A couple of months back, I took a two day trip to Goa with my sister. So what’s unusual you might say? Well, I left my husband, and more importantly my child behind. It was time, I told myself repeatedly, when I bought my flight tickets, booked a hotel, and even when I took a cab to the airport, feeling as if someone has punched me in my guts. The proverbial mother’s guilt sat like a boulder on my heart, and boy was it heavy. She is five, and very independent, I told myself again and again. She loves her grandparents and her daddy is an excellent caregiver. She didn’t need me as much as she did even six months ago. The father-daughter duo would be more than just fine with me not being around to monitor their carb intake or screen time. It was time to celebrate five years of constantly fussing over my only child, compromising on my career choices and life in general, by letting it go for two days.
But the mommy in me refused to buy that reasoning. Ever since her birth we had never been apart for even a day, let alone night. She needed me during dinner time. She needed me to cuddle her before going to sleep. Was I being a bad maa, putting my desire for me-time over my daughter’s needs? Was she old enough to be put through such a test? But as I boarded the aircraft well past midnight, I realised it was the other way around, and this was my test and not hers. Was I ready to cut back on being a mum and reclaiming my individual and social life? I knew the kid would be fine. She would go to sleep when she was tired. Her dad and grandma would make sure she was well cared for and happy. But was I ready to accept that my kid could be happy in my absence? Not needing me for her bed time routine, or to feed her, or to play with her? I had to be, it was time, I told myself again, but with much more determination than before.
It was time to celebrate five years of constantly fussing over my only child, compromising on my career choices and life basically, by letting it go for two days.
My partner in crime was my kid sister, who played a huge role in turning me into a rogue mom. This was not only the first trip we were taking minus any parental supervision, but also the first holiday we had planned and paid for on our own. Everything from the cab ride post two at night to the hotel, to the itinerary was planned by just us, and thus if anything went wrong, it would be on our collective heads. So, apart from being the first real separation from the apple of my eyes, this was an achievement for the adult me, who was making her own money and could buy her own diamonds and holidays now.
I wouldn’t lie and say I sobbed silently in bed at night, missing my child, and refused to eat or drink in sorrow. I had a great time. We stayed at this lovely little place near Baga beach, which had an open courtyard in the middle. From our balcony, we could hear birds coo and watch the sun rays trickle through the lush green leaves of overreaching trees in the courtyard. We also made a conscious decision to keep our sojourns to just chilling on two beaches in North Goa. No churches, no sunset points, no forts, no spice farms. This trip was all about leisure and enjoying the stillness that vacations should essentially bring us. On our first day, we explored the nearby beach as well as my new found independence that came from not having to be on mommy alert constantly.
We spent the entire day eating fish fingers, taking dips in the sea and talking. For the first time in years, I did NOTHING for an entire day.
While every time I saw a little kid splash around in the water, my uterus knotted itself up in guilt, I realised it was liberating to not have to worry about tightly holding my kid’s hand all the time. Or be on the lookout for bathrooms, ensuring that her water bottle wasn’t empty, or she wasn’t hungry, or sleepy, or iffy. I was just carrying a sling bag, instead of the usual baby bag, which would be stuffed to its full capacity with snacks, clothes, wipes, water and medications for an emergency. I could spend more than five seconds to get ready and just relax.
The next day we rented a scooty and drove to Morjim beach. We spent the entire day eating fish fingers, taking dips in the sea and talking. For the first time in years, I did NOTHING for an entire day. Was it better or was it worse? Well, it was different, and sometimes different is just what you need, to develop a new perspective on your life. To realise that a family-woman in her thirties can be on her own and have a good time too, despite years of matrimony and motherhood on her back. That the biggest roadblock for women exploring their individuality post marriage and motherhood is us, women. My kid and husband didn’t love me less for taking this break, so why shouldn’t I?
The holiday also helped me reconnect with my sibling, who was now an independent woman, living alone in a big city. There was so much to discuss, her struggles and mine, the health problems our parents were facing, memories from the past and expectations from the future. We talked our hearts out, we quarrelled, because that is what siblings do, but at the end of the day we managed to execute a surreally perfect trip, enveloped in the lukewarm sea water, grainy sand between our toes and the sticky saltiness on our faces. Those two days will linger fondly, like the taste of those cream cheese and chocolate brownies that we devoured at Britto’s over sunset.
When I came back home, I was wrapped up in tiny arms and was duly filled up on what all had been done, demolished and eaten in my absence and that while I had been missed, the weekend had been amazing. It was good to be back home. But one of the reasons why it felt so good was because I rode in on a high of a relaxing and fun-filled weekend.
Will I take another holiday sans my child? Not immediately. It has been months and the uterus is still in knots. It’ll take a holiday with my kiddo to completely purge the mother’s guilt from my consciousness. But yes, in future, I do see myself holidaying on my own. I also know that when my daughter grows up, she’ll understand why her mum went rogue every once in a while.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.