Category Archives: mommyrage

A Mother – In Life & In Death

Suicide Series 3

A neighbor of mine recently killed herself. She was around forty, has two kids and was separated from her husband. I knew her a little. She wasn’t a friend, but was more than an acquaintance (there really should be a word for that). I used to wave to her every morning, as she brisk- walked around the colony and I zipped past her with my kids in the car, in a mad dash to make it to the bus stop on time – pretty much a daily morning routine for us both.

And now she’s gone. She decided to exercise the exit option, something that has been topic of hot debate in our otherwise sleepy little colony. Unsurprisingly, she’s being judged by all and sundry, irrespective of their closeness to her. A suicide evokes everyone’s opinion, especially if the person in question was a mother. So the leitmotif, so to speak, that binds everyone’s judgements is that she had no business killing herself because she was a mother. Why she did it, or the fact that she was depressed to the point of suicide is not something anyone wants to deal with – she had kids, so she owed a responsibility to them. That’s that.

Sure, I agree that parents ought to be there for their kids. I’ll get to that shortly. But, before that there is a larger point I want to make, which is about the woman herself, about her own desires, her needs and her wishes. We expect mothers to be superhuman, to never tire, to indefatigably battle all emotions, all odds, all the time, irrespective of their nature and intensity. That’s the mother we put on a pedestal, and there she must remain – any sign of her stepping down and we start to lament, to question the sanity of her mind, to wonder how she sleeps at night (she probably just passes out) .

The truth is that when this incident happened, everyone in the society was only interested in knowing the gory details, in assembling in corners and talking in hushed tones, and then announcing their unsolicited opinion. It’s what we like to do – to judge, to take a stand, to climb onto our self-made pulpits and announce our verdicts, which we see as extremely logical and reasonable. We don’t like to answer uncomfortable questions or face the truth. No one really understood why a mother would kill herself. We judge a woman in life and in death. She is not free to even die on her own terms. I feel terrible for her kids, but, somehow, I don’t question her decision. What I do wish was that she had not reached that point, one where life looks too dismal and bleak, when the thought of waking up and taking on another day seems like an insurmountable burden, when the walls close in on you and you just want to end the trauma that is life. That’s what depression does to people. Yet, it was hard for people to understand that she simply ran out of steam. She had kids, is all they chanted, in unison, almost like they’d rehearsed it.  I didn’t bother to try and make them see her point – because they seemed to lack the bandwidth.

Also, there is another aspect to this. As Indians, we don’t really accept depression as an illness that needs addressing, let alone medication (exceptions aside). We believe we don’t need shrinks because that’s really for the “westerners”, who don’t have families to fall back upon. “Our Indian families are structured to provide emotional support to each other” – said my aunt once, whose son was diagnosed with depression. For years, she waved it off that finding as nonsense, till she was forced to accept when his condition got worse. I am not so sure I buy into the whole Indian-family thing. I mean, sure, we’re close/er to our parents than some other parts of the world are (though by saying this, we are implying that our definition of closeness is the accurate one- it could mean different things to different people, but that’s another post). However, even if we believe that Indian families are closer knit than the western ones, it does not mean we don’t feel depressed or that we always share everything with each other. I would actually argue that the average Indian woman is a lonely one – she toils at home and sometimes at work too – all day. She is never really asked how she is feeling, or what she is going through (a few cutesy television ads aside, this is the grim reality for the average Indian woman). She lives among constant, unending and enervating chaos –  the husband, the kids, the assorted in-laws, the house issues – she handles all of it, and she does it at her own cost.

The term lonely housewife applies to the Indian woman as much as it applies to any woman from around the world. A housewife is surrounded by people, and yet she is lonely. Often, her only real friends are other women like her, who she befriends here and there – in her colony, at the market, at parks, as she tends to the needs of her home and kids – and they develop a strange connection, an enduring I-hear-ya-sister kind of bond.

