Make breakfast. Drop him off at school. Text messages invade my phone. Answer them. Call the cleaning lady. Reschedule the dentist appointment for the tenth time. Is my mom coming tomorrow? I hope so. I forgot to drop off the clothes at the cleaners. Pick him up from school. Give him lunch. I hear more text messages coming in. Turn off sound. Read to him before he takes his nap so he can unwind and take the nap. He’s asleep. Quick kiss on his cheek, breathe in his scent, and close the door. Begin cooking dinner. Focus on what the boys eat. Tapas loves vegetarian, and Ishaan loves anything with beans. He’s up. He calls for me, “Mami,” in a drowsy and longing voice. With arms wide open we embrace each other. I kiss him. As he nestles his head on my shoulder. Walk to the living room. Give him some water and start the unfinished puzzle he was working on before. Watch a little bit of Sesame Street. Dinner time. Tapas is home. Clean the kitchen. Milk time. Bath time. Read to him before bed. Turn the light off. Repeat again tomorrow.
Until one day….
I was crying convulsively, burying my face into the pillow so no one would hear me. It was late afternoon and traces of nightfall had just begun to settle. Shadows projected on the walls from the furniture in my room. The obscurity of the dark, ominous figures paralleled December’s darkness.
Une crise de larmes. That’s what December was for me. Full of unexpected, sporadic crying fits. We had just returned from our trip to India, hence jet lagged. One week later we flew down to Miami for a weekend. Ishaan got a fever the day we flew back home. It turned out to be a virus. He lost his appetite, and his sleep schedule went _____. Oh. Did I forget to mention that it was also Christmas? Thank god for Amazon Prime! After he recovered, he continued to eat poorly. His bedtime was no longer 8:00PM, it was now 11:30PM, at the earliest! And the thing is that while I was slowly falling apart, he was singing “London Bridge is Falling Down,” and dancing! A child’s resilience is incomparable.
So I wept. I cried in the bathroom while brushing my teeth. After a shower. While cooking. Even during diaper changes. I was weeping with no anticipation and no control. And while I sobbed, I felt preposterous even though I was alone, most of the time. And I’m embarrassed to admit it. People like me don’t cry. I just carry on. But this was out of my control. I was helpless. These tears were something I had been holding in for far too long. It was time to let them out. I needed to listen to them, to taste them, to see them, in order to understand and realize I had reached a breaking point. I had hit rock bottom for the first time in two years.
What I miscalculated was that I just thought I’d be able to compose myself, handle it like a trooper, I’m-a-woman-hear-me-roar kind of confidence. Nope. The thing is that I forgot I’m human. Not a superhero. Not god. I’m human. Not untouchable. And I’m human before I am a mom and a wife and a daughter and a friend. I’m human. I have to tell that to myself over and over again. Because this role I play of being the ‘Jackie’ of all trades, is frankly, unsustainable. So I’m waving the white flag here. I surrender.
It had to stop. I had lost my mind. I was tired, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m a mom 24/7. I’m a wife 24/7. I’m a cook. I’m a dishwasher. I’m a nurse. Where was I? Where did I go? What happened to me? Time was scarce. I was starved. I needed some respite. I was so desperate for it that I had even considered escaping an entire weekend by myself to a little resort in Tucson, taking my laptop, bringing with me a good book, and for just one weekend, forget about the responsibility of having to take care of anyone but myself. To sleep in. To enjoy quiet. To reconnect with myself. To be able to finish sentences or not speak at all. To just be.
This dismissiveness of self reminds me of my mother. She always said a part of her died while we were growing up. She was a dedicated mom. Her days, thoughts, and every breath were about my sister, my brother, and I. But in the midst of her devotion, she, the person, disappeared. She forgot about her self. And I wish now that I’m a mom, that she would have done a little more for herself. The woman her. Not the mom her. And I’m determined to learn from that. Because this tragically, persistent, self-imposed conflict of giving my son 120% all the time, every day, will be the death of me too.
I need to reframe my thinking in order to feel unencumbered. After all, this mommy gig is forever. Will I make the time? I knew I would not buy a ticket the next day and fly to Tucson. But maybe one day I will. However, when that tomorrow comes, I won’t be running away from my circumstances, I will be home in my skin wherever I am.
No regrets. The choices I have made these past two years bring me infinite joy. I have done a lot of growing, and I fully comprehend the concept of unconditional love. My son has taught me that as well as giving me an affinity for life. And though he will always remain the protagonist in my life, my priority, I don’t want to be standing in the back of the room all the time, or worse! – Dust under the rug as I have made myself to be. No fault of his of course! I recognize that the one at fault here is me. So I’m ready for the next step. The next phase in our lives as mother and son. And that’s this: I’m ready to focus on me again. The whole me. I have neglected me for far too long. And this new person, this new mom, should be someone I aspire to, not escape from.
I sometimes wonder if the true me is the one who in another reality lives a more secluded life, locks herself in her house, drinking wine all day, smoking pot, and writing endless pages of a novel that never has the potential to be published. Or is it, the full time mom? The full time wife? The cook? The dishwasher? The writer? Who I am is ultimately all of these and none of these simultaneously. Therefore, I will learn to be comfortable with these contradictions, with life’s messiness. Affirmations for the realized me: I will love myself. I will take time to know myself. I will be…me.
Linjen Neogi is a passionate writer who blogs about Motherhood and anything that keeps her awake at night (doubtsanddesires.com). She was born in Dominican Republic, raised in Miami and currently resides in Brooklyn with her two year old loving son, Ishaan and her biggest critic, her husband Tapas. She idolizes everything New York. This piece, “Mothering Away Your Idenity,” was written by Linjen, with the help of her editor, Josune Urbistondo.