About the time that Amihan was born last year, Kalinaw started announcing himself to me in this way:
“I’m here, Mommy.”
The first time he said it, I was taken by surprise. Partly because it was one of the first sentences he ever said. And also because those three words snapped me out of the center of my thoughts.
Yes, he would also say it if I was in the middle of putting on Amihan’s diaper or some such activity, but more often than not, he would say it when I was lost in thought. I would hear those three words and, guiltily, pull myself back into the present moment.
“I’m here, Mommy.” Kalinaw’s face looks incredibly naughty, with dancing eyes and that impish smile of his.
“Yes, Kalinaw. I know you’re here,” I would answer with a smile of my own.
When I became a new mom at the age of 39, I wondered if I would bypass the “mid-life crisis” that people slightly older than me were starting to complain about. When Kalinaw was two months old, I turned 40, and I felt that becoming a mother trumped whatever crisis issue I was supposed to have. I was amazed that I was able to conceive naturally at my age, and that in spite a few hiccups, was able to give birth to a healthy, full-term baby.
In that first year of motherhood, I suffered from postpartum depression, so I just relegated all those fears about life and parenthood to my having that condition.
While writing the first draft of a commissioned biography, I became pregnant for the second time. I was eighty percent done with the draft, and wanted so badly to finish before I gave birth, but my mind while pregnant is akin to mush. All I could do was take long naps and listen to Hay House audio talks. If I could focus long enough to actually finish reading a novel, that was a major accomplishment. About 24 weeks into the pregnancy, my body started going into preterm labor, so I spent the next three months on strict bed rest. I just concentrated on resting and keeping the baby until she was full term, which I was happily able to do.
Now Amihan is eight months old. I have spent the last two months reviewing the work I accomplished before I got pregnant, familiarizing myself with all the data once more, gearing up to write the next chapter. And I find myself getting upset with myself when very little ground gets covered in a day because, in a nutshell, I am a mother of two, trying to work at home.
“I’m here, Mommy.”
When one is the mother of a toddler and a baby, life can, thankfully, get pretty simple. Their needs are so immediate, whether it’s to feed them, kiss their bumps and bruises, play with or read to them, put them to sleep. When they are sick, nothing else matters to me except to care for them 24/7. Being a mom is a no-brainer, in the sense that I don’t question fulfilling my duty to them, as well as making sure the household is running as smoothly as possible.
Yet I am nagged by this annoying—and exhausting—sense of guilt. I can’t help but compare myself to these other moms who seem to be doing it “all”, or at least doing it better than me. When I am able to get some work done, I feel guilty for not being an efficient workhorse (as compared to my output before becoming a mother-of-two). I feel guilty for not being able to fulfill my contract with my client—I have seen my deadline come and go, set new ones, and waved at them as they passed me by.
On the other hand, when I have spent the whole day being with the kids, fulfilling their needs as well as the needs of the household, I sometimes feel frustrated because I have no energy or time left to do my work. And then I feel guilty for that frustration.
“I’m here, Mommy!”
Whenever Kalinaw says these three words, his face is alight with his natural joy and mischief. I feel like I am looking at the face of a saddhu, gently and lovingly calling back his overthinking disciple into the present moment.
There is one writing tip I learned and always return to, and that is “in medias res”, which is Latin for “into the middle of things”. One begins writing a narrative, not in the beginning, but right in the middle of the action. And I find that this is also true in the living of one’s life.
One Saturday not too long ago, I was feeling totally crap about myself for having “wasted” a week. In five days, I had only worked on the book once. The other days were spent entertaining visitors, caring for a sick child, overlooking long overdue landscape work on our front garden, and the million other things one must do to care for a family—cooking meals, bathing children, doing the groceries, etc. etc. I felt that I had done absolutely “nothing”. But as I sat down to lament over the “nothing” that had been done, I slowly realized something—that all my actions, though judged by my egoic mind as small and insignificant, were all vital movements that ensured the well-being of my family. I attended to whatever was needed at that very moment, without question.
And I realized that “I’m here, Mommy” has come to mean not just a call by my son for my attention, but a call to attend to life. Each moment we experience—whether one is changing diapers or working at one’s desk—is vital to the wholeness of being we are in. On that Saturday, I realized, abashed, that showing up for life in whatever shape or form it presents itself is a meditation for living in the eternal Now.
“I’m here, Mommy!”
My son’s voice rings as clear as a bell. His words wake me up from the slumber of my mind and pulls me into the holiness of the present moment.
I used to say to him in response, “I know you’re here.” But now, I say with a heart broken open and stretched wide by love, “I’m here, too, sweetie. I’m here.”