Tag Archives: life

A Room Of One’s Own

image1(5)

I work from home – have an office on the terrace, which really, I should give the husband the credit for. He’s been advocating turning the dump room into, what he first envisioned, a “treaty room” for years now – the backstory is that he’d read about how President Obama withdrew into his treaty room every night, a room where Michelle only “popped in” sometimes. Every since he’d been dreaming of creating such a utopian space for himself – a room of his own, one to which his wife had limited access.

Except, that’s not quite it turned out. Quite ironically, the person who had opposed it the most (aka, yours truly) is the one who is now using it as an office. Why did I oppose it? I’ll tell you why. It was a dump-what-you-don’t-want-to-deal-with room, where I put all that that I didn’t want to deal with out of sight – stuff that requires time to sift through and some nerve to dispose (nostalgia can be extremely clutter-inducing). Having said that, the room was not all dump. It was, as I often said, a space of organized chaos, since I knew where things were, largely. It also served a functional purpose. I had four steel almirahs (ok, Godrejes) stuffed with woollens, which I took out once a year in the hope that I’d wear them. I wore some, while others I ferried up and down in a pointless exercise of clearing cupboards, only to clear them again, two months later. Global warming is really at our doorstep (Trump should come to India to believe that climate change is real).  Still, it was something that needed to be done, because winter did make it’s late, if feeble, entry. So, each year I assiduously retrieve the family’s woollens with great alacrity in the hope that the winter would have a spine and give us a few months of relief from the inclement summer (we like winter in this part of the world. If you are wondering why, spend one summer here.  If Shelly lived in India, then the famed ‘Ode to the West Wing’ lines would’ve been written in quite the reverse – “If summer comes can winter be far behind?”).

Anyway, I digress. Point is we cleaned out the room, which was the husband’s idea, and sure it was a great one. However, there’s a good reason I resisted doing so all these years – because the execution was carried out by yours truly. Great ideas must be backed by equally great efforts! Also, the room, for all its chaos, had its benefits – it was out of my sight, and I could dump what I didn’t want to deal with – which was a lot. In redoing it, I had to think about making room for all the stuff I did not wish to clear – aka the winter clothes (which now lie in another room, which too had to be redone to accommodate the almirahs. I now have to perform twists and turns to open them in that room (much smaller) to get out the woollens, especially when the husband is going on a trek and casually askes for his jacket and thermal socks). And now for the best part – the room was stuffed with not only our just-in-case-you-need-it- clutter, but also the mother-in-law’s equally worthless possessions from the years gone by. So, while the husband, in a moment of extreme, if foolish, insouciance, gave me carte blanche to “throw or give it all away”, I wasn’t sure he had quite thought it through. He hadn’t, as it turned out. There was much gnashing of teeth at the discovery of memories having been “cleared away heartlessly” .

Anyhow, the room is now an office-cum-library, which I use as an office. I have often thought of installing booby traps at the door, because the assortment of people I want to get away from can still reach me there, though it’s better than being smack in the middle of the action.

Working from home can be challenging and requires discipline – not only your own, but that of people around you, which is harder than you think (the mamajis drop in at the exact time when you are on a call with a client, as your mother-in-law comes running to you for lunch arrangements). When you are physically available, as opposed to a phone-call away, things are very different. If you are working from home – no matter how separate your workplace is – you are forever vulnerable to the vagaries of all sorts of people – including to that of your children (they won’t call dad in the office but come scampering into your home office to resolve urgent matters, like the ownership of a pen or who hit whom first).

So, while the best place for me to work is my office, it ain’t quite the treaty room I had secretly hoped it would become, in a strange twist of fate. The moment my work gets some traction (meaning funds) I plan on moving into an office. Maybe then the room can go back to the person it was originally meant for!

