A MOTHER’S GUILT

Guilt is the feeling that comes when you fail to meet your own expectations. Understand that the feeling is an unmet expectation of yourself and not of the world. As a mother, I have felt guilty a number of times for leaving my son back home while I go to work. It is very common for a young mother to be tempted to quit her job and be with her baby at all times. I too had that temptation a million times. Well, but as they say feeling guilty is part of being a mother. Which guilt do you wish to live with, is the question to be rightly answered.

I have seen women who have felt extremely guilty for leaving their newborns in day cares or with maids so that they could work without an interruption. I also know of a lot women who feel guilty of leaving their shining careers because kids needed the attention at that time. So, when I became a mother I knew it is not glorious to do either of things. I need to choose which guilt is less and I am ok to live with.

And I chose to live with the guilt of leaving my son at home and focusing on my work.
Summer vacations are coming up and that is always a tricky time because it is impossible to keep the kids engaged at all times. Since last year my in-laws take my son to their place and he lives with them for a month or so during summer vacations. I have such fond memories of my summer vacations which were always with my parents and I want the same for my child; so it is a difficult decision for me.

However, I know that I cannot be at home for a month or even work from home for that long – and with that thought I let him go. The thoughts like “I am a bad mother, I am a selfish mother, and he is going to miss me so much, how he will stay without me etc.” are  devilish thoughts that I deal with every day. But I must do what I must do. My son is quite happy with his grandparents and he likes to be with them. He misses me but not as much as I fear. But the feeling still kills me.

I am sure there are many such moms like me who are struggling. But remember it is the quality of time that matters not the quantity. Kids grow up as long as they have right people to take care of them. So as long as you trust your child’s caretaker – go ahead for your take on the world. And if you are the mother who feels guilty of letting your own career down for the sake of the kid – believe in your choice. You know the best for your child and you will provide the best for him/her.

Choose which guilty road you are willing to take because I have learnt that feeling guilty is part of being a woman. Mother’s guilt is only natural and is the consequence of wanting to be a good mother to your child.

 

EXPECTATIONS – MY GREATEST FEAR

“You must learn driving, it’s very important.  Go and clear driving theory test” my husband coax me every time he has to come to pick me up for important appointments and he runs late for his meetings.

I know he is right but can’t muster enough courage to give it a try after I failed my previous attempt just by two marks.  I am scared of one more failure that would put me in a tight spot.

Well if you ask me the reason I would say “Expectation“.  When I see people around me expect more and more out of me especially when there is a test of my capabilities and pair of eyes judging me, I fumble and finally crumble.  Huge expectations instill fear in me.

It happened numerous times in my life.  In school and college when my parents,  teachers and fellow students expected me to come out with flying colours (read topper) I secured a score which was not par excellence.

I felt cold sweat dampening my palms when I fail to explain a lesson properly or derive correct solution to a problem while teaching students because I knew they were expecting me to know everything, they paid me for my expertise.

I knew what was expected from me, was well prepared but the fear of failure, a question “what if I couldn’t match the bar set” made me develop cold feet.  Sleepless nights to restlessness to fall in appetite – these are few things that I experience when I have to deliver.

Even today the situation is no different.  Let me give you an example:  My husband thinks that I am really good in French as compared to him.   So high is the level of his confidence in me ( which I appreciate for sure) that he would hand over to me any official document and demand a translation so that we could proceed.  And when such demand has to be met instantly few thoughts flash in my mind ” what would happen if I fail to give an exact or nearly exact message?  He would surely question me what happened to your knowledge of language which you acquired in language classes. What would be my image hereafter if I fail now?” ( All these thoughts before finally resorting to Google Translate 😀).  But the fact is my knowledge is intermediate (this is in typical CV style).  I don’t have a vast  french vocabulary but I manage things confidently  when amidst complete strangers with no one to judge me.

Expectations reduce the joy of receiving”  it’s a well-known fact of life.  In my case it’s not an exception but I fear lest it would make me stand in a different light in the eyes of those who expected from me – perhaps as “Useless“.  I fear of being the reason of others’ unhappiness who kept their faith invested in me.

Who or what shall be blamed is my dilemma – Their expectations? My inability to deliver when it matters?  My constant battle to be perfect in others’ view of me?  Inability to relax and let things go and take their own course?

