Finding me in mommee

The first movie that Re and I formed a bond over was Finding Nemo. It’s a story about an ocean fish who one day, finds himself in an aquarium and how he and his friends mastermind his escape. For a long time, I watched it at face value, making appropriate exclamation sounds when Nemo gets trapped by the deep sea diver, his dad’s search mission with the absent-minded Dory, aided by the turtles and finally, Nemo’s grand escape.

But one day, close to Re’s second birthday, it hit me. I was Nemo. I was the ocean fish who had been moved into a tank. I had actually walked into the tank with my eyes open, thinking that I would really love it there.

Till I became a mother, I was always a get-up-and-go girl. I had quit the comfort of my parents’ home, jobs, hostels, apartments and boyfriends to break free, to pursue my dreams, however short-term they were. So the one thing I was missing the most in this whole motherhood business was me. The me that took off to Pondicherry or Gokarna on a whim. The me that wanted to open a bookstore and cafe at Thekkady. The me that wanted to grow coffee. The me that wanted to go to Jomsom so bad that I checked into the Kathmandu airport six days in a row hoping to hear that the weather had improved enough for flights to take off. The me that joined salsa, taichi, capoeira, dance meditation, pottery and film-appreciation workshops because I wanted to. The me that quit advertising to run an animal helpline.

Now, even going for a book reading or a tea-tasting is a multiple-backup project. It was hard to live life with a little person always to account for. Even if that little person was something you birthed and loved dearly. And it was not about finding help, or a day-care or calling your mother. I remembered something someone said. “The day you have a child, you are finished. Your life is no longer your own.” At the time I heard it, the free-spirited soul that I was, I brushed it off. That can never be my life, I thought.

My new universe was full of women who lost themselves after they had children and then blamed motherhood for it. I didn’t want to be that woman, but for the first year or so, I found myself drowning in the quicksand of motherhood. I was no caterpillar, but I was struggling in my motherhood cocoon. If you are a working mom, you legitimately claim it back as soon as you can. But I had let that universe go. And there was no turning back for me. I realised I hadn’t thought it through. There would be enough left of “me” after a whole lot of “me” had been spent by motherhood. And that “me” needed to be nurtured as much as my baby.

I found my ways. I wrote a book. I started a blog. I started tweeting my highs and lows. I was writing and reading more than ever before. Morning shows were my new thing. I found coffees and cupcakes. I found graphic novel libraries. I found every little place that set me free.

When the husband asked me what I wanted for my recent birthday, I said, “I want a real holiday.” “Okay then, why don’t you firm up the dates and book us tickets?”

“You got it wrong. I said I wanted a holiday, not we.”

He looked a tad disappointed, but then, I reminded him that political correctness was never my suit. He smiled. I plotted.

Someday I may want to go back to school. Or just backpack for six months. I didn’t marry spontaneous, so I know it’s going to be tough. I’ll figure out how to make it happen. And if I want it real bad, I can.

A few weeks ago, I joined a street jazz class. I am now learning to pirouette and have just mastered the choreography of 4 minutes by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Most of the class is half my age, or perhaps younger. Sometimes they call me aunty, sometimes ma’m, and sometimes, when I take Re along, they don’t even look at me. It’s only about him. They have lean, fit bodies, shapely legs and they move with style and attitude. I am having a tough time keeping pace with them, but feeling inadequate has never felt this good. It’s not about getting my body back or shedding that flab or getting into a bikini. It’s just about feeling free, feeling me. I practise hard, it takes me longer to learn the steps that the youngsters have such a natural flair for. But for the first time, I am not afraid to say “I don’t know.” Or “I didn’t get it.” Every Wednesday and Saturday, I put on my dancing shoes and I am out of the house, in a world all of my own for two hours. I am trying to find my inner Nemo, and I must say, I still love her.

 

This post was first featured as my column for the Freedom Special Issue in the Indian Express Sunday Eye on 12th Aug, 2012

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Open letter to my three-year-old

 Dear Re

Unlike last year when your vocabulary was still on the verge and I had to fill in the details, I thought I’ll beat you to it this time and write you a letter on your birthday before you slip one under my pillow (yes, the number of times you have borrowed my pen has made me increasingly suspicious). It’s just that I have so much to say, and get so little opportunity to talk these days, what with you being in love with the sound of your own voice. So here goes, in no particular order:

  1. I know you are on a testosterone overdrive, now that you are a raging three year-old  boy and it is evident now that we are on opposite ends of the chromosome chain, but it will be nice if you tone it down sometimes. I am a lady, you see.
  2. I do enjoy it when you go to school, and I love that you are on the school bus now and I don’t have to meet all those psycho mommies at your school gate who are either whining about their kids not eating, or that they missed their gym class or that their nanny ran away with the watchman. You going away makes me want you to come back even more, so that’s kinda nice.
  3. I can multi-task bloody well. You won’t get what that means, since you just missed being a Gemini.  But I can be listening to you, typing on my computer and answering a phone call at the same time. It is not sacrosanct to make eye contact every time.
  4. When you tell me to read you a story, I GET TO READ THE STORY, OKAY? OKAY? I am tired of pretending to read to you and be actually read to. I know you can make up stories, but what do we do with all the books we have?
  5. The cats were here before you came in. They know that I am the boss. Don’t mess things up for me by taking up for them every single time, okay? OKAY?
  6. I know your daddy can lavish you with technology. But I am the only one who can give you time, so, some consideration, please.
  7. I think I have had enough of being nice mommy and I think it’s time for me to show my badass side. So whenever you are on a testosterone overdrive, out she comes.
  8. If someone ever asks you why you wear your hair long, please feel free to toss your curls around like they do in those shampoo ads and say, “Because I’m worth it!”
  9. I know that sometime last year, you developed an aversion to baths, but you have no choice in the matter. You need to bathe every single day, sometimes twice. If that’s not cool, well, so be it. Also brush your teeth. That’s the way it’s going to be, until you find a woman who is okay with you not doing it.
  10.  Whenever you are faking a tantrum, I can tell. I wasn’t born yesterday.
  11. Don’t play back my strategy to me. I needn’t be asked to take big bites if I have to watch TV. The rule was invented for you.
  12. I am happy to note that you are not one of those boys who points at things in the mall and wants to take them home. Please stay that way.
  13. I am also delighted that you are a natural with animals and think you are one of them (which, I secretly think you are, especially, the bath angle).
  14. Make up your mind who your best friend is. I am tired of hearing new names every day.
  15. I know your teacher is sweet. Don’t rub it in. In any case, it doesn’t affect me.
  16. Night suits are not brunch wear.
  17. Don’t keep asking me to “run away”. I just might.
  18. All those toys and books you keep attributing to other people? I got them, just FYI.
  19. I am tired of this good cop-bad cop business and you playing me against your father all the time. Think about this: You will be dealing with me far more than him. So I would advise you to be clever about it.
  20. Yes, your father will be okay with you eating ice-cream for breakfast, wearing nighties to school, not brushing your teeth or skipping baths for days. You still have me to contend with.
  21. But you know what? You are still the funnest person to have around, and I am so happy to be your mom. Thank you for coming into my life. Happy Birthday, munchkin!

Pic: Rahul De Cunha