Cruising through life till the age of 38, happily married and basking in my husband’s love and looking after our two young children, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I was going to be so ruthlessly and abruptly uprooted and moved out of my comfort zone. My husband died from a brain haemorrhage while on a field posting in the East and left me and our children completely shattered.
It was like being rudely awakened. I was forced to take stock of our devastated life and carry on with my pre-teen daughter and teenaged son. We moved to Pune, my son joined college and my daughter and I joined school, she to learn, me to teach. Though it took some time, the three of us rallied and our life slowly settled in a comfortable routine. But there was a big void in my life. I had a very vibrant, happy and exciting marriage (just seeing him come home after a day at work, used to make me come alive) and now, I had a very boring existence with nothing to look forward to except to bring up my children and live my life through them. Nothing could be more dismal than that, but I had no other option.
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I had no intention of remarrying, but hadn’t reckoned with my mother’s tireless and unstinting effort to see me ‘settled again’. I too gave it a thought, as I dreaded living life alone after the children had grown and gone (which is inevitable). After ruminating, I laid down three conditions. First, he should have also lost his spouse, for I knew from experience that people avoid talking about your lost spouse in front of you, but you are dying to talk about him/her and we could share our wonderful memories; second, he should have a daughter too, as I felt that somehow I and my daughter would feel more secure and she would be like a daughter to him; and lastly, he should understand I wasn’t marrying for financial reasons (I had a job, a house and a car) but for companionship and life.
I wanted to enter this new space with my self-respect intact and didn’t want anyone to feel that I wanted to lessen my burden and see him as a meal ticket for life!
Taking on the challenge
My second husband had lost his wife to cancer and was left to bring up his three children, two daughters and a son. His parents lived nearby and helped out, but it was difficult. He was a workaholic, immersed in his business and had left home affairs and child rearing to his wife. So he was absolutely lost and still trying to get his bearings when I met him. Attracted by his charm and gentle soul, I could see myself living with him and the two of us took on the collective responsibility of raising five children and making them whole and capable of leading good, independent and financially stable lives.
Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I just took on three more children without a tinge of worry of whether I would be able to do justice and look after their emotional and physical well being. I guess my being a teacher helped, as I was always surrounded by children and was used to being with them. I laid down some simple rules for myself; I wouldn’t differentiate between the kids, would love and discipline all, wouldn’t be prejudiced against anyone and wouldn’t be partial at all.
For me, from then on, it was never ‘his’ or ‘mine’ but ‘ours’.
It helped of course that my husband never interfered, never questioned my decisions and my disciplining; in fact he was a big support and a silent but keen observer of the daily goings-on. It’s not easy when two culturally diverse families get together to make one life, but he and I were ready to take on the challenges.
Dividing the parenting
We were indeed blessed that there were no problems between the children and they took to each other. Their life fell seamlessly into place with my daughter gaining two elder sisters and his son finding an elder brother. The maturity which all five of them displayed at such a tender age still takes me by awe. We never had to face any issues concerning the children from day one. He didn’t interfere with my upbringing, trusting implicitly that I would do good for his children and left the everyday running of the household to me. As for me, I tried to be a mother and a friend to his children, while making it very clear that no one could take their mother’s place; I’m here whenever they need me and they will have a home to come back to always.
Today after 13 years of being together, I firmly believe that we came together to give our children a fulfilled life and bright future. Our daughters are married with wonderful careers, our elder son is working and married too and our youngest is on the threshold of a new life, in the US.
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Accept the differences
Though it was not a bed of roses, being so different in nature (he quiet and composed, me talkative and an extrovert), we accepted our differences and cut each other a lot of slack. Over the years, he learned to listen and I learned to be quiet when I sensed his need to think. Circumventing our different natures now comes automatically to both of us and we have managed to build a life together and hate being apart for even a small amount of time.
Life can give you a punch. It’s up to you how you take it on, whether you go down or face it head on!