Will I ever be able to help myself ?  May be yes.  One thing I have realised so far is that my fear to deliver is a result of me trying to fill in every shoe or my own failure to compare with others the right way.  I have to inculcate confidence in myself.  I have to believe strongly that I am unique, something others might not be, something which is meant to be rejoiced.  I must take pride in the fact that people around me trust and expect me to perform.  I must stop seeking approval of everyone.  There’s no other way to break the shell of “Fear” around me.

But this self belief is definitely an uphill task for me.  And your support is indispensable.

Even now when I am penning down my innermost fears I am fearing how it would be received.

WHAT’S A HOME? – VII

It was a lazy Saturday but Meghana was busy preparing Animesh’s favourite Aloo Parantha with Pudina Chutny as he had agreed to come for breakfast that day. He was leaving India that night so Manu suggested that they invite him for breakfast at least, before he leaves.

It had already been a week since that day when Meghana left the house without paying any heed to her household responsibilities… without even caring for anything… But Animesh’s entry into the scene suddenly allowed her to look at things differently. She knows that she can’t go back to her old self as that will be so impractical because they both have changed, people around them have changed, their situations have changed. But she realised that there’s something that needs to be changed to restore the beauty of their marriage. She kept on pondering about this the whole week, especially Manu’s absolute silence.

Meghana had shared with Manu about Animesh and his plight – all that he had gone through in his life, yet how he had been managing to be happy and cheerful all the time. So Manu was careful while talking to Animesh when he came for an hour and had his favourite food along with them all before bidding goodbye to his best friend and her family.

Manu left for his work after Animesh’s departure and Kabir went along with his Nana ji as Meghana requested him to do so for this weekend. Her parents always loved the presence of their grandson. Kabir too loved to be pampered by them.

Meghana began with her usual household chores one after another. She checked all the pockets of Manu’s shirts and trousers as she wanted to put them in the washing machine for a wash. But a piece of paper caught her attention. It was a receipt for a coffee bought from Blue Moon Cafeteria which startled her. She remembered the owner of that cafeteria… ‘Shikha Ma’am’. She had tried to encourage her when she was so frustrated and bitter that day. She really wasn’t attentive to her at all and came out of the café after sometime without heeding anything that she had told her. But how come Manu was there? Why did he visit that place? Was she missing out something? Is this why he remains so quiet these days?

Questions like these popped up in her mind and disturbed her. Many things came to her mind which she tried to brush off, but could not. She quickened her hands and finished all her work as soon as possible. She took a quick shower, ate her lunch and walked out of the house.

Welcome back my child…” came the words from the owner of that cafeteria as soon as Meghana pushed open the glass door of Blue Moon Cafeteria.

She smiled back and nodded, “Hello Ma’am, thank you… How are you doing?”

“I am absolutely fine… How about you?” Shikha led Meghana to a table in the comfortable corner of the cafeteria and leaned over with her fists resting on the table.

“I am better… than how you saw me last, Ma’am.” Meghana replied with a gentle smile on her face as she sat down pulling a chair looking up at Shikha.

“I am happy… I was thinking about you all this time because I see myself in you.” Shikha responded clasping Meghana’s hand with hers.

Meghana was astonished to hear that. ‘Shikha is such a concerned lady…’ She thought and clasped back her fingers within her both palms. “You are so nice Ma’am… I was so rude that day… I apologise for that. I kind of lost myself that day… and…”

She was interrupted by Shikha when she started speaking, “Now don’t apologise to me for that… I felt it. I saw it in your face that day… I saw a young distressed Shikha in you, that day… Yes, I was like you… very jovial and very cheerful but my inner angst towards my life and towards my husband at a later stage destroyed my marriage… And when I realised it was too late… When I came to him….” She paused and sat down in front of her as tears rolled from her eyes. Meghana was confused seeing Shikha’s condition. “Ma’am…. What happened to him?” She asked.

Shikha continued wiping her tears… “I am sorry… I became bit emotional… He is still with me but lifeless… like a dead man… He met with an accident and severed his nervous system. He is paralysed for life.”