Leave a comment

Filed under home, marriage, mommyrage, motherhood, ramblings, women, work from home

The Problem That Has No Name

peace-of-mind-349815_960_720

I first read ‘The Feminine Mystique’ when I was in my twenties. I was just out of college and anything feminist had instant appeal. Betty Friednan, I was told, was the original feminist (as it turned out, she wasn’t, there are many claimants to that appellation. She sparked, what we learnt later, a second-wave feminism). But, these were pre-Google days, rather these were pre-the-world-as-we-know-it-today days, and our biggest sources of information were our teachers and, who we liked to call, the Phd-types (we had no idea where they got their information from; it remains a mystery to date). Needless to say, their word was law. If they recommended a book or an author, we would go scurrying to libraries (any that we could get access to, which weren’t many, hence the scurrying) to lay our hands on the them. Friednan was suggested one such friend, who was really a step above the Phd types, she was the sure-shot-UPSC-type (though later I found out that she married her local guardian’s son and proceeded to live an obscure life defined largely by motherhood)

She was the real thing, however, in those days –  the sort who would read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ before bedtime; the Oracle we would go to before any exam in the hope that we would generally absorb the wisdom that seemed to float around her like a glowing, massless orb. She had read The Feminie Mystique like a pop-fiction book and passed it on to me. And since anything she read was Gospel, I had declared my liking for it before she had had a chance to offer it to anyone else (I preferred it to ‘The Communist Manifesto’). I accepted the book with a mix of alacrity and grace, and read it from cover to cover, spouting quotes wherever I could, mainly to make points in arguments and debates. The real feminist book to read, of course, was The Second Sex, but my friend probably thought it too dense for non-Phd types like me, and had thus recommended Freidnan.

Years later, I came across the The Feminine Mystique again. For all my enthusiasm about the book, I realized that I didn’t remember much of it, except the fact that the women being talked about in it were far removed from my life – I didn’t know much about suburban American wives as a twenty-year-old. I remember understanding it, but not being able to relate to it, even if I quoted liberally from it (to appear academically superior to my peers; it mostly worked).

This time, however, I had no such problem. The opening paragraph made my hair stand on end, as I realized that the reason I could not relate to it earlier had nothing to do with geographical boundaries, but to do with the age I was at. I was twenty, single and full of idealism that youth bestows in abundance, blissfully unaware of the realities of life. Now, as  a thirty-eight-year old mother of three who had been on a break from work, I was anything but unaware. And Freidnan’s words spoke directly to me: “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?”

Friednan had hit the nail on its head by asking – is this all? It was the very existential question I had been avoiding asking myself. As I lay in bed at night and thought about the years that had slipped by, as I shopped for groceries, chased my children with spoons, took them to the doctors, drove them to their piano lessons, tennis classes and birthday parties, I realized I didn’t want to ask myself that question; I didn’t want to address the “strange stirring” Friednan spoke of. I felt old, fat and unemployable. After re-reading Friednan, however, there was no getting away from the question. Also, by now my Phd-type, bleeding-heart liberal friends had been replaced with mommies, who were at a similar stage in their lives and who collectively seemed to suffer from a similar affliction as me – with the problem that has no name.

The more I read Friednan, the more I seemed to meet women she was talking of, except these were women who were living fifty years later, and more than twelve thousand kilometers away from the American suburban wife Friednan spoke of. And yet, they seemed to be bound by a common thread; they felt the exact same sense of “stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning”.

What I must add here is that these were affluent women, much like their American counterparts (and for this Freidnan has faced criticism, but that’s for another story). They lived comfortable lives and had most things desirable – rich husbands, big houses, rocks on their fingers, luxury cars and all that came with being married into wealth. What they lacked, I realized, was a sense of self, a sense of accomplishment and purpose. And, that was exactly what I lacked too. For us (them and me) motherhood had been all consuming, but it had not provided the sense of fulfilment that society supposes it should for mothers. I cannot remember the number of times I have been told that I was doing a terrific job as a mother, the innuendo being that it is something I must continue to do, to the exclusion of all else. Motherhood, women are brought up to believe, is defined by the sacrifices you make as a mother – and this is exactly what The Feminine Mystique addresses – to the fact that women are/were trying to conform to some ideal image, despite their lack of fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not belittling mother hood. I know, only too well, what it takes. My problem, so to speak, is with the picture that society paints of a mother – a sacrificing, patient, selfless, long-suffering woman– one who puts her own aspirations on hold for the sake of the ones she loves. And the problem with this picture is that little girls grow up believing this to be the image to aspire to. Worse still, little boys too are led to believe that there are predefined roles and definitions for men and women, ideas which they carry into adulthood.

