May 20, 2016

The Mother that I was Going to Be.


As I rushed out the door this morning at 6:30 a.m. to begin my two hours commute to work, I took one last look at my eight-month-old daughter.

She was sprawled on the floor on her back getting her diaper changed by her grandma, throwing hands and legs in the air, eyes wide awake, ready to play. I looked into her eyes when I said goodbye and blew kisses at her across the room. I tried to squeeze in as much love as possible into that gesture to last us through the day.

As soon as I reached the office, I called home and knew that if she was awake, I would hear gurgling on the phone. Then for the next four hours I switched into work mode until the afternoon when I called her again.

When I can, I dash out of work early, but most days I don’t get to see her until 11 or 12 hours after I leave her. Sometimes I see a small child on the commute back and everything in me twists in a visceral instinct to see and hold my daughter.

In the evening when she sees me, she puts forth a little energy dance, her hands and feet shaking, not unlike the wagging tail of a happy puppy dog. We hug, we kiss and we make up for the long hours of separation—or at least I do. She is perfectly happy at home with her grandparents. My mother then brings forth the tales of the day, the new tricks she learned, what she ate, how many hours she slept, the number of diapers she went through and I savor these like little pieces of treasure and quietly tuck these away in my box of memories to be pulled out and examined later in detail.

My parents are taking care of my daughter full time. Yes, I am fortunate. This is the genuine unbridled and unconditional love, the kind that only grandparents have reserves of. They wake up well before her, change her diapers, coddle her, play with her, prepare her food from scratch, put her to sleep, give her an oil massage and warm bath most days, and everything in between. All of this happens while I am sitting at my desk answering emails and dealing with situations at the other end of the world.

When I was pregnant, I had several ideas about what kind of mother I was going to be. I was going to be that mother who would go through the pain of labor and push for a natural childbirth. I was going to be that mother who would only breastfeed her baby exclusively for six months. And when she was ready for solid food, I was going to feed her organic only. I was going to be that mother who would keep her away from TV and phones, who was going to send her daughter to day care when she reached six months.

One by one I had to let go of all these standards.

After three hours of labor, I broke down and took an epidural—some would say the easy way out. Breastfeeding was painful—she did not know how to latch on and once on she did not want to let go. My back was on fire most days and I did not produce enough milk.

Once I started working, I could not keep up with the milk demands and after several days of guilt tripping myself, I finally broke down and introduced formula. She was exclusively breastfed for three months only. She is eating her solids now and these are by no means organic but at least they are all homemade for now.

To soothe her from time to time, we give her a good dose of Youtube and television. Animal songs and the “Old MacDonalds” and all other baby songs are on repeat on our phone. And I did not have to send my daughter to day care at six months after all; her grandparents agreed to take care of her for six more months.

So what kind of mother have I become? The kind who knows she is missing out on her daughter. Yet if I were given the opportunity of becoming a stay at home mother, I would still not take it. I know that I am not a home maker by any means. I need my job, but it is more than just a means to pay my bills.

I have become the “do it all, have it all, and be it all” mother where life most days becomes a logistics juggling act to find the right balance, cutting this out and adding that in, to keep moving. The mother who is bursting with pure flashes of love and longing and sometime there is a crushing pain of separation and guilt. Sometimes there is a sense of balance and zen and like I have it all; sometime I feel like I am failing at everything.

Increasingly I have learned to let go of definitions, standards and expectations and I make peace with this messiness, this roller coaster ride.

The only standard that I am keeping to these days is that at the end of each day, I spend time with my daughter—we sometimes take walks together, or play with her favorite toys, or I sing or read to her, or if I am too tired, we lie down together in bed watching Youtube videos.


Author: Presha Rajbhandari

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Mateo Bagnoli/Flickr 

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Presha Rajbhandari