‘Work it Out’- with Vivian: The Guilty Mother
Watching my father (late now) on the Television those days as he eloquently spoke high sounding grammar with his flawless baritone during interviews, filled my spirit with awe and longing to be like him. He was a tax man; he grew through the ranks as a civil servant to become the Chairman of one the State Boards of the Internal Revenue. I felt he had made something significant out of his career and I wanted to be like that, by all means. I wanted to be powerful, just like he was in those days.
On the flip side, my mother was a teacher who taught at a school close to home. She would come home during break some days to oversee things at home. She closed from work every day, latest by 2pm, and returned home to the enormous task of keeping a home with 7 biological children and over 10 other people at every point in time, consisting of relations/ wards/domestic staff. Mom was always either at the market or in the kitchen or taking us to church or teaching us one thing or the other, coordinating one chore or the other. I could tell that her teaching job those days took less than 20% of her attention. The other 80% of her attention was not even enough to accommodate the home responsibilities. I felt there was no resting place or time in our home. It was always full of chores and tasks to be done, every time. I never really was attracted to this side of the divide!
So, you can imagine where my dreams and aspirations tilted to – career, and a powerful one at that. I actually failed to see that neither of my parents took on the other person’s role nor crossed the other side of the divide. My father performed his fatherly tasks excellently well- which included sole financial responsibility, protection, eminence for the family, and other manly tasks, including being present at most of our school or debut events. My mother also did hers- home, children, spiritual activities, most abundantly well.
I finished school quite early at age 20, and I jumped right into a job, combining my ICAN exams in the process. I envisioned being like all those classy top executive banker ladies (New generation bank job was the top job in those days). I was a bit concerned though about the pervasive stories of divorce around those set of women then, and how the banks would abandon them or transfer them to very remote branches eventually when they got old and tired and were not bringing in as much deposits to the banks anymore. But I would often shrug off the thought and say to myself, “When I get to the bridge, I would cross it!”
So, my entire being was plunged into my career, even after I got married and had my first child, I would return home from work around 9.00pm every day to see my 3 months old, peering through the balcony burglary proof with my 16-year-old relation who was taking care of her, waiting eagerly for my return. Every day, this sight broke me like nothing else had ever done. I kept asking myself why I was doing this to my young child.
Every day, I carried this sense of guilt.
It was not as if I was earning too much money then, or even enough… But my guilt kind of made me to keep working even harder, with the hope that I would grow faster in my career, so things could somehow balance out and I could begin to earn comfortably well enough to make it up to the family, for the torture I felt I was putting them through.
… To be continued next week.