Category Archives: mommyrage

Marathons, Mid-Life, and All That Jazz

Apparently, I am smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis. That’s why, it seems, I ran the marathon. It’s got to do with hitting forty (no one lets you forget it, it’s almost like you’d be disappointing your generation if you declare you’re fine).

It’s when the whole mortality, existential stuff hits you, and needless to say, you can’t deal with it. You search for meaning in your life and look for answers, but there aren’t any (or they are, but you don’t like the sound of them). So you panic, somewhat. You wonder if there’s anything more. You wonder if you were meant to do something else, or if you should write that book, go for that start-up idea, learn a new language, or take a trek to figure things out – you need meaning in your life. The whole, if-not-now-then-when syndrome biffs you on the head pretty hard. Then you panic some more. Now you need motivation and positivism, so you read about people who did incredible things in their forties, fifties and sixties. That encourages you, but you still don’t do much about your angst. You start running and it makes you feel better – them endorphins do the motivational job. They fool you into believing that the crisis has passed you by, when all they’ve done is sedated it (but it helps). All this, of course, conveniently comes at a time when your children are young and they need you, when your parents are old and they need you, when your work is not that exciting (or too tiring) but you need it (to me, this is precisely why it comes)

So, if you have the money, you buy a Porsche, as they say. Lesser mortals like us run marathons, or get a dramatic, image-altering hair cut, or just die it blonde. I think what you do and how far you go is directly proportional to the level of the crisis. I am guessing the I-am-going-to-be-blonde ones are the hardest hit. Either that, or they just really want to be blonde. Actually, I take that back. Maybe it’s ok. I mean, who am I to judge why someone should or should not dye their hair any colour; if someone wants to pretend to be somebody else, who am I to pronounce it as a character flaw or wave it away as a mid-life identity-crisis? Who can say that I am not going to be that person in the future? The one thing that you learn by the time you’re forty, is that life has a strange way of coming around. Never say never (or forever) – it’s pretty darn true.

Anyway, I’d wanted to talk about my marathon (you know, blow my trumpet a bit). I still feel good about it, but I have to admit, linking it to mid-life is a bit of a mood killer. I didn’t realize it could be a sign of the crisis that I am pretending has passed me by.

I called my mother the other day and asked her if she had had a mid-life crisis when she was my age, or is this one of those new-generation things that she laments about often – you know, like children were better behaved in those days, parents didn’t agonize over minute details of their kids and just let them be, they didn’t splurge as we do, rents were low, politicians were less corrupt, there was no tawdry display of wealth, teachers taught for the love of teaching and the like.

She said that she was too busy for it. Now, that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I wanted to be told that she had had it too but it really wasn’t that bad and that it passes (without taking it’s toll). It left me wondering if I am feeling this way because I have too much time on my hands. But then, I thought of my husband, who has the reverse problem – too little time and too much work. He’s not running any marathon (because there’s just no time) but he is turning to philosophy, doing yoga and questioning why he’s working so hard. So, I don’t think it’s about the time one has to ponder over things. Having said that, if you’re neck deep in work or anything else, in a strange way it helps, because you then focus on the task at hand and leave the larger questions for later (the definition of later is not a constant)

I don’t have the answers to the questions in my head. I am not sure anyone does. That’s why, I guess, there’s faith. That’s what my mother told me – to just have faith. It’s what, she says, is gong to help me through my anxious moments – it helped her raise three kids with not much money.

I am not sure I can be my mother. Actually, I am pretty certain I can’t, but I can try and take her advice and learn from her. Have faith, bury yourself in something and keep going – it’s a tunnel, this age, you just have to keep going till you reach the other end. Just focus on the light at the end of it, because it’s there.  This is our rite of passage.

So I am going to continue running. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. And if it’s a sign of the existential torment in my head, then so be it. I am forty-two and I am going to act my age. Besides, there were some twenty-somethings who I left behind in the dust at my marathon and it felt good.

