Monday, January 4, 2016

Learning and Unlearning to be a Mom

Also published on Huffington Post India

It was just a few months back when I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep on my makeshift bed inside a darkened cabin, the sky an inky blue outside. I was feeling angry at myself. It had been two days since I had been crying non-stop. This wallowing-in-misery-woman was so unlike me. There’s no escaping misery. But it doesn’t take me too long to bounce back to my normal cheerful self – but not this time. 

For weeks I had been telling myself, I’ll be able to cope better this time. But as we got into our cab, ready to fly in a few hours to a country thousands of miles away from our daughter, my dam of resolve broke. The first time was when she had just started her 1st semester in one of the most difficult to get into colleges in Delhi. My husband and I flew off to Australia where he was to take over a new position in his company. Remember the baffling pain you felt as your pelvic bones contracted and expanded to expel your little bundle of flesh? As our plane took off, I felt the same pain but this time it was in my heart.

As a mother there are certain things you must learn. You have to let go of your child even if it breaks your heart. The sooner you do it, the better it is for her. Like the time she came back home crying, complaining about the bully in her school bus who’d trouble her needlessly. As much as you’d want to hunt that boy and beat him to pulp, you’d steel yourself before looking at her and saying – you have to learn to fight your own battles, my love! This is certainly not the last time when someone will try to make you feel weak, feel like shit, but despite the feeling of helplessness, you have to get up and fight.

When at times she’d feel wronged and blame others for her trouble, you had to be harsh and say maybe the problem lay with her and not with others. You cannot cluck protectively around her forever. There comes a time when you have to tell her, not everyone will love you and that’s perfectly okay! That it’s okay not to score top grades but not okay to not have tried your best. Every effort however herculean will not fetch results.

The first time she wanted to go for a late evening party with her friends, you had to put your fears aside and say yes and then overcome the urge to text her constantly to find out if she’s okay. I have kept awake all night, waiting for her to text and say, she’s reached her hostel safely. When I finally did call her, close to dawn, sick with worry, I didn’t know whether to feel angry or relieved when I found out she’d forgotten she was meant to text me! The awareness that she may not care as much as you care for her is heartbreaking. But you learn to live with it.


They say maternal love comes naturally to a woman especially when she holds her baby for the first time. I was too exhausted to feel anything. When she’d lustily cry all night keeping me awake, I felt more terrified than the familiar tug of love. Am I holding her properly? What if I drop her! Why does she poop and pee so much! What if I can never love her! Why didn’t anyone tell me motherhood is so bad!

They don’t because despite the tears of frustration while you haul your sore body to feed your baby nearly every hour, despite the terrible realisation that your life will never be the same again, when your baby who keeps you on tenterhooks all day and night, looks at you and gurgles with pleasure – your heart lurches with a love so strong that it takes you by surprise. Suddenly it’s you and your baby against the world and you have to protect her at all costs.

With her you share a love so primal that when you finally get a few hours off from being a Mom, free to do your own things, you are unable to do anything but think of her. Years later, when she was ten, and my husband and I took our first vacation in Europe away from her, she was there with me when the sound of the alpine horn gave me goose-bumps, when we drove through the majestic black-forest, when I took a bite of the most delicious marzipan pastry….

When we were in Australia, I’d store all our happy memories from a good meal at a restaurant, discovering the most beautiful trail alongside the Brisbane river or standing on top of Mount Cootha admiring the panoramic view of the city and replay them all every time she’d visit us. It’s not happiness till you’ve shared it with her.

The other night when she called me, she was sobbing uncontrollably. Just like me a few months back. When she finally was finally able to talk I knew she was going through the first bout of homesickness. The selfish part of me felt relieved. Just like it was torn between happiness and wistfulness to know her daughter was deliriously happy pursuing her dream subject, meeting new people, being able to relate to them, experiencing the new and the highs in a foreign country, all on her own. Only this time she didn’t have me to share every minute detail of the hours she spent at school, her new crush, the nasty teacher stingy with grades or her tete-a-tetes with her friends.

I am now a spectator to her life, cheering loudly as she sets out to conquer the world but ready to be at her side if she faces defeat.

Yet, when my friends cluck sympathetically, wondering how I’m managing without my only child, I bristle with indignation. Yes, I do miss her terribly but I am happy. There’s so much to discover about myself and my journey has just begun.


http://blog.blogadda.com/2016/01/12/tangy-tuesday-picks-january-12-2016-indian-blog-posts






88 comments:

  1. I haven't read anything more honest from a mother in the recent times. Hugs to you and your big girl. These are all lessons for a mother like me because sooner or later my little girls will fly away from my nest.