Anyway, to come to my neighbour and her kids. I believe that wanting kids is a selfish need and once we give in to that need, it becomes our duty to be responsible for them. But life’s not that simple. Parenting is hard and nothing prepares you for it. Not the child’s mistake I know, but if there’s one thing I have learned about being a mother is that parents are humans but we don’t expect them to be. My neighbour was a human who just gave up. Call it cowardice, selfishness, what you may, but she could not go on. No one saw the warning signs, because, as another tactless neighbour remarked, “why would she want to die? She had kids, but maybe she was insane”. Well, she was not insane, nowhere near it, but she was alone and that can be hard. If only someone had stepped in and helped her, that was probably all she needed. Her kids now face a life without a mother, but it did’t have to be this way.

I am, once again, reminded of a quote from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. She was writing about American suburban moms in the thirties, but what she said applies to women around the world, even today.

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”

I have often been afraid to ask myself that very same question. The answer can sometimes lead you down the wrong path..

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Homework and the Monster Mommy

Study

Homework is usually my domain, though the husband does chip in a fair amount too. However, every once in a while it does lead to a you-do-this situation.

Like one Saturday, a few weeks ago, there was some Hindi homework that my ten-year-old daughter needed to get done. Now I am quite aware of the fact that homework is for the child to do and all that, but the truth is that when it’s Sunday night and the blank sheet stares you in the face as your lachrymose daughter informs you, amid bursts of tears, that the work most definitely needs to be given in the next day, somehow the bigger picture that she-must-learn-to-be-more-responsible blurs and all you want to do is fight the fire at hand.  Having been in a few of these situations, I try and not let homework linger on till Sunday evening – the afternoon being the absolute cut-off.

This particular Saturday presented a somewhat tedious Hindi homework and since I was busy with the younger twins’ respective work-sheets, I asked my husband to help the older one’s work. Or, to tell the truth, after an aborted attempt at starting the homework with her and my husband wondering aloud about why mother and daughter were fighting again, there was a slight change in plan on who would tackle this behemoth.  Little did he realize that his question would land him the unenviable job of supervising the Hindi homework. After a few exchanges between us about the merits of patience and of letting her figure it out, I handed him the sheet and said “all yours”. He looked at me helplessly at first and then, in a show of bravado, said that he would “make her do it without a problem”. I smiled and left the room with the alacrity of a cat that had licked the cream. I knew just where this was heading.

I returned twenty minutes later to find my daughter staring out of the window and my husband reading something about start-up ventures on the web. It seemed to be a serene and happy kind of coexistence. There was such calmness in the air that I, for a moment, contemplated leaving them in this idyllic state and returning to the twins’ homework. That noble thought, needless to say, passed quite quickly, and the peace was soon shattered. Father and daughter, lost in their own worlds, didn’t quite realize that monster mommy had made her dreaded entry, so I had to announce it myself. When I asked for a progress report, my husband jumped out of his chair and said “she’s almost done”. I looked at my daughter’s desk and saw the worksheet, clean as a slate. She looked at me with her large, eloquent eyes and said “I am thinking mama”. My husband sensed my mood, looked at my daughter in suppressed panic and asked her what happened to the useful inputs he’d given her. She looked most alarmed and said “dad, you didn’t tell me to write anything!” Ah! this was just the Claire-in-Modern-family-moment that I’d been waiting for– the time when my husband would face the same aggravation as I do with the kids (now you know why mommy yells?) But, there was no yelling, no stamping of feet, no, you-better-look-at-me-when-I-talk-to you exchanges. The air was tense and there was some fraction in the ranks, and while that briefly put into question the enduring unity against the common enemy, which would be the bad-cop, aka mommy, it didn’t last long enough for me to celebrate the sweet reversal of fortunes. The situation was quickly stabilized as my husband clarified that they had mentally gone over what was to be written and all that remained was to pour it out on paper. My daughter was quick to pick up the cue and wholeheartedly endorsed this fact. I rolled my eyes, sighed and gave them an ultimatum. I was to return in twenty more minutes and the pouring-out on paper better have happened till then.

