I am Phaneesh. I am a father of a Special Needs Child. I am also separated from my wife and hence raising my child all by myself.
I fell in love with this amazingly beautiful girl in college, Mimi. By beautiful, I don’t mean “good looks”. I mean, as a person she was amazing. She was full of ideas. She wanted to study MBA, after graduation. She wanted to study Marketing and run her own PR firm one day. I too wanted to study MBA. We were ambitious. She used to call me, “nerdy boy”. We worked hard, prepared for exams. But then we were college kids, so we took our breaks too. We watched movies together. Interestingly, we had the same taste in music, in literature and movies. While laughing at each other’s jokes, we fell in love with each other.
Our relationship flourished throughout our college years and continued while we studied MBA. After MBA, we started working. We were in the same city. Emboldened by my new-found financial independence, I decided to propose marriage to my college sweetheart. She agreed to marry me, but I had to wait for 3 years. We were the typical urban, double income busy couple. We would wake up in the morning have breakfast and leave for office. We would come back home late evening, by then the maid would have cooked, cleaned, washed and left for home. We would watch TV, discuss our days and sometimes fall asleep sitting next to each other on the couch. On weekends, we would go out, sometimes watch movies, sometimes eat out.
We were in no hurry to have any children as we both wanted to concentrate on our respective careers. So, we did, for the first five years of our marriage. Then, she gave birth to my beautiful little daughter.
Then something happened, the paediatrician pointed out that our kid was a Autistic kid. We didn’t know anything about Autism. We researched the topic. Mimi, took charge of the situation. She arranged for a 24hr nanny service. The nanny would take care of our daughter, while we were in office. But Mimi, decided to come back home a little early every day. On weekends, Mimi, would take her for Occupational Therapy. Most days, by the time I came back from office, I would be tired and would not find time to even talk to my wife. Some days, I would find Mimi, lying next to our daughter, fast asleep. Many months had passed, when I realised, we had hardly talked to each other. I would be busy with my work. Mimi, would be busy with her work and our daughter. This was taking a toll on her. She looked like she had not slept well and was perpetually tired. Mimi, decided she would ask her mother to come and stay with us for a while, such that someone could help her.
My mother-in-law, stayed with us for a while. Mimi got some much needed respite from her routine. But the situation changed very quickly. My mother-in-law needed a gall bladder operation and she decided to go back to her home for the same. My mother came to live with us.
Around this time, Mimi decided to quit her job, and work from home or be a stay at home mother. She spent almost all her time with our daughter.
My mother’s presence was making Mimi, uncomfortable. My mother would often blame Mimi for our daughter’s Autism.
Thinking back to what happened, I believe, I was a lousy husband to my wife. As a couple, we had not yet processed Autism. We talked with each other little, and we had ugly fights. She was shouldering all the work related to therapy and dealing with our daughter. We paid little attention to each other and let others take advantage.
Marriage can be difficult. We all need to work on our marriages. But being special needs parent can be especially difficult. Even more so, if one parent does all the heavy-lifting. After a year, I needed to move to Mumbai. Mimi, declined to move with me. She said that she needed a break. She did not move with me. We live in different cities and lead separate lives.
I was really really angry in the beginning. Now. I am not. Having played the role of a father and a mother to my daughter, I know how much hard work, Mimi had put into parenting. Essentially, I had played the absent parent, simply because I left it all to my wife. I, love my daughter and I also love my wife. I don’t hold it against her, that she did not move to Mumbai with us. She was tired. She needed a break from us. She had reached “ burn out”. There are many in the family who are angry with her , I don’t listen to those people anymore. They play no role in bringing up our child, they also play no role in my marriage.
We did not talk to each other for months and then gradually , we started talking again. I understand her now, more than ever.