I know I am supposed to rue the empty nest – the kids have flown away one by one and now I am here by myself boo hoo. But how many women really feel this way?
I think they just stop dancing when someone passes by and moans about sons and daughters not being there and then start dancing again once that someone is out of sight.
I don’t see the children giving me a backward look either as they scamper away eagerly to study and work in cities and countries far, far away. In fact, they can barely contain their excitement as they pack and drain the ATM for new clothes and what not.
It is us, especially mothers, who have to pull a long face and look all depressed about their going. It is part of the great maternal myth, that women who have children want to keep the children with them always. In truth, we often take a second look at our own tots because we have forgotten who they are.
But behind the mommy mask is an equally excited woman, who is now trembling at ‘what next?’ The husband is yet to retire, so off he goes whistling every morning to work, while we pretend to mope around, eyes fixed on photographs of offspring.
But once the door is shut, a slow sense of liberation starts to seep in. For a long while we were just Pappu ki ma and the parent of Tinu at various PTA meetings, and now we are ma only in emails and WhatsApp chats – that too when the offspring want something.
Suddenly we are free, we can be whoever we want to be!
Stand slowly, as all this excitement can go to the head. It won’t do to start grand speeches, ‘I have a dream...’ While continuing with the morose appearance, women start to check out their options. It is truly emancipating to be thought over the hill; ‘what will you do now?’ ask everyone as if watching your kids get a life isn’t humiliating enough.
Like a toddler taking its first step, you go forward, disbelief in eyes. You can from now on complete phone calls without a child talking to you simultaneously. You can sleep when you want, wake up when you want. You need not set good examples or be the soul of propriety, hell, you need not be a role model or moral sample, and, yes, you can swear.
Bit by bit you regain your adulthood. You start to call your children by their given names and not
dak naam or nicknames. The constant, not to mention disapproving, cry of ‘Mom!’ no longer rends the air. In public when a lost child wails for her mother you no longer automatically turn around.
This reflects in your new clothes, in the junk food you are now free to binge on, the friends who now see too much of you and the late night phone calls to old classmates you have rediscovered.
So wave a quick bye to your kids – your life is no longer on hold. Rejoice in the extra closet space and the unstained carpet, in the meals you don’t have to push down anyone’s throat and the TV remote finally in your hand.
When Shashi Kapoor was telling Amitabh Bachchan,
'Mere paas maa hei,' maa was busy hunting up PG digs. Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.