This Little Light Of Mine – Three Terrific Years

She walks ahead of me, her plump calves pumping up and down on the concrete pavement. Her princess boots click each time they hit the ground. Her white dress swishes around her. Tendrils escape her ponytail and the band holding her hair has sagged, relaxing its hold. She turns around to check if I am following and spies a chrysanthemum by the side. The flowers are growing wild, the first signs of spring in the area. She bends down to pick one and I ask her to hold off.

I rush to the car, dump her lunch bag and grab my phone. I take pictures of her crouching by the flowers, caressing them and repeating “beeyootiful” over and over. We walk back to the car, content to let the sunshine wash over us on a beautiful spring day.

She insists on getting her jacket and shoes off herself and I watch as she struggles resisting my urge to help. “I did it!” her exuberance is catching and I find myself doing a little jig with her. She watches Mickey Mouse as I feed her the rest of her lunch and she pouts as I turn the TV off. We walk upstairs, me eager for a nap and she, reluctant. She plays with her doll on the floor while I lie in silence staring at the ceiling. At some point she crawls into bed next to me. Her stubby fingers are on my cheek. “Mummy-Amma, Mummy-Amma” she says and giggles. “Baby-kutty, Baby-kutty” I respond and we dissolve into a fit of giggles.

The alarm goes off indicating the school bus will be here in a few minutes. I slide off the bed taking care not to wake her. I turn and her voice rings out clear as a bell. “Hold me. Pick me,” she instructs. I comply happily.

Her sisters are hard at work on their homework. She demands a paper and pencil. I turn to them and her voice is insistent. “I need your help,” she says mimicking her sisters. The paper is full of squiggles. “That’s a square, that one is a rectangle…” She points to different scribbles naming shapes only she can see. I am overcome with affection too large to hold inside. I scoop her off her seat and press her close to me. Ammu and Pattu walk over and we make a Laddu sandwich. She squeals in glee.

She is sullen as I set her in the bathtub. “I don’t want to kuli,” she repeats. She tries to escape as I return with a brush to tie her hair. I trap her between my legs and she breaks out into a magnificent tantrum. She stomps, rolls on the dirty tub and eventually turns to me with a tear streaked face holding back sobs. I stifle my laughter and stare back at her solemnly. She caves in and goes on to enjoy her bath. I towel her dry and lift her up. “You forgot the Aveeno,” she reminds me. She stands still as I anoint her with the thick cream. Her lashes curl lusciously. Her skin is dewy and soft. She looks delicious, all two and half feet of her.

“You drive too fast I think, “ she comments from her car seat as I slow to a stop at the light. “You think?” I repeat. She nods. I turn left at the light. “Go sclow,” she reminds me. “I am going slow,” I say. She does not seem to agree. We banter back and forth and she suddenly requests that I turn the radio on. Ed Sheeran croons and her little body sways, she lip syncs to the lyrics. Fight song she requests and I tell her radio does not work that way. She is ready to scream when I stop in front of her school. Her mood changes to light from dark and with it mine.

In the one year since her last birthday, she has learned to eat off a plate, do everything herself, talk in complete sentences and ask a million whys. She has grown taller, leaner and lost some of the baby look. She is excessively polite when she sees her teachers remembering to wish them Good Morning each day. She clings to me at the slightest hint of a cold or fever. She snuggles with her sisters each night before bed refusing to go sleep in her room. She follows them to the basement most days holding her own against kids five years older than her. She loves music, grooves to most numbers and has favorites. She enjoys Mickey Mouse, Paw Patrol, Elena and Sofia. She loves dresses and dressing up. She smiles with her eyes just like her thatha. She smiles and her face transforms. She is headstrong, willful and way more difficult to handle than her sisters at that age. She is a power packed bundle, all child, all joy and pure radiance. She is three years old. This little light of mine.

Dinner Table Discoveries

 

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“I will do it myself!”

