I wake up every morning; to winter sunshine and to tiny legs sprawled on my face. I scoot gently along, little by little; millimeter by milliliter till I extricate myself out from the complicated tangle without disturbing the peacefully- sleeping, little human.
Getting out of bed at this point, would mean waking her up as well. She will not sleep a moment extra. When Mama is up, Zoe is up. So I remain in bed, a while longer.
As I sit up in bed and and try to find my phone in the mess that is my nightstand, the little one roves into the warmth that is her Mama and finds a cosy, little nook to sleep in.
So, with one hand on the little one; I check my messages, wander about on social media, reply to emails, drop in on WordPress, read the news, check my planner, check the patient appointments for the day and read up on any cases that are posted for the day.
Finally, when I can push it no longer; I get out of bed. The exact same moment, Mademoiselle Zoe flutters her little eyes open. She blinks twice and then on seeing me, breaks into the most spectacular smile. A smile which seems to say ” Aah! How fantastically, wonderful it is to see you Mama!”
She gets into play mode immediately. Alas, not with me. After I wake up, I am usually out of the door in less than one hour.
I have to make absolutely sure that she is not at the door when I leave. Otherwise, the crinkly, tear filled, crystal- clear eyes and quivering, jutted out lower lip will break my heart and shatter my resolve.
Aah! How I wish there were two of me!
One to chase my dreams. To conquer all in sight. To make a difference. To be a fantastic surgeon. A responsible, socially useful human being. One that contributes to society. To read. To travel. To live.
To be a role model to my daughter.
And another to stay back and catch the little one every time she tumbles, in her quest to master the art of walking. To sing with her, in that weird language of hers. To eat with her and create an epic mess every time food is served. To play with rubber duckies and bubbles and splash around in the bath. To gaze at the amazement writ large on her face when she spots a squirrel run up a branch on a tree outside her room.
To be a mother to my daughter, every single minute of every single day.
I never knew it would be this hard. Nobody ever talks about such things.
The insurmountable guilt. You can never overcome it, you can only learn to live with it.
We are told we can have it all. At least, that is what I was taught as a precocious, over- confident, ambitious girl. That the sky is the limit.
I was never told about the price of it all though. The sacrifices. The constant struggle. Within and outside.
The men sympathize but never actually understand. It ain’t their fault, they are programmed differently.
The single women think they get it, but they cannot comprehend the inner struggles.
And the scores of women who deal with it everyday, chose not to discuss it. Apparently, even talking about it is taboo. Apparently it makes us weak. Or whiny. Or inefficient. Or incapable of handling our own lives.
Our feminist, all- conquering predecessors have worked very hard for us apparently. They have fought for us and paved the way for us. So, we are told not to complain and to just get on with it. To conquer the world. To be great teachers, lawyers, doctors, managers, politicians, leaders, CEOs……
But we are torn. Split into two. Sometimes painfully, into two equally important, equally adamant halves. It rips us apart.
We function with our two, torn halves. We are both. We are one.
We trudge on.
Then things come to a breaking point…
Hence, ultimately we scale back on our dreams. We down- size them. We cut back on all the things that make us who we are. That we derive pleasure from. That define us.
We model ourselves and try and fit into this mould; the “good- mother- wife- daughter-career woman- do-it-all- superwoman” mould.
We second guess our every decision. Our every thought. And action.
We do the best we can. We work bloody, darned hard.
Like we have never before.
Yet, we fall short. In our own eyes. We fall short of our own lofty standards.
We run and run and run. But never catch up. With whatever it is we want to catch up to.
We may achieve great things at the work- place. But then we come home and feel like we don’t deserve the hard- earned success. The inner demons berate us for building our success on the ruins of our family.
So why not choose one over the other you ask?
It’s too late now folks. The only option is to trudge on.
Every evening, I come straight home. No coffee with friends. No extra- time in the library. No taking up extra- case load. No applying for the “hard- core- fancy- schmancy” fellowship.
I come home to the same spectacular smile. The same crinkly eyes.
I feel guilt tugging at the very core of me as the door opens and I see the angelic face. I have missed her every minute that I have been away, I realize.
And I wonder if I have missed anything important.
As I get out of the hospital garb and clean myself up, I can’t wait to pick her up into a giant hug. She waits patiently. With arms raised and pulsing bodily.
Finally, as I take her into my arms and inhale her sweet baby- scent and take it in as deep as I can; she coos into my ear and nuzzles into my hair. She missed me, I am sure of that; but I don’t sense any other feeling emanating from the little creature. No anger. No resentment. Nothing. Only pure joy from being re- united to a thing she loves.
How I wish there were two of me!
Till next time…