Meghana’s heart started to pound listening to Shikha. Her mind wandered around Animesh’s life story. She felt so blessed to have Manu still with her, safe and sound. She felt relieved as well as troubled thinking all that. She even forgot why she came here to this café when Shikha asked, “So what made you come here again dear?”

Meghana hesitated for a bit thinking what Shikha might think but decided to ask about Manu. She took out a photograph of Manu and showed Shikha asking, “Do you know this man who came and had a coffee here?”

Shikha smiled and said, “Yes, this man who is your husband came to this cafeteria an hour after you left that day. He was with a client. When he flapped open his wallet to pay me on the counter I found your picture in it coincidentally… And asked about it… He smiled and let me know about the female in the picture as his wife. And I thought of letting him know that you came and were very troubled and distressed. I also told him that probably his wife needed him desperately in her life. He went away without saying a word. I am sorry if I had disturbed your life more, dear…” Shikha was in an apologetic posture when she said that.

“No no… Not at all… in fact I thank you for doing that… He came to me immediately that day and I see a bit different Manu after that day.” Meghana gave a delightful glee when she came to know the secret behind Manu’s silence.

As they kept talking to each other more, Shikha let her understand how important her part in a marriage was, being a home maker. She also made her feel that Manu loves her so much and is equally struggling to come back to his old self as she is. She went back home with a new zeal and new enthusiasm to give it a try again after clearly understanding, ‘What’s a home?‘ in real sense though the result was still invisible and not evident to her then.

When Manu came back that evening he found her dressed with a beautiful red saree that he had given her in the initial years of their marriage. He was quietly admiring her beauty in his mind. Meghana smiled and brought tea, snacks etc. for him… She sat beside him with a hope as she wanted to say something but was apprehensive about it.

“Do you want to tell me something?”, Manu asked.

She felt her fingers go cold and mouth go dry. A negative response from him can push her back to her bitterness… But she decided… she will try… She will definitely take chances without caring about his responses… She smiled looking at him sipping his tea.

“Let’s go for a long ride, Manu! Meghana uttered those words more in a requesting tone, with her fingers crossed and expecting a ‘NO’ from him. But to her surprise he agreed immediately without uttering a word. Lo and behold soon they hit the road on his bike instead of their car.

Meghana sitting behind her beloved’s back, wrapping her arms around him, pressing her head on his back, feeling the force of the cool breeze hitting at her literally, blowing all her agony off her life at that particular moment. She knew it very well that nothing had really changed so drastically for her till then but she could surely see a ray of hope shining for her – for both of them. She didn’t think much but just closed her eyes feeling the warmth of love at that very moment instead of getting hyper for the unseen future.

THE END

WHAT’S A HOME? – I

The milk had boiled down onto the stove, hissing angrily onto the burner, the revolting stench of burnt milk filling the tiny kitchen. Meghana muttered tame curses under her breath. She began mopping up the spilt milk when the doorbell rang. ‘Manu! Please, get the door.’

Three seconds later, the doorbell rang again.

Manu?!’ No response.

She rushed to open the door for the milkman, paid him, slammed the door shut and ran to her son’s bedroom to wake him up. For the fifth time.

‘Kabir, beta, get up. It’s seven already, you have to be out by eight. Hurry!’ She threw his quilt back and picked up her eight-year-old in a bid to break his slumber. ‘Come on, wake up,’ she prodded him, ‘If you get late and miss the bus, I’ll have to drop you by the Metro. You don’t like the Metro, do you?’ He moaned a sleepy no. ‘Then go brush your teeth, bathe and come out and eat your breakfast.’ Off she went to the kitchen again, where she found her husband lazily reading the newspaper. ‘Manu, I called for you so many times. Where were you?’ That was more of a complaint than an actual question.

Arey baba, I was in the balcony reading the newspaper. Didn’t hear you.’ He replied, without so much as a hint of compunction.

Wah! You keep reading the newspaper, and I run around here barely managing to accomplish everything.’ She muttered.

Uff oh, stop nagging in the morning! Where’s my breakfast?’

‘Here,’ she handed him two plates of food and added, ‘Make sure Kabir finishes everything.’

She busied herself with their lunches. By the time she was done, it was nearly eight. She ran to the dining room with their lunches and found Kabir still picking at his food. ‘Kabir! Why haven’t you eaten anything? And Manu why didn’t you urge him to eat?’