Laddu’s voice is strident, ringing across the dining table where the five of us are sitting. Steam escapes her plate where a serving of rice topped with ghee and kootu looks tantalizing. My offer to mix it results in her declaration.

On my left is Ammu staring at her plate, stabbing at the hot rice with her tiny spoon. Across from her is Pattu, content to let her Appa mix her food for her. She looks at Saathi who is intently blowing at the rice to cool it down. There is a mix of adoration and love in her face that begs me to capture it on camera. I let the moment slide hoping it will sear itself in my brain.

The evening is young, the fading light of dusk filters in through the semi open windows. The roads are empty. Not even a car passes while we eat.

“Who had a good day today?” I ask to get the conversation going. As if on cue, Pattu raises her hand. “I did!” she says and explains all the different stations at gym class at school. She pauses to eat and I nudge Ammu asking her how her day was. She starts with all the kids in her group and Pattu interrupts her.

The voices rise up and down, modulating according to the energy of the person speaking. Laddu is intent about getting the food in her mouth using her hands. She rejects the spoon I tender. Her whole body is so attuned to the one objective and it is a treat to watch her.

It occurs to me that momentous changes hardly happen with blaring announcements. They happen like this on ordinary days, under the guise of normalcy. They happen in the form of dinner time conversations as a family.

A few months ago, the kids still ate before we did. I would feed Laddu while Saathi would stand by the island urging Ammu and Pattu to take big girl spoons. “Chew,” he would encourage, part of his attention on his phone. My iPhone would be propped against the edge of the high chair while Laddu would open her mouth without even noticing what she ate.

Thayir” Pattu demands. “Getti ya” she instructs her dad who is scooping up the watery portion of the home made whole milk yogurt. He drops what he has in the ladle and scoops up a thick portion that reminds me of icecream. “One more karandi” she instructs and he complies. Ammu follows suit. I clear the table as I watch them eat the creamy yogurt off their plates, their fingers white and smears over their chin. The conversation of the hour before has given way to silence.

I rinse the plates as each child drops her plate off and runs to the powder room. Laddu is helping her dad clean the table. He sprinkles water and she wipes on side of the table while Ammu is hard at work on the other side. The kids troop upstairs and Saathi lingers at the foot of the stairs watching them walk upstairs.

“Our kutties have grown.”

It is a statement rather than an observation. His voice is tinged with pride and something that feels like nostalgia. I am tempted to leave my station at the sink and lean on him, to feel his arms around me as we watch our children grow one dinner at a time.

***

kootu – vegetable stew garnished with ground coconut and red chillies

thayir – the Tamil word for yogurt

getti ya – Tamil for solid

karandi – Tamil for ladle

kutties – Tamil for small kids

A Tale Of Two Mothers

 

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We roamed the mall side by side, me in my elastic waistband lounge pant and she in her jeans. We gawked the name brand stores, stepped inside H&M and walked out with bags. We sat by the water fountain, cups of coffee in hand and a box of pretzel bites on the table before us. The bags lay to the side. Her face was clear, her eyes lined with kohl. My reflection in the store window behind her showed a tired face with greying hair by my ears.

Sipping on the hot coffee we rested our legs and talked about our respective lives. She about what it was like to hold on to her career and try and balance home and life. Home as defined by a place across the globe. Her eyes had a faraway look when she spoke of her girls. One on the cusp of teenage and the other ready for kindergarten. The worries that weighed on her slipped away one sip at a time even if just for the moment. We mused on what it like to grow up a girl in India burdened by expectations of parents.

Raised to study hard, compete with the boys, make it to the working world only to step back as marriage and motherhood descend on us. She looked around as couples walked past us, her eyes wistful. The ache she felt for her family flowed from her in waves enveloping me. I wished I could reach out and smooth it away, reassure her that it will all work out. That her family will be together again in quite the way she wanted it.

