Posted by Sonia Khonglah, Shillong, Meghalaya
It has been four months and my maternity leave is coming to an end in a few days. “Why does it seem so hard to leave the little one this time? This is not the first time!” I thought to myself. Aww! Probably, it is his growing attachment or his need for maternal warmth? Or could these be my own feelings?
The desire to stay a little longer, to nurture a little more. The obligation to have my child being cared for perfectly or the guilt that haunts every working mother. The guilt of ‘falling short’. How does a mother stop wrestling with this guilt?
Well, I had no reason not to be at work. With a full time nanny arranged and rescheduled work timings, it was all set. The kids would be fine by themselves for a few hours, I convinced myself, just like all mothers do.
A week passes by and I start to adapt to work again. One night, while I was as usual ironing my clothes for the next day, my phone beeped repeatedly. A friend called and asked me to turn on the Northeast Live news channel. Puzzled, I went rushing to the bedroom. Thanks to my hubby, the television in our house is mostly up and running for updates regarding the new horror that had clawed its way into our country.
What flashed on the TV screen gave me goose bumps. I was absolutely shocked and disappointed. My boss had become the victim of the new disease that the entire world was talking about. The first COVID-19 patient in the state. My face dropped. My heart raced. Thoughts flooded. And I stood there for a while watching. This wonderful Man, extremely capable, with a generous heart was in pain and suffering. Everyone kept calling me assuming I had known about it. I did not. I was in dismay myself.
I went to bed that night grappling with fear and confusion, and whispered something like a prayer for my kids. The night ended but seemed so long and painful. The next day, I was instructed to get myself tested since I was a secondary contact and a worker at a place that had become the hotspot. The formalities followed. The nationwide lockdown extended and my workplace was totally sealed. Thankfully, the test came negative.
Very soon days passed by, weeks did and I realised how happy I was to be at home with and for my kids.
Someone rightly said:
Time is passing: not leaden stepping
But sprinting on winged feet,
Quick silver slipping by
In a blink of an eye, it was time to get back to work. But wait a minute, why am I still reluctant to go to work? I had convinced myself about this a few days back.
Was it the fear this time? The fear of this deadly pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the lives of everyone. The fear of going to a place that could possibly be a breeding ground for this virus? Or is it the mother in me, who just started enjoying her time with the kids so much that work seemed to be the last thing now. A few more guilt trips went back and forth in my mind.
I took off to work. Mixed feelings cropped up from the moment I entered the hospital building. Fear and panic of a normal human mind; the heart of a mother beating for her kids; the burden of having to maintain all the protocols – to ensure mine and everyone else’s safety. It is exhausting and overwhelming when you think of it all at once.
But after all, how can a mother be too burdened by anything? Come what may, there she stands day in and day out tall like a soldier; tender like a good shepherd always protecting, always caring for the ones who have been entrusted to her by the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
Amidst work and home, I am doing fine. But the pandemic, this unwanted guest and the worldwide lockdown that came along, proved to be a bit of a blessing for me (putting aside the sad affair of the disease). I was grateful to God that whatever the reason may have been, I was there for both my boys every day. Sounds selfish, but hey which mother isn’t? Something I couldn’t do for my first born due to commitments at that time, I fulfilled this time. I have had the most treasured moments of my life at home with my little boys.
Working mums often fall prey to the guilt of not being able to give their 100 percent. Even after doing everything. But the lockdown was a revelation to me and should be to all working mums out there. We try to give our best whether at home or at work. But at times there is only so much a person can give, and punishing oneself is not going to make things better. Calm yourself down. Manage the things you need to. Get rid of the ones that you don’t. And embrace what is in front of you.
For me, the lockdown experience was unique. I discovered the joy a child brings into your life and how the essence of every parent-child relationship rests on these small moments of sharing. However, this does not make me want to quit work. I have learned how to manage better. I have learned my limitations and my never-ending reliance on the One Above. I have learned that a happy home is not two walls and a roof but the sound of little feet and the song of a baby’s giggle. I have learned the act of balance and so will you.
Cover image: Stock
Story images : Author
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