Living the Guilt – Free Life!

by Anita Menon

Mimi turned 20 months two days ago. I missed her so much because on each of her monthly birthdays I always make plans to celebrate. I bake, cook, and do something special to make it memorable. I am in London these days searching for employment and am missing her like crazy. It’s like falling in love all over again, like one of my close mommy friends suggested. I pine for her, miss her that it seems sometimes impossible to breathe and it doesn’t bother me that it could be entirely one-sided.

When I tell people that I have travelled to London and would be here for a while in my bid to search for employment, I get gasps of horror and unsolicited advice on how it wasn’t the best decision on my part to leave my child in the custody of somebody else. Here the somebody else in question are my own parents, the same set who raised me. If anything at all, I should be more than relieved to beget their support and kind co-operation while I try to kick-start my career. Being a mum is a package deal which consists extending yourself beyond you might have never deemed possible and being /feeling/ made to feel guilty about everything that you do or do not do.

I kept procrastinating this post because I felt I was making a big ado about nothing. But it was when the final straw was plucked and placed neatly outside the realm of my tolerance that I decided to do this post. I found myself justifying my travel to everybody which was not at all necessary. So some self correction was in order. To put it down in words like this helps me get things back into perspective.

When I took up blogging and put up posts at the rate of 2-3 posts per week depending on how inspired I felt, I got a few pats and most of the time some flak stating how I was wasting my time and not investing in my daughter. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of quitting my job and staying at home. I didn’t care and trudged along without caring much because the joy I felt on expressing via the written word was new to me. Appreciation followed from mommy batchmates, colleagues and they felt I was resounding their sentiments precisely. So I was encouraged to keep at it. Since the flak came from known quarters, it did hurt sometimes but I had already sorted it out in my head. I knew that I had given up my work by choice but that didn’t mean I didn’t want a window to the outside world. Being in Bahrain, made things more difficult since the only adult interaction I had day in and day out was with my husband. I sought refuge in my blog and comments that I got through each post. It was this two-way (and on somedays one way) communication that helped me figure out so many things about me unknown to me. The supportive comments from friends who were in the same kind of boat made me resolute and built my conviction on how I was raising my child. There was so much learning coming in and I was able to share my two cents (however underconfident)

There’s this constant tug of war that goes on between how it is inappropriate to spend on self when you have a toddler at home. You are constantly scrutinized and your mommy abilities put to test when questions like, ” Has she not started walking yet?”, “Has she not started speaking yet?”, “Doesnt she do puzzles?”, and when the answer to all if it is negative, you realized you have committed a gruesome crime. You are then made to feel guilty about all the potential time you “wasted” sitting on the internet doing what you were doing. Surely writing a blog is not more important than making sure you child starts speaking extempore before she completes 18 months?
For most I kept my mouth shut and did what I had to do. It would have been nothing less than blasphemy had I divulged that I was only mildly ambitious for my daughter.

My parenting involved being interactive right at her level which would mean playing hide and seek with her, building blocks with her, dancing with her on bollywood music etc. I would only prod till the time I thought it was doing some good. The moment I found that her interest was fleeting, I just let her go to do what she wanted to. Afterall she too has priorities charted out. To her, at 18 -19-20 months, playing with her building blocks, watching the nursery rhymes, pulling out clothes from the cupboard were more important and enjoyable than counting 1 to 10. Even admist all this distraction, she managed to learn 1,2 and 3 and instantly recognizes them when she sees them on number plates of cars. I think that is a fantastic achievement.
Some of the significant people in her life have already decided what was going to grow up to be and I would be wasting my breath, if I were to explain to them that it should entirely be upto her.
I know amidst all the time I wasted blogging I did try to teach her a few basic things which I felt would be the tools she would really need. I taught her somesensitivity – she would immediately show concern if you are hurt and be by your side caressing your forehead, till she perceives you are feeling better. I taught her to comprehend the changes in my tone– she instantly knows when I am serious and when she needs to stop doing something that is annoying or disturbing the environment.
For most parts I treat her like an adult speaking to her as I would to another grown up person. I try to get down to her level as much as I can while I speak with her. She is a smart child and instantly gets the drift of what I want to convey. Though by our Indian standards, she hasn’t start speaking in sentences yet, but it doesn’t worry me as she will in no time, I am sure. By nature, she is a very social child and smiling and acknowledging people in her vicinity comes naturally to her. I didn’t have to make any effort to establish any of that.

So that is the kind of progress we have made in spite of my ravages on the internet, joining some book club and wasting all the time. I am pretty pleased with my progress. Isn’t that really important?

So I have decided to lead a guilt free life where I am not going to be bothered about people would think of me spending so much time browsing, watching porn or whatever it is that they think I am doing.

Blogging has given me the support and the reason to keep my sanity when I was pushed into this entirely new world of parenting. I needed a window which when I opened enabled me to breathe some fresh air. Blogging ensured that I met some like-minded people and that we learnt so much from each other. My writing has improved (atleast I would like to think so) and it has given me some confidence when I felt my brain freeze due to zero mental stimulation.

Getting back to the job front is going to be difficult and so is the tug of war of how much focus on career would be good enough? Should I work full-time, part-time, work from home or not work at all or search for something entirely different? All these questions plague me! For most parts I was worried what everybody would think because the kind of profile I had before I quit included a lot of travelling and I stood better chances of getting similar profiles only. If I were to travel like before, would it mess up my family life? How am I going to balance? A huge compromise is in order or should I just take things as they come?

This is what I think about while tossing and turning in bed at night.

But now after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to take things as they come and then tweak it to suit my circumstances. Isn’t that the most logical thing to do. You can plan all that you want but external factors aren’t always going to be in your favour. Considering all this, I am not going to put one more constraint about what people will think about me, if I start working full-time. I think I have enough on my platter to worry about and manage.

To this thought I say CHEERS and would go out in the evening to treat myself with a cone of ice cream. While I slurp and devour the ice cream I shall miss Mimi all the more.