My son came for lunch this weekend like he does every weekend. His two little children and his lovely wife in tow. As we sat down for lunch he said “Ma, I quit my job.” As a concerned mother, I inquired what had happened. He had a plush job, he was doing very well for himself, he traveled places all the time, I could tell he was making a lot of money and he seemed happy. But what he told me left me surprised.
“I am missing on their childhood (pointing to his kids). I need to be there for them. Don’t worry, I have a new job. But it’s not so demanding and I do not need to travel at all. I think that is the best perk for me. I will get to come home and cuddle up with these kids every night.”
I asked my son “Are you sure you will be happy with your decision?” I looked at my daughter in law to take her opinion. A strong independent career woman herself. She also has a very practical and grounded approach towards life. She smiled at me. I could see they had both discussed it together and come to the conclusion. She was very much with him on his decision.
My son, a foodie, was more engrossed in his food than the conversation. He was also busy feeding his kids sitting next to him. He looked up just once at me and said “Ma, of all people I thought you will be one person who will not question my decision. You have been there. You should understand.”
He was right about that. I was born and raised in a very competitive house in the 1960’s. Though we lived in a rural part of India, my parents did their best to educate me and my siblings. I studied as if I was on some mission. I went to the Ivy League graduate schools and colleges in India. I landed up a job in a MNC and rose to executive ranks in the company. In 80’s, this was rare. A lady, Ivy League school, executive at a MNC were all unheard of. I was fiercely ambitious too. I wanted to reach the stars. I was unstoppable. In the midst of this marriage happened and a son was born too.
When he was young, I was hardly home for a fortnight every month. We had help. We had his grandparents to look after him. My husband did what he could but he worked as much too. We still found time to attend the parent teacher’s meeting, the school sports day and the annual function, go on picnics, go to a book fair or see a movie together. He was fond of my cooking so I cooked for him whenever I was at home. He loved board games and crossword puzzles. We would sit for hours doing it together. But to be very honest I was never mentally 100% there. I had a dream to chase, I had balance sheets to tally, I had sales pitch to articulate, I had my own ambitions to pursue. I loved my son. But I loved myself too, perhaps a bit too much.
When he went off to the college, it was then that it hit me for the first time that he did not need me anymore. He was independent. I would see him only over the vacations and we did spend a lot of time together. But I had lost on his childhood. I had lost the first sixteen years of his life. There is nothing I could do to bring them back. This is why my son believes that of all the people I would understand his decision the most today. He had taken a lesson from his mom’s life.
After lunch as we sat chatting, the son made tea for all of us. He came and sat next to me. “Ma, I hope you did not take it to heart what I said earlier. I did not mean to say it that way.”
“I am proud of your decision. And I am so happy to see you be such a great parent. You were right. Don’t miss out on their childhood. It never comes back.” I said.
He hugged me and we sat there for a few minutes quietly. I sat there thinking I must have done something's right to raise such a thoughtful and grounded young man.