This is Part 2 of a short series I wrote about relationships that are not picture perfect, they do exist and its important to acknowledge that not everything is perfect, the stories of strained relations need to be told as well.
You can read Part 1- “The Mother I never had” here
As I sit in my balcony watching the sunset and enjoying the solitude, I think about my life and the memories of the years gone by and like the pages of a book, they unfold before me.
I remember those struggles, the poverty and difficult days I endured as I set foot in the city of dreams Bombay to make a living and hopefully a life. Having lived all my life in a small coastal town and having seen difficult days, I knew I had to move out to a city to change my destiny.
I met my soul mate there and we tied the knot. Becoming a mother is one of life’s greatest joys but unlike other moms I din’t have all the time in the world to stare and admire these little beauties. Maternity leave was all but 12 weeks and given our financial condition, I had no option but to resume working. My daughter and son were taken care of by some relatives.
When I look at working moms around me today, how empowered they are and the support system they have in terms of nannies, day care and the numerous articles doing the rounds which talks about how their children are smarter and how awesome they are- I think about the sharp contrast to my times. This was back in 1960’s. Working women was almost an alien concept. Life was a constant struggle. Right from waking up at the crack of dawn, cooking, getting ready and bracing the scorching heat and Mumbai local train rush to travel to work.
It wasn’t about working on computers in AC offices with endless cups of free coffee for us. I look at my once beautiful fingers which have all shrunk and look like they were crushed under a door- the years of typing on the typewriter have done this to my hands.
I was ambitious for my times, I knew I had to build a future not just for myself but my kids as well. My basic education of just being a 12th pass would not help achieve that. I studied evening college and completed my graduation and post grad in Arts.
Coming home to a bunch of noisy kids, relatives who think they are doing you a huge favor and expect that now you are back, everything right from cooking dinner to handling the kids is your job- it wasn’t easy. But what could I do? This led to frustrations and I had to vent it out somewhere. My husband who has always been the biggest support system in my life, my friend, lover, punching bag- who else could I have gone to. I know our fights would have affected the kids and in hindsight I realize the damage it has caused, but back then as a naive 25 something, with 2 kids to support, run the house and a job- life was like running a marathon. I had to vent out to remain sane.
Did I feel guilty for not being an involved parent like most parents of my time were? Even little things like feeding my kids breakfast, giving a bath, sending them to school I dint do any of that. I am thankful for a life partner who took up this role without any hesitation and did it as lovingly as a mom would. But did that leave a void in my kids heart and led them to stray away from me? I do not know. I wish they could understand that this is not something I did out of happiness but I had to chose my job, weekend studies to clear that exam and pending household chores to be wrapped up on Sunday so that I could lead a better life which meant I can give them a better one.
When my daughter was 21 and we were financially in a better shape, I knew that I had to secure her future. My son had his own priorities, I knew he couldn’t be trusted to take over his sister’ responsibility. What if something happened to me and my husband- who would take care of my girl? With this thought in mind I searched for a well settled boy who could be a good life partner. I was clear – a nuclear family so that she does not have to put up with the drama I did , a boy who has a stable job and his own house so that she doesn’t have to move around year after year into a new place she tried calling home and enough money and security so that she can lead a peaceful life without worrying about how to pay for the month’s groceries. Yes, she was educated and could have done all of this by working and standing on her feet, one may argue today. Did I clip her wings? This was the 80’s -I wish I knew women could be as empowered as they are today and maybe I would have thought differently. My intentions were only to safeguard her interests.
When she became a mom I urged her to look after the kids rather than pursue a job for the simple fact that life hadn’t been easy for her as a child with a mom going to work. When she could afford staying at home, why not focus on bringing up the kids. The initial years are crucial – I know I couldn’t get it right but I don’t want her to fail. I was also averse to her starting a side business when the kids grew up- I was so attached to my grand kids that I couldn’t think of the slightest of neglect to them. I wasn’t thinking of my daughter here, perhaps I was wrong.
Today as I am in the sunset of my life , I prefer staying alone. I lost my soul mate 2 years ago. As painful as it is to live a moment without him, I know I must go on for he would want me to do that with a smile on my lips. I like staying in my own house, cooking my sparse meal, reading, going out to spend sometime with senior citizens at the elder care centre. Though my family lives in a different city and I miss them and yearn for their company, I know it’s better this way. Maintain relations from a distance rather than stay together and ruin them. I moved to my daughter’s house after her father’s death and in a few days the quarrels started. We can never see eye to eye. I miss my great grand child who is the sparkle in my eye but I know life will be difficult for everyone living together. So I made the difficult decision of staying apart. I know my daughter and her family are not happy , they do fear for me but I know I can take care of myself and I have God.
My daughter and I have shared a very different relation- almost a formal, cordial one. Where she has been around when I needed her in illness and grief and I was standing by her side when life tossed lemons at her. We have never been friends, someone who confides in each other, I don’t even recall if we ever told each other that I love you. We both have our inner demons to fight, life has thrown many a challenges to both of us, somewhere that has made us tough. I always feel there is this invisible wall standing between us which will only break down when I depart. Do I make an earnest attempt to try and make a hole in the wall to put out my hand and reach her? I don’t -it’s too late now but I know that as much as we maintain this distance, a cry of help from one will be mean the other rushes to her rescue. My dear daughter all I want to say is I know I have not been the perfect mother, in fact far from it.But I have always thought , worked toward and prayed for your well being. I know my time is near, I see I am being summoned, I can’t wait to go join your dad in the other world and I hope to see the wall crumble that day.
(Image courtesy: TheLifesquare.com)