As we got in the car and worked our way through the winding exit, talk shifted to parental influences and how they have impacted us as adults. She of parents who wanted her to excel at studies and work, to shatter glass ceilings and me of parents who were laid back and wanted me to have a good married life.

We spoke of the influences we have on our children. Her voice halted as she spoke of how she decided to pursue a career opportunity out of the country despite hurdles so her children would know that there is no stopping dreams, that it is possible for women (and mothers) to have a career that is not limited by their gender. My voice was quieter when I spoke of wanting to let my children know that all work mattered, even ones that were not paid, that the effort that went into making a home for them to come to each day, though invisible, was just as valuable as the one that I had held in the past.

Night fell and with it, our thoughts were trapped in our heads. Our identities are so intricately tied to our gender roles that sometimes it feels like feminism is indeed a battle. A struggle to just stay in the same lane without being swept off the race. Some problems have no clear solutions but sometimes, just sometimes, setting the gender aside helps us gain clarity on what we should be doing.

“What would a man do?”

This is the question I pose her and the answer is stunningly simple. Simple does not mean easy though. Even if we struggle to unlearn the biases that are strongly embedded in us, perhaps these questions will make it easier for us to be conscious of what we hold up for our children to emulate. Perhaps, that will give us the strength to forge ahead when otherwise we would be content to linger behind.

Unbridled Joy

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In the minutes before the clock struck three and the cars would start arriving in our driveway, I prowled the first floor of my home, camera in hand. Just as I thought I would head to the basement and snap pictures of the hastily made decorations, I spied Ammu and Pattu by the window. The sunlight filtered at an angle lighting them up like angels. The birthday tiaras seemed just right. They gazed on to the empty road in only what can be termed joyful anticipation. They held fluffy stuffed toys, a paper fan and barely contained happiness. I walked quietly and stood near them. Their conversation was inane, their eyes sought each other out after each synchronized sweep of the roads before them. Breaking their silent conversation, I asked if they would like to tie a balloon to our mailbox so their friends would know where to come. They ran, smiles that burst out of them like sunbeams clutching a pale pink balloon with an equally colorful string.

The past couple of days have been in preparation for what would a dance party for about 15 kids, 3 of which were mine. I returned each day from a random errand clutching bags and surreptitiously stuffing them in the fridge in the basement. Juice, iced tea, soda, salsa, chips, cookies, the list seemed endless. Earlier yesterday morning, Saathi and I set out tables, spread plastic sheets with cheery balloons on them dragged a rickety ladder over the other side to pin up a Happy birthday banner.

A friend arrived with a choreographed list of songs and the children danced, kicked balloons about, sat in corners eating lollipops and clutched handful of cookies each time they passed the food table. The disco lights I borrowed from a friend threw colors around like confetti each time it rotated. I stood in a corner watching, taking pictures and swiftly swooping down on children feeling left out. Eventually, I shook off my reticence and took to the dance floor jiggling flesh and all.

A day later, this afternoon I sat in the study while the rest of the house was busy with opened presents and talking Moana dolls. The pictures transferred to my laptop and I scanned through them slowly, pausing, deleting and moving on. That dancing is a form of release is evident. The pictures show children and mothers swaying, smiles prominent on their faces. The shoulders are relaxed, eyes crinkled, laugh lines etched on those faces. The pictures of mothers and daughters are what make me pause the most. The matching smiles, the look of love as one mom looks at her daughter, the arm over the shoulder in another that conveys a hug more than a pose.

The last of the pictures is the one of my daughters and their cousin all set for a sleepover. They lie too close to each other, snuggling and making the most of each others’ company. Laddu crawls over and plonks herself right in the middle prompting an outcry. The camera flashes and all that is frozen for the future is the look of surprise and joy.

Serenading My Darlings

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I watch from the front door, the stoop damp from all the snow melt as my children trudge through slushy piles of melting snow and ice. Their backpack hangs heavy from their shoulders. They carry a huge unwieldy  trifold board in their hands struggling to keep it off the ground.

