It was a choice she made, and calling it a sacrifice demeaned her decision to raise her son herself.
Shiksha got married a little late by her extended family and societies standards, but her parents would not care less.
They wanted their daughter to excel, and they never made a comparison between her and their son. All the opportunities were the same, the avenues were equally opened, even the criticism and punishments never differed. She was a girl, yes, but that never made a difference to her parents, and she was proud of it.
She in return never let them down, not even for a second was the trust broken the freedom taken for granted. She worked really hard and that could be perceived if you laid an eye on her academic records. Sailing through her boards then entrance exams she made it to her desired stream in her preferred college.
At college academics was a prime focus, she had expectations to fulfil. Finally landing in her dream company for internship and eventually a job. The only thing that took time according to her plans was finding a perfect groom which she eventually did. Her parents found a match for her way beyond her expectation. She was elated to be getting married to Avinash. Even getting pregnant was a cake walk. They planned the baby and everything was in their favor.
As Shiksha’s maternity leave ended, she just couldn’t gather the nerve to leave her child alone and go to work. Getting her child raised by a nanny was not her intention, and she did not think that day care and creches would live up to her expectations.
Days went by, a decision had to be reached – the place where she was in her career was non negotiable. It had taken her 6 years to be where she was. She contemplated a lot on this problem, even discussing it at work with her colleagues and friends. There were many discussions in the lobby, over dinners, on phone calls, in coffee houses.
The constant refrain was that leaving her career now would be the biggest mistake of her life. She was being too emotional, hormones were playing a havoc in her ‘mum-mified’ system.
Friends and confidants who knew her and wanted the best for her reminded her that this decision was irreversible, she would regret it. The moment her child grows up and stops needing her she would blame him for her sacrifice, her wasted life, her dissipated youth, when she would be waiting for him to return home at 2 in the night and he would ask her to relax and go back to sleep she would curse this day.
He will grow up, every child does but her life would come to a halt. When she would be planning a family dinner and he would ditch her, he would want to go out for movies with his friends rather than with her. When someone else would tell her about his girl friend her world would come crashing down.
And then in the moments of self realization she would tell him everything she let go of for him. That is when she would want him to return the favor. Be by her side, take care of her, aid to her growing insecurities, attend to her anxieties and mood swings, feed her regret of not living her life by pitiful words and lamentable glance.
All this hit Shiksha hard. She knew all this was true, or at least might come true in a supposed future. She couldn’t sleep all night – after all she was answerable not only to the company but to her heart too. It was not about this company or this very job – it was about her, her life and her child. She was up all night, thinking about it. When dawn broke, she got ready, picked up her bag and left for the office, the decision was taken.
To everyone’s surprise she came early that day. Nobody questioned her, her decision was respected. She had reflected on her decision all day. Avinash tried to talk to her at night but she pretended to be asleep.
The next morning no alarm went off, tea in the kitchen wasn’t prepared like usual, neither did she kiss her husband and their son good bye like every working day. Avinash woke up to see her smiling face, serene… sitting near the window as if she had achieved something. That is when she spoke up.
Not going back to work was the choice she had made. She would not join work – not now, not for another few years. She told him that all through the pregnancy she could not wait to get her normal life back, but now when she had to make a choice she simply chose her child over career.
This was not an impulsive decision. She had thought about it over and over again. She even realised that the opportunities she might end up missing now won’t ever come back. As a mother, she couldn’t end up missing her child’s milestones. His first step, his first fall, the way he would suck his thumb or cling on to her when the door bell rang, seeing him sleep. See him win his first race, his first day at school, packing his lunch and seeing him crib each day as to what rubbish she packed in the tiffin. Soothing him when he falls sick and kissing his bruised knees. She just couldn’t afford to miss all this.
“And the regrets?” he asked.
“I am doing this for myself,” she announced. “My pleasure. This is my choice, and not a sacrifice. Don’t demean my right to choose by tagging it as a sacrifice. A sacrifice would burden me all my life which I would pass on to him, our son, as a debt. Coaxing him, cursing him every time he would want to do something different from my expectation, falling on his shoulders as a baggage as to how he needs to be with us all his life even when he wants to fly.”
“My sacrifice would mean I teach him to sacrifice. I teach him to let go of one’s aspirations for people you call your loved ones. I want him to know that this was my conscious choice, and life is all about choices, good or bad. I want to give him wings to fly by making his roots strong and the choice I have made today is my own selfish way to make sure I raise a son who respects others for their choices.”
“Don’t ever pity me, be proud of me. As I am of myself!”
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