It is early evening. I type away on my work laptop, wrapping up unfinished work. The crying sounds from above filter through the receiver near my desk. I sigh, push my chair back and sprint upstairs. I pick laddu up and hold her close. Her head slumps on my shoulder and her body relaxes as she goes back to sleep. I walk around my bedroom. The last remaining light for the day casts eerie shadows around me. I change positions so she is now supine in my arms. Her thumb is in her mouth. Her other arm across her forehead. Her breathing is even. I flick the straggling curls from her face.
I feel a pang as I lay her down and cover her with a soft fleece. I walk downstairs a swarm of emotions crowding my heart. Next week she will be in the care of strangers. Will they rush when she cries? Will they hold her close to their body, the warmth lulling her to sleep? Will they revel in the rush of emotion watching a sleeping child? I reckon not.
Heart and head tussle as I go about closing open excel sheets and responding to open emails. Time flies. I am done for the day. The twins are ready for bed. The disquiet in me rankles. I want to be home with my child I think petulantly. Images from the evening flash past. Laddu is on the bed trying to roll and dissolving into giggles. The room resounds with the sounds of our joy in each other. Each milestone is precious to me in a manner it will never be to anyone else.
I go through the motions of the evening. Another image from the weekend flits through my head. Ammu, Pattu and I are at the mall shopping for cooler weather. As I ring up the purchases, Ammu looks curiously. We collect our bags and walk back to the car.
“I want to be like you when I grow up mommy”
“You will kannama” I reply absently.
“I want to have a baby in my tummy”
“You can in twenty years” I say without missing a beat
“I want to be rich like you mommy”
“Rich?” I ask
“I want to buy things and live in a big house”
We reach the car and the conversation is filed away for a moment like this. I realize I want to be the kind of woman my children look up to. Strong, Independent, Confident, Content and Happy. A lot of it hinges on me feeling like a contributing member of the family. The warm breakfasts I serve each morning and the ironed clothes as they leave to school each morning do not have a material worth in my head. The way my excel sheets and blinking cursor on the screen does. As I go about reconciling and marrying the seemingly impossible objectives, I realize these are gendered decisions.
A lot of how I feel is unique to me. The worth I place on things are a heritage from my past. My idea of success distilled from years of craving to be financially independent. Deciding to place my infant with a caregiver guts me as much as that dream of working on something that I love excites me. As the two sides weigh and outweigh each other, I feel unbalanced and unsure.
I stand by the sink my brows furrowed in thought. Saathi nudges me gently askance in his eyes. I pour my woes out. He smiles indulgently. Laddu will be fine. You will be fine too. He says before moving away engrossed in a game of 2048 on his phone.
Yup. These definitely are gendered decisions.