Fifteen minutes later, as I was telling the twins to put back their pencils in their drawers, father and daughter entered the room holding the finished sheet, save for one last question. They said that they’d done it all but needed my expert guidance on one question. It was evident that this had been planned in an effort to make the home/cabinet secretary feel that any task was incomplete without her astute leadership. They both looked at me helplessly, and I played my part with such skill that it would have put Michelle Pfeiffer to shame. I heaved a sigh, took the paper and reluctantly agreed to complete the task.

“Thank you mama”, said the father-daughter-duo, “we were a bit lost without you”.  The battle won, I agreed to put the matter to rest, but not before I’d given my husband the look. The score stood at the usual – Mommy one, daddy Zero, as Salman Rushdie would say.

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The Guilt of a Woman

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Ever since I’ve started full-time work, I’ve been grappling with a nagging guilt. Not that this came as a surprise to me. I’ve always said (here and on many other occasions) that there’s a weird connection between guilt and women. It never leaves us actually, this guilt – we carry it like an eternal and cursed burden, like the rock of Sisyphus. It’s ever-present, at the back (sometimes in the front) of our minds, and, unlike Sisyphus, who lets the rock roll down the hill, we never let go of our guilt. Not for a moment. We nurse it, we feed it and we often we let it tear us apart.

As I write this, I can think of a million things that I could tear myself apart for. I know this sounds extreme, but it is true. I grapple with guilt on multiple fronts, everyday (as do a lot of women I know) – for not calling my mother, for not going for lunch with my sister, for leaving work early, for leaving work late, for not being home with the kids, for not supervising their homework, for yelling at them, for not accompanying my older daughter to her piano class, for not having met one of my closest friends who was visiting from out of town, for declining another friend’s invitation to tea, for not having run this morning, for not having visited the local electricity office for a over-charging, faulty meter, for having forgotten a friend’s birthday..the list is endless. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s a phase, but I do wish I could do more with my time, do more for the
people I love and somehow, magically, at the same time, do what gives me a sense of accomplishment as well (the two are often on parallel paths)

The reason I am feeling more guilt than ever is because now that I am working, I get less time for anything else (don’t get me wrong, I had guilt when I was not working too). I enjoy going to work, but I do feel that the house is suffering because of it. The other day my daughter got some math sums wrong – she knew them but was doing her homework distractedly. Earlier I would be around to make sure she sat at her desk and focused on work. Now she runs around the house and finishes her homework in spurts. And while I know she has to learn to work on her own, the fact that she got her sums wrong upset me. Not so much because she made mistakes, more because I took that as yet another sign that my leaving the house had been detrimental for the kids. yes, I know I am overthinking this. And it’s complicated. Because it’s not like my not leaving the house was ideal for the kids either – that too was detrimental, though in a different way – unhappy mommy, unhappy kids kinds of thing.

So I am not sure what the solution is. And I am not sure I am even looking for a solution. I am just pouring my thoughts out in order, I guess, to get some clarity in my own head. And also, maybe, to feel a little less guilt in the process. Writing about an issue helps me deal with it better.

I know that getting out of the house was the best thing I did for me and for the family. It comes at a cost, but everything does. So if my working means that there are winter clothes sitting on my chair waiting for me to find place for them in my cupboard, or the fact that my kids sometimes get their homework wrong, or that the winter plants are not planted yet, or that I miss going for the kids’ lessons, well that may not be so bad when I weigh it with the fact that I am much happier now and have this sense of purpose that I was lacking before and thus when I am with the kids I am much happier, if a bit tired.

There’s no ideal state, I am old enough to realize that. But there is always guilt, no matter what the state. A friend came over the other day and I asked her if she felt the same. She did, but she said that she had learnt to let go of her guilt, because otherwise it could overpower you. I am not sure if I can reach that state – because it’s not easy to do.  And I am not sure I have it in me to say – ah well, I’ll just not let the fact that I could not call back my mum when she needed me bother me. It bothers me big time.And I still hope for that Utopian state when I will have ticked off all the things from my feeling-guilty list. Not going to happen anytime soon..

