"Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful."
Let me say this again. I am a full-time clinical researcher, poetry editor of a bi-annual literary magazine, occasional writer, decent home cook, and most importantly, mother of a 21-month-old well-adjusted toddler. My entire existence doesn't just benefit from making routine critically important; it depends upon it. I know I am not the only woman in the world who is juggling a career and motherhood. I know others do it their way. I know their way may be better than my way. However, my way works for me and my little girl. It ensures my sanity and celebrates the things that are important to me, which mainly revolve around me being a homebody. My best day is one spent at home with my baby, some baking and cooking, and a little bit of writing. Perfection. It may be boring for some people, but for me, it is blissful.
|A safe haven - my office.|
|Mama Cook, Baby Cook.|
There was a time when my ideal day involved libraries and bookstores and restaurants and walks, but I am fundamentally changed now. I understand that I fall short of many of my loved ones' expectations. Twice now, my 15-year-old brother who is visiting me after 5 years has expressed how disappointed he is that I have not spent "quality time" with him outside (or, arguably, even inside) the house. My mother is managing her own shopping, too, not asking me to accompany her, leaving me within my invisible, intangible, but very clearly defined circle of comfort. My sisters-in-law, by turns, offer support for my decision to remain a hermit and encourage me to come out of my shell. My stubbornness astounds even me at times. I put myself in all of their shoes - my choices must be disconcerting and maybe even disappointing for them. I am not the person they remember - I am distant, regimented, governed by the turns of the clock, by ritual, by habit, and sadly, not by relationships and feelings save those that involve my daughter, because there simply isn't any room inside me.
All of my mental energy is taken up by two forking realities with one convergent point that is hidden somewhere inside me, knotted and wrinkled, convoluted conflicts: professional success and motherhood. If I were to graph my mental state daily, it would not appear in the form of two parallel lines running smoothly, one depicting me as a mother, the other as a professional. Instead, the graph will be non-linear, jagged in some places, smoothly curving in others, one curve swirling lazily into the other at some points, the two intertwining in places, clashing, converging and diverging again, one forming crests sometimes while the other dips low, depresses into the negative quadrant... But they do run in a semblance of harmony at times, too, usually everything remains constant for long periods of time, until they start falling and rising again, a low rumble registered by the Richter scale before The Big One hits, inevitably when I am least prepared for it. For me, there is no such thing as "work-life balance." There is work. And there is motherhood. And that is my life - not balancing, but swaying, see-saw like, sometimes staying steady in mid-air, but the collapse always comes in the end, it's simply a matter of time.
|A recipe or a poem? Could be either.|
I am perpetually afraid of this collapse. Maybe, my loved ones will gain a little understanding of my constant need to control things and the state of high anxiety that pervades my every waking moment after reading this. I am afraid of losing reigns of the carefully constructed and precariously suspended components of my life. Because when that quake comes, and it does come more often than I would like it to, usually without provocation and for perfectly organic reasons, I am the only one who picks up the pieces of my sanity that are salvageable from the abundant carnage. And this is why I hold on to apparently mundane and insignificant details of my life with a death-grip. This is why I sleep before 11PM, why I guard my baby's bedtime vigilantly, why I don't make plans over the weekend, why I disappear into my words as I furiously type, one eye on the clock, the other on the sentence I am composing, why I don't answer you when you call my name a few times - I am not really there, I am trying to plan the next day, thinking what to cook, when to be home, writing my blog, editing poetry, balancing my meetings and tasks, and about a million other tiny details that are absolutely essential to do. So, consider this a public apology to everyone who is disappointed in me. You are going to have to put up with my eccentricities for a few more years unfortunately, until I achieve a zen state by mastering this elusive work-life balance, or until Jahan goes off to college. Hang in there, friends, family, loved ones. I still love you - just not as much as I love my sanity.
Photos by Rebecca McCue
|A therapeutic practice - cooking at home.|