Tag Archives: parents

The Guilt of a Woman

Untitled-2 copy

Ever since I’ve started full-time work, I’ve been grappling with a nagging guilt. Not that this came as a surprise to me. I’ve always said (here and on many other occasions) that there’s a weird connection between guilt and women. It never leaves us actually, this guilt – we carry it like an eternal and cursed burden, like the rock of Sisyphus. It’s ever-present, at the back (sometimes in the front) of our minds, and, unlike Sisyphus, who lets the rock roll down the hill, we never let go of our guilt. Not for a moment. We nurse it, we feed it and we often we let it tear us apart.

As I write this, I can think of a million things that I could tear myself apart for. I know this sounds extreme, but it is true. I grapple with guilt on multiple fronts, everyday (as do a lot of women I know) – for not calling my mother, for not going for lunch with my sister, for leaving work early, for leaving work late, for not being home with the kids, for not supervising their homework, for yelling at them, for not accompanying my older daughter to her piano class, for not having met one of my closest friends who was visiting from out of town, for declining another friend’s invitation to tea, for not having run this morning, for not having visited the local electricity office for a over-charging, faulty meter, for having forgotten a friend’s birthday..the list is endless. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s a phase, but I do wish I could do more with my time, do more for the
people I love and somehow, magically, at the same time, do what gives me a sense of accomplishment as well (the two are often on parallel paths)

The reason I am feeling more guilt than ever is because now that I am working, I get less time for anything else (don’t get me wrong, I had guilt when I was not working too). I enjoy going to work, but I do feel that the house is suffering because of it. The other day my daughter got some math sums wrong – she knew them but was doing her homework distractedly. Earlier I would be around to make sure she sat at her desk and focused on work. Now she runs around the house and finishes her homework in spurts. And while I know she has to learn to work on her own, the fact that she got her sums wrong upset me. Not so much because she made mistakes, more because I took that as yet another sign that my leaving the house had been detrimental for the kids. yes, I know I am overthinking this. And it’s complicated. Because it’s not like my not leaving the house was ideal for the kids either – that too was detrimental, though in a different way – unhappy mommy, unhappy kids kinds of thing.

So I am not sure what the solution is. And I am not sure I am even looking for a solution. I am just pouring my thoughts out in order, I guess, to get some clarity in my own head. And also, maybe, to feel a little less guilt in the process. Writing about an issue helps me deal with it better.

I know that getting out of the house was the best thing I did for me and for the family. It comes at a cost, but everything does. So if my working means that there are winter clothes sitting on my chair waiting for me to find place for them in my cupboard, or the fact that my kids sometimes get their homework wrong, or that the winter plants are not planted yet, or that I miss going for the kids’ lessons, well that may not be so bad when I weigh it with the fact that I am much happier now and have this sense of purpose that I was lacking before and thus when I am with the kids I am much happier, if a bit tired.

There’s no ideal state, I am old enough to realize that. But there is always guilt, no matter what the state. A friend came over the other day and I asked her if she felt the same. She did, but she said that she had learnt to let go of her guilt, because otherwise it could overpower you. I am not sure if I can reach that state – because it’s not easy to do.  And I am not sure I have it in me to say – ah well, I’ll just not let the fact that I could not call back my mum when she needed me bother me. It bothers me big time.And I still hope for that Utopian state when I will have ticked off all the things from my feeling-guilty list. Not going to happen anytime soon..

5 Comments

Filed under mommyrage

When you discover something you’ve always known.

Ok, so I started this post in a very different way than it’s now turned out. I started in the same old crabby tone about my parents and their unwillingness to change, something that has frustrated me over the years. Visited them this summer – they’re older, more stubborn and ever more determined to be independent.

So when I started writing about them, it dawned upon me that this unwillingness was actually something to be proud of, really. I cannot believe I am saying this, but it’s true. I mean here they are like a pair of wounded soldiers – dad has rheumatoid arthritis, blood pressure, stent in his heart, blind spot in one eye, a deteriorating red-blood cell condition with an unpronounceable medical name, mom has high blood pressure, osteoporosis, a terrible back and spine and my obstinate dad for a husband – but they refuse to make the changes in their lives that I think they should. And you know what, after this trip and many fights, I finally saw their point. Well, I’ve seen the point earlier too but this time I kind of realized that they are special in being determined to carry on despite age and ailments.

I realized on this trip that I’ve always known my parents to be strong, both mentally and physically, but this time it sunk in in a way that it has never before. And I think such a realization can only come when you are a parent yourself.

My trip sort of started this way:

“Do you want me to give up and sit at home and age even faster?” asked my dad at my suggestion that he not drive on the highway anymore. “No”, I bit my tongue “I never said that Pa. Drive in the city if you want, but the highway…” He, of course, didn’t wait for me to finish and launched into this rant about how he knew what he was doing and ended it with his all-time-favourite one-liner: “I am not stupid”. Well, I said, I knew that but sometimes there is a fine line between being independent and being, er, foolish. The fact that I’d used foolish as a synonym for stupid was not lost on him. He then continued to declare to my mum in this self-destructing manner that he was going to give up on life because that is what I thought he should do! AAAGGGHHHHH. I wanted to pull my hair out! My poor mum got in the line of fire and I kicked myself for letting that happen.

Dad sulked for about a day after our fight. Till I apologized, at the prodding of my mum and my own guilty conscience, for what I’d said and offered some sort of an explanation. He didn’t seem too convinced, yet was reluctantly happy that I’d broken the ice (we both have the same egos – I get mine from him!) Anyway, long story short while I was there I realized this one thing: they want to live in the way they want for as long as possible and no matter how silly we kids think that is, that’s the way they want to be and we should respect that.

