This Sunday was going to be special. Because here I was, a mum who decided to step out leaving her 1-year-old son in the care of his father to fill up a canvas with colors. Bright blue's complemented with yellow and orange to signify the bloom that comes and breaks the monotony of the blues. A boat tethered to the corner of a staircase slightly maybe, swaying with the breeze. As this distant memory from 2 years flushes my mind I am filled with the ecstatic feeling of freedom for 2 hours, the paint on my fingers as I focus to recreate the painting in front of me and the satisfaction of returning home from this paint party which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was like being re-fuelled, released from my tether like the boat, taking a small ride, and coming back to the shore after having my share of bliss. Such memories that we keep secured in a corner of our mind find an outlet in solitude, when we probably miss doing something and time, which is not always a great friend holds us back. But what is larger than time and situation stopping us to pursue our individualistic interests is a stigma. A stigma that is attached with motherhood stating leaving a part of yourself behind because you have a new role to play and this one can't go wrong at all. A stigma that is created by unnecessary societal pressure on new mothers and women. And what does one need to brave a stigma and prove it wrong? Determination. A silent promise of never losing your old self no matter how many new roles you acquire as a woman.
Out of all the hobbies I learned and cajoled my heart with as a child, Reading was the one I came full circle with. I have a plethora of memories as a child with books, a thousand stories may be to support the fact "We were on a break" (Me and the books!) and anecdotes that sweetly talk of my reunion with them. This hobby of spending time between the pages leaped when it turned into a passion and I started writing about them, about my reading experience, documenting them on my blog. The years that have passed, I like to call them "explorative", with regards to reading new genres, creating content on social media and gathering the courage to share more of my writing on media platforms. But when you look at someone's life through the lens of social media and similar digital platforms, it often appears perfect. To the outsider, the lens looks clean as if scrubbed hard to remove any stains that would block the vision. It sometimes also tends to magnify the aspects of life that are viewed on a small square of your phone screen, a fleeting glimpse of a story highlight, or a happy tweet. What does not meet the eye through this lens is the chaos, the anxiousness, and the struggle that goes behind creating something and pursuing it as a passion or merely a hobby. All this while, I was a mother who was trying to take pictures when her toddler tucked at her pajamas to be picked up, who was a reader 10 pages far from knowing the climax of the book but instead had to read to her child because "boss baby" is for real, and who wrote the tail of her Instagram captions sitting in the bathroom because sometimes that can be the calmest place to think and algorithm knows no mercy. I am still that mother who juggles timeframes to write- wee hours of the morning or when the child is sleeping- not much has changed except for the fact that I have loosened out on a lot of tasks and changed my working process towards them. Because I love what I do, the resilience comes easily, and giving up on something you love is never an option. What one needs often is a little magic that comes in the form of words, time, space, and support.
I am often asked how I get the time I do for reading and writing with a toddler along with a job. Jocularly, I sometimes wonder if they think, all I do is read! As much as I'd like for it to be true, it isn't. I am always humbled with this question, ironically inside my mind, I give out a chortle too because it is almost every day I meet readers who hungrily devour books to satiate their large appetite for literature. The number of times I have been asked this question in the past, I never seemed to have had a perfect reply for it. I used to shrug my shoulders as if it was very easy to fit in the things you love. Only when the frequency of the question increased manifold did I start looking for words that would help me blurt out an answer the next time it popped up in front of me. What were the key things that made me squeeze in reading daily? A great chunk of the answer I was searching, was presented to me in Michelle Obama's memoir- Becoming. It was like I knew it all along but only when I saw them in print was when I struck a treasure. I recommend this memoir for more than one reason, especially to women because it not only presents the leading lady as FLOTUS (First lady of the United States) but also as a woman, a mother, and a wife juggling between multiple situations that needed her full presence in them. It is through listening to her and reading her story did I find my two magic words- Priority and Routine. Yes, magic words that make our life easier. I am always of the opinion that keeping your individuality alive in every role you take up as a woman is primal, a factuality Michelle Obama constantly points to in her memoir. Your position as a wife or as a mother must not rip you off your individuality and put you in a cloak that doesn’t define you, instead weighs down. A very debatable point hereby might arise via the minds of mothers that things we love should be sometimes put in the back-seat as compared to the real-time chaos of life with kids, a joint family, long commute to work, weariness from the long day etcetera. But, don't you think that little moments of hygge can be created for ourselves if we go by a routine and give ourselves a little priority by establishing a support system? Keeping a spark of our previous version alive through people and activities is what we must try. To answer the aforementioned, I read just like every normal person does- before sleeping at night, with my afternoon tea, on weekends, and while commuting to work in a rather older normal world (Hah!). But yes, having said all that Reading takes priority over everything else, consider people or leisure. It is more of a habit now. My current read is a timely coincidence as I write this article, a vignette of schedules of famous women from across the world- writers and creators. Titled Daily Rituals- Women at Work, it holds their bizarre but brilliant ways of functioning that suited them best and helped them produce their art. As I flip to read more, I cannot marvel enough at the uncanny resemblance of our working ways mirrored in these pages. Mason Currey’s book carries a sliver of hope and maybe that is all that we need sometimes.
Speaking of my magic words, I have had a stringent routine since the time my son was a baby. Fixed nap times made sure to allow me the time to turn a few pages of a book. It was also the time I was back to reading after a rather long hiatus and Kindle came to the rescue of this new mum. It's been more than 3 years now and we are still on track with the regime. Making a routine gives you a window to pursue your interests where you can distance yourself from your child's activities and be with yourself. It can be availed for something as simple as putting a sheet mask on and enjoying a cup of tea. But while we are at the topic of pursuing one's hobby and passion, why not avail it to engage in something we love.
I am affirmative that the recent Covid-19 pandemic was enough to make us realize the importance of both priority and routine when the work, home, and child routine seemed jumbled up like a spool of thread carelessly opened and hurriedly winded. We are still in our boats sailing through these "unprecedented" times of online classes for the kids which do not see an end, every bit overwhelming for the parents as well. Being a parent myself, I can imagine how hard it is for us to fit multiple things in a day that brims with activities to keep the child stay away from the television, occupied, and free from boredom. But, we did sail through the rough waters once we put a time to certain things- no work after 6 pm, 20 min workout session after work, and playtime with the child before dinner. The routine seemed to calm the high tides down. Out of all the things we express gratitude for in the pandemic, we must feel thankful we were able to understand the importance of dividing time and working by the clock, literally.
The method that works for me is a short burst of fuel, for instance- small reading periods, Kayla Itsines workout sessions that can be done with a child hovering around, and short runs if nature appeals to you. These are some sole and soul ways to imbibe a habit within stipulated time slots. But of course, some days are tough, not within our control because every child is different and unpredictable and on a hard day, routines need to be tweaked. Unwanted and unwelcomed guests make no one happy but finding out a way to get along is what we must always strive for.
Leaving you with some of my favorite lines from Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that emphasize the importance of little bursts in life:
"Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts". Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: friendly clerk at Bradley's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really."
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge