Love is enough. Even on the days it feels like it isn’t.
Love is all you need, I say to myself when I struggle to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to take Beta to the bathroom. Love is all you need, I remind myself through gritted teeth when Beti insists on sleeping only in my arms. Love is all you need, I console myself when Hums doesn’t get me anything for my birthday. Love is all you need, I shrug dismissively when it takes me days to write one column. It has become a mantra of sorts, a constant internal refrain to help me be content with my roles as a mother and wife and fulfill willingly, lovingly, all the demands that they place on me.
On most days, though, love doesn’t seem nearly enough. I need patience, humour, wet wipes! And that’s just for Hums… don’t even get me started on what I need for the kids.
“I feel like I spend my whole life taking people to the bathroom,” my sister, a mom of four, mused over the phone when I told her about my painfully early morning. We laughed over the potential for a gripping time lapse film version of her life: A rapid-fire sequence of Baji trekking repeatedly towards the bathroom in varying outfits with children of different sizes while the sun rises and sets again and again in the window behind her.
I know the feeling. Honestly, some weeks I feel as if my whole life boils down to dinner and every evening, it’s the same evening. I say, “Let’s have dinner now” and Beta says, “Where’s Baba?” And I explain how Baba is at the office and it’s always the same: “But when is he coming? When? When? When?” I try to stay calm but because I’m a) Tired b) Hungry c) Bored of the same darn conversation everyday and d) Irritated at Baba for coming home late and leaving me to fend for myself on weekdays, I say, either calmly, “I don’t know. Let’s have dinner.” Or furiously, “I. Don’t. Know. Eat. Dinner. Now!”
I guess the real issue these days is time. And how there’s not enough of it. I work from home part time and I only have the two kids. I know that most people have much more complicated schedules than I do. But I’ve still somehow become a person who looks with real interest at Pinterest posts with names like, “10 Quick Ideas to Keep Your Kids Busy” and “A Week of Dinners Ready in Minutes” and “The One Easy Way to Wow Your Husband” (I hate to ruin the suspense, but the secret to all of these is: eggs.) And it’s not just my web browsing that’s taken an intellectual hit. Just the other night, we went to dinner with a bunch of smart, interesting people who spoke about books, history, philosophy and the role of the middle class in changing society’s notions of morality... and I spent most of it arranging French fries in funny patterns. Later that night, when one of my friends texted me teasingly, “Great time tonight. The kids behaved better than you,” I couldn’t even come up with a witty riposte to show that I’d still got ‘it’ (intelligence, humour, social savoir faire). No, I was too busy researching tricks to heal a freaky pimple on my eyebrow (eggs again) while juggling Beti on one hip, singing the alphabet with Beta and “Mm-hmm” –ing interestedly as Hums recounted some anecdote from work. And even when I was done with all of that, I still didn’t get to reply to her, because like I said, no matter, what time it is around here, it’s probably dinner time.
I realise that I am a wife and parent in lucky times. I live in the same city as my sister and there is the internet and there is chocolate. The happy combination of these three things keeps me sane. It feels ungrateful and luxurious to talk about my problems, as if they were Problems. I know they are not. I know at some point in my life, I will get a chance to look into those things I’ve heard other people talking about: “girl’s night out” and “me time”. (I’m not exactly sure what these things are — they sound fascinating, though.) I know how lucky I am to be loved and needed by my people. We all know that life is a mad scramble of housework and paycheck-work and school and doctor’s visits and restocking the washable markers, and blah blah blah. And mostly, it’s all good. But sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, you (that is, I) feel a little stifled, a bit less intelligent than you were before, a tad impatient, a teensy “Can everyone just leave me alone right now?” And you honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with those feelings either. So you allow yourself to wallow in them.
But then, life, that sneaky little thing, won’t let you get away with any pointless wallowing. So, of course, later that evening, when you are in the kitchen getting dinner (dinner!!!) ready, wrapped snugly in the cloak of your self-pity, you will hear your husband and the kids reading Leo the Lion’s Freaky Family in the other room. Your Beti will shriek with laughter over something and Beta will count out the four of you and announce “We are a family!” and the husband will make his very best impression of a Baba lion. Suddenly, your cloak of self-pity will dissolve away and you will find yourself wrapped in a blanket of soul-crushing gratitude. You will put away your self-analysis for another day, another time. For now, you will just repeat to yourself as much and as often as necessary: Love is all you need. All you need is love. Because, it is. And you do.
Hiba Masood is a stay-at-home mother to four-year-old Beta and one-year-old Beti. Writing about parenting affords her time away from actually doing it.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, February 24th, 2013.
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