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Ran the Marathon again. Only this time it felt even better

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I ran the 21 kms (about 13.2 miles) marathon recently. Yes. I did it. And I can tell you, it was the most incredible feeling I’ve had in many, many years. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to portray myself as this obscure mommy plodding away at home with little to feel accomplished about, and the marathon as having given me that oh-I-can-do-it too feeling that I so lacked in my life.

I am a regular mother who pretty much centers her life around her three children – you know the type – stay-at-home, life is mostly about the house – the usual – dropping the kids, picking them up, only to drop them again, then pick them up, again; getting them to eat right, read right, talk right, play the piano right; clear up their room, do their homework before the owls come out, learn to appreciate what they have, not argue, etc etc – like I said, you know the type..(and you can probably relate to some, if not all of it!)

I am not going to get into why this is how it is (yes, I know taking breaks is healthy and that ‘Leaning In’ is hard but vital). This is the reality and that’s that. I don’t work (if you discount freelance work) and I like to be involved with my kids. There are both upsides and downsides to that.

Anyhow, I was telling you about my running. When I started, I suddenly felt like I had a purpose (for lack of a better word) and pushing myself physically felt very, very good. I trained pretty much by myself. I became extremely focused and loved the high it gave me. This is not what I had expected, because I am not the sporty-sort really. I thought I’d do it to see if I could really run, or how far I could go before I ran out of steam. It was a process, of course, and I am not going bore you about it. What I will say is that I did not give up, and before I knew it, I was running ten kms (a little over six miles) a day. The first time I ran a ten km marathon (without stopping), I felt on top of the world, like I had done something that deserved mention. It meant a lot to me, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought of it. That is when I decided to give the 21K a shot. I started to run every morning and it felt good (the weight I lost and the thighs I toned were a extremely happy byproduct!).

Physical exhilaration apart, one of the main reasons why I loved running so much was because, surprisingly, it didn’t mean that I was out there, unfettered, alone with my thoughts, free to take them to any direction that I wanted. The truth was that I didn’t want to think, period. It was really about reaching a no-thought point. Not sure how I can describe that better, but the fact that I wasn’t thinking while running was refreshing in many ways. I didn’t want my time alone to be contemplative where I started to over think and over analyze everything, because that can happen easily. I wanted to be free, mentally free, with nothing clouding my mind, nothing at all- if you can ever reach that point, it’s extremely liberating, especially when you are the sort who turns things over in your head till they acquire a life of their own. I didn’t expect this to happen, but it did.

I would put on my music and just run. It was me and the music in my head (made a mish-mash playlist of songs, everything from Taylor Swift and One Direction to Micheal Jackson and A-ha!). I cannot begin to describe the feeling. Kids safely in school, me on the track and Shuffle playing my songs. It was simply magical.

At the marathon, when I reached the finish line, I wanted to cry. Not because I ever doubted that I would reach it, but because it simply felt great and overwhelming. So yes, maybe what I said earlier about that whole feeling of accomplishment, maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s why I loved this so much, because I haven’t felt like this in a while. I don’t go to work where someone pats me on the back and tells me that I did a good job. Sure people always say the right things when you tell them you are a SAHM, stuff like “kudos to you, I could never do it”, or, “it’s so much easier to go out and work than to be at home with the kids constantly”. Ya sure, it’s nice to hear but honestly, it does not do much for my self-esteem. For one, (and this could be me) I always detect this, oh-you-don’t-work-so-let-me-make-you-feel-better-about-yourself tone when people say this. I know, what could someone say when they ask you what you do and you say “er, I am at home with the kids”? There’s always this uncomfortable silence which then gets hastily filled with somewhat forced laudatory remarks about the trails of motherhood and all the rest of it. I don’t care for it much. And two, even if it is genuinely said, it somehow does not have any uplifting effect on me. I would rather be applauded for something I did that did not involve being a mother, a wife, a daughter, or someone who has great taste, who keeps a good house, who has a green thumb, whose garden is never without seasonal plants etc etc. No, if I must be applauded, I want it to be for something that had nothing to do with the house and the life I lead around it. I know I keep a good house and am raising three wonderful girls, and I get told that all the time. But maybe right now I am in a place where what I am doing is already a given, and anything that I do over it is the one that brings me that feeling of accomplishment. (Oh Lord, this post has turned out to be exactly what I did not intend it to be about – analyzing my running!!)

