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When Parenthood Eclipses Passions, Who Will You Be?

Finally, I sit down to listen to Adele’s “Hello.” It’s been trending for days on my Facebook feed. Friends are sharing the video accompanied by long, passion-filled updates. If I wait any longer, I might as well be a tree in a desert.

Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Amma, Amma! Dabazaa kholo! Computer toota gaya!”

(Restart.)

Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

To go over everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya…

 Ring. Ring. Ring.

(Pause.)

“This is a reminder call about the orientation at the school this Saturday at 10am. Please make sure to arrive on time.”

(Play.)

…But I ain’t done much healing

Hello, can you hear me?

I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be

Knock. Knock.

Didi, istree wala paisa maang raha hai…

(Give money, don’t pause.)

Hello from the other side

I must have called a thousand times

To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done

Ring. Ring.

(Pause again.)

“Hi, are you the dosa people?”

(… half an hour later, Play.)

But when I call you never seem to be home

Hello from the outside

(Maybe I could listen to the song in its entirety when I go for a walk in the morning? No, I’ll need that time to discuss a few things with my husband. Or maybe, if I start training again for the half marathon, I can create a playlist with all of these songs … who am I kidding. There are no marathons to be run for a while now. No sleep at night and no time during the day. Just keep listening.)

At least I can say that I’ve tried

“Amma… Uku kithy deta hai!”

(iTunes > Quit.)

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when I described music as my “passion.” I listened to it all the time, often the same songs on an endless loop.

Now, getting through a 5-minute song in one stretch feels like a monumental effort.

My other passions do not fare any better. There is reading; while I do still read, there’s a word limit that makes books impossible. I still cook, but very routinely and functionally — none of the fun experimental stuff that I used to try back in my 20s. And then there is running, which has slowed to a gentle stroll while dragging my lazy, diabetic dog.

Priorities and responsibilities have taken the place of passion. In the transition to parenthood, there is no slack, no downtime. I move from routine to routine, from crisis to crisis, which leaves no time to process or savour anything I do. Sometimes, it feels like I have lost myself amid the formulae of my days.

I remember thinking the same about my parents, when I was younger. Their well-worn turn table and their scratched records from the 70s told a story different from what I saw. They didn’t seem to listen to music much. They rarely made the effort to be current and mostly, they didn’t seem to like what they heard. Every so often, I would hear them sing along when a song from their younger days played on the radio and that was it. I swore that wouldn’t be me.

Now, it is – and it isn’t, because I see that time differently. They were in their 30s, like I am now, and they were hard at work: becoming professionals, building a business from scratch, raising a child, and having a social life. As they retire, they can now look back to a very productive life, full of achievements and accolades. But some things — a hobby here, a passion there — had to recede to the background so they could do the things they needed to do to become what they are now.

It is tedious, the doing. The slow chipping away, unable always to see the outcome, is definitely a far cry from reveling in our pet passion. Yet we do it because we reach a stage where we define ourselves by our choices and actions, and not by our likes.

Now, I define myself as a mother, a business-owner, a homemaker, and a writer. In my 30s, I actually have things to write about and, after a lifetime of reading, am able to write better. I have the means and was mentally ready to start a family, launch a business and build a home. My sense of self is now tied up with the day-to-day achievements and failures of what I do. I own the life I live.

There are occasional flickers of regret, a lukewarm sense of loss, but they come mostly when I look to the future, not at the past. Because of this evolution, I will be out of touch with many things that will be a part of my son’s everyday life. I will be out of the loop in conversations about pop culture, and I will probably come late to hip technology, as my parents have with Facebook and WhatsApp. The songs on my phone are already dated to the time when I was actively seeking music, so I will not know the songs he listens to.

The regret, though, is momentary, because it has very little to do with what I seek now. The fact is, at this moment, I really don’t miss what I used to be.

But it would be nice to have enough time to finish one song.

Maybe in 15 years, after I send my son off to college, and when I sell or shut down my business, when my life is simpler, more spacious, I will come back to the playlist of missed songs and try to reconnect with my old passion, my old self. Sure, I will come back to it a different person, but hey, that will be interesting, too.

Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

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