Now if I write that book, I’d have put my angst to pretty good use.

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Marathon Moment

My heart is beating faster than in did when I got married. Ok, maybe not faster, but fast enough. Why? Because tomorrow morning I am going to run my first marathon. You heard me. I must be nuts. I haven’t trained too much and am just jumping into the deep end. One part of me is exhilarated and the other is terrified.

It’s a 10 km (roughly 6 miles) marathon and for those of you who’ve done the full – I know, I know, piece of cake. Right. Doesn’t feel like that right now. Got my number, et all today and husband and (older) daughter will be here to cheer me. I wish they would not come because what if I, you know, faint, give-up, come last, slip, die. I know – breathe deeply. I am trying, not a big deal, only 10 km – piece of cake. That’s what I am going to tell myself all the time – piece of cake.

Anyway, I can’t write much and if I survive it, I am going to update you all soon. It may not seem like it, but I am quite thrilled. Just have to focus and keep going. Wish me luck.

Piece of cake.

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The Fights and the Make-Ups

My older daughter and I seem to be arguing a lot these days. Actually, it’s been more than these-days, it’s been going on for, well, if I think about it, since she was about four. I guess since she found her will and realized that she could assert it (it starts way too early).

So the other day I was trying to put some eye drops for her. She’s got something called Blepharitis, which is the swelling of the eyelids, usually happens in kids with dandruff, but in her case it’s not the reason (we could not arrive at one). It’s mild and can be treated with some drops and, believe it or not, shampooing of the eyelids! Now, every morning, as we try and make the most of each minute, as the school-bus looms large over the household, we have to shampoo her eyelids. And, as always, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Try waking up an eight year old at six in the morning and then scrubbing her eyes with shampoo (anyone who has washed a child’s face can tell you how they are about putting soap on their faces). So she screams, of course, and I try and tell her all the parental stuff about how it’s for her own good, which, she does not care about. All she wants is for me to stop lathering her eyes. There’s no magic, I tell her. If she can’t allow this then she loses all right to complain about hurt in her eyes. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t.

Anyway, somehow we managed to make the bus. She waved from the window but had that I-don’t-like-what-you-did look. I chirpily waved back and saw that the twins were tying to make her smile. Next battle at 4:00, I thought. And man was I right. She came back from school, we had little time because she had to go for her tennis lesson and I had to put eye drops before that (because after the lesson there were more drops to be put). So after her snack, I announced that the drops had to be put. She revolted and I lost it. It’s for your own good, I repeated my morning words. She wanted to be left alone, which, of course, was too much to ask. I did the opposite. After trying everything – from sweet goading to open threats (ya, I know) – I had to pin her down and put them forcefully (in my defense, the last time she had Blepharitis we had to abandon the treatment half-way because she didn’t let me put the drops and I ran out of steam, so it reoccurred and this time it was worse).

That was that. She was very upset, as was I. She told me that I hurt her hand, I told her I had no choice. I walked away looking hurt, which I was. She gazed at the ceiling (a recent habit she’s acquired) and held back her tears. I was not going to make-up, of that I was sure. She sensed my mood and about five minutes later, gave me this (rolled up like a scroll)

The front and back of the note:
Image

Image

Most of our fights end with notes and apologies. She wrote this one hurriedly because she knew she’d upset me for no reason. Then she said “mama, can we forget that this fight happened? Please, let’s be happy” It made me think. A child reacts very differently to an argument than the mother. She took our fight to mean that she and I were not happy. For her it was vital that I forget the unpleasantness that had occurred, however fleeting or trivial.

I sat her down and explained to her that fights didn’t  mean we were not happy. It shook me up to think that she was sad to an extent that she wanted me to erase all that happened and pretend that we’d not fought. I wished I had been more patient, but in this case it was difficult because she was resisting all efforts to put the drops and since her infection had reoccurred, I was at my wit’s end.

I am still unsure of what I could’ve done differently. But it made me sad to think that she took our fight so literally.

