These days, I’m re-learning to be alone. I’m re-learning to do things on my own – from going for a quick lunch on my own to just going about life. Or rather, daily life as it comes when you have small children, school, bus stop drops and pick ups, badminton classes, older parents and in laws and a work from home situation.
I’m also re-learning a thing or two about marriage. Or at least the way it is perceived by most around us.
Last October, my husband moved to another city because of work. He travels back home on most weekends and intends to continue the arrangement for at least some time in the near future. It’s an arrangement we are both very comfortable with at the moment. I run a start up along with a friend that is based in the city I live in and our children go to a school here they love. My husband is trying out a new job and city and wishes to see first if it would be long term. We see no reason to upset the apple cart at the moment.
So while I re-learn several things in the ‘husband’ department formerly, such as driving or fixing the kiddo’s bike, what’s been really interesting to see are the reactions of people around us.
It doesn’t matter that my husband is around on weekends and holidays, spending as much time as he can with the kids, helping out with things around the house. What matters is the time he is MIA.
‘Don’t you think your husband is missing out on his children growing up?’ says a concerned neighbor whose parenting advice I did not ask for.
Another lets me know how her husband would never agree to such a thing because their children would be inconsolable.
Yet another tut tuts at how “poor me” is always running around, picking up and dropping the kids, finishing outside chores. “I did that earlier too, when my husband lived here,” I tell her. “It’s still different, at least you had him back at the end of the day,” she replies back, because of course that is the prize all good wives wait for at the end of the day, don’t they?
If that is meant to inject some sadness into my cold cold heart, it doesn’t.
Yes, there are times when you want another adult to have a conversation with at the end of the day. An adult who may speak in monosyllables and stay glued to the TV screen but is a comforting presence anyway.
Yes, there are times when you wish you did not have to discipline the squabbling kids at dinnertime on your own for four nights a week and sometimes more. But there are various devices to keep us all connected more than enough these days and whether it’s a kiddy battle or a much needed conversation, it can be dealt with via that medium. Then there are friends who could be easily arm-twisted for a mid-week beer J Not exactly the end of life, is it?
I may sound irked but I’m not disputing any of the things people have been saying. These are fair points, all of them and there is probably a sense of genuine concern. What amuses and bothers me in equal measure is the sense of incredulity I get behind these questions and conversations. Being comfortably alone in a marriage and admitting it doesn’t seem to be the done thing. If you are in a marriage, at least in India, you need to say and do the right things.
And it isn’t just being alone.
Anything that is different in a marriage is usually questioned, if not openly, then with very thinly veiled interest. A friend works a full time, demanding job. Her husband is the stay at home dad at the moment, working on his nascent venture, with more time on his hand than his wife has. It’s he who is around the kids all the time. It’s he who is the playground dad. Their marriage too gets the same incredulous reactions. Doesn’t he mind the late hours? She is asked.
Doesn’t she miss the kids on her frequent travels? And of course, the inevitable, how long do you plan to continue this? Because life has to be planned to power point precision?
So what do I make out of this? In a marriage, your behavior and beliefs, at least to the world at large, need to be the socially approved ones. Yes, you may be the mother who works but you also need to be the mother who shows up sometimes at the playground. If not, you are possibly without any maternal feelings. You may be the mother who is comfortable playing single parent for a while; the mother who doesn’t mind stepping out for a drink with her friend on a weekday while her husband is in another city but please do not announce it to the world. You may be ‘alone’ but far from lonely but please do not make that public .
That’s not how tried and tested formulas work.