Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. - Elizabeth Stone
How one takes care of a piece of one’s heart is individualistic. Let me start with mine. The decision to have Li’l General was not momentous : a carefully thought and well-timed decision when I felt I’d had enough of my career and was ready to take a break without the nagging urge to go back within three months of maternity leave. Yet, I did not have the slightest idea of what was in store. As I look back at those 39 weeks now and read the blog posts dating back to my pre-delivery days, I realize it was very much taking one day at a time. So it was a total shocker on the operating table on the D-day as I realized how naive I had been to not think about it or even understand the whole process. V and I did not invest in any baby literature - books, videos, DVDs, anything for that matter. The only information related to what was going on was through the Baby Center Newsletter - a good friend at work casually mentioned this site sometime during my 27th week. What ensued in the following weeks after our son LG’s birth was even more funny as I reminisce now. One morning eight days after LG was born, we were to take him to the Paed for at-birth vaccination that had been delayed due to his calcium-deficiency condition. Three adults - V, my mother and I - were sprawled over the bed trying to figure out how ISRO managed to plant the tricolor on the moon. Alright, jokes apart it was serious stuff that required an equivalent amount of brainpower. We were discussing which was the front part of the diaper and how it should be secured around LG’s hips. I was holding the newborn diaper pack that my dad had got from Bahrain (wish I had known the imported pack was available at the pharmacy round the corner) while V and my mom were holding one end each as I narrated the steps. It took us 17 minutes to get the damn diaper on. More experimentation followed for various other things in the following weeks from how to bathe the baby to hey, there’s something called wipes to clean the baby after you-know-what. In the end, we gave up on new age parenting and LG grew up as a baby in the old-times co-sleeping with me and bathing on my legs.
In short, no one told me it was a 24-hour-a-day job and that parenting did not allow for annual leave, casual leave or even sick leave. It meant one could not nap when one wished to and had to time it with the kid’s nap times even if it were 10:17 a.m. And like Chetan Bhagat said in a recent article having kids could be like owning a luxury car. High maintenance stuff. When people ask you, “When are you planning to start a family” they don’t reveal it must be your lucky day if your newborn hasn’t pooped while you are having lunch or that it could be months before you and your spouse could have a meal together. This is the only way of parenting I knew from my experience with LG the past two years or had ever been exposed to.
I’m in my early thirties now; going by the increasing life expectancy rates and beating the odds of passing away in an eventuality or sickness, let’s say I (and V) live on for another 30-40 years (too long a time!). It’s too early to comment on when we would retire, which part of the world we would be in and where we would want to settle down. Often, talking about retirement the talk revolves around planning. Planning, primarily financial in nature, starts as early as when you are 28 years old these days though it started a few decades later for our parents’ generation owing to various reasons - parental obligations, supporting a larger family, building a house etc etc. Financial planning is a given in today’s times and most other lifelong dreams are met by the time one is 28 or 29 - a car, a house, foreign vacation - expand the list to your fancy.
I don’t know how to begin this one. It’s best to start with the obvious - before you run images in your head of a pregnant-again me or LG getting a sibling for company , let me put your doubts to rest. Not so soon, at least not yet.
A friend recently announced that a second baby is on its way later this year. As a first time parent, I can now appreciate what a second child means - to the first child, to the parents and in general to the family as a whole. Before we became parents, I recall my reaction when my neighbor announced she was expecting a second one. My reaction was far from understanding of anyone who wanted a second child - more often the reasoning being why such educated people care so less about the society in general and are so selfish giving so little thought about contributing to the already billion+ population. I would reason in my head what if every one of us reproduced two which by the way comes easily to Indians - not that Indians have more sex than the rest of the world (statistics say). The decision to have or not to have is something personal that requires no discussion from anyone not involved, much less an unwarranted opinion. This is India - a democracy for Pete’s sake not China where you will be put behind bars for not exercising control. People who thought like me were often congratulatory of desis reproducing more than one because those developed countries need a younger population decades later and don’t want the birth rate to come down any further - the desis are happy to do their bit even if the motive is personal. And the same very people would criticize and question when the folks went in for more in India.
