I write this to you from a place of reflection. From November 4, 2018 to February 1, 2019, we lived apart 4381.9 kms. We moved to Vancouver in September 2018, so that I could start and complete a year of residency training. The penultimate year of my program, that I really wanted to complete in a new city, with new training models and opportunities. Nani and you came with me to support me in this last year.
But, Nani got quite sick, and had to go back home to see some doctors to make sure she was okay. That left, you and I , in a bit of a pickle. Thankfully, dada came to the rescue and you went back home to him. At that time, we didn’t know if you would come back to Vancouver or stay in Toronto until I came back.
I remember dropping you off at the airport, and you not knowing what was going on. For you, it was another trip in the stroller. Until you realized that I wasn’t next to you in the security line. I remember that moment, watching from the other side, where you looked up and didn’t see me. I had to quickly walk away, before the flood gates opened.
On the sky train back, I remember sitting there feeling… numb. In that 20 minute train ride back, I felt exactly that.. a feeling of nothingness. I did not know how to make sense of what I was feeling.
I walked back home and entered the apartment, which was still reminiscent of you – your toys were strewn around, the half empty plate of food, your shoes. You were still there in all essence in that apartment.
I walked back into our room, and saw your crib… it bore indentations of your last nap. I recall, standing there in silence, not knowing what to do, how to react. And that is when I sat on the floor and just wept. I am holding my tears back as I write this, in a busy coffee shop. I held out on writing this for 5 months, because it is still so raw for me.
Those three months were the hardestmonths for me. Hard, because I was away from you. Tiring, because I was constantly flying back and forth across the country to see you. Draining, because I was trying to be a “good mom” by calling before bed, not parenting over face time, and so on.
In those three months, I also had ample time to feel the insidious “mom-guilt” creep in. I felt guilty in all of November for sleeping in, having no responsibility, leaving laundry unfolded, leaving dishes in the sink, not cleaning up after myself, eating ramen for dinner. I felt guilty for not having the same amount of work to do, that your baba had while he was juggling taking care of you with work.
I also had loads of time, to think about what this guilt meant. Why was I feeling guilty, for circumstances beyond my control? Why was I feeling guilty, for simply doing what any regular person who doesn’t have children does? Why was I having ‘mom guilt’ when my child wasn’t even there?
I started calling it “phantom-limb mom guilt”. I basically conceptualized it as guilt over not feeling guilty as a mom, while I am with you.
It is a tad twisted, but basically it went to underscore the point that feeling guilty as a mom, is SO pervasive. Because, I am a working mom, I was just used to feeling that way, even though I was saying outwardly I am not feeling guilty. So when I lived away from you, I felt guilty about not feeling guilty.
I thought long and hard about this… on my many empty weekend mornings, and evenings.
And I decided, that this phantom guilt needed to stop.
Rather, I had an opportunity, to live alone. Something I had not done in my 29 years.. I hope you are doing that or planning to do that when you read this letter, because girl it is SO important to know who you are!
I decided that I would enjoy this time, and make the most of it. So, I went to whistler with my friends. I went for long walks, enjoyed tea alone while reading a book, sat on the couch the whole day and read a book cover to cover, let the sink pile up with dishes because I COULD, did not do laundry for 3 weeks (thats the max I could do haha), and so many more things that I had never had the opportunity to do. Not because I was expected to do them at home, its just my personality. This time, I felt like something in me shifted. I changed as a person in these three months. And, yes, it was hard (none of it was easy), I reframed it in my mind as an experience that led to change and self growth.
Perhaps in your adult life, you may encounter a similar situation where you are faced with difficulty. Something that seems arduous and challenging like nothing else you may have experienced before.
In that moment, I want you to remember this: Change the way you feel, by changing the way you think.
I want you to think back to this letter, re read it and find meaning in your difficult experience. I want you to take example from this, because I am raising a strong, independent, free-spirited little girl who can make her decisions and learn from them in the best way possible.
You my darling, give me life. You give me purpose and meaning, and your smile lights up my world. Those three months, I had to find purpose and meaning in myself, and I hope you will too.