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Mom, Be My Strength, Not My Weakness!

I was so engrossed in looking after my daughter, being both a mom and dad for her, that I myself no longer existed...

Being a single mother, my world revolves around my daughter.

Whatever people may say, the bond that exists between us is very different from a regular mother-daughter relationship. Navya, my daughter is the reason I am alive today.

This statement may sound cliched, but that is the biggest truth of my life. She is the reason I stopped myself from jumping off a local train years ago. The fact that she was growing inside me, that tiny speck of tissue in my uterus, had the strength to twine around my legs and hold me inside the train.

My marriage was a disaster, the less said about it the better; the only good thing about it is that I got my own little angel, my Barbie doll.

The day she came into my life, it changed my entire existence forever. Motherhood is a path trodden by many, with each one having a different experience. I had no idea about how my life would change. Now looking back, although it was tiresome and frustrating at times, I would not have asked for anything different.

Motherhood is portrayed as the epitome of sacrifice in India…

As Indian mothers, we do everything possible for our children. This mentality rubbed off on me too. I was so engrossed in looking after my daughter, being both a mom and dad for her, that I myself no longer existed. I was living the life of a mother and father, earning a living, and looking after the needs of my princess. 

My cute little doll grew up to be a dusky beauty with long hair and big innocent eyes.

She now had her life and her friends; however, her day would not be complete until she blabbered about the happenings to me. This created a strong bond between us.

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After my divorce, I did not remarry due to the apprehensions of having a stepfather for my daughter. Most people would tell my daughter about how I have sacrificed everything for her. What I did not realize is how those words of others were affecting her tender mind.

I remember the day, she said ”Mom, why are you my weakness, why can’t you be my strength?”

This sentence left me dumbstruck for a moment. I had never thought about such a thing. Navya had just completed her graduation and she wanted to go out for a night stay with her friends. I was upset as I would be alone and asked her to postpone it. 

“What do you mean?” I asked. Being alone in her room in Canada without her was not something I could think of. 

Mom, it’s time to live your life…

“Mom, live your life. You have struggled all your life for me, you have made me independent, capable of surviving in this world. I am proud of that mom, but stop behaving as if I am the “be-all and end-all” of your life. Live your life mom, I am now capable of taking care of you and me”. Her face stern and voice loud.

I sat quietly thinking, reminiscing about my past. I could hear the words that Navya heard most of her life. 

“Sonu, you are the only one for your mother, you need to take care of her”. This is what she heard almost every other day from her grandparents and most of the time from other elders of our family. These comments were making her believe how vulnerable we are and how we are living a life of dependence. This made me realize what my daughter was going through, the insecurities she must have felt growing up without a father. The burden she must have felt every time someone made a comment on how she has to be the support system for me. 

Looking back at my life, from the time I left my husband and started living with my parents, Navya was our world. Everything started and ended with her, my dad was retired and spent the entire day playing and reading to her. 

My mom’s entire being was just her granddaughter. She would teach her rhymes, tell mythological stories, sing lullabies and cook all her favourite dishes. I would be busy with my work and make sure to bring something or the other for her. I remember during those days, near Andheri station there used to be a bookseller with kids books. Those were second hand books, ₹5 for one. I used to buy one every alternate day. My dad would read them to her. 

I had to go to work and got very less time to spend with my princess…I tried compensating by bringing things when coming home from work.

This was not something I enjoyed as I never wanted to be a working mom. However I did not have a choice as I had to earn money. Although after the divorce, a monthly alimony was decided my ex husband never paid it properly. He stopped paying it after a few months.

Other than that, I guess the fact of being a single parent made me give my daughter whatever she asked for that I could purchase. 

Thus, she was treated like a princess. Most of her whims and fancies that I could afford were fulfilled. 

My world was my daughter, there was nothing beyond her…

No one told me, nor did I realize that I am an individual and I have my own needs. 

“Mom, are you listening to me?” Navya’s voice brought me back to the present. “Do you understand what I am trying to say? You are educated, why can’t you go out on your own?”

I just looked at her trying to figure out what she was saying, and she continued “Mom, go out to nearby places by yourself, I have given you the bus pass, move around and see things on your own. You have taught me to be independent, why are you depending on me? Look, it’s not that I don’t like to come with you, but I want you to live your life, without thinking about me or my needs.”

Somehow I found my voice and told her, “Yes, I am trying to understand”. Navya’s phone rang and she walked towards the balcony, I could hear her say “Yes I will be there”.

She made me realize what I did not think of in the fifty years of my life. As mothers we put our children first, our needs are lost in the maze of giving the best for our children. However, I am proud that as a daughter, she thought of me as a woman and asked me to live as a woman rather than a mother. 

Women have been associated as a daughter, sister, wife or mother, today my daughter taught me to look beyond all this and to just be a woman. As mothers we should make sure that we do not lose our identity as a woman.

If we want our children to be independent and respect us, we need to be independent ourselves and respect our needs. If we learn to maintain that balance, we can be the strength to our children and not their weakness.

Image Credits Yogendra Singh/Studio India, via Canva Pro 

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About the Author

An educator by choice, my Ph.D thesis was on reproductive endocrinology. I was trying for further research, when I got an opportunity to teach as part time lecturer. This is when I realised how read more...

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