Which brings me back to “the problem that has no name.” Women, whether in the previous generation, this one, or the next, will continue to feel a sense of restlessness (and depression), as long as they are made to be subservient to men, as long as they are expected to live their lives by rules defined by others, and as long as they try to conform to an ideal image of a woman, a mother, a wife.

The Feminine Mystique inspired a women’s movement in America. It irreversibly changed attitudes about women’s role in society and led to widespread activism for women’s rights and equality. In India, we need such a manifesto for change. We need to spell out the “problem that has no name”, or, as a first step, identify that there exists a real problem, only then can realities change. And while I didn’t read The Communist Manifesto at bedtime, a line from it leaps to mind, which I modify here:

“Women of India unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”

Leave a comment

Filed under home, motherhood, ramblings

So, About This Mother’s Day..

canada-goose-216003_960_720

My kids are busy making mother’s day cards. There’s a surreptitious air to their transparent activities (yes,mommy knows everything – besides they’ve been bent over quilling strips trying to make paper flowers and asking me random questions about my preference in colour of ear rings!) I know, awww..

So, it’s nice, to see them excited. And I am playing my part – looking deliberately obtuse as they make cards under my nose, hiding them with books and sundry things while getting taken in by my apparent aloofness (no doubt I will have to express amazement tomorrow on how I had absolutely no idea they were up to this).
But, that’s really about it. I don’t much believe in mother’s day. I think it’s being thrust upon us – it’s a bit like what De Beers did with diamonds – made it synonymous with love and weddings. I don’t buy it.

So, a few days ago, I told my kids that I didn’t want any gifts, I wanted good behaviour and obedience. They seemed crestfallen – much easier to make cards and go to the mall with dad (and way more fun too). Now I had gone and ruined it, and asked for what clearly could not be bought and was no fun, to put it mildly. Plus, my demand seemed unfair – because for that we’d need a Mother’s Year, since it would extend beyond Sunday. For them, mother’s day is about gifts and cards which tell mommy how much she is loved and appreciated. It’s not, however, about a behavioral change, which falls clearly in the, now-that’s-asking-for-a-bit-much domain.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt about the fact that my kids love me. My objection is about telling the kids world over that’s here’s a day you must make special for your mom and tell her you love her. What’s wrong with that, you could ask? Read on..

First, why a day? Who decided this? Why not a week, a month, a year? Also, to me the whole idea is a bit skewed – because a mom does not need a day, even if we were to assume that’s really going to make her feel loved – she needs to be understood and helped along the way – everyday! Lovely as it is, she does not need special treatment one day and return to being monster mom the next. She has her birthday for that.

Second, it leads to pressure on children – to find ways of expressing love on a particular preset day – it’s clinical if you ask me. And forced. Like this weekend, there’s a lot of homework and this is adding to it. So guess what’s going to happen on Sunday night, when the reality of Monday morning will be looming large on the household? Mommy will have to step in to firefight! (counterproductive Mother’s day if you ask me!)

So, here’s what I really want.

I want cards from my kids (I save all of them – even scraps they write sorry on). But I want them on days when I least expect them – when I am feeling the strains of life, when I am feeling overwhelmed with all that I need to do, when I am missing my dad I lost recently, when I am feeling premenstrual, when I want to sit and cry – for reasons I cannot fathom, when I want to turn back time and take that job I refused, when I wake up and want to go back to sleep again..those are the times when a card will cheer me up and make me feel loved.

Tomorrow I expect the cards and the show of love – but I need those for rainy days.

Leave a comment

Filed under home, motherhood, ramblings

A Day In The Life Of A Working Mom

ducks

6:00 am: Wake up, wash face, wear running clothes, take a deep breath. Start getting the kids ready, with the help of the maid (may the lord bless her).