“I love you.”

My voice rings out in the cold air suspended in the tiny drops of moisture between them and I. They appear not to notice until Ammu turns back, the cap of her neon pink winter jacket obscuring her face. She pauses and says the words, clear as ringing bells. They travel to me in waves. I smile as I close the door behind me and hurry to the hot stove.

Last night as Ammu and Pattu bounded up the stairs, I called out “You go up as seven year olds and will come down in the morning as eight year olds.” They disappeared into their rooms before I could figure out if they got the import of my words. I followed them, kissing and tucking them in, lingering in each room as it to savor the last moments before a huge change.

Long past bedtime, with everyone cozy under their sheets, I crept down, dug out the gifts that came in brown boxes over the past week. I set them up on the island, scribbled sticky notes and stuck them on top. I took pictures and turned the lights out on the day.

Birthdays are happy days. I wake up smiling. I love watching their faces as they rip open gifts. I pack treats in their lunch boxes. I dress them up and take a million pictures. Most of all I mutter prayers under my breath, crack my knuckles to ward off the evil eye and when the house is silent, sit for a moment in front of my puja shelf thanking the powers that be for the blessings they have showered on us.

Later in the day, I will boil milk on simmer, add sugar and cardamom, let it thicken to make a payasam Ammu and Pattu love. This evening when they are back from school, I will ask to look at their birthday books. I will sit between them on the sofa, my fingers running through their hair. I will kiss them on impulse and hug them each time I pass them. I will celebrate my children all day long.

Isn’t that what birthdays are all about, serenading people we love, overwhelming them with attention and making them feel like they matter?

The Mothers By Brit Bennett – Stunning Prose, Nuanced Storytelling

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I picked The Mothers by Brit Bennett when it scrolled past me in my library’s newly added digital titles collection. Late one night, I started the book after the kids were in bed and stayed up until past 1:00 AM to finish it. I sat back in my chair letting the feelings wash over me before I finally roused myself to go to bed.

I let the feelings sit for a couple of days before I wanted to review. The book is powerful. I read the book with my hands itching to mark and re-read passages. The clever weaving of words was a treat to read. I let the words swirl in my mouth, swish past my throat and settle in my stomach until satiety overcame me like a well balanced meal.

The story begins with secrets. The use of a collective voice to represent the mothers in the community was novel. By the time you are midway through the book, you are the protagonist, stuck and free in many ways. She escapes the town and its secrets only to return and be enmeshed by it. It is a story of mothers, mothering and being an unmother.

This is a book I will reread, recommend and probably gift other bookish friends. Bennett’s voice is unique, her prose addictive and storytelling stellar. It is an explosive debut.

Highly recommend reading and buying this book.

Birthday Musings

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Ammu nuzzles my cheek with her nose, throws her arms around my neck, kisses me and flits off to do whatever it is she is occupied with at the moment. Today she is working on a school project. There are sticky notes all over the place. She painstakingly colors the first American flag and sketches Betsy Ross in pencil. Her brows are furrowed, her face is a picture of concentration.

“This is so easy!”

“I am having so much fun!”

“This book is awesome!”

Pattu is all superlatives as she writes carefully in between the lines. Fact 1, Fact 2… Her facts are labeled and they are a mix of block letters and cursive. She twirls a lock of her hair with her index finger as she leans back to admire her penmanship. Her picture of Pocahontas is a mix of princess and warrior. She is pleased with what she sees. Another picture is of a tiny figure swinging from a green vine. A blue strip, possibly a stream merrily gurgles as a backdrop.

I survey the scene as a wave of nostalgia and love sweeps over me. Birthdays have a way of making me emotional. They make me take stock. I go over the years in my head. The tiny crawling babies, the brightly dressed toddlers, the still chubby preschoolers, the lanky kindergarteners, the big girls as first graders and now proper little girls as second graders. The years have been good to them, defining features, drawing out peculiarities in each and giving me a peek into the young adults they will grow into.