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    1. Make more friends, keep surprising yourself and you'll be okay :-)

      Thank you for your kind words.

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  2. This is so heart wrenching! I may not understand your pain completely now, but I am sure words cant do justice to what you feel. I hope you get over it soon. Wish you peace of mind.

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    1. Oh deah, I managed to make everyone feel miserable with this post.

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  4. Completely agree with you there....sometimes I feel they should have a downloadable program which could include self-control and an energy resource that never depletes. I guess it will make life easier. I hope!

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    1. Deepali, it's we who complicate our lives.

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  5. I felt happy and proud and sad and emotional and fearful and hopeful all at the same time reading this. Like a parent. And I'm not even one!
    Probably your best, Purba.

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    1. I hope not! How else will I motivate myself to continue writing :-)

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  6. It's not happiness till you've shared it with them. True.
    Such a heartwarming, straight from the heart post.
    Sharing.

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  7. This post resounds loudly . Especially fighting their own battles, not being a silent and unjust spectator when they are in the wrong.... When we see them feeling miserable and then strong with each fall, it's time to prime ourselves too on a different parallel path. Honest post, Purba . Truly appreciate that :)

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    1. A comment so lyrical, it made me pause.

      Thank you for reading, Ilakshee.

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  8. You know, I am so fearful of that time. I am already wondering how I will cope when the elder one will step out of the home. And then I go back to my own experiences. It's difficult but it's the only way. We cry; we grieve; we eventually adjust. Such a lovely post! One I could completely understand. As a matter of fact, parenting all through the years is about letting go a little by little.

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    1. Life will assume a different pattern. You'll rediscover hours of leisure.

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  9. Hang in there. The hardest part of parenting is letting go, it is also the most valuable lesson life teaches. It gets better (so I keep telling myself).

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    1. Tough but something one has to for the sake of peace of mind :-)

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  10. So much that resonates with me in this post, Purba. I love the way you've spoken so gut-wrenchingly about the pain of childbirth and how it breaks us too when we have to let go. So damn hard, so very damn hard. The best thing I've read this year :)

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    1. I did not enjoy writing this post. But this was something I had to do.

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  11. This is the most heart rending post that I have read from you! Thank you for sharing this with us, because it not only shares sentiments of all the mothers out there ,but is also a reminder to all the daughters like me of the unconditional love that we are blessed to have and, how sometimes, we have simply broken our mum's heart by our simple and unintentional acts of say, not texting. It just reminds me how much my mum misses me, without even saying anything about it, for days together at times. Thank you, again.

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    1. It helps to call her once in a while and tell her you miss her.

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  12. I am not too far off from this stage, a couple of years at the most! The mere thought of cutting the cord, tosses me into depresssion. My daughter just returned today from her first long trip sans family. The 10 days without her at home were the longest ever. But like you said, it is necessary to set them and yourself free. A post direct dil se, dil tak.

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    1. which is why it is so important to have interests of your own.

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  13. Reading this post has actually made me sit back and Realise what a spoilt brat i was , or how bad i was .. reminds me of the times when Mom would call without realising what time it was in uk.. she just wanted to know if i have come back to hostel or home later..

    I never txted , took it for granted so many..

    I still remember an incident it was a long time back during the terrorirst days in punjab india, I was chosen to represent my college in the youth festival at Thapar engineering college patiala, on the very first night , there was a terrorist attack and many students were shot.. as dawn came new spread like wild fire , and there were my Mum and Dad in their nightsuits .. trying to look for me in the crowd.. I did not even realise to call them to say i was safe.. they had to travel all the way , Now reading your post makes me realise what an ordeal they would have gone through when they heard the news and then had to travel all the way ...

    Beautiful post Mam... Thank you

    Bikram's

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    1. I think it's more about trying to assert that you're an adult now, who no longer needs to run to his Mom for solace. As teens we are so busy discovering freedom, we unwittingly end up hurting our parents.

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  14. Such a heart-warming piece from an otherwise humour blogger! You moved me to tears, Purba.

