Motherhood is a journey that changes us in ways we cannot fathom. It becomes the defining chapter of our lives, filled with intense love and unwavering dedication. Yet, as our children grow and venture out into the world, we are often left grappling with a profound sense of loss and emptiness. This feeling, known as the empty nest syndrome, is a topic that remains largely unspoken, leaving many mothers confused and bereft.
Today, we have the privilege of sharing the untold story of Mohua Chinappa, an extraordinary mother who experienced the depths of this poignant transition. Through her honest account, we gain insight into the heart-wrenching pain and the silent tears that accompany the empty nest syndrome.
"I can’t claim to have had a great childhood. So instead I choose to become an overly involved and an emotionally available mother. My growing up years was rife with the anxiety of insurgency, quick to temper parents, moving places and bad math grades. As a child I played with dolls and ensured my dolls came first in math in my imaginary single child’s play life. So with such great upheavals in my past, motherhood has been the only emotionally gratifying and till date the best part of my life journey.
Most other relationships have failed me but for this little one that gripped my heart, nipple and my small finger with equal fervour and strength. In all my years of broken friendships and relationships, this one equation remained like a balm and stoic like the rock in my raging ocean. I have never experienced the joy of love at its best version or pinnacle till I became a mother to my son. It was instant and love at first sight.
As a child he was always traipsing around me. Following my footsteps into the outside world. If I was ever in the bathroom when he returned from school, he would continue to knock till the latch would almost fall off. So I knew, I must be done with every chore when he is back. I waited for his return from school and the time in-between was spent planning what to surprise him with for a snack, keeping health and allergy in mind.
As a stay at home mother and in a world where over time, my thoughts and opinions ceased to matter, I continued to matter in my child’s life. So naturally, I dived in, heart and soul, wholeheartedly enjoying this little human being growing year on year. But it was too soon, too quick.
The years passed without a hitch except for the occasional little bouts of anxiety for his allergies in Bangalore. But in his baby eyes I could swoosh all his problems away, so I stood up to this exalted position, trying to never let him down in his situations.
The years passed and it was time for him to leave the country to study abroad. I was proud for the college admission, but gutted that a very important part of my life would end so abruptly. I soon won’t need to wake up and fuss if he took his water bottle or his clothes have been folded neatly for class next day or his homework is done? This was my life and a beautiful one at that and why must it end, was my thought.
As the day came close for him to leave home. I watched in dismay the room and the cupboards being emptied out. I could hear my faltering voice in that emptiness. So I muttered, “there are good colleges in India too”. No one heard that in the excitement of a new life ahead.
We went to London. The city seemed to swallow my belly and tear my heart into shreds. It was a new world. The campus was huge, the roads were large and the tubes had maps. I kept holding on to my blazer afraid to show my trepidation as to how would my 17 year old navigate this life? How would I call my support group of school mothers to find out which friend’s home he was at, if he didn’t take my call?
I knew no one there. I kept remembering Rumi’s quote “let them free”, but how? These are not pigeons from Persia. They are human beings born from you. I was connected cell to cell, fibre to fibre. How to let go?
But I knew that I had no choice.
We settled him in his room. He was thrilled to start a life in London and I had to fake my excitement with his new found life. As I was returning back to India, I made friends with the Bangladeshi taxi driver and told him to look out for my son in London. He understood and said “yes Didi sure”! I forced him to take my WhatsApp phone number and said let’s stay in touch. He smiled at me and said, “If I see him outside a pub, I will let you know.” I felt relief that there was one person I could maybe call, in my anguish.
I came back home and the emptiness was mocking at me. I was restless and sleepless. I took Alprax to calm my mind and stayed awake wondering how did he navigate the traffic today?
So it was constant denial, suffering and suffocating with the empty nest syndrome. Slowly after a year, with many Alprax tablets washed down my tummy, I knew, it was time for me to come out of this self imposed mental mess. So I decided to pick up my pen to write.
I did felt cheated of the years and didn’t understand many days why did I choose to give up my life to become this all consuming homemaker. Why didn’t anyone tell me before that motherhood hurts as much as it’s intense and pure? Also why did he need to go so far away from me? He was after all my instant joy.
Today it’s 6 years plus and he is living in London, but in his room I still have kept a tee shirt he left behind. It is neatly folded, a pair of his boxers and few pairs of socks. I just can’t let them go. Somedays I quietly go and take a look, I sigh and pray that he is safe and well.
Mothers don’t talk openly about the heart wrenching pain of the empty nest syndrome as common culture tells us that it is normal for kids to grow up and go away. So we as women, remain confused about the validity of feeling lost and bereft.
But I promise you this is pain, real pain and it’s visceral.
Losing this full time job to the emptiness can drive a sane woman totally mad. I am learning to cope each day with writing, podcasting, travelling and meeting people. But still that lonely spot remains moist with the silent tears and a sadness that nothing can make it go away.
Motherhood changed me in ways that’s unfathomable. I learnt to accept defeat in board games, lie in my times of extreme trials so that he won’t ever see me vulnerable as that is his prerogative only."
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