We sit down as a family for dinner. We pass parathas, dole out rich, creamy home made yogurt and occasionally feed the child next to us. Mostly we are done before the kids and we watch as they lick their plates and fingers clean. This was unimaginable a year or two ago. Dinner time usually meant feeding the children before we sat to savor our meal in peace. The changes have crept up on us. Bath time has gone from fully involved to supervised ones. Occasionally one or both of the twins will help me unload the dishes. They take pride in setting the table. They love emptying the dryer when done. They often sweep crumbs from below the kitchen island. The chores are small. They don’t happen with any regularity. Yet, when they pitch in, it reminds me that they are growing.

On a whim, I look up appropriate age related milestones. This is something I stopped once they left preschool. I nod along as they check all the boxes. It is a sobering reality check especially considering their struggles with reading and math. It gives me perspective, this peek into what is expected of them at this age. It tempers my expectation and gives me reassurance that my children will forge their path at their own pace.

I tuck them in. I watch them lie next to each other in matching pillows, matching monogrammed fleece blankets and a single comforter thrown over them. In the second before I turn the light out, I watch them turn toward each other, hands interlinked and joy lighting up their faces at just being together. My heart swells with feelings. Love, Joy, Gratitude.

My mud room is full of empty boxes. I worked on their birthday invite at the beginning of the month, checking every other day to see if I have all the RSVPs.  I ordered stuff off Amazon. I have gifts hidden away. I debate if I should make birthday cards. I have been browsing for ideas on birthday cakes. The day will arrive and depart without a trace. It is the anticipation. The build up toward the day that I savor. I collate and cherry pick pictures of them. I linger on each going back in time to that day and time. I remember the cake or the lack of one. I remember the dresses they were wearing and the people at the parties. Most of all I remember the gap toothed smiles and the joy of them turning a year older. If the years until now I have reveled in them growing, this year I am torn between wanting them to be bigger, conversational, confrontational and staying the same clueless little children they are. It strikes me that each birthday is a count down to the time they will strike out on their own.

Most of all, each birthday is a week of reminiscing, of keeping score, of measuring how far they have come and how much longer they have to traverse. It is about dresses with ruffles, cakes with magenta and mustard icing and larger gift wrapped packages. It is a day of wishes, make believe and unbridled joy. It is the ultimate celebration of my children, of who they are and who they will be.

Shattered Mirrors And Onions

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For years, this scene from a Tamil movie has been stuck in my head, an early precursor of what families are like. Noisy, complicated and messy. The imagery of a shattered mirror to depict fractured relationships has stuck in my mind rising to the fore each time a relationship falls apart from the weight of expectations and lopsided give and take.

I have quoted this many times trying to explain what when wrong as I dissected the relationship and performed post mortem on the phone with other willing friends. Most have nodded along, adding their own interpretations to this universal theory on heartbreak and grief.

Today however I got off the phone with a friend of mine with whom I have a long and checkered history. We have been the best of friends. We have grown apart, fallen out, extended olive branches and resurrected what could have well been yet another casualty of time, distance and unexpressed expectations. As I hung up, I was reminded of onions.

Sharp, pungent and layered. Each layer protected by a thin film of tissue protecting the fleshy layer from the next. Sometimes I slice it open to find a rotten layer amidst perfectly good ones. I usually split them apart taking care to remove the stinky layer and go ahead and use the rest. It occurred to me that relationships could be like onions too. The good memories of the past sandwiched between unsavory parts, followed by good memories in the making. Each sheathed in layers protecting the spite from seeping into the past. To keep the rot from affecting parts of our earlier selves. Ones that only exist in pictures and the deep recesses of our brain. It is well possible to salvage just the good and leave the bad.

Mirrors or onions, our perception colors what we make of relationships.