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    1. Funny people have a heart too :p

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  15. Reading your heart after a long time, Purba. So beautiful. I remember starting to let go when the kids began walking, but even then, when the elder one began descending the steps (reluctantly, I told myself), while going away to hostel, I wanted to run and hug him and not let him go, for I knew that in future he would come back, for visits, but not to roost -- ever. We learn, we cope and we go on. And yes, we are there on the sidelines cheering or weeping, no matter how old they become. Hugs to both of you.

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    1. There so much to learn from you, Zephyr. You are an admirable woman and a Mother.

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  16. Jeez! Every mother's agony to let go and you said it so well :)
    Xoxo

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  17. Several things that you mention in this post resonate with me, though my son is only a toddler as of now. Even during this phase of life, as he grows up, and becomes more independent, we learn to let go little by little. Though I don't think it compares to what we will have to do, in a decade or so, and I am not sure there is anything we can do to be prepared for it. But you are right, we have a life, which has to go on, even when they are not by our side, though they are always in our thoughts and hearts.

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    1. Enjoy this phase. You will miss it the most when he grows up.

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  18. Ah, how well you have expressed what we struggle with every day! I can well imagine what an empty nester life must be like because I play it in my mind everyday of how my life will be when my kids leave! It always alternates between being excited about the possibilities of all I can accomplish and bouts of depression and yearning to be with them!
    Hugs to you and looking forward to reading a post on your new journey too!

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    1. I embarked on that journey almost 4 years back...still a learner though.

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  19. HI Purba, my first visit to your blog and I read this post. I can relate to a lot of things you wrote. My new bundle of joy is a newborn and yes, I feel tired and overwhelmed being a mother to a little one. But YES, when she kisses my face, when she smiles at me and when she signals she wants to come to me, I forget everything. It is a bliss to be a mother to a little one.

    Then, I have an elder one, almost 8. Yes, you can notice this age gap :-) so I can relate to a lot what you wrote about bullies, non stop conversations about schools/friends etc. I have to be strong to let her fall and bounce back on her own, no matter how weak and scared I feel from inside. I am so protective yet can't be explicit. Yes, I am growing up too, to be a mother, to be a stronger person.

    Isn't motherhood such an amazing feeling where you love, you care, you tend, you protect and @ the same time you are weak, you feel miserable at times. Yes, it's a journey to a new you. Wishing you luck and strength, and for your daughter, I wish rainbows and beauty.

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    1. The mother-child bond is love in its purest form.

      And yes, like you said - it's not just them who grow up.

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  20. Totally relate to the feeling and made me very emotional..so what if I am only a father ....

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    1. Don't ever say 'only a father'.

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  21. Everyday I have to remind myself that I was once in the very place as they are now...and to breath easy.
    Lovely post as ever.

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  22. Purba, i am mentally preparing myself for the separation. A year more to go. But i resolve to be the spectator so my son could fly. Loved the post.

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    1. All the best for the journey.

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  23. Purba, i am mentally preparing myself for the separation. A year more to go. But i resolve to be the spectator so my son could fly. Loved the post.

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  24. Hello Purba,

    I can bet...A tear must rolled out your eye while writing this.I really appreciate Mother's let go sacrifices.

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    1. Well, it wasn't exactly fun writing this one.

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  25. For this one, you seem to have let go off your characteristic humour along with your daughter. A bit too heavy with emotions, this is a refreshing post. Very un-Purbalike but equally engaging in its sincerity and relatability.

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    1. I still don't know what Purba-like is :-)

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  26. I cried through the post with you Purba. I have not yet witnessed the pang of separation since my kids are little but the very thought of it shakes me sometimes. You are a brave mother indeed. Your words are going to stay with me for a long time. Lots of hugs to you. Your daughter is going to be a strong person like you, mature enough to stand up for herself.

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    1. I'm so sorry! Didn't mean to write a tear jerker.

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  27. I've read your funny posts and laughed a lot. Was surprised to see this aspect of your writing. Not that I know much, mind you! It was so emotional!

    I'm a father of a six years old daughter. It was heart rendering! I could feel the pain and longing you must have gone through.

    Your daughter is lucky!

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    1. Hey, funny people have emotions too!

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    2. I agree. It's just that we are so used to laughter, we find it unexpected. The stark contrast makes the dark emotions stand out.

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  28. Such a beautiful post to start my New Year! This has been truly expressed wonderfully as we are similarly placed:) The beauty lies in the fact, that the wings that you have blessed your young one will make her fly higher to conquer the world! Best wishes, Purba!

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    1. Thank you for your wishes, Rahul.

