Since becoming a mother, I am a person divided. Most days, I shape shift between two different roles: My mother-self and my professional-self. Even though I live in a society reasonably tolerant and encouraging of family life, I struggle to let these two persons co-exist. In essence, my mother-self is my female self, and it is a persona I have suppressed for the most part of my adult life. In my choice of profession, bringing out the male side has tended to generate more praise and progression. Straight to the point, target-oriented, results-focused, less fussy altogether.
My female side, by comparison, had secretly been a little ridiculed both by my conscious and unconscious. I couldn’t see the need for these values, at least not during the hours I spent working. No wonder then, that the meeting with motherhood became such a profound transformation, adding depth and richness to my previously square existence. In the months of chaos that ensued after I had welcomed my first daughter, I found myself taking pleasure in such simple activities such as folding and putting away laundry, tidying the house, planning the operation needed to move a family from a to b. Looking into her little beautiful face, I felt connected to generations past and was calmed by the fact that in our daughter, we had created a bond of love that surpassed death. During her first year, I often caught myself by surprise in thinking that I could have been happy being a housewife in the fifties (his hotly debated era, when it was enough just to be a woman and a homemaker). It was a change in identity which also brought relief; I no longer had to work so hard to make my ego happy. It had stepped down and made room for the new generation. I reveled in vibrating on this level.
Such statements such as the one I made above are a little taboo in my society, where one is supposed to appreciate the freedom that comes with having individual income, opportunities for self-realisation and a rewarding career alongside motherhood. In truth, though, we cannot have it all, at least I can’t. Having settled further into motherhood and the practice of honest conversation, I know few women who feel they are adequate mothers while still pursuing – and being fully invested in – their full-time career. What’s more, the market adopts to families having two incomes; everything from housing to services become pricier, and the ‘keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ pursuit is impossible on one income.
Leaving my children in nursery care when they were a little over a year was such an unnatural and harsh act it has left me confused for years. It is true that the separation got easier as they settled, and I am convinced they are two securely attached, thriving little girls, but at that point in time I felt like society was a huge tidal wave that swept me along in its crushing embrace and forced me to behave exactly like everyone else. For months, I only demanded one thing of the nursery teachers; that my daughter was alive when I came to pick her up. Such were the depths of my despair.
In the soon five years I have been part of this mystery we call motherhood, it has sent me to the deepest of emotional abysses and the greatest, most joyous heights. It has deepened my engagement with the people around me, left me humble as I stared down my own mortality once and for all, exposed me to a weariness beyond my wildest imagination and yet injected me with a life-force enough to light up an entire country.
And in that fashion, the journey shall continue…