The truth is (and I know this is true of many women around me) that mothers don’t do anything much for their own selves, really. I mean something that is exclusively for them – that involves no other family member. I can’t think of anything else that I have done in the past many years where I have pretty much been on my own while doing it. No I haven’t. And it’s not because I could not (well, that too, but that’s for another post) but because I simply did not. When you are in a zone, you tend to stay in that zone, till something pulls you out of it, or something changes – like when your kids start full-day school. That’s when you get the time to notice the world around you a little more. So I could say that I’ve been in this mommy zone, one in which there is little time (or mind space) for anything else (except, of course, if you are my mother who has some magic wand hidden away and refuses to give it to me, or admit to its existence).

Now, with my running, I seem to have opened a small window and looked out into the world, from my little domestic preoccupations. And it’s a refreshing feeling. I don’t want to open a door yet, because I am not ready to let too much come in between me and my home, but I do want to step out once in a while and see what life beyond the house is like. When I first went running (to a nearby stadium) I realized that there were all sorts of people, from fat middle-aged men (and women) to taut, muscular boys and super-fit and equally taut women who were out, having taken out that one hour from their chores and devoting to themselves. I fit right in, because there was no real “type” there. A runner, I realized does not fit into a mould – a runner could be a man who (just like a women) needs a new purpose in his life, or a girl who wants to tone her legs, or a seventy-year old man who has been running since he was thirty and has never stopped. A runner could be the person I meet in a bank, who I would never picture on a track. Runners, I now know, are not always recognizable from their appearances, but that has nothing to do with their abilities. I would meet women who would have woken up at five in the morning and cooked a whole meal just so they could spend those forty-five minutes for themselves. That was inspiring. I find such women – who work at home (I don’t because I am fortunate enough to have a lot of help) and still manage to get away from it all – very inspiring. A man works and he works only, but a woman, she does it all. No, it’s not a statement fraught with feminist tones, it is the truth. A man can focus on his work to the exclusion of everything else, a woman (mostly) does not have that choice. Even is she works, the home is still her domain.

Anyway, back to the marathon, I ran in 2 hours and 31 minutes. It was not great and not bad (for a first timer, they say it’s pretty decent – blush, blush). I loved every moment of being out there. I felt like an athlete (which I am not) and it was extremely uplifting to be there among other runners. The atmosphere was electric and it rubbed off on me instantly.

My husband and kids were waiting 400 meters from the finish line. The last few kms were a bit hard and all I wanted was to see their happy faces. I kept thinking of what my five year old had told me a night before “Mama”, she’d said looking at me with her large, innocent eyes and heartfelt words “if you tell yourself you can, then you can. So just don’t give up”. Her words and their faces where in my mind as I kept going (non-stop). My husband (who is the real athlete in the house) was so proud that he was beaming at me with his charming smile (the one that I fell for when we met) and giving me a high-five in his mind (he’d never do it in public). That night he told me that I had done something incredible. I cannot begin to tell you how great that felt. He’s given me compliments before, but this one, don’t ask me why, felt so good that every ache that I was feeling in my body seemed completely worth it. It was like I had done something remarkable (which it really wasn’t – there were thousands out there). But he had that “my-wife-ran-21kms” look in his eyes, and my daughters shared it in reflection time in school the next day.

Nothing, no other encomium can ever match that. I am runner for life.

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Winning Is Important , Right Ma?

My daughter asked me this question the other day. She looked at me and said “mama, is it important to you that I win a competition?” and then after a pause she added “I really want to win the Spelling competition in my school this year”.

I’ve always told my kids to try their best and leave the rest to God. Not sure if that’s right or wrong – but parenting is as much about our desire to inculcate the right values in our kids than telling them what we think, because the two are often not the same thing.