So my trip ended this way: (which is how it pretty much ends each time, with me feeling like a rat for having lost patience and having fought. This time though there was all that now-you-take-care-and-forget-the-fights kind of parting, there was also the I-know-you’ll-do-as-you-wish-and-that’s-ok thing that I said to my dad)

When I was leaving, I hugged my dad, as he winced in pain, and I cried. Lots (again, kind of normal when I leave home). My older daughter and mom joined in this tearful separation of course. I wished they could’ve come back with me for a few days.. I told Pa to be careful when he drove, to not tire himself unnecessarily to see the doc regularly and follow his advice. I knew he would do none of that, but I said it anyway and he nodded. We both knew he’d go back to doing exactly what he wished, detrimental as it would be to his health. He’s almost eighty and is not going to change now.

I drove away feeling proud of my parents, of their will-power and determination to take on life and live it on their own terms (actually ma lives it more on pa’s terms but then I cannot change that fifty years after they married!)

They sleep in pain and wake up with it. Yet they carry on doing what they must, ma will water the lawn and drive to the market, pa will go to the bank every two days(refuses to get an ATM card – has deep reservations against plastic) and buy vegetables on the way back no matter that he cannot lift the bag. They are almost eighty and don’t want to slow down. I hope they never do.

Kudos to you old folks. Even if I have half the strength of mind and body when I am eighty I would be blessed.

Leave a comment

Filed under about

Am crabby. Again.

We’ve just returned from a holiday in the hills. It was glorious.

But, what could be more depressing than coming back from a holiday and jumping right into reality?

My mom called. Her hello was enough to make me sit down, I took a deep breath and I knew she had something to say and I also knew it was about my father. He’s had a minor surgery for some “growth” which has been sent for a biopsy. She took him for a routine prostrate check up and they admitted him right away to take the stuff out. She was not even sure if they’d given him a general anesthesia or a local one. I think it’s disgusting how doctors take some special pride in keeping the truth about patients to themselves and treating the caretakers as irritants asking irrelevant questions. While I understand that the constant pestering can test anyone’s patience, they should be a little more considerate and at least give out some information. Here my mom was waiting outside the room, unaware of what “procedure” was going on.

Now my mom is not someone who loses her nerve quickly, but, today she sounded tense. That’s got me so upset. I feel helpless sitting so far away, listing to her say that she would be able to drive him home without a problem. I know that she’s worried. And, at 76, this is not something she should be doing – driving her 80 year old husband home after the surgery (the driver was absconding, again)

I can’t do much, except call. I wish, well, I wish for so much that I won’t even start.

My husband says that the reason why life kind if “hits” you when you turn forty is that you feel the stress from all fronts – your children are young and your parents old, and they both need you. The road ahead looks long, and all your fears begin with – what if?

Today, I am going to try and not think about any what ifs? it’s not going to lead to anywhere good..

3 Comments

Filed under mommyrage

When parents Grow Old..

My folks live in a city that is about six hours by road (on a good day) and I visit them, say, three times a year. I try to get them to visit me but they are tangled up with their house, dog, garden, a little business they run (that is now getting a bit much for them but none of the kids want to take it over so it’s in a state of slow death) etc.

My father has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is in pain every single moment, every single day. It wasn’t so bad earlier, but for the past few months it’s become acute, mostly, because he’s developed a blood condition that requires some of his pain medication to stop. He’s now never without pain, in multiple parts of his body.

I call him, I feel terrible when I talk to him, but then my mom tells me that they are managing fine, which I know they are not. I go there sometimes when I feel he’s really low. But that can’t happen that often (kids school etc etc) so I mostly call, sometimes in my crazy day, I not even that . I  get sucked into domestic chaos and forget about his pain, till I get the time to think about it again (like right now). I want to change their life. I want them to wrap it all up and live in the same city as my sister, my brother and I, so we can look after them ( so it’s easier, I guess, for us to look after them) . They fight that and are not prepared to leave their life ( which I understand but I think it’s a matter of time that they’ll have to, once they grow too old to be alone). It’s hard I know, and we’ll face it someday too, but what is the other option, if none of us can move there?

It’s so hard to watch your parents grow old. I feel helpless. Part of me says – he needs you now,  drop everything and go, and sometimes I do. But I know I should be going/calling much more often; am so tied up with home and the kids that I can’t drop it all and go as often as I’d like. It makes me think – how does he feel about it? He’s in pain, he calls me and sometimes I can’t even talk because the kids are wailing and fighting over the phone. I tell him I’ll call later. I wonder if he understands. I know he calls my sister when he really needs to talk, she’s got more patience and has one grown up daughter, so it’s not crazy at home, though she works. We are three siblings, but all of us are so tied up with our daily lives that making a trip to see them becomes difficult, unless the kids have vacations.

I feel that time is running out. They are old, and though very independent, they, ideally, need someone to be there with them. They have help, of course, but that’s not all they need right now. They need one of us and not one of us can be there for too long.  It’s sad. I feel guilty, more because they never ask for help, but when I call my mom (now 75) and hear that the driver didn’t show up and she drove my dad to the doc, I feel miserable.

I don’t know what the solution is. His condition is not critical but he’s unwell and has a condition where he will be for a while, so, as my mom says ” how long can you leave your homes and be here?”. Not long I know, so we call, sometimes visit, then leave them waving at the door.

Life.

4 Comments

Filed under mommyrage