This is going to be a fun post to write. Why? Because that headline is enough to send quite a few people into deep hysteria. Imagine what reading the entire post and realising how much we enjoyed it is going to do to them. If you are seething with anger with the mere mention of traveling sans kids, I suggest you skip this post. I really wouldn’t wish to waste your time. For the rest of us, without further ado, let’s get right into it.
Earlier in the year, when my husband told me he was going to have to travel to the ‘great white north’ sometime this summer, I expressed my desire to accompany him. You should know this about me, if I get any chance to go someplace I haven’t been to, be it local or overseas, I am not one to let that pass. We discussed how nice it would be, dreamt a little day dream or two and forgot about it. It was still too far off in the future to worry about.
Fast forward a few months and I got a call from him during lunch time telling me we needed to apply for our Canadian visas the very next day and needed to get our documents in order. That’s when it hit me that we were actually going to travel. Tentatively, I asked him if I should get Ginny’s documents in order too. I knew what he was going to say: 22 hours of traveling on a work trip, can’t bring her with us etc. but I risked it anyway. I couldn’t bear to think of any alternative. But being the practical man that he is, he confirmed my fears. We weren’t taking her along. And that was that.
The next day, we went to get our pictures taken for our application. Ginny was just as happy go lucky that day as always and I felt sad because she had no idea what was going to happen. From that day till the day I traveled to Assam to leave her in the care of my mother and father-in-law, I spent most of my waking moments vacillating between guilt and fear. What if she just couldn’t cope with it and felt abandoned despite the best efforts from everyone, I kept asking myself. Visas came, tickets were done, plans and reservations were made and through it all, I could feel mostly just the two aforementioned emotions. It didn’t get better with time. In fact, I was a hot mess in the last few days leading up to our departure. I picked up fights with my husband, my mother, my father, heck, even with my brother and that’s something that hasn’t happened in decades! I would burst into tears at the drop of a pin or have unreasonable demands that can be described as anything but civil. I was horrible to live with.
Through it all, what helped was encouragement from fellow mums. Some of my cousins and friends checked in on me daily. They did their best to dispel my fears, told me how awesome kids are at adjusting. But not everyone took to encouragement, of course. The others checked in on me daily too. They told me how mortified they were at the thought of what I was going to inflict on my poor, unsuspecting kid. How dangerous and selfish and strange I was as a mother to even dream of doing something like this, let alone go ahead and actually get it all done.
All that didn’t help. I am not sure if the concern was coming from the right place. Whether they were genuinely so concerned for my child or not. Whatever be the reason behind their thoughts, it didn’t help. It sent me on a downward spiral. It sent me to a dark, cold place where nobody could reach me. It made me jumpy. It made me question my husband’s love for his own child. It made me think ugly, unkind thoughts.
Some people even had a problem with the fact that I had chosen my mother-in-law and not my mother to leave Ginny with. So many judgmental and archaic predispositions came to the forefront leaving no room for the fact that we are all individuals who react differently to the same situations. In their eagerness to pull me down, they didn’t see that I am not them, my mother-in-law is nothing like their mothers-in-law, my baby is not like their babies. I was told repeatedly that only a mother could love her child. That nobody else cares.
It was wrong on so many levels.
Thanks to enormous egging from my husband, my mother and my father, I went ahead with the decision we had made (though I almost faltered). When I saw my parents-in-law eagerly making so many arrangements to embrace Ginny not only with open arms but with wide open hearts, it made me feel calm even in the eye of the storm. The lengths that they were going to, with such elaborate and detailed planning to ensure she was not just comfortable but cocooned with love warmed me up. My mother-in-law has an acute eye for details and she misses nothing. This time, it was even more heightened and she was making every arrangement possible to send us off with as little worry as possible.
The D day came and we left. I was terrified. I kept missing the weight of her body in my arms. I didn’t sleep at all the night before we left. I had dropped her off with her grandparents a day before we were scheduled to leave. I felt her absence profoundly.
I am not going to give you a blow by blow, day by day account here. Just that sunshine pierced through my self-imposed gloom when I saw her goof around with her grandpa or shower love on her grandma. As each day passed, Ginny got more and more comfortable in her new environment. Who wouldn’t? She was looked after with such love!
My mother-in-law did everything I do for Ginny and more. My father-in-law is the light of Ginny’s life who filled her little heart with so much joy. My brother-in-law reminded his niece of her father and she took solace in how much they look alike. And not just them, there was an entire brigade of family members and well-wishers getting a good dose of vitamin Ginny. My parents visited her and told me detailed accounts of how she was enjoying herself. Sure, she missed me. There were moments when she would have loved to have me around, I am sure of that. When I spoke to her on the phone, I wasn’t allowed to say bye to her and she conveyed it to me with absolute clarity. She missed me as she missed her Papa too. But was it debilitating? Did it break her spirit? Did it make her miserable for the entire duration of our separation? Did she feel abandoned? The answer to all these questions is a simple but resounding NO!
When we were growing up, we had a lot more interaction with our grandparents and extended family than our kids will ever have. Some of my fondest childhood memories centre around my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother (the only two of the four that I had the good fortune of knowing). My eldest cousin spent a couple of years of her childhood with her grandparents and uncles and aunts when the need for it arose. If you ask her, she will tell you that those were some of the best memories of her life and they still are. So it genuinely makes me wonder why was there so much negativity around our decision?
Why are us mothers so ready and eager to pounce on the decisions other mothers make? Why does bringing someone down make us feel that rush? According to an old saying, it takes a village to raise a child and yet, we have somehow come to believe that mothers alone can make up for the entire village in their love for their children.
Why is asking for or accepting help an act to be looked down on or frowned upon? Is it stemming from some kind of deep-seated insecurity? I might be opening Pandora’s box by saying it. I don’t want to sound like an armchair shrink so forgive me if I am getting the psychology wrong here but it keeps pressing on me why us new-age mothers feel the need to control everything that touches our children. Please don’t tell me it’s the maternal instinct. It’s not. If this is maternal, does it mean our mums weren’t maternal when they left us in the care of our grandparents for a while every now and again? Why is daycare every single day okay but grandparents’ care for a short while not even worth considering? Why is separation from our children daily for the sake of work gets a nod of approval but separation for the sake of personal good times once in a blue moon frowned upon? Is prioritising yourself and your relationship with your spouse once in a good few years such a horrible thing? Does exposing children to new but equally safe and loving environments that teach them independence so terrible?
I am afraid I will only be leaving you with questions and not answers. But these questions merit a little ponder before we brush them under the carpet, don’t you think?
PS: The seething-brigade, if you made it this far despite fuming through it all, thank you for reading my thoughts. As you know, these are just my thoughts and questions that arose in my mind when some (not all) of you tut-tuted my decisions. Do ignore them if they bother you. I don’t mean it as a personal offence and will prefer not to see any hate. Thanks!
PPS: In case you are wondering, Ginny was over the moon with delight to meet her father and me but also sad that she had to leave her grandparents’ house. That little one has come back with a heart full of love and memories and a belly full of good food and chocolates. Now, onto our busy lives again!