6:30 am: Twins have finished their milk. General ablutions are in due process. But older one needs to be woken up – didn’t sleep on time at night (don’t ask). Gently goad her out of bed, while remembering the resolution to be more calm and patient. She stirs and falls back to sleep. Count to ten, while holding back on the lecture on the merits of sleeping on time.

6:40 am: Try not to burst a nerve as two of the three remain ensconced on the pot with books.

6:41 am: Husband enters after Yoga.  Asks me to chant “serenity now”. I give him the look. He smiles, gives me the what-else-can-you-do look in return. He’s charming even at this hour. I don’t tell him that, of course – there are three kids to get out the house by 7:10.

6:43 am: One twin bathed – comb her hair, as she protests, while husband feeds her fried egg (mama can’t feed, it’s a fine art only dad knows best. Mama only too happy not to learn the art. Is willing to give up others, for the record). Other twin out. Repeat combing and feeding process. She too has strong objections to the manner in which the combing is carried out. She curls up her nose and declares that it hurts. Refuses to eat more till the problem is resolved.

6:44 am: Give her the hair brush and exit the room. Dad can deal with this on his own. Check on the older one. She’s still on the pot. Needs two more minutes. We don’t have two more minutes, I tell her. She sighs, rolls her eyes. I give her one more minute by the clock and leave with my signature, don’t-make-me-come-in-there look.

6:46 am: Twins ready, but there’s been a fight over the ownership of a pen. Dad is smack in the middle of it, trying to reason with two seven- year olds.

6:58 am: Last one out of the bathroom. Countdown to departure begins.

7:08 am: Everyone ready. Breakfast halfway. But now have to feed them almonds, and the tonic. It’ll have to be had in the car. Pick up spoon and tonic. And oh, the immunity sachet – older one’s been falling ill a lot, so needs this in the mornings, along with figs, raisins and dates. Doctors really need to go more ground-level studies before scribbling out undo-able prescriptions.

7:10 am: Breakfast over. We’re almost at the door, with tonics, almonds et all. Twin two declares she needs a winter flower for show and tell. Starts to cry, it has to be taken today. I give her the you’re-kidding look. She cries more. Husband intervenes, asks me to calm down. I tell him to get the winter flower. He tries to reason with her, she cries even louder.

7:11 am: Cook runs to the neighbour’s house, comes back triumphant with a Hibiscus. She informs him that it can be anything but Hibiscus. I laugh, there’s nothing else to be done.

7:12 am: We get into the car. Twin two has curled up her nose and continues to wail. I step on the gas, then I stop, run out of the car. I have spotted a Petunia. I retrieve it the alacrity of a cat having caught a bird. I hand it to her and get behind the wheel. There’s cheering in the back. Mommy steps on the gas again.

7:17 am: Reach the bus stop. Phew!

7:20: am: Wave to them as the bus pulls away. I can’t believe the day has only just begun. I feel tired already.

7:30 am: Go for a run. Make a note to remember the Vitamin D sachets, as the knee starts to creak again. Will have to reset reminders, because now I don’t know how many have been consumed.

9:45 am: Drive to work with a gazillion thoughts about things to do. Some urgent, some important – not the same thing. In attending to the former, the latter get ignored. Urgent – pipe in the bathroom is on its last legs, is leaking, will give way anytime. Plumber must be summoned. He’s on speed dial. Pull over, call him. He doesn’t pick up. Important – mammogram. No time for it, despite the lumps I can feel. It’s ok I tell myself.

10:15 Get into the office. Pour a glass of water, gulp a headache medicine. Ask office boy for a strong cup of tea.

11 am: Am at work. Cook and general Man Friday calls to remind me about the leaking pipe. Plumber needs to be called. And also, the electrician too needs some determined chasing, the AC is making sputtering noises and is out of gas – the coil has holes in it and needs fixing. These are urgent. I think about the air we are breathing, if metal gets corroded then it’s scary to think about what the pollution does to our lungs. This is important, but I’ll attend to the urgent.