This is a favorite topic in the mommy blogosphere where tons of posts are written citing their reasons for expanding the family that range anywhere from company for the older sibling after the parents pass away to we didn’t plan, so what - it’s our choice - you take a hike! Those who plan debate over the issue endlessly before taking the plunge. In many cases, those who choose not to go ahead are usually because the first pregnancy was a very difficult one right from conception tho delivery and the trauma so much so that they are not mentally prepared to go down the same path a second time. Sometimes career and financial reasons too come into consideration. I doubt if there is any parent who doesn’t care for a second one because the first one was too naughty to handle.
We haven’t come to that phase of life to so much as discussing a second one. There are times when it seems like LG getting a sibling sounds like a cool idea. Not so cool when I think of the moments when a jug of water is poured down the floors of the just-mopped drawing room or a mouthful of wet sand from the pot in the balcony or my beautiful broken vase splattered all over the rug. It is draining physically and mentally. But they say it is easy the second time round. LG’s park friend’s mom once said, “your first child never grows up until the second one arrives. then both of them grow together and fast enough.” I doubt if my mother would agree to this one
I share a very healthy relationship with my brother. If there’s one thing that would ever make me consider second one, it has to be because of this relationship with my brother - which I hope LG will cherish as a lifelong gift to him. The days I am down and out, all it takes is to pick up the phone and call him not worrying about what hour of the day it is considering he lives timezones away. Buried deep in household chores, I’ve lost count of the calls I miss from him but that doesn’t stop him from calling or taking offense. This is not calling “taking for granted” or taking liberties. It is being yourself and not having to explain. Running out of topics to talk on is hard to come by - there’s always something even if it was those stupid ghar-ghar games we played on Sunday afternoons when we were kids or how many times we got spanked by dad for throwing balls in the toilet. They say true friends fit this description. True, but only to an extent.
V is a single child who has never played games like Chinese Checker or Chess that require more than one player. Most of the games he is fond of to this day are outdoorish like soccer that they played at school. A single child grows mature too soon for his age. Childhood leaves them soon enough. On the other end of spectrum is the case of my mother who was born with nine siblings. That must’ve been a riot at home every day. It was - I’ve seen it. They’ve grown too old now and too apart for whatever reasons. But it was fun when it lasted. Most importantly, they stood by each other when it mattered the most - through the ups and downs of each other.
I have all these examples laid out before me. It wouldn’t be tough to decide which way to take when the time arrives. Until, then it’s Lil’ General who rules our lives.
The mercury is rising in Pune and it gets worse in the evenings leaving one completely drained and thirsty all the time. Recently on one of our routine evening walks when I could walk no further, I stopped by at a local grocer’s to grab a cold drink - my choice being Amul’s flavored milk. As I made my exit in came a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 7 years old and said, “Uncle, can Pepsi chahiye!” Mind you, it’s not just Pepsi anymore..it’s Can Pepsi. In yet another incident, a neighbor’s daughter in her 8th std. prefers walking to school about 2 Kms away in this sweltering heat instead of riding her bicycle - as a mark of protest for not being given a two-wheeler to drive. Parents anticipate demands for a cell phone coming soon. Contrary to most parents, the girl’s parents are stubborn too and let her walk deciding not to cave in so easily.
Choices of this generation are changing fast. For one, they are aware of what’s available and understand the ways and means to get it. They are more comfortable dealing with money. And parents are more comfortable handing them money. Until I was 17 years old, all I had in my school bag was a 5 Re. note to deal with an emergency which most likely was my cycle tyre getting punctured. Which never happened on the way in the two years I rode my cycle to school. Which also means that I never got to use that Re. 5 mote and duly handed it over to my mother on the last day of my school. One need not expect that of this generation. According to a report in Reuters, you can make your kids financially savvy by actively involving them in monthly budgets and letting them deal with a little money early on. Exposure to how you as parents earn, wisely spend and invest will go a long way in them not making extravagant demands. So says the study.