Yes, I do believe that winning is important, but will I say it in as many words to my kids? Probably not. I will sugar quote it and ask them to try their best and not worry about the outcome. But do I seriously believe in that myself? Will I be unaffected if my daughter tries her level best, comes within spitting distance of the top spot, and then loses it? The answer is that while I will not be shattered, I will be disappointed. And that disappointment, let me add, may not necessarily be with her, but with the outcome. By the time you reach this age, you realize that winning is a combination of many, many factors, not all of which are in your control. You’ve seen enough life to know that those who win have worked hard, no doubt, but they have also always thanked God and their good fortune (the best of athletes are superstitious about many things before their game) So yes, if she tries hard and loses, I will be extremely supportive of her and encourage her to go on, but I will, in my heart, be a little disappointed. And at that moment, my focus will be as much on comforting her as it will be on masking my own regret (for lack of a better word). The worst thing that a child wants to feel is that she has let her parents down. I think that if a child goes into a competition knowing that her parents will take it on the chin if she lost and commend her for her effort, she will be able to face it better.

But this is not what her question was about. It was a very direct question that required a direct answer. Is winning important? And while I know that some questions cannot be answered in a simple yes and no, but still if I was to answer this one in either one of the two choices, I’d say yes, winning is important.

Now let me defend my answer (even though I did not give her a one word one)

The fact of the matter is that it is a competitive world out there. Children have to learn to take the stress of living in such a world (am not getting into ideological arguments about how we can go about changing such an environment and achieve some utopian world – that’s for another day). Wanting to win is not a negative emotion like we make it out to be at times in our kid-gloves parenting approach. Wining makes people feel good about themselves, so what’s wrong in wanting to achieve it?  If winning wasn’t important then World Cup and Wimbledon finals would not matter. But they do, because the people who are playing it, want to win. In the run up to the FIFA World Cup, readers were inundated with stories about how Brazil wants to regain its glory on the home turf and win to atone for the humiliating defeat to Uruguay in the final in 1950. The entire country seems to still not have got over the “loss”.

So, my point is, why mislead the child just to sound politically correct, or for some misplaced notion of cushioning the blow. I say misplaced because what will cushion the blow (assuming there is one) is not the fact that you’ve led them to believe that winning is not important, but your own reaction in the face of such a situation. You, as a parent, must handle the failure well.  The two are not the same thing. You can believe in winning, but that does not mean that you cant take failure.  Conversely, you could think that you are prepared to take your child’s failure and tell her that winning is not everything, but then not be able to stomach a defeat.

I think what matters more is how you handle the defeat than what you believe about winning.

In my humble opinion, if you tell your kids that winning is important, it makes them work harder. A win encourages a child in a positive way, there’s something about tasting success, no matter how small, that gives them a high. Hopefully that will make them want to keep it up. Yes, there are pressures of staying on top, but as you go through life you have to learn to deal with pressures.  No one can duck them, no one. And if you shield your kids from the real world, then the chances that they’ll end up disillusioned are much higher. In fact, I often tell my kids that people use the wrong means to win and while they should never do that, they must learn to stand up to those who do.

I don’t wish to over-prepare my kids for the world (and who knows, maybe I am) but my simple point is that I grew up thinking that everyone was good and followed the law, only to see otherwise. It didn’t make me cynical (I hope) but it did disturb me.

I want my children to excel at what they do. I think every parent does.  So, if my daughter wants to win the Spelling Bee, she’ll have to work harder than she has for anything in her life – and while she agrees with that in theory, she does not necessarily translate than into action.

One lesson that she needs to learn is that there is a deep abyss between the desire to win and the actual win. If she wants that Spell Bee trophy, she will need to cross that chasm.

 

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Fifty Things I Do In A Day.

Someone recently asked me what I do all day. The stress was on the letter “what”, like what (on earth) do you do all day? I didn’t think he was worthy of an answer.

Here it is though. For you guys, who stop by and read me! Here are the fifty things I do in one typical day. If you can’t relate to them, that’s OK. At another time, I probably would not have either. This is for those who decided to lean out!

Here goes..