11: 10 am: Step out of the office to speak to the plumber and electrician. Plumber finally picks up. He has fever, but will come. Electrician too promises to attend to the issues promptly. Make a note to call them back in an hour.

12:00p.m. to 3:30 pm: All’s quiet on most fronts. Chip away at that presentation. Boss needs to see it at the end of the day.

12:15 pm: Mom calls. Can’t talk. Will call her back.

4pm: Call from home. Kids are back from school, have many tales to tell. I whisper and tell them I’ll back.

4:10 pm: Call from home. There has been a fight. Mommy’s expert opinion on whodunit is urgently needed. Hang up.

4:40 pm: Call home, remind kids about respective instrument practice. They are watching Master Chef.
Try not to blow my lid. Reiterate will-take-away-benefits rule that kicks in when work is not done.

5pm: Call from Plumber. Pipe is fixed. Needs money. He’ll have to wait, or come back. He mutters and hangs up. Am afraid he won’t take my calls the next time.

6pm: Boss wants the update on the presentation. Send it to him.

6:20 pm: Start wrapping up work. Call from home. Barrage of questions about time of return.The fight is still not resolved. Also, there’s some project work that needs mommy’s superior cognitive skills. Homework is for kids, I say. Not this one, comes the reply. Wonder why schools subject parents to torture. Why do projects involve cut and paste, is it me, or is it not obvious that nothing is learned in the process, except how to cut in a straight line, colour and search Google.

6:30 pm: Call from home. Further inquiries about exact arrival time

6:40 pm: Leave work. Call from home again about update on ETA. Now I can yell, I am in the car. Inform them that I am on my way, have not acquired the ability to fly yet.

7:00 pm: Walk into the house. They run towards mommy. Feel blessed. Kiss them and ask about their day – they talk in unison. I get the gist. They ask me if I need tea. I do. It’s been a long day.

7:10 pm: Check on homework. Check, approve and disapprove and ask for some of it to be redone. Ignore the

7:15 pm: Mom calls. Can’t talk. Will call her back.

7:20: Dinner time for the kids. No they can’t watch Master Chef while eating.

7:45 pm: Dinner over. Time for race-to-bed-time drills.

8:00 pm: Fight over who will change last.

8:05 pm: Older daughter remembers she needs glue. I tell her we have glue. She tells me we have the other one. Glue is Glue I say. Seems not. And oh we need an A3 sheet as well, in cream (not white)

8:10 pm: Tears, apologies, more tears, and then a dash to the market.

9:00pm: Back home after getting the glue and the sheet. Twins have slept. Race against time to bedtime for older one.

9:30 pm: Announce the last and final call for bedtime – after this “it ain’t going to be pretty” (it’s a daily thing)

10:00 pm: All three asleep. Day over – all’s quiet.

10:10 pm: Guilt sets in. Go into kids’ room. Kiss them – they look angelic in their sleep. Apologize for yelling. Make promises about being more patient.

10:20 pm: Day over. Too tired to read. Watch Shark Tank with the husband while drinking Chinese Tea and eating dark chocolate. Feel the fatigue draining from my bones. Laugh, talk, indulge in uplifting conjugal banter. It’s the best part of my day.

11:00 pm: Ready for bed. It’s late. No time to read.

11:45 pm: Lights off. Wonder how it got this late? Really need to sleep on time.

11:50 pm: Think about mom, forgot to call her back. Damn. Too late to call now, she must’ve waited. Will do it tomorrow..

12:00 am: Slip into sleep as a million thoughts flood the mind – mobile bill is due, presentation is due by eod tomorrow, have to call the pest control fellow, the upholstery guy.. and yes, haven’t got sis a birthday present yet. Must call her tomorrow too…

And Ma, must call ma in the morning..

Tomorrow is another day.

3 Comments

Filed under home

Why I Will Never Call Myself Fat Again

mother_daughter_2

Ok, this is an unusual admission from me – I am not fat. Not saying I am not thin, but am not fat either, whatever the definition of thin or fat is.

Which brings me to this question: what is the definition of fat, or thin? And who defines it? And why do we accept it?

