The Days Are Just Packed

–  Dec 19, 2003

“The days are just packed with nothing to do.” That line is from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip. It was used to describe the excitement of these two friends at the start of Calvin’s summer vacation. It also neatly describes my life – the delicious quality of fun that defines all my days. Rather, our days- for my life, really, is all about me and Indira, an angel-devil disguised as a two year old.

We rush down the corridor each morning, vying, in our excitement and eagerness, to be the first to press the button to call up the elevator that’ll carry us to the ground floor from where the children’s park is just across the road. We each clutch our treasures as we make that dash. For her, it’s Winnie the Pooh with whom she has a very human relationship. I hold my travel mug filled with hot tea. As the lift door closes I close my eyes, and savor the sensation-to-come of sitting on the park bench as I soak in the winter sun and sip my tea. Ever hopeful, I also carry an issue of “The Economist” though there hasn’t been a morning yet when I have been able to drink my tea, to read and keep an eye on Indira as she threatens yet again to come down the slide headfirst. Oh well. Life isn’t perfect.

Sometimes, while I am out there on these beautiful Mediterranean mornings, doing nothing more strenuous than admonishing Indira not to swing from the bars at the top of the slide, I feel almost guilty that life is perhaps too good to me, while my poor husband slogs through yet another nine or ten hour day, far away from home in Tokyo or Prague, on yet another business trip. And I resolve never again to complain and bicker to him; about the trials and tribulations of my life as an expat wife and stay-at-home mother; about being left behind, in more ways than one. For I know that I am lucky indeed to have this opportunity to experience my daughter’s childhood in its entirety -every prank, every new phrase she learns, every cute thing she says, whereas there is so much that he misses of her life. I try to fill him in on all the little details of my day with Indira during our phone conversations and now she chatters away to him as well. But I can imagine that perhaps sometimes that must make him even more homesick.

I must confess, though, that the “nothing” quality of our days leaves me longing sometimes for the sense of purpose that filled my life when I worked at a corporate job. It makes me wonder if I made a huge mistake by not pursuing the career that seemed to be shaping up promisingly some years ago.

But then I think of what I would be missing now, if I still worked in that environment which demanded long hours and frequent travel. The pleasurable anticipation every afternoon as I wait for her to wake up from her nap and come looking for me, the smile on her face as she walks towards me that tells me she’s well-rested (I don’t know why that sort of thing gives a mother’s heart so much pleasure but I just feel so satisfied that she has had a good nap), the five minutes she spends dozing on my shoulder while she rubs the last of the sleep from her eyes, before she runs away to her toys.

Therefore on balance I know there is nowhere else I’d rather be than where I am right now. It is turning out to be the most fascinating experience of my life to see a baby evolve into a person (Indira’s is a case of two going on twelve -or twenty two, on some days -so there’s a lot happening here).

So I remind myself that it was I who made the choice to be a homemaker and full-time mother and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be able to make that choice. My husband, on the other hand, can no longer choose to opt out as I did.

And yet the doubts persist – because the other thing I worry about is being the wrong sort of role model for my daughter. For do I not want her to be an achiever, to make a mark, to contribute, to make a difference? So why haven’t I done that with my own life? How will I answer this question? Surely she will think it in her mind, even if she doesn’t ask it.

I just hope that she will see that these are very personal choices, that we must each follow our own hearts and mine tells me to hang out with her, to be there when she wants help to put a diaper on Winnie the Pooh, or to hear her croon to her doll “so jaa Gudiya bitiya”

And then, one day, she will be old enough to know better and to have found other role models. (Just as I did not want to be my mother when I was 16, though I see now that every year I am more like her. But that is a whole another story.).

I tell myself that I will, then, find the energy and enthusiasm to action my “some-day” plans. Run a tea-salon; sell Indian handicrafts (I fantasize about traveling through India to source the stuff that I’ll sell); go back to college and study psychology/nutrition/linguistics.

In the meanwhile, I must go now–Winnie needs a blanket.

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