Writer, Columnist and Author of Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother; a satirical take on being a modern day millennial parent.
We all know that among all experiences that this beautiful life of ours can afford us, there is nothing that is quite as fulfilling as being a mother. Can anything surpass the wonder, the creativity and the joy of raising a child from an infant to an adult? I think not.
Nature on her own part, has a wonderful way of tricking our brains with a rush of assorted hormones that make every other role that we have had to play in our lives seem lackluster after that remarkable moment when the swaddled little thing is placed into our arms. It must have been during one such hormone addled moment when I decided that I was going to be nothing else but a mother.
I bid a happy farewell to my career without a ‘till we meet again’ and I looked my freedom in the eye and said a wholehearted adieu to it as well. Years passed in the blink of an eye and family of three expanded into a ‘complete’ family of four with much documentation of the passing moments on my camera. And then one day suddenly, those compelling impulses that had gotten me to forsake everything else in life disappeared without a notice. I longed to be something more than just a mother but did not know where to start. Tragically by now, my conversations had reduced from banter over cocktails with associates from work to epidurals and length of labor during childbirth.
Life was happening everywhere I looked. Women I knew were trekking by themselves in the Himalayas, some were receiving entrepreneurship awards from institutions, others were speaking at Ted or pursuing a degree at Cordon Bleu. Most of these women were mothers like me, but unlike me, they had chosen to balance all their worlds.
I realized then that as important and precious as those years and memories of sitting around at home watching my babies grow will always remain for me it was about time I started to reclaim myself! It was with trepidation and shaky confidence that I began to venture outside of my self-imposed exile and in hindsight, it was the second wisest decision of my life, the first being the decision to bear children.
Even today, I work flexible hours and often from home, do not earn very much money and , travel without my children only if necessary; but I have come a long way from where I was and I am happier for it. Do I still feel guilt pangs? Of course, I do. Guilt and motherhood are like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, they belong together. Just last evening, for instance, I was guilty of being stuck in traffic and missing dinner-time with my children. After tucking them into bed last night, I was feeling terrible about not doing enough activities with them at home like other mothers, more dedicated than me, seemed to be doing.
Are my children happy with my choices? Not always. My children are bottomless pits of entitlement when it comes to their mother’s love and time.
“You are hardly ever around,” I caught my 13-year say to me unwittingly a few days ago. Thankfully my younger one leapt to my rescue and disabused her older sibling of this mistaken notion by telling her that she would not know because she was too busy being by herself in her room.
Ironically, children of friends who decided to carry on with their careers even after they became mothers seem better adapted to life and have fewer grievances than my own kids.
I realize now that being a mother may be the most defining role of my life, but being me is an equally important one. I am forty plus now. I can no longer put off that trek in Bhutan, the book reading in Jaipur or a brief holiday with my mother in Kasauli. I may not be able to sign up for the month long novel writing course in UCLA but I can attempt the three-day seminar in London. I have dreams for my children, but some of my own dreams are left piled over from when I last looked at them, before the storks visited me. In fact, unbeknownst to me, some more have been added to the pre-existing pile over the years.
The malaise of our times is that we are trying awfully hard to be perfect at everything. We want it all; fit bodies, sculpted physiques, calm minds, steady incomes, social popularity, secure children, happy husbands, enviable sex lives and well looked after parents.
The truth though is that failure is inescapable. We cannot ace at everything, we slip, we falter, we rise again. Personally, accepting that I will screw up, has helped me to thrive in the midst of this beautiful blessed confusion after years of feeling helpless about it. And as important as it is for me to be a mother, a daughter, a wife if I do not hold on to myself, I will be a failure at everything else.