  1. Wakeup, get the kids ready, shove food down their reluctant mouths, drop them to the bus stop/school.
  2. Come back home. Have a cup of tea. Try and read the morning paper while thinking of a plausible excuse to not have lunch with your husband’s Taiji (aunt)
  3. Cleaning lady saunters in. Attempt to get the house cleaned. Disapprove of her cleaning techniques. Pull around the furniture to prove your point. Dust the foot mat (because no one else will)
  4. Attend to the doorbell. Sign for a courier. Put the magazine in the will-read-soon pile.
  5. Come back in. Door bell again. It’s the garbage collector. The trash has not yet been tied up. Now it’s time to give the maid a sermon on the merits of preparedness.
  6. Come back to read the paper. No better luck, door bell again. Take the milk man’s bill. Tell him to return for the money. You can’t give a definite time.
  7. Think about lunch. What, possibly, could the kids eat without a fuss? It’s summer, there’s not much. Sigh. Wish you were in some office, doing some real work, talking to some real people. Miss the vacuous office banter that can be so uplifting.
  8. Somehow work out a lunch menu that leaves out the spineless summer veggies like ghiya, tinda, kaddu, karela, parmal and tori (beats any analyst report, I can tell you that). Inform the maid of your brainwave (egg curry). Try and be calm when she tells you that you’re out of oil.
  9. Rush to pick up the phone. It’s the tele-sales lady. Be firm in your refusal. You don’t want the magical Mutual Fund that will put you on the path to financial freedom.
  10. Call the electrician. The AC has been gone for three days. Inquire about its whereabouts. Call him eight more times before he picks up and you explode.
  11. No you can’t be calm. It’s freaking 42 degrees (107 degrees Fahrenheit)
  12. Taiji (aunt) is calling. You don’t have a plan. Panic. Don’t take the call.
  13. Think of something. Call her back and express deep dismay for missing the lunch. Yes, you don’t work, sure you could’ve come. Next time. Pucca promise.
  14. It’s noon. You haven’t had a bath, the op-ed is lying open, the maid is hollering for oil, the driver has not turned up, the cleaning lady is sulking and it’s hot as hell.
  15. You shut your eyes and take a deep breath
  16. You give the maid money for the oil. And, oh, while you’re on the topic, the rice, butter, chocolate spread and cheese is almost finished as well. So are the organic eggs that are sold at the far-away grocery store. You hand her a wad of notes. She can walk to the market and get regular eggs, you’ll survive.
  17. Now you can’t go for a bath because the maid is out and no one will be able to attend to the door. Some eight more couriers will arrive by the end of the day. Cash on delivery is a good idea when you’re ordering something, no so great when you are in the bath and the guy arrives wielding your precious packet.
  18. While you wait for the maid, you read the paper. The cleaning lady now wants to clean where you are safely and most comfortably ensconced with the remains of your op-ed. She’s, however, in no mood to hang around. Fruit-fly genetics can wait.
  19. You get up with a huff, but not a very irate one. You do want her to show up again tomorrow.
  20. You move to another spot, finish off the op-ed.
  21. The maid returns. Now you can have a bath. Hop in and hop out.
  22. It’s almost time for the school-bus. But you have 15 minutes. Too early to leave, too late to start doing anything substantial. You wonder if you should read the article you abandoned yesterday or answer that e-mail. By the time you locate the paper, you’ve lost eight minutes. Now you can’t read with attention for fear of losing track of time and getting late for the bus stop. So you leave seven minutes early. Then you twiddle your thumb at the bus stop and wonder why you didn’t carry the paper with you.
  23. Bus arrives, kids are home. What remains of the day can now be written off.
  24. There’s some pressing issue with the homework. We need ribbons and stencils. Can’t we do without them? Use something else? Do they have to be ribbons? No, no and yes.
  25. Sigh. Wish for frivolous office talk. If only..
  26. It’s Tuesday. It’s piano day. She’s not practiced. There’s going to be a scene.
  27. Yup. There’s a scene.
  28. That out of the way, you can now leave for the piano class. Ok, you promise not to say anything to the teacher. For the last time.
  29. Piano over. Homework beckons. Ribbons. Right.
  30. Ribbons and veggies bought in one shot. Stencils were bought last week.
  31. Everything is under control. We should make bed-time without a shout. Seems too good to be true.
  32. It is. Turns out we also need chart paper. And glue. Not the regular glue. The real one. Whatever that is.
  33. You explode. Defense is prompt. How was she to know we don’t have chart paper and real glue?
  34. Back to the market.
  35. Dinner will now be rushed. Not very conducive to overall peace.
  36. Somehow the project is done. Dinner is wolfed down. Beds are made. Stories are read. Two are ready to sleep, one is not.
  37. Negotiations and (no, not love songs. You wish) more negotiations.
  38. Sigh.
  39. So you put the others to bed. She stays up. Day is not over. You wish.
  40. You emerge, half-asleep, from the dark room. You put up your feet and try to read. She wants to talk about school. So you do.
  41. You put down your book. She tells you stories. This part you love.
  42. Husband returns, tired, from work
  43. Should we eat? She’s not asleep?
  44. You eat. She sits with you, fighting sleep. The other two asleep in their beds.
  45. Why can’t she sleep in time?
  46. You don’t have an answer. You’re tired.
  47. Dinner over. Now she wants to sleep. You don’t wan to go back in to put her to bed.
  48. There’s a scene.
  49. You hold your ground. You need your downtime.
  50. What exactly is that?

