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Kritika told him everything that had happened during the day, her thoughts, her guilt, her feelings.
“Oh! She has not started walking yet. But she is 15 months now and she should start walking now. I think you should check with her doctor once.” Kritika was again told by her colleague Sneha. As she was used to answer these kind of questions since she was a premature mother, she humbly replied, “The doctors say she is completely fine and will achieve her milestones when she is ready. There is no need to push her.”
“Ohh yes, I remember she was born premature” said Sneha.
“Yes!” Kritika’s eyes were filled with tears now.
“Dear, then why did you re-join work so early? You should more time with your baby. She needs you. You need to put all the extra efforts with her. Who knows? Had you been not coming to office, she might have started walking and may be speaking also.” Sneha’s words felt like someone had slapped Kritika on her face. She kept on thinking about that and could not concentrate on her work, and even when she left for the day, she didn’t have an answer to that.
The moment Kritika rang the doorbell, she could hear Pihu shouting with excitement at the other side of the door. Kunal opened the door, holding Pihu in his arms, and she was jumping off her father’s arms to hug her mother. Kritika took her into her arms, still holding her laptop bag and lunch bag. Pihu hugged mamma and was shouting with excitement as if telling her that she was so happy to see mamma back home.
She took Pihu inside the bedroom with her. Pihu was playing with her lunch bag as she changed clothes. The moment Kritika was starting to move out of the room, Pihu lifted her arms to her mamma, demanding to be with her for rest of the evening. Kritika took her into her arms and started doing her daily chores.
She started the mixer to make a puree of dal and rice for Pihu. Little Pihu, busy in taking out the toys from the toy box, was suddenly thrilled to hear the sound of the mixer and started clapping. This was her routine every evening before having dinner. Kritika loved to see the happiness in her daughter’s eyes and so everyday, she ran the mixer for some more time, while Pihu enjoyed the whole activity.
Calling Pihu, she asked her to come to mamma. Pihu started crawling towards her, but Kritika helped her to stand, and then called her from a little distance so that she walked a few steps. Instead, Pihu sat down and started crawling happily again. Suddenly, the conversation with Sneha flashed into her mind and filled Kritika’s eyes with tears.
She took Pihu in her arms, fed her, changed her clothes and diaper and put her to sleep. While Pihu was sleeping on her mamma’s chest calmly, Kritika was hating herself for not being able to spend time with Pihu.
Maybe her growth is not upto the mark, because of me. Maybe she misses me all through the day, but can’t say that. Maybe I should have extended my leave, or left my job… Is my job more important than Pihu? How could she do that to her baby? She was so self-centred to do all of this to her…
She was reminded by her mind that her office wouldn’t allow her to extend her leave except at the cost of her job, and was not ready for that at that time. Am I ready for that now? she asked herself, but no answer came.
She served dinner to the family once Pihu was asleep. Her mother in law told her that Pihu tried to say ‘Papa’ two times in the day. She was overjoyed to hear that. But at the same time the thought crossed her mind that she was not there to hear those words from Pihu. She started thinking that Pihu would grow up like this and she won’t be able to participate in her activities during the day!
The maid was supposed to be on leave the next day and therefore Kritika was doing dishes while everyone else was in their rooms. She couldn’t stop thinking about Pihu, her job, the discussion with Sneha, her mother in law’s words, and was feeling totally helpless. The mother inside her was taking over the independent lady which she always has been.
Kritika was not able to sleep and Kunal noticed that. He immediately asked her what the matter was, while taking her into his arms. She couldn’t control herself and started sobbing.
Kunal tried to lighten her mood by teasing her and saying that Pihu started saying Papa before Mamma. This broke her further and her sobbing increased.
Kunal was worried now, and demanded to know what the matter was. Kritika told him everything that had happened during the day, and her thoughts, her guilt, her feelings.
Kunal listened to her very patiently, gave her some water, and asked her to stop crying. He held her in his arms tightly and told her that she was a wonderful woman, who manages everything so well.
“Its not easy to be a working mother and handle so many responsibilities. You manage everyone, whether it’s my parents, Pihu or even me. You make sure all of us are happy. You try to give your best time to Pihu and make her learn new things in whatever little time to get with her. You are at your best while taking care of her needs, whether it is food, hygiene, nutrition, medicines and so much else. Why do you think she is so excited to see you? Because you are the one who matters most for her, no matter how much all of us love and pamper her. You are the one who brought her into this world, and whether she is able to say it or not, she loves you the most, above all. She feels pride that she has a lady like you as her mamma. She is proud of all your achievements, and one day she is going to admire you. She will admire you for being who you are, now; for being her father’s support, for being an independent working woman, for being so good at work, for being able to do what you always liked and wanted to do.”
Kritika was listening to him like a child.
He continued, “And about your job Kritika! How can you think of giving up on this so easily? How can you decide by listening to someone else and not yourself, to your inner voice? Have you forgotten how much you struggled for getting the degree you have, how many sleepless nights you have spent studying, how much you have cried on your failures and then stood up strong again, how much you always wanted to dress up in your corporate attire, how much you love yourself for being who you are, how confident you are in your work, how good! Are you ready to leave all of that? What if Pihu doesn’t start walking even if you become a stay at home mom? You know she is able to achieve all her milestones when she is ready. You trust the paediatrician, and he also tells the same thing to you. And do you really think staying at home is the solution? I love you because you are you. I love you because you are different, and trust me Pihu is also going to love you for this.”
Kritika smiled a bit while Kunal continued, “You always tell me that fathers should share the same responsibility in raising a child as a mother. Then, I think I am equally responsible for Pihu’s slow growth process. I should also leave the job and stay at home with her. Let us both stay at home and be with Pihu all the time. Should we?”
Tears started rolling her eyes again. “If one of us has to stay back home, let me do it. But that’s not the solution darling. Your job and independence is equally important as mine. We promised to share everything, the love, the happiness, the sorrows, the responsibilities, the care, the household jobs, the expenses, just everything. So, how can you now tell me that you don’t want to share those with me? How can you break down on such a small thing? How could you Kritika? I need your support in every activity of my life.” He kissed Kritika on her forehead and whispered to her “You are one hell of a woman Kritika, trust me. You are my tigress.”
Kritika was crying with happiness now. How lucky she was to have a life partner like Kunal. How much he loved her, motivated her, cared for her! Controlling her tears, she said in a shaky voice, “I love you Kunal, and I am sorry for being a jerk. I am really sorry. I am not different Kunal, you are different from all the men I know or have heard of. You are special and so is Pihu. You both are my strength, my life!”
Kritika was relieved now. The guilt inside her was still there; not for being a working mother but for letting Sneha’s words overshadow her own thought process. She pulled out her laptop as she hadn’t work the whole day and had to complete a report, which she had to present the next morning. She enjoyed more working that night and felt more confident.
She felt grateful this life, and such lovely souls around her. She was always filled with gratitude for everything she had and everything she wanted to become. She slept for only for two hours that night but woke up fresh in the morning as she had pushed out every negative thought from her mind. While she was smiling, thinking about the previous day, she heard Pihu saying “Mamma!”
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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