No response again. She sighed and sat down on the table to help Kabir. After a few seconds she cleared her throat and said, ‘Manu, I have my dentist’s appointment in the afternoon.’

Manu humphed.

‘So, could you pick me up after the procedure is finished?’

His head jerked up, ‘What procedure?’

‘Extraction. My wisdom tooth. No rickshaws or cabs go there because it’s far. I won’t be able to talk much either. It will get difficult to come back by myself. Can you do it? Please…’

‘Tsk, Meghana. You know I hate this! I’m not going to be your chauffeur.’ He said dismissively.

‘Manu its only for today. I’ll be groggy with anaesthesia…’

‘No! Not today. Just write the address down on a piece of paper and show it to the rickshaw or cab walla.’

She stared at him, stunned. Then asked, ‘And what if he’s illiterate; because most of them are?’

‘Then don’t go. I can’t come with you today. I’m busy. Take another appointment.’ He got up and went to the bedroom to get his things.

She just sat there in silence, digesting his outright refusal and callousness. After twelve years of marriage, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to her but it did. And every time that happened she would go on a guilt trip – He’s busy. He’s got too much work. But of late she had noticed that he just didn’t want any responsibility beyond working and paying off the bills. She managed everything, right from Kabir’s PTA’s to the household chores and grocery shopping all by herself. And it was okay, really. It’s just that, sometimes, she thought, it would be nice if he could help, or just say – I’m there for you.

Manu and Kabir left, calling out byes to her that she didn’t hear because her head was muddled up. Maybe she was over-reacting. Maybe she was expecting too much. But today, she told herself, I don’t care. Anger surged over her.

I want to get away, she thought.

Forget the dentist. Forget everyone.

For just one day.

Within the hour, she was bathed, dressed, and without paying any heed to her household responsibilities, she was out of the house; she didn’t know where to, but she didn’t care…

Continue reading the next part HERE

THE NOT SO GREAT EXPECTATIONS

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare

The lady of the house is expected to be a perfect homemaker. Her husband is expected to be the perfect man as in any fairy-tale. The child in the house is expected to play quietly and excel in studies. The housemaids or the car wash guys that are hired are expected to do the best cleaning jobs in the world. The bosses are expected to give the best remunerations. The examples are endless.

Expectation- this is the crux of all problems in life. We expect so much from everyone, from the people we love, from our friends, family members, colleagues and everyone around us. In fact we expect so much in our lives that we end up ruining ourselves. Yes, we expect all the good things in life and when we get little or nothing in return, we end up in having stress and depression. When our expectations are not fulfilled, we get disappointed. Similarly, a lot is expected from us, but we also cannot live up to the expectations of others.

So, is expecting anything wrong? After so many ups and downs in my life, I have realised that though it may sound harsh, but it is the truth. Yes, expecting anything from anyone isn’t right. It just isn’t ‘cool’. We can always wish, but should not expect.

Keep your expectations low and you will not be dissatisfied in your life. The moment you stop expecting anything, even the smallest gesture that you receive will come as a pleasant surprise for you. So, stop expecting and start living happily.

What? Did you expect a lot more in this article?

Gosh! Read again and STOP EXPECTING 😉

TO EXPECT WITH CAUTION

When I heard about the topic for this week, “The folly of expectations” I was a little disappointed. Not because I expected a different topic but because I personally never consider having expectations to be a folly. They are natural for a human as Payal so wonderfully put it in her article.

I don’t think a person can stop harbouring expectations. As human beings our hearts and minds is always on a lookout for something nice to happen for us. We are always anticipating with a belief that something we desire will be fulfilled. But to be on a safer side and counter the despair of disappointment we have to learn to manage our expectations and keep them realistic.

Whom do we expect the most from?

In our short lives it’s our parents and friends from whom we expect the most. Its inevitable isn’t it. People whom we care about and who care about us are the ones whom we want to understand us, provide us with whatever we are searching for. And whenever we depend on another person for something there is a probability of being let down and left disappointed.

In terms of physics, Probability of heart-break/disappointment is directly proportional to the degree of expectations. The more we expect the more are the chances of being let down.

