in the next aisle on my flight was a young woman travelling with her two month old baby. Throughout the journey, passengers were plagued by the little one’s endless crying. The mother paced the floor, up and down, up and down…..rocked and cajoled, patted and kissed…but to no avail. The crying continued. “Can I carry him for a while?” I asked. She gave me a tired smile and shook her head. “Thank you, but he will only cry harder. He is scared of strangers”. Occasionally the baby slept in the bassinet, but as soon as the mother’s eyes closed, he would wake up and scream all over again. At the end of the fourteen hours, the young woman looked world-weary and ready to scream herself.

As the plane landed onto Mumbai airport, and we got ready to disembark, I saw her hold back her tears with much difficulty. I later saw her again outside where anxious family members stood waiting for their loved ones to arrive. She walked with slow leaden steps towards her parents who waved happily, eager to meet their grandchild for the first time. At last, as she reached them, she handed the baby over to her own mother, and turned to look at her father who stood with arms open. With a tiny sob, she flung herself into her father’s arms and finally wept as though her heart would break.

I’m afraid it is a universal affliction….mothers cry, whether their children are new-born, teenagers or adults.

Some questions are easier to answer than others…..but some things will remain inexplicable, an eternal mystery….like why mothers cry.

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