Subha Srinivasan shares about finding her identity as a mother.
Sometimes I look at my one-year-old daughter and I feel this profound sense of well-being. A deep gratitude for being able to witness the kind of pure beauty and joy that she brings into our lives. By her presence, her laughter, her silly games, her loving embraces and her funny likes and dislikes. In these moments, I say a silent prayer: may you be well, may you be happy, may you be safe, may you have ease of heart. This prayer, the quintessential metta prayer, has saved me more times than I can recount.
Anjali had just been born. Standing on the sink with a week old baby in the next room, I was sobbing as a result of exhaustion, sleep deprivation and hormones crashing after childbirth. My shoulders aching from nursing that seemed so much harder than I had imagined, I stood there hurting, feeling sorry for myself. Then a spontaneous prayer made its way. May I have compassion, and may I be free from suffering. Nothing on the outside changed. There was still a sleeping baby and still nursing to do, and more. But this prayer allowed just enough softening of the heart to allow space in. It allowed me to be vulnerable and hold that with compassion.
Going back to work after maternity leave, I felt fortunate to be able to work part-time. But working part-time as a professor proved to be more difficult than I imagined. Constantly playing catch-up and bogged down by responsibilities and unable to enjoy the time I did have my little one, I was driven to the wall. After months of deliberation and going back and forth, I remember the evening when, on a walk by the pond, a silent prayer arose: may I be happy, may I have peace, and may I have an easeful heart. I decided to leave my job at the end of the year and pursue a more skillful livelihood for myself, one that would cause me less harm.
Motherhood has immense joy in it, the delight in seeing the world through the eyes of a child, and the learning to be present and open to wonder, like a child. The challenges too are many. For me, the most difficult moments have been when my daughter was sick. The last time when she had an infection, she cried incessantly, inconsolable after having a heavy dose of antibiotics. My heart contracted, unable to witness the pain of my daughter, unable to help her with her diarrhea and discomfort. As I held her in my arms, it was metta that was my lifeline. The silent prayer for both of us – may we have compassion, may we be free from suffering. It was poignant.
Becoming a mom has changed my identity. It has changed my relationships, friendships, job, finances and availability of time.
I remember the first time I said this prayer to Anjali. She was so tiny, and I had not yet gotten used to having her on the outside. This simple prayer allowed me to acknowledge that she was an individual, of me but not me. We were connected but we were also separate. I was there to love her, but I could not control everything for her. All I could do was my best, and trust that that was enough.
Becoming a mom has changed my identity. It has changed my relationships, friendships, job, finances and availability of time. Some relationships have deepened, maturing like fine wine, and others have fallen to the wayside. In the climate of this change, there is one constant factor. The unconditional love that mother feels for her child, the metta heart. The metta heart gives me the steadiness to go on.
We get through the difficult times, inevitably. What metta does is touch this heart in a deep way so that we get through them with compassion and kindness. And in doing so, our practice becomes our life, every moment, every day. We come home.