The truth, unsurprisingly, is based on our perception about the issue. What I may think of as thin, may not be so for someone else (my children’s friend’s bordering-on-anorexic mothers probably think I am fat. I differ. Conversely, my mom thinks I am thin. Again, I differ). It’s all relative.

Today, somehow, being thin means being skinny, or somewhere near it. The whole definition of beauty has changed completely. And women, more than men, are trying to live by some warped standards of beauty, and are putting themselves through torture to conform to it. Innumerable studies and life experiences of people have repeatedly shown that physical qualities in people do only so much to make them happy and contended – one because they are fleeting and two, because they don’t add meaning to people’s lives. That may be a philosophical outlook that you may or may not agree with, but it does not take away from one simple fact – that our obsession with looking good and the methods of achieving it are unhealthy. And this must stop – because what we’re doing, and by we I mean women like myself who have unknowingly fallen into the trap and perpetuated the idea, is passing it on to the next generation. Most of us (like yours truly) may not mean to, but we are. Every time I look in the mirror and exclaim that I have gained weight, I am (albeit inadvertently), passing on my idea of beauty to my children. I may tell them otherwise, but children look at actions and take away from that. They are watching us at all times and learning from our behaviour. What we do or say seeps into their sub-conscience and feeds their ideas about life and society – in this case about defines being thin; it tells them what they must be like to be accepted as attractive.

Children are sponges – so if you, even in jest, say that you are fat, they will process this very differently than you may have intended.

Let me now confess that I have been guilty of this. I have often made a correlation between my weight with feeling good and not, as I should have, being fit and feeling good – because that’s what it should be about. I want to be healthy, and not being fat, in the medical sense, is part of it. But that’s not what I conveyed in my actions and words. I am a runner and I do believe that it makes me fitter. Yet, I have somehow done a bad marketing job of making those feelings known and amplified the ones that I don’t really believe in – which is about wanting to be thinner than I am.

For instance, when my sister and I joke about “going on a crash diet”, we lead our children to believe that depriving yourself of food is justified and even required if one needs to be acceptably thin (and thus physically attractive). The fact that neither of us never act on our words may not be enough to quell the ideas we had engraved in our children’s impressionable minds.

Why this sudden awakening you may ask? Because my older daughter (now ten) said to me the other day that she feared being fat when she grew up. It was one of those passing things that kids say, which they forget about the next moment and move on. But, her words stopped me in my tracks. I realized what I had done. I knew she didn’t fear it, like she fears the dark, or earthquakes. Yet, just the fact that she, at ten-years-old, had thought about gaining weight when she grew older, was enough to set me on a path of correcting the wrong I had done.

Parenting, I have learned, is not about the ability to always do the right thing, or about berating yourself for doing the wrong. It’s about realizing and admitting when you’ve made mistakes, and setting them right. That’s exactly what I plan to do now. And it can’t be done by siting my daughter down and giving her philosophical monologues on the idea of beauty. That’s taking the easy way out and frankly, it never works. She’s growing up in a world surrounded by image-obsessed people, who, along with some ill-timed remarks by her mother about her own weight, have influenced her little mind. What she needs is to see the right ideas in action. She needs to see her mother run and then talk about being fit, she needs to see her mother dress for a party and not ask if she’s looking fat, she needs to see her mother feel good about herself about the way she looks and not rue about her lost youth when she was thin.

My new-found resolve, however, does not mean that I shall now proceed to wander around with unkempt hair and live in sweatpants, because that would really prove I don’t care about how I look and thus send the right message to my kids. It won’t, they’ll just think I am sloppy. No, it means that I stop saying things I don’t mean and, through my actions, I prove that being healthy is what matters.

And the effects of this will be two fold – one, of course, I will teach my daughters the right thing about their body-image and two, I will feel good about myself, which I have not been doing lately. I run to be healthy and because I enjoy it, not to be thin – whatever that means today.

Leave a comment

Filed under home, mommyrage

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under mommyrage

The Guilt of a Woman

Untitled-2 copy

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..

5 Comments

Filed under mommyrage