Not too old as compared to these kids but I already feel much older to sense what has been called the generation gap for ages. To step into their shoes and bond with them is not going to be easy. It doesn’t stop with heir food choices. That’s just the beginning. It extends into all other aspects of their lifestyle - clothing for instance. I am at times shocked by their knowledge of the fashion scene and what was hot in the Lakme Fashion Week to which model is touting which cuts and fabric from which designer. And am I shocked to see 15 year old girls coming into salons to get their hair highlighted, eyebrows done and pedicure. All this from girls in their teens? Oh and wait - there was also this ad recently about a gym opening up exclusively for kids. Seems like the most happening thing where in kids can chill out with their buddies at the gym and work out too. Excuse me since when did they stop hitting the playground every evening for an hour. As kids, the days seemed incomplete if we didn’t return home every evening from the park and mom yelling for entering with mud filled shoes. With huge disposable incomes and indulging parents, getting the designer wear or a trip to the spa is not tough for these not-so-elite kids. With the exposure they get from TV and friends alike, they are also wearing it. No wonder Businessworld reported a story titled “Young Luxe” on how luxury brand such as Gucci and Lacoste are finding huge takers in India.
As Lil’ General grows up, it’s going to take a huge makeover of my attitude to begin with.
If you are a parent who stays abreast of the news, then you can skip reading this post. This is for mothers like me who get to know what’s going on around the world a day later and sometimes never until someone calls…sometimes family calls me to keep me informed if it’s either going to affect my life or my dear ones in any way such as the one today.
Dad and my aunt were apparently trying to reach me this evening and as expected I stayed incommunicado for a good part until Lil’ General alerted me to the ringing phone - the volume is so low that only his elephant ears can catch the signal. Later, I randomly checked my cell phone for missed calls I realized the urgency.
Indian Media is not far from aping the West in giving maximum coverage to useless breaking news such as AbhiAsh wedding over real news. More often than not none of the top stories qualify as news worth hearing or reading. Spat between Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha or the corrupt Indian Hockey Federation mulling over when KPS Gill will resign and where Saif and Kareena Kapoor were making out the previous night gets more coverage than 4 infant deaths in Tamil Nadu. he news channels can’t be blamed. The public is always hungry for more gossip, sensational news such as these that meaningful journalism takes a backseat.
Coming back to the vaccination tragedy, 4 infants died after being given Measles vaccine at a Government Health Center in Tamil Nadu. What an irony? The very thing that should protect a child from killer diseases takes its life. What if the parents had not given - ofcourse that’s not a wise idea as it would bring a major setback in the immunization program. What enrages me is the Health Ministry’s statement which in its defense says it was a trial order from a private Hyderabad based company. Since when did we start experimenting on 9 month old infants like Guinea Pigs? Is it way too much to expect people to be careful where lives of infants are involved? I can’t even fathom what must be going through the parents of those 4 children.
Meanwhile, the newsrooms of all the channels are busy discussing if the cheerleaders should be banned. I’m actually surprised that this hasn’t surfaced any sooner. Wonder if the moral police were partying enjoying Twenty-20 when it suddenly dawned upon one of them to stir this controversy for all that’s worth. How about banning item numbers for a change?
Striking a conversation with a stranger is easy in two settings - over a cigarette (I’m told) and when you have a cute baby in tow. For introverts like me, children come in handy in a social setting. Before Lil’ General came along I often rehearsed the opening lines before starting a conversation with someone unknown just so it didn’t end even before it began. Interestingly, gaining confidence and making the first move to initiate a conversation with someone didn’t happen until I started going out with LG - call it the lack of social circle or the need to talk to someone other than the maid. How we all live in our own wrong pre-conceived notions. I was a difficult conversationalist with stay-at-home moms in my working days for one I thought they were versatile homemakers who did a good job of managing kids, great cooking for 20 people in half-a-day’s notice and keeping a happy home - all of which I was incapable of at that time and found it hard to hit a common ground. The fact is I didn’t try and refused to open up. And you just don’t make friends if you don’t open up. They all remain acquaintances.
