Why, housework is a terrible thing. It must’ve been invented by the devil himself. Because the mind is idle. Ask me, I know. I’ve been maid less for the past six weeks…and amid all that endless back breaking work is an idle mind. That thinks. And asks dumb questions and has no one to answer them. In the midst of cooking and cleaning and yet again picking up stuff that really should’ve been off the floor by now, what can one do? After tiring of fantasizing about a luxurious life in a mansion with Brad Pitt, that is. (Where of course little grubby children are not seen and clothes are not oil spattered and fit over an exquisitely sculpted body and are always laundered and ironed and gourmet food laid on the table without having to do the dishes….! And yes, no messy daughter turns up covered in mud claiming she was bored so she was trying some pottery!!!!!)…… Oh I manage fine, been bunking Court save on a “need to go” basis and I seem to be juggling the maid role quite well….So today I was thinking. About guilt. How we are conditioned to feel guilt…or is it some ailment only I suffer from? I feel guilty if the house is not clean, I cringe when someone frowns at my children, I feel awful that the bed’s not been made, I feel lousy if I am having too much fun, or come home too late at night, or am feeling too hung over to give the kids anything but Wai Wai for their tiffin! I think this ailment revolves specially around the kids. When I was pregnant it always began with “you should not…” or “in our time…..” to the extent that I couldn’t even cut my hair! I was told not to swim, not to drink, not to keep my hair untied after nightfall, not to read Stephen King and generally just lie in bed and dream of cherubic babies! When Isha was born, it was, “She is hungry, go feed her…” till I felt like I was a cow having given birth to a leach hanging on to my breast for dear life. Irony was, Isha was NOT hungry. So I used to sneak around my own bedroom pretending to be feeding her while Isha happily played on the bed……oblivious to the post natal pressures on me. Oh I felt so guilty….probably she wasn’t feeding enough, maybe the milk wasn’t enough, maybe I was doing it all wrong…the possibilities were endless. Every step of the way, I’ve been trying to do the ‘right thing’ for my girls. When they said banana time, I gave them bananas, when they said no coke, I stopped looking at the stuff in the supermarket, I worried so much about cavities and sweets that I ended up eating every chocolate in the house before they saw it! Then one day when my patience ran thin, I said to hell with it.
Since then, I’ve lived a normal life. My daughters have been brought up on a healthy dose of coke, fried foods, chocolates and neglect. Every so often they eat Maggi and fries and do not get any nutrition whatsoever. They thrive on the TV, they listen to lousy cheap Hindi songs, they read silly stories meant for teenagers with boyfriends and their knowledge of Indian history and mythology is developed from comics! When I am sad, I tell them why. When I feel like running away, they know and when I am in a foul temper, they bear the brunt of it. I am assured my children are being brought up all wrong. The books, magazines all say so. I don’t know why but someone gifted me with a subscription to this health magazine which I will not name here. According to that, each month, I find, with growing alarm, that I am too fat, I do not get enough cardio exercise, I eat too much, I do not check the nutrition contents of the food I am buying, my BMI is way away from normal, my children are not getting adequate nurturing, my house is not child friendly, I am a step away from a heart attack or some other fatal disease, I am traumatizing my kids by sharing my angst with them and I should actually walk my way to good health with my entire family before my bum starts sagging seriously. In short I got it all wrong.
So every so often when the housework monster drives me and I am mindlessly hand washing yet another runny t’shirt, I think. And coming back to what I was saying, I feel guilty.
So what a pleasure it was today to check into Facebook and find an article posted by a friend…”If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable?” You can find it at http://www.slate.com/id/2275596/ in case you are interested……It inspired the rest of this article, I particularly liked this bit “…those warm summer nights of not being focused on were liberating. In the long sticky hours of boredom, in the lonely, unsupervised, unstructured time, something blooms; it was in those margins that we became ourselves.”
I like it.
But it sowed another seed in my idle brain, are my kids not bored enough? No they are not. They always but always have something to amuse them. Whether it’s a toy or a book or a Tv, we find ways to keep them out of our hair and busy. Well I’ve decided enough is enough, the next time they say, “I’m bored can we bake a cake?” I’m going to say no. I think I’ve finally discovered what is missing from their lives: ennui.
They have too much to do. They need to sit and gaze at a full moon with nothing on their minds, they too need to lie awake at night and think of nothing. That’s what they need: nothing. We had plenty of it as kids and right, I do think that’s what made us the people we are…and yes, I may not be perfect or have flat abs but I’m content.
Now if only I could find a damn maid!!