And to think that the teenage years have still to come. It’s going to be fun, three teenage daughters at the same time. Can anything prepare me for that? I doubt it.

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Why Does It Get To Me?

Does any mother not yell? No, seriously, is it possible? – leaving aside the Swedes, of course, who apparently don’t believe in using the word “no” to a child, let alone raise their voices ( my mother thought I was kidding when I told her that) .

I try as much as I can to be patient, but sooner or later the tantrums, the wailing, the sulking and the pestering gets the better of me and I find that the only way of making myself heard is by raising my voice.

I am not a patient person by nature ( it took me years to admit this) but with the kids, I try. A few months ago I told myself that I’d try to be more patient with them, no matter what.  So, when the other day when my eight year old made an unreasonable demand,  I declined gently, explaining all the reasons etc (all that textbook stuff about dealing with questions in a positive manner) but, the demand persisted. I counted to ten and explained it again. This happened about three more times. I continued to explain the reasons while holding my ground on my decision.  She didn’t take to it well and started to bolster her argument with talk of equality and fairness. It’s a time-tested strategy – when in doubt, bring in justice. Kids are clever enough to know that this usually puts the parents on the back foot.

Well, not this parent. I told her my reasons for my decision and expected her to understand.  I also wanted to make it clear that if she could not fully comprehend my reasoning then she would have to sort-of lump it, because sometimes parents have to do what they have to do. I always think of my own parents when I over-explain things to my kids in an effort to be the modern, involved (read evolved) parent. I cannot help but feel, at times, that their method of dealing with us was far better. My father had two pet phrases : ” you will know when you grow up” and “because I said so” as an answer to many questions . End of story. That was that.  My mum would try and tell us more, but only so much. I know that every generation glorifies their age and loves going down the how-things-used-to-be path, but my parents’ method did give them a lot more freedom than we give ourselves.

Anyway, that’s a whole different post. Coming back to my tale of patience, I tried as hard as I could to make her understand my point. And to be fair, she did get it, except that she still didn’t accept my ruling. Then the tears started. I took a deep breath and told her that she was overreacting. This seemed to open a can of worms and she went into previous arguments about this and that and how I never let her do blah blah blah. So, it finally happened . I caved and blew a lid, high drama followed (I am telling you, this teenage thing hits about five years too early) and more tears and apologies later, the matter was laid to rest, for the time being that is.  It ended, as it always does, with sorry notes from my daughter for the things she said in the fight, and apologies from me for losing my cool and making her cry. After having sworn, during the fight, not to take any more notes from her, I wiped her tears, kissed her, put the note in my cupboard (with the numerous others) and told her I’d never scold her that way again (this happens about once a week). What didn’t help (at all) was my husband’s comment about my handling it.  So I sulked and he didn’t address it, which, you can imagine, made me madder than ever (more on that in a later post, because man, that needs some venting)

With remorse comes guilt and with guilt comes introspection. I regretted the way I spoke to her and wondered, again, if I was being too harsh with her. I’ve never been able to decide this one,  does she react this way because I am too harsh? or does she react this way because I’ve not handled it right earlier? The guilt lingered and I thought about my own actions, of why I got so worked up and yelled. I started to question my reaction and look for a deeper meaning into my angst.  Surely I wasn’t so angry just because my daughter had cried.

Well, yes and no. Yes because the tears get to me. I can’t handle them beyond a point. I know it comes with being eight, when things that seem of little consequence to me, are matters of great importance to her and thus, when they are denied, there’s much gnashing of teeth. But when the tears flow so freely (with all three of them) I reach my limit and let my anger get the better of me. There’s only so much wailing one can take in a day and with the twins preferring it as a form of protest, I look to my older one for respite.  And no, because my anger is not only a reaction to her crying, it’s a symptom of the bigger problem (for lack of a better word).

I know I’ve said this before, but I wish that I was one of those women who was content being at home with the kids, or at least one who could make peace with it. But, I am not. And I am not even sure if such a woman exists.