Letters To My Daughters: On Religion, Faith, Culture and Rituals

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Dear Ammu, Pattu and Laddu,

Today is Karadaiyan nonbu, a festival dedicated to a woman in Hindu mythology for defying death and saving her husband’s life. As a mother and wife, I probably view this tale differently. Growing up though, all I remember are the yummy adais that my Amma would make and the thin yellow saradu that I would be forced to wear to school the next day. Middle school and later was not kind to this kind of ostentatious celebration of a festival restricted to certain sets of people. Boys would nudge each other and smile. Whispers of ‘thaali’ would circulate and sometime before the end of the day, the sacred thread would come untied and wrap itself around my wrist where it would stay over the next few days turning crimson as the bath soap touched it and eventually turning a pale shadow of its luminescent yellow origin. The ends would fray and come apart.

I pound the chapatti dough with my hands shaping and massaging the mass of flour, ghee, salt and water into a soft springy mass. My mind is racing ahead with what I can make to go with it. Something sans garlic and onion. Midway through my preparation, I stop and wonder what I am trying to prove to myself.

I went to a catholic convent until sixth grade. I was part of a school that prided itself on extensive bhajans on Friday mornings and sanskrit shlokams as morning prayers. I was exposed to Vedanta, the Bhagavad Gita and general tenets of Hinduism. As an adolescent I was curious and I absorbed everything I was exposed to. I also questioned status quo a lot. Why did we have to wash our hair before puja? Why did we have to abstain from eating before the priest did? Why couldn’t I touch my Amma before the puja was over? Why did I have to believe in pictures and lifeless forms of God that adorned our puja shelf? Why did we treat people differently based on their caste? Why did we not pray to the huge Ayyanar statues that dotted the landscape as we wound our way to our ancestral villages? Why did devotees walk on fire? Why did some pierce their tongue and practice kaavadi?

The questions went mostly unanswered. I observed mostly as a curious onlooker. If my cousin (your perima) bent devoutly in front of God, I watched her fervent prayers with surprise. If my Appa (your thatha) prayed at different temples on a schedule so that I could become a mom, I watched gratefully. I participated in many rituals, I willingly bent over surrendering to forces bigger than me in the hope that what Science or my desperation could not help, perhaps the divine force could.

I do not have answers. Not yet anyways.

Mostly I view religion as a quest. Much like men and women looked at the night sky or the expanse of the ocean or the gurgling brook and pondered the meaning of life and the origin of the universe, I do too. I view the many different religions as paths that perhaps lead to understanding. There are others on the path further ahead that seem to have a clue. I also view music the same way. A tool to help me dissociate from my physical being and look at the metaphysical. I read too for the same reason. I am fascinated by the concepts of Maya, Karma and Dharma. I want to believe in reincarnation simply because I believe there is more to our lives than what can fit into one lifetime. I sometimes feel a presence that is not physical and I would like to believe that the ones near and dear to me can touch my life in subtle ways.

A lot of my beliefs are shaped by my upbringing in a mostly Hindu society. You though are exposed to a multicultural society here. As you grow, you will learn and perhaps raise questions other than the ones I had growing up. I hope you will find your way the way I did, through stumbling, reading and identifying things that resonate with you. Perhaps you will shirk religion altogether and prefer to go through life in the moment, holding the experience dear. Perhaps you will find a path very different from the one I am on. I wish you peace and glorious moments of discovery.

It also brings me to the other parts that we often conflate with religion. Culture, rituals and to a certain extent faith. Irrespective of the path you find yourself on, much like me I hope you will turn to food even if not the association with God to bring back memories of your childhood. Even if you end up with a different belief system I do hope the sight of oil lamps or pretty silk clothes will remind you of the festivals we celebrated growing up. I hope one day you will slave over kozhukattais just so your children can savor the intense earthy sweetness of jaggery and coconut as it bursts open their mouth. I hope you will stand over a pan of hot oil frying vadai just so your children make a grab for it before it has cooled down. You see, these rituals are as much a part of growing up part of this family as anything else. These are things that despite their association with God and faith are things that you will own as part of your cultural DNA. These are things I hope you will pass on to the  generations after you.

