I have been meaning to write this article for sometime now. However, I was hesitant as no two situations are the same and I’m no expert. But like always I would like to share what’s in my heart and my experience of managing my son for almost 3 years all by myself. Social media makes my life look pretty good and I can’t deny that it has been good and I’m blessed to be making a living out of what I love. But it’s not easy. I’m not able to give as much attention to my son as I would like to and the guilt gives me many sleepless nights. I have had days of complete meltdowns and I have screamed and pulled my hair. There are a lot of days I have taken refuge in bed and then days where I haven’t wanted to go back home.
Here are few things that I want to share, good and bad (and I know creating a list for something like this might sound ridiculous but it helps me put down my thoughts better). Also, the article might come across as a bit harsh but I won’t mince my words.
1) Acceptance – The first step was to accept the situation as is. I think this is the toughest phase. You have to realise that “this is the reality” and think of next steps rather than “why me”. I know it sounds harsh but nothing good will come out of wallowing in self-pity.
2) You are not super human – It’s so easy to fall prey to guilt trips. Parenthood anyways comes with ups and downs, but it’s magnified when you are doing most part on your own. I used to blame myself for every little thing. A small thing like forgetting to buy a birthday gift for Kabir’s classmate on time can trigger a guilt trip and sometimes sadness looms for days. I used to cry at the drop of a hat initially but I realised that I am human and I can only do so much. I have created a compartment in my head – things I berate myself for and things I know I can handle later without berating myself.
3) Managing shame – Probably the most difficult of all. There’s a difference between guilt and shame. As Brene Brown explains, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” People will intentionally or unintentionally try to shame you for your situation. It will also come in the form of pity a lot of times. Shame is also a terrible vicious cycle. The more you allow people to shame you, the worse you will feel, it will also make you seek validation from the same people. The societal conditioning of what is wrong and what is right, is very strong. So strong that despite myself, I caught myself believing in it a lot of times. But you know your situation the best. No one except you know what makes you and your child truly happy. And you definitely can’t afford to pass on the shame to your child. I had to let go of a lot of people because one day I decided that no one has the right to shame me. Some of them very close friends and family. The detachment has been worth it. I might not be part of the “Diwali parties” anymore but I have made the most honest connections in the recent past.
5) Involve the village – It does take a village to raise a child. I have no qualms in taking help from my dad and at times from friends. And being able to lean in specially is a big blessing as I travel quite a bit throughout the year. But I ensure that I never make them feel that they are being taken for granted.
6) Drop that ego – This is something I realised early on. There cannot be any space for ego when it comes to parenting. I can’t afford to put my problems and insecurities on my son. Despite the realisation, this is something I had to work on constantly till it became a habit. He’s not going to grow up as people pleaser just because his father’s and my ego has to be massaged. The decisions we take can’t be based on what we think is right, it has to be based what is right for the child. It’s not about us, it’s about him. And that’s why I read Khalil Gibran’s poem “Children” again and again. I would like to mention that I’m blessed and very lucky in this department.
7) Letting go – My house is never and will never be perfect. At times, when I visit my friends’ place or see some pictures, I feel I’m not doing enough to keep my house beautiful. Forget beautiful, there is always something falling apart and needs repair which gets delayed indefinitely. I’m used to the chaos now and I have chosen to not stress over it anymore. And if someone comments about it, I ask them (politely) to get it fixed 🙂
8) Taking care of yourself – Because I realised that when I fall sick, the house falls apart or at least I feel it does. I eat well on most days and try to work out regularly so that I don’t fall sick very often. And the days I do, I explain it to my son why it’s important for me to get enough rest. But Sundays I usually switch off completely and let my father take over the house even if it makes him think that this is how I am on most days.
9) Don’t forget to take time out for yourself – Again guilt and shame can come in its way. I used to feel terribly guilty about ‘having a good time” by myself. I love eating out and traveling and I can’t include my son in it every time. Does that mean I should feel bad about it? Conditioning will make you feel that you are a terrible mother if you do. But that can’t be farther than the truth. My son and I do a lot of things together but I take off once or twice a year without him and finally I have stopped feeling guilty about it.
There is a lot more I want to write about and probably will do a series on this.