I am reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friednan – it was a book that addressed, head-on, the real truth about the picture-perfect life of the suburban American housewife, about her angst and and of how she felt unhappy in a life that she’d longed for in a mistaken belief that that was what a woman must aspire for – a life of domestic bliss filled with a husband, children and a nice house. The book is said to have started a second wave of feminism ( don’t care for that word).

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled 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?”

My life could not be more different from the American suburban wife of the fifties, and yet, I can relate to her  “strange stirring”.  I guess that’s the stirring I need to address, because it’s whats causing the yelling. From what I hear from other women (and it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in this) it’s the way a lot of them feel.

So, what’s the solution? Not sure. But I know the problem, and that’s always the first step..

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My Profile Picture and What it Says About Me..

My facebook pictures have never been selfies. They’ve always been happy-happy family ones or couple types that would gets lots of “aww” responses (ok, too cutsie, I know – *cringe*) I’ve, somehow, never put one up of just me.

And here’s the thing, it didn’t even occur to me to do it. ( I am not too much of a facebook person and like to stay dormant mostly). When it  finally did dawn upon me, my first reaction was to analyze why I hadn’t thought about it before (why let up a perfectly good opportunity for introspection?)

I had many explanations in my head – you know, the typical, I-have-submitted-my-identity to the family, I have lost my individuality, I see myself as a mother and wife first – all that self-depreciating crap that women love to mull over and then do damn all about it. So, me being the textbook X chromosome explored it from all angles and came to the conclusion that in the past few years I’ve done little for myself and even when I’ve thought of doing something which would not have involved the family, I’ve been bogged down with unexplained guilt and dropped the idea. Why? don’t ask. Like I said, I am quite your archetypical X chromosome.

The irony, however, is that I always lost patience with my mum all through my growing years, when I saw her do the same. She would always put us and our dad before her own wishes – always, always, always! And it irritated me. Even today my father logs on to her mail and then tells her that so and so has written, blah blah blah, because he likes to be in control and she does not protest.  She’s an extremely intelligent self-made woman who has built a great institution, but at home she’s the wife who will submit herself to the fancies of her family and sacrifice her own desires for, well, for domestic peace.

I am not my mum. Not by a long shot – I have not the will and the determination that she seems to posses in copious amounts. And yet, I am the wife and mother who will (almost) never do something for herself. One instance – I never catch a movie with my friends. I love film, I can tell you that, and I am one of those weirdos who can go for one alone. When I lived in New York, I’d watch anything that caught my fancy (and a lot did).  Now, I live walking distance from a cinema hall, and yet it never occurs to me to skip away for a few hours and come back a much happier person. No, I don’t do it.

Each day, I live minute by minute, get sucked into this and that around the house, do some writing and before I know it, the day has gone and I am reading to the kids in bed. Then when I lie down, I think about the day gone, about the day ahead and about what I want to do with my life.  Or, I play Candy Crush till I run out of lives, then ask my husband what level he’s reached, express my jealousy and the next minute, I am asleep. That’s it. Day over.

So anyway, back to the profile picture (see what it unleashed?) After all the why and I should etc, I decided to put one up of myself alone. Not that this was an easy task. Because now I had to find one (the selfies come out distorted and I hated them all!). This led to another set of interesting observations. I don’t have any of me alone. All are with family etc. I could’ve cropped one out but I’ve never been a fan of those, they seem culled, and don’t end up looking that great. So, then, what was the revelation this time? Not much different; that I am always the one clicking the pictures and never really hand the camera to anyone else to get one of me by myself. I am the gatherer, always in garnering mode – get the flock together and take that perfect family pic, that sort. My husband is the opposite and strangely, I do see his point.

The profile picture, thus, remains the same. It’s a nice one of husband and me and I am okay about not changing it, not till I find a suitable one which seems worthy and has potential of many likes (I know -*cringe*).

