A few months back, as I greeted her for the first time, she appeared composed and friendly. Malini sounded very sad over the phone when she had called to book an appointment with me. She had mentioned that she was feeling very low and at times felt that there is nothing to look forward to in life. Had I not received that call myself, I would not have believed that it was the same person I spoke to over the phone. Once we had exchanged pleasantries and settled, tears started welling up in Malini’s eyes. “Whom do I live for now? I am not needed anymore by my family”, she started sharing.
Malini had been a homemaker for 28 years. A working woman before getting married, she had chosen to quit working post marriage. She lovingly made her home and family her priority and ensured that her husband and in-laws were happy. Soon, they had two sons. Her husband being a neurosurgeon, was too busy to help with raising children or household chores. Malini always supervised her children’s performance at academics and extracurricular activities. She would personally cook for them and also drive them to school, classes and sports grounds. Her life revolved around her sons’ schedules. Before Malini realized, her parents in-law had passed on and sons grown up.
Presently, one of Malini’s sons is settled in the USA after graduating as an Engineer in India. Her husband is the head of department of Neurology in a renowned hospital in Pune and her younger son is in last year of MBBS. The day Malini had called me, she had a heated argument with her son and he told her to stop interfering in his life because she didn’t understand. She was very hurt and started crying as she recollected that day’s incident. Malini said that being in the same profession, her younger son would often discuss his future life plans with his father. She tried to show interest or participate in the discussion, but was often ignored by her son and at times, rudely asked to keep quiet. Her husband sometimes didn’t notice this and at times would try to correct their son, but clearly didn’t realize the impact all this was having on Malini.
Malini informed me that as she looked back at 28 years of her life, she wondered whether she had taken the right decision by making home and family her priority. She also felt that nobody needed her anymore and was approached or remembered only when someone needed something from her. In trying to fulfill her family’s wishes to keep them happy, she had forgotten what made her happy. She didn’t know where to pick up strings of her life from and what to do with all the time she was left with. She wondered why nobody thought about her and what made her happy all these years, even as she was busy taking care of them.
Unfortunately, there are many such Malinis in our society, who feel unappreciated and worthless, once their children grow up. Very few of them realize that with some help they can feel good again. My work with Malini started by showing her that she had a choice of either looking at her “nest” as empty and grieving over it or taking pride in the fact that like birds, she gave her children “wings and encouraged them to fly”. It is because she chose to care, support and encourage her sons to stay focused in life, that they are doing well in their respective lives. It is because of her that her sons have been able to take flight and soar high. Clearly, this was a very different way of looking at life from the one that Malini was used to. But, she liked the idea and I could see a glimmer of pride seep into her eyes.
Next few sessions were spent in getting Malini to realize that just as 28 years back, she was responsible for making a conscious choice of dedicating her time in caring for the family, she can today choose to be responsible for changing how she feels about life. It was time now, to make herself a priority too and introduce new purpose to her daily routine. Soon, she was able to identify some hobbies and dreams that she had not pursued earlier, due to time constraints. With some encouragement, she could start with some of those hobbies. Within a few days, Malini was able to initiate travel plans with a couple of her friends, for an all women’s holiday. She could now see herself as a group leader and her confidence started building up. Today, Malini continues to work on herself by making choices that can make her happy and is also learning to balance between taking care of her home and focusing on developing herself. It gave me a sense of immense pride and happiness when I received her message, today, that read, “Thank you Prerna for helping me see my potential. My day begins with the first two hours dedicated to myself with Yoga, a short walk and a cup of coffee, sitting in the balcony admiring nature. I have once again started learning Kathak, which was discontinued years back. Meeting friends once a week has become an exciting ritual for us. Lastly, what I find extremely satisfying is my volunteer work at an NGO for 3 hours daily. I look forward to waking up every morning and welcome the day. Life has just begun at 50 and I am loving it!”
*Disclaimer : This article is inspired by my case studies. All characters and events are entirely fictional.