I look at the clock. It is not yet 10:00 AM. I mull herding Laddu up for her weekly oil bath and then stop at the sight of five huge overripe bananas crowding my fruit basket. I play rhymes on YouTube and seat Laddu on the sofa and preheat the oven. In the next twenty minutes, the pan is in the oven and the sink is full of oversized dishes. I wash, glancing to make sure Laddu is still as enamored by the “Daddy finger” rhyme. Content that she is, I wash up and clean the kitchen while I am at it. Ten minutes later, I am in the shower stall with Laddu. Her tiny body glistens with oil. Her eyes are bleary and she is squealing in unbridled joy as the warm water cascades on her. I take my time soaping and washing her squirmy body. She clings to me as I raise her face toward the water. I relish the closeness of our being even as I turn the faucet off.
It is afternoon and I am on the bed, Laddu deep in sleep next to me. I reach for the phone and the clock shows 2:00 PM. I could be downstairs folding the mountain of clothes that are now on the breakfast table. I could be getting started on dinner. Yet, I linger. I put the phone away and for a few moments lose myself in the loose, expansive void that is time. I float between sleep and wakefulness. Laddu stirs. She snuggles closer. Her eyes are awake and her thumb is in her mouth. We stare into each other, the depths of her eyes mirroring mine. It hits me with startling clarity that these are possibly the very best days of my life. The unharried pace, the utter lack of pressure to be doing anything, being anyone. I jolt awake and sit up. Laddu pulls me down and we play for a little more time. “All done!” she declares when she is ready to go downstairs. We wash up, brush our hair and walk downstairs hand in hand.
Ammu and Pattu run inside, throwing their school bags and reach for the cake that is ready to be sliced. I shoo them to the bathroom to wash up and set warm milk and snacks for them. We settle into an easy routine, one that has been a year in the making. “I got this!” Ammu yells in excitement as the math problem she is working on makes sense to her. Pattu is working away from the din of the kitchen in another room. She tosses her journal on the island and walks away. She comes back reluctantly at my insistence to put away her work.
It is 5:45 PM, the kids are all on the sofa watching rhymes with Laddu. I sneak away for a moment’s respite and scroll through my phone. I read yet another piece on the Facebook Motherhood Challenge making its rounds and feel irritated. I try to ignore the feeling and move on. I read something else that makes me smile. My feet throb with pain after having been on my feet most of the day. I massage the soles and sit back. I realize my irritation stems from the fact that I find mothering physically exhausting. I have been through infertility and the endless vacuum that it sucked me into. I have been in the adoption trenches waiting for a baby at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I know how it feels. I have walked the walk. I remember feeling the outsider. I remember feeling depressed about Mother’s day and its attendant ads. Even then, I realized it was how I felt, not what others were setting out intentionally to make me feel. I despaired when people I knew became mothers, yet, I celebrated with them and shared their happiness. I longed for motherhood and I cherish being a mother most days. There are times when I ruefully look back on the days when the only responsibility I shouldered was for myself.
Motherhood for most parts, unless you entered into it willingly and eyes wide open, is a challenge. It is biology. It is natural as breathing and living as many point out. But, there are also women who become mothers before they are ready for it. There are women who are forced to become mothers. There are women who feel pressured to beat the biological clock so to speak. Motherhood is not all giggles and cuddles. It is carrying on day in day out knowing there is no end in sight.
So, if my friends want to post pictures of themselves serenading their motherhood, more power to them. I have the option not to participate. I have the option to unfollow. I have the option of looking the other way. I also can choose to celebrate with them, recognizing perhaps motherhood indeed is a challenge for them.