Reflections

The quiet hours – Dissecting a silent phase of motherhood

My noise- and touch-filled days

As an introverted mom, I had rued the loss of alone time since the birth of our son. I had fought for it, sacrificed sleep for a slice of the quiet hours of the night and been depressed when silence, space, and distance had become a rarity in my long, noise- and touch-filled days. For five-plus years, it was the pattern of my life.

Then things changed…

At 7:30 am every weekday, our son smothers me with kisses. Then reminding me in a grown-up tone to pick him up from school if I miss him, he confidently grabs hubby’s hand and leaves for the bus stop. The house goes quiet for half an hour as hubby goes to his Yoga Class and I start a running “chores list” in my head. Then noise again…

8:00 am. The doorbell rings.

The milkman delivers our daily quota. Then leaves.

Ten seconds later, the doorbell rings again.

The laundry man wants to know if I have any clothes for ironing.

Yes. Yes, I do.

I get the laundry basket out. He counts the clothes and piles them high on a bedsheet marked with our address. He tallies his count with mine. It matches. This simple verbal contract functions as a binding one in millions of households across urban India every morning. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if he decides to run away with our clothes? Or, if I refuse to take the clothes back and pay him? This thought amuses me 🙂

He ties the ends of the bed sheet up into a shabby bundle pushing the overflowing sleeves and leggings in, and leaves. He will be back with the bundle in the evening, the clothes ironed and organized neatly by size inside the same bed sheet, our address clearly visible in the corner.

I go to the kitchen, pour the milk in a pan and put it on the gas stove for boiling. The noise of the day grows louder and louder. Things get crowded in the streets below. Garbage trucks doing rounds, construction workers, landscapers, all busy with their trades.

The internet beckons me with its seductive powers. I check my emails and social media feeds, and watch random (and pointless) videos. Ten minutes later, the milk boils over.

As if on cue, the doorbell rings again.

Our housekeeper is here. I let her in. She gets busy with her work. Dishes. Cleaning. Dusting. Moping.

We rarely talk. One of the prerequisites, when I hire a new housekeeper, is about gossip. “No small talk, please!” I tell them at the onset.

I don’t give a damn about what juicy scandal is going on in whose home in our society. I simply don’t care. Rather, it’s a survival mechanism. My brain will explode if I retain such information. In the same vein, I don’t want to know who said what about me/my family behind my back. The housekeepers form a crucial part of the gossip mills that run in the metros. So, I make my stand clear from the very beginning. No unnecessary “Desperate Housewives” drama 😉 for me.

I steer clear of her way and give her as much room as I can. I guess she likes it that way. No one bossing her around and telling her how and what to do. But occasionally, she abuses that freedom and skimps on her work. Then we have the employer-employee talk.

The doorbell rings again.

Hubby is back. Coffee for me, tea for him, breakfast, random channel surfing, Bollywood music, chit-chat, and my mind running a thousand miles a minute. It gets loud. Really, really loud. Not the bad kind of loud though, but good. Alive, grateful, living, thriving kind.

…But crowded.

“Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

10:00 am. Our housekeeper leaves. She will be back again in the evening to do the dishes accumulated during the day.

Space. At last!

10:30 am. Hubby leaves for work. By the time he is back late at night, our son and I will be fast asleep. This is his pain, his sacrifice, and his gift for our today and our tomorrows.

I close all the doors to the hot, humid, dusty, and noisy outside world.

Then it grows quiet…

Really, really quiet. “I can hear my thoughts” quiet. “Yay, I am alone” quiet.

But I am out of practice. I don’t know what to do with so much space and time. It feels surreal. Yet, the introvert in me finds it invigorating. Alone at last.

“Embrace the quiet hours!” it tells me. This is your dose of sanity, your hard-earned time for contemplation.

Revel in the emptiness!

But the void gets filled up quickly

Some days, it auto-fills with chores from the running list in my head – laundry, grocery, organizing, reducing clutter accumulated over the years etc. Some days, I write. Some days, I curate others work. Some days, I code. Some days, I maintain this site. Some days, I exercise.

Some days, I procrastinate on life and travel by means of my laptop’s portal or through movies and TV shows. I love wandering through the crazy towns of other people’s imaginations. The nuttier, the better!

Some days, I read. Some days, I overthink.

Some days, I wonder if it is time for me to join back the workforce. I have the time! But I don’t want to. Being self-employed (even if only for peanuts) is freedom, passion, happiness. Being employed to others is helplessness, bondage due to lack of options and/or courage. I have the privilege and freedom to test the waters of self-employment, so why not try my level best before giving up?

Some days, I rest.

But every once in a while, the silence deepens

And I don’t know what to do with it. I wish I could put the leftover alone-time in a jar and deposit it in the bank for when I need it the most. If only, it were that simple!

“Come, pick me up from school if you miss me.” Our son’s voice rings clear in my ears. But the clock disagrees. It is not time yet. I may be done with the quiet hours, but the quiet is not done with me.

And why exactly do I miss him? After all, I was the one who was in a hurry to push him out of the nest!

I surely don’t miss his whining when things don’t go his way. Or, when he takes lightyears to finish his meals. Or, when he conjures a thousand excuses in thirty minutes to avoid a fifteen-minute handwriting session. I sure as hell don’t miss him during my bathroom breaks. Using the toilet and shower without an audience or a knock-knock had never felt like a privilege before!

“He is growing up so fast.” Hubby keeps saying with a pang of sadness every time he looks at our son’s baby pictures.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

– Gretchen Rubin

But I don’t feel that way.

I do not wish to slow time down

I have lived through every minute, every hour of it. I have struggled through the exhaustion of early parenting, lived through the melancholy-inducing loneliness that nascent motherhood brings and rejoiced in the days filled with achievement and exhilaration, and everything else in between.

Once was enough. Once is all I needed. The mistakes are many, but I don’t need a do-over. Like a gardener watering a seemingly empty pot of soil, I have waited patiently for our son to sprout into the person that he is today.

And that is probably the reason why I miss him during my much-coveted alone-time. Because somewhere in the middle of wailing, tantrum-ing, and driving me crazy, this child has managed to blossom into the person I enjoy spending my quiet hours with.

We have grown together – I, as his mother, and he, as my son.

We have become in sync with each other’s rhythms. He fits perfectly into my days in ways which don’t make sense to others. No one gets his love for all things Pixar and listening to audiobooks for hours like I do. No one understands his references to “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” the way I do.

And when he says “I want your full story from the beginning”, only I understand that he is asking me to read (or watch with him) “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass”.

He can talk up a storm, filling my mind with the curious imagination of a 5.5-year-old. But when the introvert in me needs a time-out and wishes for him to behave grown up, he can also be an old soul – sitting by my side, quietly playing by himself for hours without stealing my silence.

I guess that’s why I miss him.

Because he fits perfectly into the jigsaw puzzle of my quiet hours. And the hours are not so enticing and quiet without him to anchor me.

In the process of being the adult, sometimes I forget my way to the Wonderland. But he reels me right back in where I belong the most and helps me find my “muchness” again 🙂 For he is and will always be the Mad Hatter to my Alice.

“Come, pick me up from school if you miss me.” He said. I look at the clock, again. It agrees at last. It is time. Time to fill the quiet hours up to the brim with noise. No, not the bad kind, but good. The alive, grateful, living, thriving kind…

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