I can compare the experience of raising my 13-year-old daughter all alone to taking a roller coaster ride with enough drama and emotion to keep a soap opera running for ages.
The mornings are definitely all about craziness, frustration, anger and surprise, expressed in different degrees (“why didn’t you pack your bag last night?”; “how would I know where you kept your Maths notebook yesterday?”; “I can’t buy you a world map at six in the morning!”; “how can you not like a sandwich in your tiffin box; everybody likes a sandwich!”; “I’m going to chop off your hair if you don’t oil and comb them properly!”; “why do I’ve to stuff your breakfast into your mouth when you can very well do that yourself?”; “you’re going to break your spine carrying a 15 kilo bag to school every day!”; “I’ll break your cell phone one day, I promise I will!”).
The moment I’ve deposited my daughter in her school bus, an immense sense of peace, calm and joy washes over me.
For the next one hour, I meditate.
I Wish I Were More Prepared for Motherhood
I was about eight and still playing mamma-baby with my dolls when an old aunt suggested I take up a career in teaching because of its “family-friendly” timings. “You’ll never have a problem raising your kids,” she had said.
At 39, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a teacher mom, a student mom, a journalist-columnist mom, a writer mom, and I can tell you, it’s no cake walk raising your kids, never mind your profession. And as far as “family-friendly” timings are concerned, I’ve felt just as guilty seeing my daughter at 9 pm when I used to work full-time, as I do now when I write novels, work from home and see her round the clock (except when she’s gone to school).
Sometimes even a small complaint from her about an unwashed football jersey, a forgotten project or a bland breakfast is enough to send me into an emotional tailspin. I’ll not spend time debating aunty wisdom, but I think it’d have been better if my old aunt had taught me how to not feel so guilty about everything “parenting”.
Equally, she could have taught me how to achieve a fantastic work-life balance no matter my career and my work timings.
In hindsight, she could have also added some crazy tips on single parenting in her speech while she was still at it. How about that?
Writing Between the Pushes and Pulls of a Day
A typical writing day for me lasts seven hours – when my daughter’s gone to school, that is. When she’s at home or during her vacations, I space out my work between her hunger pangs, football coaching sessions, school assignments and craft work. The two times she went to represent my city in the Sub Junior Football National Championships, my writing efficiency sky-rocketed. And no, I’m not saying I didn’t miss her – of course, I did – but it was fun to enjoy an extended “me time” all the same.
Her long days at school are welcome. Her friend’s birthday parties are also welcome, especially if they are on weekends. Anything to keep her mind busy so I could accomplish some work, really!
However, every so often something happens in her world to disrupt my writing routine – and perhaps, my sleep as well! How about a midnight discussion on the Momo challenge? Or a two-hour crying session on a lost inter-school football match in which she couldn’t play as well as she’d expected?
If a friend’s frivolous comment can cause her grief, a scary movie is enough to give her sleepless nights. And who should wake up with her? Mommy dearest. That said, I also feel very fortunate to have her in my life. She’s my pillar of support and my go-to girl for all things motivation.
The Day I Realised My Little Girl Was Not so Little Any More
There was once a time when I decided to quit writing novels for good. I thought maybe this wasn’t for me. I’ve always been driven towards Buddhism, and had almost made up my mind to pursue Buddhist studies, but for my daughter, who talked me out of it.
“Mamma, you can’t quit writing. This is your dream and you can’t give up on it,” she said, and added, “God meets you at the level of your expectations. Keep your expectations high and HE will help you achieve what you want.” For a minute or two, I couldn’t believe these words were tumbling out of her mouth. But then I realised, I was so busy bringing her up, I didn’t realise she was grown up enough to be my guiding light.
Since that day, my daughter has been my coffee companion, my secret keeper and my motivational guru. Need I ask for more?
(Vani has worked as a business journalist and is the author of ‘The Recession Groom’. She can be reached @Vani_Author. Vani has sent her blog to The Quint as part of our series of stories about India’s working women.)
(The Quint is trying to investigate what makes it easier or harder for women to be at the workplace. Can she return to work after a maternity leave with equal support from workplace and home? Does she carry the guilt of being away from her children while at work, and vice-versa? Even with or without baby, does the family share household responsibilities with her? Share your story, if you have one to tell, and we’ll publish it.)