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I am glad I listened to my heart when I took the overseas assignment, even if it meant being away from my baby for 3 months – I can be a role model for her.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” This wonderful quote by Elizabeth Stone is sure to resonate with every mom.
The longest I have stayed away from my little bundle of joy is 2 days when I had to travel to get some documents signed before we moved to a new city. I had never imagined I would stay away from her for 3 months. Getting through these 3 months and the reunion as I call it have left an inedible imprint on me.
I had a fabulous opportunity at work to travel to Switzerland on a short term assignment. I am a headstrong, ambitious and unapologetic-about-her-dreams kind of woman. I am the one who is always vocal about women getting their due at the workplace. I question when women are not treated at par with men- be it in terms of opportunities for travel, work related , promotions etc. So when I was presented this opportunity of travel which meant I had to stay away from my family for a few months, all my talks would have been hollow had I backed out.
It wasn’t as much about proving something to people around “being a mother, can she be as committed and take a difficult decision at work?” It was about me, about my aspirations, doing what felt right at this point of time when I have been presented a golden opportunity to prove myself. I knew I would regret it later, if I gave this up, and this was not a regret I wanted to live with lifelong.
One of the factors which gave me the greatest comfort when it came to my child is – the presence of my mom as her caregiver– someone who has been by my side right from the time Angel was born. My daughter is completely at home with her; in fact she is used to not seeing me for 10-11 hours of the day when I go to work. Though I wasn’t sure how she would react when she did not see me at all for this long.
A few days before I left, mom and I tried to prepare her mentally, and she would usually burst out crying when I told her that I won’t be around for sometime but will talk to her on skype. The last day was difficult. She was her usual cheerful self, oblivious that I would be leaving her in a few hours. It was a very difficult time for my Mom and me. We didn’t want to get emotional and make things difficult for her and us.
The time came, and I left. My daughter came down to bid me goodbye, she wasn’t sad as she seemed excited to go and play in the park. I shed a few tears but I made up my mind then- as I had always told myself. This is for a purpose and I don’t want that to go in vain by making things difficult for myself, I need to focus on my work and being dillusioned will defeat the entire purpose of this trip.
The next 3 months were eventful in many ways. It was a fantastic opportunity on the work front- working in an international environment is always a great experience for any professional. It helped me build up my network, gain visibility, sharpen my skill set. I had more time for myself as compared to being in India where the only time I get is when my daughter takes a nap on weekends. I could write to my heart’s content, read, binge watch TV series on Prime (I was completely hooked on to “The Good Wife” a legal series which is centred around a woman). I had a chance to travel to some of the most beautiful and exotic places- being in the Swiss Alps. What more can one ask for?
I missed my daughter– the daily Skype calls took place but matching timings was tough – with a 4.5 hour difference in time zones. I was in a hurry to leave for work in the mornings and evenings I usually called up from work but the calls were not as long given that they were made from office. My daughter does not like talking on phone, she is distracted easily and I missed the everyday conversations; she felt distant.
The last 2 weeks were the most tough. I remembered her constantly, I used to watch her childhood videos and pics, the memories of the past 3 years came alive but not having her around to hug made my heart ache. I couldn’t wait to see her.
Finally on 17th Nov- as I boarded the taxi from Mumbai to Pune after having landed last night- I was eagerly looking forward to that first glimpse as I alight from the taxi. A part of me was nervous – probably she may not love me as much, may not need me. I have been away for so long that she may have gotten used to staying without me. If she is indifferent I must take it in my stride, after all its me who decided to go, without asking if she was ok (she was too small to ask or reason out with). I knew I had to spent time, a lot of time and put in effort to get back to the past rhythm. The next 2 weeks was holiday time and I had decided to focus completely on her.
The taxi neared the gate and I called my mom and dad to come down to help me with the luggage. As the taxi reached the building I caught a glimpse of them, Angel holding my mom’s hand as they rushed towards the taxi. I jumped out and went running. She looked up at me and said “Mumma” her hands stretched and I took her into my arms, smothering her with kisses. Tears started flooding my eyes as I hugged and kissed her. I looked at her and tears were trickling down her eyes. Her expression was one which is difficult to describe in words. It felt like she hadn’t realised up to this moment that Mumma was not around but now that she saw me here, it came back to her. She realised she had been missing me. I wiped her tears and told her, “Mumma’s not going anywhere now”.
Once we went home, I hugged her again and found myself getting emotional only to see her crying too. My 3 year old filled my heart with so much love that it made me cry. She was excited to see the toys, chocolates and lollipops I had got her. The next few days she has been clinging to me insisting I bathe her, feed her, read stories for her, she acts a bit fussy at times talking in a baby like sing song voice which she usually doesn’t do. I understand where this comes from and I am happy to pamper her for a few days- I am cautious of not overdoing it though. These 2 weeks is all about Angel and me. I have switched off from a lot of things deliberately.
Her favourite question these days is “Mumma why were you crying in the cab?”
“You know why Mumma was crying Angel.”
“Because you missed me Mumma!” And we do a bear hug then!
The thing that makes my chest swell with pride is she was the most well behaved, disciplined and good child when I was not around, cooperating with my mom and making things easier for here. Someone told me on the phone today, “Angel ne aapka saath nibhaya”(Angel stood by you) and it felt so true. While this stint would not have been possible without the unflinching support of my mother who stepped into my shoes, it would also not have been easy without Angel’s support.
When it came to taking the decision to embark on the journey or not, I always thought of Angel 20 years down the line as a Mum who gets an opportunity which she is keen on but a part of her as a mum is worried. What would I advise us? Would I stand by her decision? Would I ask her to forsake her dreams because she is a mother or would I do what my mother did? Answering these questions honestly with an open mind help me choose my path.
Today as I sit in the comfort of my home and write a post after a long break, as my daughter takes her nap, I am glad I listened to my heart. This time apart has helped me see things in a clearer light, look and re assess my priorities, worry less about those things I cannot control and be happy with my mediocre status at times keeping in mind my goals and the order in which I accord importance to them.
The time away from my baby has helped us bond and get closer in ways I could never have fathomed and I am thankful to God for this unadulterated love which never ceases to amaze me.
Published here first.
Image source: Akshata Ram
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