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  29. As a mother, I can relate to each and every word. I know, I've to let my kid go for his own betterment. Perhaps, I'll come back to read this again.

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    1. To know you can't hold on to him forever is good for both of you :-)

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  30. And now I've made a mental note to be in constant touch with mom once I leave for college, which is only months away! Glad to have read this post :)

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  31. Such an endearing post from you. Loved it. I used to always think, I won't be like others..I am going to be fine...but as he is growing older each year, I am lobbying on the fact if he can go to a local college....how selfish am I, right? And about my daughter..I don't even want to think that far now....12 more years to go :) Hugs to you. good luck to the big girl. May she achieve all the heights she has dreamt of.

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    1. You won't be. You'll find newer experiences, make more friends and do what you had no time for earlier.

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  32. Wow ! That was one amazing post Purba. Encapsulating so many emotions of motherhood so well ! Sad are the children whose parents dont let go when its time and keep holding on. I have witnessed, their lives derail because of over-protectiveness. You have so beautifully equated the heart-wrenching feeling when you let go of your child to the physical pain of labor. I am still some way off from feeling this, but its difficult to right now imagine what I will go through.Your post gave me an inkling and I already have a heaviness in my chest.

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    1. Geez...I have made so many of you miserable with this post.

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  33. How true! Mother's spend all their lives devoted to their kids, some day when the kids move out for their aspirations, it is extremely difficult for the mothers to come to terms with that. No amount of preparation, can help them prepare for what's in store.

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    1. I didn't even prepare myself for it :-)

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  34. Loved reading this, Purba. Hands down, one of the most poignant and touching pieces from a mother that I've read recently.
    And kudos to you for letting her fight her own battles; that's the best way forward.

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  35. Such a lovely piece Purba. I wonder what happens when kids go away. You don't want them to but it is a cycle. All the best to your girl.

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    1. It's a learning experience. You fall and rise again.

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  36. The strong bond and maternal love can make one feel helpless. I did cry a lot when I was away from parents. Guess, time flies and one doesn't realize it.

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    1. Time flies and does a wonderful job of healing.

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  37. I have already begun to feel all that you mean and more.. It took me a while to come to terms with being a mother (yeah that sorta is the reason behind my absence)... frankly speaking, I freaked out. But like you said, despite those odd hours and the frustrations of life not being the same anymore, the love I feel for the little one is like none I have felt before.
    Recently I came across an article which i keep going back to... when I read your post, that piece kept replaying in my mind.. it spoke about preparing our kids for the road and not building a road for them.. I keep telling myself that (yep, have started rather early) as I trudge along...

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    1. In the meantime, relish the moments even if there are days you want to run off and never come back :-)

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  38. This was a very heartfelt post purba. As the only child of parents, I have always struggled with the idea of what I am putting them through because of my choice of staying away. Your words have provided a voice to those thoughts.
    From the other side, the kids see their parents grow as well. We are spectators of them growing accustomed to living alone and without us. We try to watch over as closely as we can, and, at times, take solace that parents can handle anything ! :)

    I am truly touched, purba. Brilliant :)

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    1. One of the reasons I like writing is, it makes you introspect and ask yourself so many questions and helps you find the answers.

      All the best for your new innings, Prateek.

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  39. This is so heartwrenchingly written, Purba. I am missing my kid's baby days. I can't even begin to think how it's going to be when it is time for him to leave the nest. Every parent will be able to resonate with this post.

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    1. But when my daughter was a baby I was waiting impatiently for her to grow up.

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  40. Congratulations! Your blog post was selected for Tangy Tuesday Picks edition on Jan 12, 2016 at BlogAdda.

    Please find it here:
    http://blog.blogadda.com/2016/01/12/tangy-tuesday-picks-january-12-2016-indian-blog-posts

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  41. I am not yet a mother..but totally enjoyed reading this post..
    Great write up again Purba :)

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  42. Sigh! Purba. Same same same pinch - nah - make that hugs! The nest may be empty, but the weight just transfers to the heart to play see-saw with the emotions. Mmuah!

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    1. A see saw of euphoria and misery

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  43. You know what..It was my dad who would constantly tell my super hyper Mom that she couldn't hold her children to herself forever. She must let them (us) spread our wings and find our own space in the horizon. This is how maa must have felt too..:)

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  44. I think this is probably one of the best I have ever read. As I read through, I was able to relate to a lot of it (sometimes like a kid and sometimes like a parent) and I kept alternating between smiling and welling up. You are just wonderful! :)

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