One thing that comes naturally to Indians is the usage of kids as conversation fillers. See a lady with a baby in pram in the park and it’s funny how even a shy person sheds her inhibitions and goes on for 30 minutes about everything from Paediatrician to teething to conceiving accidentally to the right age gap between two kids. And believe me, before LG I dreaded at the thought of visiting a family with prodigy kids (just so you know for every family their kid is a prodigy) for it meant listening to everything from the famous “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!” rhyme to alternating 1,2,3. That was not all. In all likelihood, it was followed by the kid gyrating to the latest Bollywood item number. Imagine the practice and torture the child is subjected to and ofcourse the visitors - how many ever times you visit them in a week you will be subjected to this ordeal. That was when I swore not to use LG as my conversation filler and never to subject any visitor to LG stories and narrating his potty schedule or how many hours he slept during the day and what TV he watched or didn’t. Kids make any unpleasant situation easy. Imagine a social do you are forced to attend because of whatever obligations and every second person in the room is uncomfortable talking to the other because their spouses aren’t the best of buddies but you still ought to wear that diplomacy hat and make small talk - let’s just say kids have made that small talk all the more easy. Oh come on! - don’t read between the lines. We all encounter such occasions once in a while.
I was sure as adults we could manage to have other conversation topics than the time-tested one of our kids. If I can fill up half the posts on this blog related to children, do you think I would be faring any better in real life? I’ve failed miserably!
It was 9:05 p.m. Sunday night. We’d just returned home after looking at a few apartments in the city and I was done feeding Lil’ General his dinner when the phone rang. It was my brother - he asked me the usual question - what I was doing. I told him I’d go to the supermarket down the road to pick up vegetables for the week. “You’re a housewife!”, he exclaimed as if it was a discovery worth going down in Record Books Read more
The decision “to nickname or not to nickname” is certainly not something I would lose my sleep over. Yet, I decided to give it some serious thought when a wise, worldly and well-informed acquaintance of ours asked with concern, “Aren’t you going to have a nickname for Lil’ General?” That was the most natural thing to do, according to him. A name that is personal, known only to family and something creates a special bonding. Hypothetically, when LG is 50 and I’m nearing my 80s (I know, high hopes to live on until then), I wonder how calling him “chotu” would look like. Make him feel younger? Read more
OK, firstly, I had never thought in my wildest dreams that I would use this term - “stay-at-home-mom” ever.
The jargons SAHM and WAHM (Work at home mom) that all the online mommy blogger community with so much ease as saying hi and bye, drives me up the wall. Yes, I DETEST the terms because so much is made out of nothing. There’s always one post everyday you can find on one of those popular mommy blogger sites, to begin with The Mad Momma who leads the online mommy brigand with her never ending rant on this topic that talks about the trials and tribulations of a mom staying at home and those working. I have nothing against her or the others, it’s their wish. But isn’t the grass always greener on the other side and neither of the parties are content with their status with something always to crib about and justify why they chose the path they did. Financial independence, what if something happens to my husband some day, what use is my Post graduate degree if I sit at home, diminishing social life, gender (in)equality etc etc - you know the arguments and the never ending justifications.
This post is anything but all of the above. V and I do talk a lot about how things have changed ever since I started staying home and we both constantly work all the time to keep me mentally stimulated (not necessarily gaining financially) with writing and trading for instance. The arrival of Lil General had nothing or little to do with my quitting. It just acted as a catalyst that I had been planning for a long time in search of something I liked to do for a career.
As we went for our evening walk today, something dawned on me when V said, “these are not my topics of interest to discuss”. For some relationships, intelligent conversations provide that spark and you connect on a mental plane that no mushy or mundane conversation ever can. The dark side of my staying home has changed the way we connect. It is no longer about which corporate bagged the huge deal or how much profits our respective organizations made that quarter or what new hiring policy was going on or which moron MBA (oh I have a lot of issue against the MBAs and it’s no secret, at the risk of some of my good friends taking offense like MD, AK) got in as a new business analyst with zilch knowledge about systems. And we loved these conversations talking into the wee hours lying on the couch as weekend(s) passed by and we wouldn’t have moved our bums out of the damn house! There was always something to debate on. Now suddenly all of it has changed. I am the sounding board with very little to contribute. My window to the world is the Internet and Economic Times, which if I am lucky I get to read some days else it comes out of the potty next day from LG.