 

 

 

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Someone Has To Fix The Mixie.

I am feeling a bit metaphorical this morning.

Nothing unusual has happened. The day, so far, has not gone according to plan (nothing odd about that) I’ve not written the article I need to write. Instead I’ve just returned from the local market where I’d gone to get the mixie fixed.

Why, you could ask, did I drop work to get a mixie fixed? And what’s with the metaphor? The answer to the first question – because someone has to do it, and that someone is me. And the second – because the fixing of the mixie, I’ve realized (while I was on my way to the market) is a great metaphor for describing my life right now.

I am a fixer. I fix everything, from the stuff in the house to the lives of my children, from their projects, homework and broken toys to the washing machine and the problems of my domestic help. I fix it all. Yes, the irony is all too apparent, that I can’t fix my own life. Or maybe, that’s why I can’t fix my own life, because I have not the time or the mind space left for it.

Why am I feeling this way? Allow me to tell you (I am bursting with it). Let’s see, what have I done since the morning so far? Woke up at 6, dived straight into the tempest of sending the children to school (one twin had severe Monday morning blues and simply did not want to get out of bed, so that was fun). Anyway, somehow we managed – it was a collective effort of getting them up, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them and then dropping them off. Then I returned home and read the paper with my two cups of strong tea, as I tried to ignore the post-it on my desk that was bleating at me incessantly. It listed the six things I absolutely had to do today.

1. Get swimming costume changed (for the kids – 3 day exchange policy)
2. Get the mixie fixed (falls in the kitchen no-go category)
3. Give the clothes for darning and dry cleaning (summer is here in full swing, need to put away the winter clothes and bring in the summer ones, but can’t put them away till they are darned and dry cleaned, hence cannot put the summer ones in the cupboard. But, it’s too hot, so need summer clothes, which lie in a heap, and the heap moves around the room, from the bed to the chair, to the piano, to the chair, to back to the bed. I can’t stand the heap anymore, it’s bleating at me too)
4. Give the kids’ clothes to the tailor for minor (yet extremely crucial) tinkering that will make them wearable. Summer skirts’ elastics are loose, some buttons have fallen off, don’t have the buttons, so need to go to the market and then to the tailor.
5. 3G on my phone is not working – this is not on an essentials lost, but I miss What’s App.
6. Buy black shoe polish (for the kids and the husband)

Looking at my list, I decided not to let the article hang on me. I’ll burn the midnight oil and sacrifice my candy crush tonight, I thought. I was unusually calm today while I went about doing the chores I hate to do. I wonder why? Am I finally coming around to accepting my role as a SAHM? I don’t think so. It’s a phase, probably.

You could ask why I am questioning the peace in my head? That’s because it could be the first sign of the fact that I’ll remain a fixer. If I lose my angst, what on earth will I be left with?

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