Sometimes I thirst to write a book on parenting. Not about nappy changes and feeding schedules and handling teenage angst, not about the external requirements or the duties of it. But about the internal — what shall I call it — the inner upheaval it brings about in you. No, upheaval is a tame word. What word can you use that will encompass madness, magic, anguish, guilt, turmoil, regret, burning pain, burning pride, love, obsession? Revolution perhaps. Cataclysm.
By way of biology, humans – like all living organisms – are coded to reproduce. But unlike other species, we nurture our young well into adulthood, and in many traditional societies, continue living with them into old age. Modern societies have further created unfamiliar roles and equations – reconstituted families, single parents, stepparents, stepsiblings. These were always around, of course, even in the old days, but the number is much larger now. And humans haven’t been genetically designed to accept these easily. Minorities in any population have a tough time and are considered victims of bad luck – whether they are so by way of religion, disability or skills. Social minorities – widows, divorcees, their children, homosexuals, left-handed individuals – are also considered similar casualties of bad karma perhaps or warped astrology.
But I digress, or maybe I don’t. What I’m saying is, parenting is a tricky thing under even the most ordinary of circumstances; so imagine what must transpire in one like mine — single mom with a boyfriend, imminent remarriage, teenage girls going through their own emotional upheavals and turmoils and cataclysms. And did I mention, conservative families.
None of us is designed, physiologically speaking, to adapt to all this very easily: For the two teens whose father is still alive, their bodies and psyches still react to a new man in the house as, well, a new man in the house. For him who has never fathered a child, having two grown girls around is like living with two new tempestuous female housemates. For me, it is a double whammy: Roaring physical attraction and compelling companionship on one hand; the protective instincts of motherhood on the other. My days go by in putting aside the complex drama playing out within my own heart (which is probably a blessing in disguise), and tenderly trying to balance two rights (they’re right and he’s right and while I’m not wrong, biologically speaking, I’m not right either because I started the whole damn state of affairs).
I try to compare myself with other moms. My own mother was drowned in housework at my age – I remember her as overworked and silent, mostly in stifled anger or irritation. Perhaps she went through her own complex dramas of the heart – struggling with two young kids, an ambitious husband and limited resources in a foreign land. Then I think of my grandmas, with even more kids and even lesser resources. Perhaps I am not any better off or any worse than them, all things weighed.
What I’ve learnt is, parenthood is certainly not for the faint of heart. It all seems very rosy when you’re planning a baby but no one anticipates that these cute mites will grow up into these mountains of mayhem later. In fact, that something so commonplace and pre-programmed can be yet so devastatingly difficult surprises me no end. Why did God create such formidable, unavoidable challenges in our lives? It is like the agony and ecstasy of childbirth must go on for the rest of our lives.
As I write this sentence, it hits me. Of course, I say, smacking my head: It is like the agony and ecstasy of childbirth must go on for the rest of our lives. Yes, it must. It’s all about the divine dichotomy – the balance of the yin and yang, good and bad, night and day. Being alive is not a flat ride; it’s a roller coaster of ups and downs. It is silly to expect a smooth, bump-free journey in any aspect of it, and especially not parenting, which is almost the raison d’être of organic existence. If anything, my troubles in this department only point unerringly to the purpose of my own life: To balance the agony and the ecstasy. To endure both and learn to detach. To carry the physical and spiritual workload, and grow stronger. To lose my way and find God at the end. Hmm. There’s some kind of light at the end of the tunnel here.
Life’s roller coaster is designed to turn you upside down. Pregnant women and heart patients, beware.