Our parents love us the most, but even then, it becomes difficult at times for them to be all fulfilling all understanding. We have to try to understand them , their troubles, and make sacrifices and even a compromise. Their intentions are always noble for their children and that should always be remembered, respected and cherished.

With friends the expectations keep varying. The chances of heart-break are more because we take our friends for granted. So many things are just assumed and left unsaid. There are situations where a friend take undue advantage of the other all in good faith. If the air is not cleared the relationship may get strained even to the point of no return. We have to stay honest and express our concerns and not let things get complicated.

There is another person from whom we expect a lot and that is ourselves. I have had many moments where I have not been able to finish an article due to the fear it will not be good enough. This self-critic within needs to be kept in check and we have to stop taking ourselves too seriously.

Expectations like hope helps us to move ahead but of course with its caveat. It can’t be done without. And if things don’t go as we expected we should pick up the pieces and carry on learning from that experience.

As the great poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

TO EXPECT IS HUMAN

It was a few days after the results of the Annual Examination of the school were declared. A mother stood wiping her tears silently at a corner of the room of the Headmistress. Her son had failed to pass Grade V, the second time. As she wiped her tears, she lamented how her children could be so (her elder daughter had to leave school a few years back when she was unable to clear Grade IX). She was not so much worried for their academic performance, as she was for their behavior. To second the list of complaints that the teachers had against her son, she shared how badly her son of 11 years behaved at home. She said that they were God-fearing parents who could never think of behaving rudely or causing harm to anybody and that they had so many expectations from their children (the parents were not much educated and belonged to the Economically Weaker Section of the society). But, it all seemed in vain now!

A young woman of 28 years – having all the rights to take the decisions of her life by virtue of being a sane adult – in love for twelve years with a person from the same religion, but belonging to another caste (a great Indian social set-up that one is born into and can get out only when one dies – that is the belief among those who denounce the caste system, but are unable to do much about it) – expected her parents to forget the societal boundaries and give their consent for the marriage because of their love for her – had her dreams crushed only to realize that for her parents societal prestige is much more important than parental love. As she faces the possibility of being forcibly married off and her beloved’s family being killed, all she says repeatedly in between sobs is that, “How stupid was I to expect that my parents would love their child over and above every other thing!”

A young couple was eagerly expecting the birth of their first child. The mother-to-be was admitted to the village hospital on an emergency basis days before the date given by the gynecologist. Her husband was away at work in the town and couldn’t reach to be by his wife’s side at the time of delivery. A healthy baby boy was born. Photos were clicked and sent to the beaming new father. By evening, the baby’s health deteriorated and he breathed his last before seeing a new day (owing to medical negligence). By the time the father reached, the baby was already cremated. He could not even hold his first-born in his arms! The couple’s expectations were brutally crushed.

Well then, who is to blame – the people who expect or those who throw cold water on the expectations of others?

To expect is human. We can’t live and thrive in the world without expecting things off others. The level and intensity of expectations may be small or big – but none can deny having expectations. It’s only robotic not to have expectations! Our desires, thoughts, dreams, situations, people – the very way we are made – cause us to expect.

Can we control our expectations? Controlling expectations would mean killing them. While we cannot kill the expectations within us, we can sure do two things well. One, control our over-expectations. When we expect things, it is wise to bear in mind that others are not infallible. Each person or situation has its limitations. Hence, keeping expectations tied low to the ground would save many a heartache. Two, try our best to fulfill the expectations of others. It hurts to have an expectation overlooked and unmet. The same applies to others too when we are at the giving end. To ensure that we cater to the expectations of others to the best of our abilities is the least we can do for them.

In moments of solitude and introspection, so many times we would have shaken our heads chiding ourselves for the folly of our expectations. Some indeed would have been foolish because either they were unrealistic or mere over-expectations. But, some would sure have been sincere expectations which were left unmet – the joys of marital bliss, satisfaction at job, success in exams, the blessing of a child, healing for self or loved ones, and so on.

Reasoning, logic and explanations would simply be placebos. The truth is that we can’t really fathom why certain expectations were left unfulfilled. But, the only consolation is that even these unfulfilled expectations are not hidden from the God who has created you and me. He chooses to draw closer to us and gain glory even through these phases of dejections.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

(THE BIBLE)