It was going to be a first for all of us, I realised, as I packed nervously for a week away at a writers’ retreat. For my husband, taking care of our son all alone, and planning his day in terms of mealtimes, playtimes and nap times. For my son, not having me at his beck and call all the time. And for me? Oh! Mine was a rather long list of firsts, I reckoned, with a heart far more unsteady than my hands at the moment.
But right below my edginess was a slight annoyance, growing steadily and consuming all my excitement for the first solo trip I was taking in four years. The way the whole plan fell into place quite conveniently made my motherhood feel a little slighted, I suppose. I was expecting massive resistance. Maybe even a little grovelling thrown in for good measure. I was expecting my husband to say that his whole world would come crashing down if I went away even for a day. But instead, a man who cannot even find his socks without me was promising to hold the fort for a full week! In fact, he was the one who insisted that I go to this retreat, which I had won in a writing competition.
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Why didn’t I feel like a winner then? Why did it dent my self-esteem to know that I was not as indispensable as I had led myself to believe?
My hands started to tremble a little more and I almost dropped my expensive watch face first. I needed a break from the packing and this line of thought. And a glass of ice-cold water. As I stood in the kitchen, taking unusually big sips, composure returned. Thankfully, it brought along a friend – new perspective.
Someone had once told me that only when we remove ourselves from an equation – husband/wife, mother/son, employee/employer – do we come to realise how redundant we actually are. Because the equation still finds a way to balance itself out. Life adapts. Finds a way to work with what it has. Always. And that THAT is a ‘good’ thing.
Being redundant isn’t really as negative a sentiment as we think. Once past the initial shock and horror attached to that word, we realise how blithely liberating that feeling can be. To be indispensable is, in a way, to be shackled.
Being redundant sets us free. It helps us come to the golden realisation – that we are not a part of an equation because we need to be, or because we are duty bound, but because we choose to be.
So the real question here was, was being a part of this equation important to me because that was the only place I thought I belonged to anymore? Had I forgotten my standalone value? And was I afraid to find out what it would be now pegged at, in the outside world, which I was about to step into after a long gap?
Perhaps those were the questions my husband wanted me to face, by going away for a little while. That decision came from a place of love. Not because he didn’t appreciate my presence and my contribution. But because he wanted me to enjoy my spoils as a winner, without worrying whether I was committing a crime in the process, by leaving behind my three-year-old son.
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That is why when I finally boarded the train to leave, my motherhood and my individualism felt well-adjusted. I knew that I would miss my son and my husband terribly. But I was also confident that we, as a family, would get past this one week, and emerge as a stronger, well-balanced equation.
A lovely equation – fine and functional – formed out of a conscious choice rather than an obligation – and of a far higher collective value.