Through this blog, I am bringing the story of a woman who found herself after moving to an international place. But this time, it was her children who helped her to walk on the path of self-discovery. After reading her story, you can argue that she was an educated woman and should have been aware. You can also say she cannot escape from her responsibility simply by sharing her side of the story.
I must clarify she is holding herself equally responsible and in no way trying to present a clear picture of herself. She feels guilty for the state she and her kids are in currently. Nonetheless, now she is determined to make things right for her children and set a better example. And she wants to extend help to all the women who might be in a similar situation but cannot have the strength to speak up for themselves.
Why have I decided to cover her story?
First, for her strength that she showed by writing to me and be vulnerable. Second, for her opening sentence, “my story might not have a happy ending, but I might get there one day.”
For the sake of kids, her identity has been kept anonymous. In her words:
“This writeup is a reflection of self-awareness and getting out of delusional self to see everything clearly as a normal human being do.
I have always believed in being God’s favourite child. My kids call me overly optimistic, who has instilled them with a high dosage of empathy. They, now, strive to find the right balance to be empathetic yet maintain their mental sanity to not end up like me.
I am born with immense courage, empathy and resilience, thanks to my genes – my dad was a teacher of courage and resilience; and my mom instilled an overdose of empathy and compassion in me.
In the early years of my marriage, the USA meant business trips, or a work destination, the thought of settling here never crossed my mind. The self-discovery started when few years back I landed here, with two kids and a spouse, and compressed luggage because my husband wanted to settle in here.
Through my earlier work visits, I was aware of the hardships of being at home and the frustration attached because of the inability to work for few years due to work authorization restrictions.
What I was unprepared for was the painful encounter with the deep hurt that stayed within me as mark of the Indian patriarchal society.
I did not have a perfect relationship with my spouse, and I never expected it to be an example of smooth marriage. I always thought it was better than the families, I knew. I could never even think in my wildest dreams that while I thought we all are doing fine, my husband was engulfed in a parallel life with someone else all those years.
The reason that led me to continue with this relationship for almost 16 years was the satisfaction that my children have their father’s love and support. Something, I did not get in my childhood due to the sudden demise of my father, who was only thirty-nine when he left us while I was not even a teen.
Like many parents, we had our shares of disagreements in raising children because of different parenting approaches in handling situations. As two individuals, we had different personalities. I was a born fighter who does not easily give up, while his approach was always on extremes, either being totally absent or overly present as a father (both were damaging kids while they were growing up). Again, with my blinders on, I assumed maybe this is how a typical father’s role would be, and as a mom, I bring balance to the equation.
I was always passionate about things I do and learning new things to grow professionally kept me motivated and going. Above all, because I was the principal provider for the family, I could not leave my job but what I could do to spend more time with my kids was take on night shifts.
This arrangement continued till we moved to the USA, where for the first time, my elder kid pointed out to me about something constantly happening in front of me that I was oblivious to. Initially, I ignored him but gradually found that he was right.
Still, I was not seeing clearly due to the years of baggage and considered my husband’s irrational and unpredictable behaviour towards the three of us typical.
Then came another shock of adultery which shook the blinders but could not remove them. Now I keep questioning myself for being so naïve. As with most Indian women, acceptance of unacceptable infidelity for the sake of our kids is normal. Five years ago, I wanted to protect my kids from suffering or getting mental health issues, so I made peace with the dishonest relationship. Probably out of many things to regret, this would be the biggest one: staying in this relationship for five years instead of letting it go. It was not the fear of society or financial stability but fear of my kids getting impacted.
How I wish I had a support system of good friends to talk to!
Maybe they would have helped me identify the red flags in my relationship and told me to decide on facts and not on presumptions.
While I was still recovering on my own through the unwrapping of false relationship I was in to, I got shattered when my 11-year-old child was diagnosed with depression and two years after was detected with severe depression and anxiety. As my younger child opened up to me in due course of time, I found out how much impact staying on within this marriage had on her. For me, as a husband, he was never present, but if he was a negative influence on my children, then I might as well leave.
I met with the truth when my children showed me the reality. In their words, “You stayed for us, but now we are asking you to leave him for us.” They made me understand that it was not intelligent to be empathetic to a narcissist. Due to one person, we three were suffering that led me to decide on separation as I could not see my children suffer any more.
It will be hard for us, but we will survive. Currently, we were suffocating, by separating we would breathe.
My elder son still struggles with PTSD because of all the screaming he endured as a child. That was the only way my husband could think to silence him. I am thankful that my son is now on the healing journey.
In the whole process, now I can see the damage done to me mentally and emotionally, but I am all set to try a new venture with my children. I could not become a role model for a healthy relationship. I hope this step teaches them to build their boundaries with everybody. I am not alone in this kind of situation. It has come to my attention that many Indian women living abroad sweep such things under the rug.
It takes two to make a baby. Yet, I can try to break a myth by saying that one healthy parent can raise a happy child.
What does not kill us makes us stronger and, here I am sharing my story.
Now all I have is my supportive kids (my saviours), clarity of thought and conviction.
So, my story might not have a happy ending, but I will get there one day.
And I am sure my mom and dad must be feeling proud of me up there.”
Indian women on international soil is a safe space I am creating for you to share your story of joy, love, sorrow, pain, happiness, sadness or any other emotion that you went through but couldn’t tell anyone. You felt unheard or probably alone and are looking for support. Or you know that you could be a source of inspiration for another woman and need a platform. Whichever place you are write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will definitely connect with you.