The bigger picture, however is so – that the need to change my profile picture is  symptomatic of a larger attitude that I am now trying to embrace – one of getting my life back, bit by bit. The past few years have swallowed away chunks of my individuality and while I understand that that’s what rearing is about sometimes, I am now keen to get back on my feet and reclaim a bit of myself. Sounds corny? Probably. But this is what life is about – about seeing truth in aphorisms and platitudes. It’s true. I used to dump on housewives who went for kitty parties and now I have respect for them – that’s one thing they do for themselves and enjoy. When I  see a group of middle aged women in a restaurant cackling like schoolgirls, I applaud them in my mind for living the little life they enjoy. I am not sure what their profile pictures are like ( my bet is on family-type, though) but when they come out and meet their friends, they’ve left domesticity behind and are, for that moment at least, living for themselves.They have my new found respect.

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Am ready for work, but..

“The more you grow old, the more you need people who knew you when you were young”. That, or something like that, goes an old saying.

This has never rung as true as it does for me today. I say this because I have some super friends who knew me in my youth (ok, I know I am still young, blah blah , but you know what I mean when I say youth – like youth youth, the 20s youth, and  the 30s, it’s-going-but-still-got-it youth). These are friends who I don’t talk to often, some of whom don’t live anywhere I can drive to and yet, when we talk, or What’s App, I smile. They make me smile, my dear old friends – because they remember me for what I was and not for what I turned into when this whole mid life thing hit me – it apparently arrives a decade earlier now, as do strokes, heart attacks, blood pressure and many such delightful accomplices.

Anyway, today one of my dearest friends called and I had such a girlie, refreshing, you-can-do-it chat with her that I felt instantly uplifted, and though I am not waltzing into the next company and selling myself big so they can hire me on my terms (sigh) just yet, I am feeling much better about myself. See that’s the thing about old friends, they remember things about you that you lost somewhere along the way; aspects of your personality that the black hole ate up, to the point that you did not even remember being that way; those are the things old friends remind you of. They remind you of who you really are. It sounds corny, but man it’s true.

I don’t know if I make sense, but talking to her today was like looking at an old photograph and saying “Gosh, this is who I was!” She just needed to prod that part of my mind and it threw up so many emotions that it forced me to kick into action. “You were one of those people” she said, with the alacrity of a cat chasing a mouse, “who could walk into any organization and make them see your point. You haven’t lost that, it’s just dormant. Just shake it up, pull yourself together” she said (she was one of those charitable friends who thought that my SOP for NYU rocked. I don’t know if it did, but I did make it there). I know all this is easier said, but still, speaking to her I felt that I had become too bashful about the gaping hole (more like abyss, but whatever) in my resume and that had rubbed off on my attitude towards everything. I have become diffident about myself, period.

I’ve been thinking of getting back to work, but I keep feeling that I am not exactly employable anymore and if someone does think so then I should just take it, even if it’s remotely what I aim for. It does not have to be that way. I mean it does and it doesn’t. I have to be realistic about my profile in any organization, so no matter how confident I feel right now I can’t just walk into an office today and demand my own terms of work. However, and this is the part I need to apply in reality, neither do I have to be too diffident about the break (ok, more like an immeasurable crater that could fit three moons) in my resume. I have certain qualities and strong points and I should dwell on those instead of the ones that I feel conscious of.

Women always sell themselves short. It might be a blanket stereotyping to say so, but it’s true. Men will boast of their glory even when they have little to show for it, women will do the opposite. In my heart I know that I will work hard and perform well but, the big but is that I need flexibility – it’s the only thing I ask for. Why can’t companies measure people  more by their work?

My previous boss is someone who likes to appear progressive and “employee centric”. But when I went to him with the idea of flexi-timings, he gave me his classic between-you-and-me bull about how he was all for it but, you know, that monster that watches over us –HR – thought that it “would set a bad precedent”.

At some level, I do understand that from an organization’s point of view an employee working from home is hard to justify to others and probably not the best use of a resource. But if a company really cares about its people, and it should, then there can be checks and balances in such a situation, a system could be worked out that’s be acceptable to both. It can happen, especially in an industry like mine (web based).

