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Life Lessons from a stranger in the washroom

Life lessons from a stranger in the mall

If you’ve ever been to a newly opened mall in Singapore you’ll know what I mean by sweeping crowds. People from all around the world throng the shopping centres in search of a deal or a bargain. There are crowds milling around all the big departmental stores and the sounds of blaring music and talking people is a sensory overload to say the least.

In one of my trips to Singapore to visit my parents I found myself standing in the long queue for the washrooms in one of these malls. In front of me was a cranky baby and her mom who’s accent revealed she was Australian. The baby was about 8 months old and was clearly not enjoying her excursion to this new hi tech mall and was kicking her legs whining a little more after brief intervals. The baby made eye contact with this brown lady writing this and soon she forgot her discomfort and giggled with me. Time passed quickly and her mom and I got chatting.

I don’t remember what led to what but I remember confessing to the mom “I’m 34 and been married for 9 years. My husband wants a baby but I still feel I’m not ready to be a mom. I’m too old I feel.”

She put her baby down in the stroller and told me “I had her at 40 and I’m not old at all. Have your baby when you want. Just do it. You’ll never regret it” Her eyes met mine and in her I saw wisdom and compassion. We bade goodbye and I remember thinking about her advice. Most Indian women have their babies soon after their marriage and to have a baby in your late 30s or 40s is still unthinkable in many parts of the country I lived in.

Too many times we allow other people’s thinking to limit us. When I confessed to her, I was thinking like the women around me in my family and my neighbourhood. Women who would ask me if I had children and if I said “no, not yet” they’d shake their heads regrettably as if I was written off from motherhood. This stranger I met from another culture in another country was living proof that ‘we’re never too old to be parents” and I needed to hear it.

Three years after that encounter I delivered a baby boy at the age of 37. The private nursing home had written me down as an “elderly caregiver” but thanks to the wonderful Australian mom I met in the Singapore mall, I never felt old again.

Mita Bhan

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