Every evening, I still have a lot to tell as V gets back from work. Not about who put in his paper or what mail my manager sent with screwed up grammar. It all revolved around which salesman came and at what time of the day - sometimes to the precise minute. I rant about the fights my maid has with her daughter-in-law, how the people downstairs spend loads of money on their wood work or how bad the noise level was from the neighbor’s house who just turned his driveway to set up a atta grinding machine and how the neighbour lady looks svelte all the time and impeccably dressed. Its more about the vegetables and groceries than the deadlines and milestones at work. Nothing interesting..all the mundane stuff with some exciting tidbits on how LG entertained me and kept me productive.
This life is convenient. I am in a comfort zone now, having stayed away from work for a year. But this is black hole. You just get drawn deeper and deeper by the day. I’ve no idea where I am going with this post…its all muddled in the head right now as I try to find my answers of how to take it forward staying at home. Maybe those of you who work from home as freelancers can show me some light as to how you compensate for the lack of working in an environment with people mushrooming around your work place.
It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, an unusual one as it was not raining at even half past noon. The rain gods do not spare Pune on weekends confining families to stay indoors and get bored of seeing each other’s face or the stupid reality shows on Television with the exception of a Formula 1 race weekend. So yesterday with the overcast still in sight threatening to pour anytime, we bravely made plans to lunch at the new restaurant, Gayatree, that opened up in the neighborhood just three days back.
This was a big event in itself, for this was the first time The Seniol and I were going to dine outside with LG. And I guess we would have to be one of those odd couples/parents who have not gone out for a goddamn 7 months after the baby was born. I would like to think that I’m either a very good cook that we don’t feel the need to eat out or that LG keeps us entertained at home that we don’t feel like budging out. How I wish the former was true to bloat my ego, but the reality is it is the second one and that both of us are too lazy to chalk out plans.
Don’t get me wrong, we have been out with LG before to friendly places such as a relative’s place, traveled all the way from Trichy to Chennai, visits to a friend’s place etc but never to a location that is totally strange to him in its setting and which is not home-like except the hospital. So I know what to pack in his bag and what to carry and what not to. But the trip yesterday was a total disaster.
The first mistake, we dressed him up after he had his lunch to his heart’s content (who feels like going out after a heavy lunch) when it was his nap time..his eyes were drooping.It was already late and I had two choices - to put him to sleep and fix a quick lunch for us or take him along and put him to sleep on the way / get a takeaway. I chose the latter. In the frenzy of getting ready (I usually look clumsy these days like a mommy with stains and leftovers of LG’s food on my dress) and making a mental note that I ought take his water bottle, I rushed down to the car with his pram and other essentials. Since the place was just around the corner I decided against taking his bag. Turned out later nothing is just around the corner with a baby. An outing is an outing and his baggage goes with it.
We reach the place all confident and put him on the pram and take him in, excitement and apprehension clearly written all over our faces when the first oon oon and the uncomfy look on LG’s face. “He is not happy.”, says Vivek.
The crying started even before we took our seats. Positioning the fan towards him by climbing on the table and then on the chair to get the angle of the rotating fan just about right, making stupid quack quack and bow-bow sounds letting the other people there assume we were clowns and letting all the cutlery available on the table rub against each other to produce all sorts of sounds possible saw LG quiet for a while. When we ran out of ideas, Vivek suggested he might be hungry and that I should give him water. It didn’t take long to realize the mental note had remained a mental note. So he drove back home and returned with the bottle. See, going to a place round the corner is never a good idea for you are careless and the husband has to do the running around for the wife’s absentmindedness.
I finished my French Onion soup sitting on the edge with spoon in one hand and the other rocking his pram. The 75 ml of water was over before our main course came in.
We stayed for 45 mins - the quickest lunch that took about 15 seconds to order and 10 mins to gobble down the food sitting on the edge of our seats. The rest was spent entertaining LG and Vivek dashing to and fro the house. Oh!we did take a minute to analyse the food as well. The Amritsari Chole could have well been renamed Bengaluru Chole for I don’t know if anyone in Amritsar makes chole purely with coconut. We hope to do better next time