It was 11 o’clock in the night as I sat on the bed stroking my two-year-old daughter’s hair as she lay in a deep slumber beside me. A sleeping child is a sight for sore eyes. As I watched her sleep in that moment filled with tranquility and gratitude, I felt blessed to be a mother.
A feeling that was in stark contrast from the one I had only a couple of hours ago.
Earlier that night, at 8 o’clock I reached home after a particularly arduous day filled with unnecessary work meetings, necessary odd jobs, and dealings with errant Uber drivers. To add insult to injury the elevator in my building was adorned with an Out of Order sign. So I tottered up three floors with bags of groceries, laptop, and other belongings. My body had reached a state beyond exhaustion.
As soon as I rang the doorbell, a joyous shriek of ‘Mammmaaaaa!’ preceded the door opening. Z hopped off her cycle and barreled down the hallway toward me. As she flew into my arms, I instantly unloaded my physical and mental baggage at the doorstep, letting her wave of love wash over me.
This bliss was short-lived though.
Upon entering the bedroom, I went into a tailspin. The floor was strewn with toys and bed with biscuit crumbs. The curtains had white paint on it and the walls were scribbled with a permanent marker. I drank a glass of water to calm my nerves, told Z it was cleanup time and began hustling without so much as a word. Except for the fact that Z was not in a mood to cooperate. While I gathered the toys in the storage box she threw them out again and a few at me. I tried talking her out of it but my attempt was responded to with a big ball thrown at me that barely missed my right eye. I hoisted her on my shoulder and put her in front of the television in the living room, shuffled back to the bedroom thinking to myself that perhaps motherhood was not for me.
These days my emotional graph looks a lot like this. The curve rises to the highest point in one moment and plummets to the lowest in the next. In order to ride the surge and land on my feet, I have to be ready with the surfboard of patience at all times.
What if I was given an option to go back in time and make a different choice of not having a child, would I take it? My answer is a vehement NO. I suspect this would be true for many other parents too. Parenting is the most challenging job and yet most of us who have already taken up the mantle would admittedly be miserable without it.
So what advice we as parents would give to the ones sitting on a fence about having children? Is having children the best decision they will ever make or will it be a decision filled with regret and what ifs? I would say, take your time, have them when you are sure about it. However, the truth about having a child is that you can never be sure about the choice you are making. Not before. Not during the pregnancy. Not after. Not ever.
A close friend (newly married) and I were indulging ourselves in a light-hearted banter about the irrevocable choices we make. She told me matter-of-factly that parents these days do not make having children sound like an attractive prospect. True, I mused. Never before has a generation put so much thought into whether they want to have children or not. The choice did not exist. It was the most natural and logical thing to do after marriage. They raised multiple children in a seemingly effortless manner.
Perhaps the problem with the current generation of parents it seems is more psychological than philosophical. We are constantly weighing ourselves down with our own thoughts, words and actions. Instead of pausing to think what our children mean to us and how they make us feel, we get bogged down by the specifics, if or when we have them, what should they wear, eat, learn, and how should they behave. Specifics aside, if we dwell more on the rewarding moments, a different picture would emerge.
In his poem, The Blue House, Nobel prize-winning, Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer, talks about looking at your life from a vantage point, seeing it for what it is, while appreciating the lives you might have had if you had made different choices. He writes that every life has a ‘sister ship’, one that follows a completely different route, one that did not carry us, one that we did not take.
Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.
Whether or not you take the plunge into parenthood, either way, the decision is filled with what-ifs, may-bes and if-onlys.
The parenting ship I am on is treading uncharted waters but after every night of storm it braves, I am rewarded with the tranquility of the sea and a rising sun at the horizon. To the ‘sister ship’ that I did not take – ‘Au Revoir!’