The bottom-line is, companies don’t care enough. Sure there are exceptions but those are few and far between.

I, for one, haven’t found such a dream place. But I like to believe that it exists.

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When a divorce is the best thing that can happen to you

A very dear friend of mine just walked out of her fifteen-year old marriage. I’ve waited for her to do this from the day she married her imaginary dream man. It was one of those doomed-from-the-start marriages.

The man is your stereotypical insecure, dominating, control-freak who, soon after they were married, resented the very qualities which had attracted him to her in the first place. His own shortcomings made him bitter of his wife’s immense qualities. He believed that that physical (as well as mental) abuse was par for the course in a marriage, or at least in his marriage, because she, in his twisted mind, deserved it. In all the years that I heard her cry over the phone, I never once prayed that he would reform. Why? Because I knew he was beyond it. I only prayed that she found the strength to leave him. Why she stayed this long is something I will never understand. However, what gives me immense joy is that she finally found the strength.

Today, as I write this, as she sits in her tiny one room apartment that is her own, where she does not have to worry about straightening the table mat before her husband gets home, I am not lamenting her past. I am celebrating her courage and her future. Kudos to her for having walked out, knowing very well that she would leave everything behind, every part of the past fifteen years of her life, even her kids. You can imagine what that would feel like, to walk out on your kids, who in their pre-teen minds would not understand but find it easy to blame, goaded, of course, by the father. She feels bereft and they feel abandoned. But, it’s still the best outcome possible.

The man is moneyed, seriously moneyed, and has got top-notch lawyers to make sure the kids stay with him. Also, he’s been extremely devious and anticipated her leaving much before she found the courage to do so. He, thus, has been brainwashing the kids for years, while putting the mother down as someone with half a brain and only good for home chores. So now when she’s actually left, the kids see it as a kind of betrayal. The father, needless to say, is not losing sleep over the impact that his underhanded tactics are having on the kids. All he cares about is how to pay as little alimony as possible, how to frighten the kids into submission and how to paint the mother black. So far, he seems to be succeeding one all three counts.

Divorces are rarely amicable, but some are more acrimonious than others. It does not have to be, but sadly, ego kicks in big time and most turn into messy games of power and one-upmanship. My friend is someone who I knew as smart, funny, extremely confident and well read. In our youth, we never ran out of things to talk about. We’d talk endlessly of books and films, of philosophy and life, of music and dream men. This last topic, one of her favourites, proved also to be her weakness, because she was a die-hard, will-be-swept-off-my-feet romantic. She believed, I guess like most people that age, that there was this special someone waiting in the wings for her (when, in truth, that someone she had, in a moment of bad judgment, left behind years ago and regret had done little to bring him back)

Life never quite turned out the way she’d imagined it to. Her laugh was infectious, one that would ring in your ears long after she’s left the room. When I spoke to her other day, I heard the first faint signs of that laugh, after fifteen years. It made me smile and think that maybe she will rebound from this. The pain cannot go away, that’s true. But she’ll be happier now that there is no constant belittling, every second of the day. She’s liberated and that was what I heard in her voice, freedom, the ability to breathe.

I know the road is long, but she has taken it. It’s all she could do. Hopefully, one day the kids will grow up to realize her worth. Teenage years are tough at the best of times, so when they bring a split in the family, it can be a devastating blow. It’s unfortunate that the father is so caught up in proving himself right that he cares little about how the kids would be coping without a mother, who, until the other day was doing everything physically possible for them – the swimming lessons, the school projects, the Sunday games, the baking of cakes and cookies, the visits to the doc, every single thing. Now she’s gone and are being wooed by their father who has thrown money at the problem and taken them on a holiday – what a dad.

Hang in there, my friend. I know it’s easier said but what can one do right now except lend an ear? I quote Shelly in Ode to the West Wind: “if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

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