‘Damn it! She knows she can’t take care of the baby single-handedly and nor can I. Then why did she have to argue with her and send her away now?’
Finally the truth! So that was the reason she was so upset since she’d heard that her daughter-in-law Maya had argued with her 2-year-old baby’s full-timer Sudha and sent her packing.
For two days, she kept wondering aloud why Maya would do this. She found fault with her at every step – she is adamant and always does as she pleases, she never thinks things through clearly, she doesn’t know how to handle the baby, she has no patience, she always delegates responsibility even when she should be accountable as the mother.
Simultaneously she was aware of the tension brewing between Maya and Sudha. Sudha was equally adamant and had become quite demanding. She would argue with the other servants at home even though she was only responsible for the baby. Sudha knew that the family depended on her completely and that made her arrogant.
The baby still wasn’t toilet trained. She wouldn’t eat on her own and one had to run all over the house to feed her while she played or watched television. Being hyperactive managing her was really difficult. The parents would be out of the house the entire day, then how did they think they could discipline her? She felt that Sudha knew all this and took ample advantage. She didn’t toilet train or teach the baby to feed herself as that would make her redundant and make her lose her importance.
I’m sure some of her reasonings were correct and logical but now, I understood her main concern – with Sudha gone and the parents at work during the day, the entire responsibility for the house and baby would fall on her. She wouldn’t be supervising anymore but would have to take on the role of Sudha as the child’s caretaker. She would also have to work with the maids during the day to manage the cooking and household responsibilities.
Yes, it was true and it would become pressurizing. She had her own limitations and of course, wasn’t getting any younger herself. She tried to tell me that she has a bad back and couldn’t bend, her pressure always fluctuated and so there were times she felt really sick. She was also having problems with her eyes and needed to see the doctor very soon. These complaints were quite regular (I’d heard them before) but within the context of this new situation, they became larger than life.
I visited them recently and saw the impact first hand. The baby had become quite unsure of herself and clung on to the grandmother. She would just follow her around mindlessly. The grandmother’s irritation was playing peek-a-boo although she was desperately trying to resist showing it. When the parents returned from work, the baby wanted all their attention and seemed to become quite adamant and uncontrollable. We sat discussing the different possibilities they now had – creche facilities, finding another full-timer, getting a 12-hour maid for the day, adding baby duties to one of her current maids and increasing her pay etc.
Each had their own limitations and advantages – but it all came down to a comparison with Sudha. Of course, no one wanted to acknowledge that – each had their own reasons. Neither did anyone want to acknowledge that the baby was the one most impacted by this. She had after all known Sudha since birth – it was difficult for her to understand how someone who took care of her 24×7 and spends most of her waking hours with her could suddenly disappear from her life. She didn’t yet know what it meant to lose someone. Suddenly the life she’d known had changed completely. She clung on to her grandmother during the day as she was her only connection with the ‘safe and secure’ past as she knew it.
This is life, right? Where there are no right or wrong answers? Where you just deal with the situation as it arises? Where you change what you can, accept what you can’t and ignore those that are difficult to acknowledge? Where, even for a child, learning to deal with the unknown is a part of growing up!