Faith is the other tricky thing I want to talk to you about. After forty years of trying to figure things out, I realized I have faith. I have faith in a force greater than me. It could be what people call God. It could be the mysterious mind power some people speak of. It could be the voice inside you that acts as your moral compass. The one that watches out for you when there is no living soul around. It is the thing that drives how I live my life. It is the formless thing in my head that has propelled all my life choices. I believe in it like I believe in my Amma’s love for me or my love for you. A solid, unshakeable feeling that just is.

I know not if this will make any sense to you at all but this morning I woke up with a pressing need to put this all down. For you. For me.

Love,

Amma

On Motherhood and Curated Lives

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I woke up to outrage on social media yesterday over the remarks of a minor celeb in India following Women’s Day. My first thought was why amplify one voice over millions of saner ones. I let it be and moved on to other flaming issues. Then again this morning was a slightly smaller, more intimate conversation with a few friends on motherhood and its attendant woes.

Coming up on what will be seven years of being a parent and three years of being a biological parent I have many views on the whole shindig. As a working woman who made the choice to quit, I have thoughts on what it is like to be a working woman and one who stays home to care for her brood full time. I bold full time because working moms take care of their families just as well as moms who stay home do. Staying home full time is a different beast with its implicit biases and guilt.

Two and half years ago when I finally caved into a building crescendo of voices inside me and quit my full time job as a developer at a bank, I heaved a sigh of relief. I transitioned to a full time caregiver of children and keeper of my home without much angst. I expected the regrets would follow and I will one day be raring to go back to a career. The years passed and I am yet to feel anything strong. If any, I have settled into this new routine with aplomb.

The overwhelming physical demands of being a new mother has now given way to one that is needed mainly as a source of food and clean clothes, as an enforcer of mandated homework time and overseer of baths. My children need me intensely in the few hours in the morning and few hours in the afternoon. Other than that they mostly engage themselves. The grunt work in the house which I previously accumulated and dealt with over the weekend, I now spread over the week. I run three rounds of laundry every two days. I fold and stack away clothes while they are still warm. I make dosa batter on demand and make yogurt every other day. My tasks are mundane, repetitive and have become so much a part of me that I do not give it second thought.

Some days when the question of money and being financially involved comes up, I have this fleeting thought about returning to work. I suspect if I tried hard enough, I might find something. I will go back to relegating housekeeping to weekends and slave over the stove at unearthly hours to make sure fresh food is packed each day. I will survive and so will the home.

The biggest difference however will be in how I feel. The stress free lifestyle we now enjoy as a family will be a memory. We will scramble to meet deadlines. Work will bleed into our home lives. We will scour for summer camps in late winter and plan our lives around the school calendar. What I suspect will be missing is the ability to rejuvenate and recoup my energy each afternoon. The tight bands of stress will make a return to the back of my head. I will feel weighed by the weight of responsibility for both home and work.

I go back in time to when I was younger. My mom stayed home. My aunt (almost a surrogate mom) worked. She worked because there was a support system in place to raise her children. All of us children lead similar lives today. I respect my aunt for doing what she had to do. I hold my amma on a pedestal now that I know what her daily life must have been like.

End of day each of us make a choice that is best suited for us. And some times there is no choice at all. We do the things we have to do to survive. To place food on the table. To make sure our children are safe and provided for. Once we decide, we find ways to advocate for our choice. Our choices are self fulfilling prophecies. We pat ourselves on our collective backs for having the foresight to choose the right path when the truth is no matter what, our children and homes will be OK. The decision to work or stay home impacts us the most. Us mothers (and the infrequent SAHD) as people. It defines our interactions with other people and the amount of guilt we carry with us. It defines the quality of our lives as families.

A happy mother makes a happy family. Now, if we all could remember that, that will be a win for women world over.