Tag Archives: mommies

What Changed When I Started Working

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For one thing, going for gatherings became easier. I had a ready answer to, “so what do you do?”. Yes, I know I being at home with the kids is “commendable” and one of the “toughest jobs in the world”, and that I should never have felt bashful about being, well, just a mom. Except, that I was – bashful, as well as just a mom. I hated the question, no matter how innocuously it was asked. And I never felt fulfilled (whatever that means) doing a seemingly noble job that was supposed to satisfy my motherly instincts. I was happy, yes, spending time with my kids, but always felt a sense of restlessness that took away from the contentment that motherhood is said to bring.

But, that was then. Now things have changed. And not. I still hold the portfolio of the home and cabinet minister combined. I won that uncontested, of course, and my having returned to work did not mean that the posts had fallen vacant. All it meant was that I had, willingly, taken on more responsibility. The previous ones still stood (and shall continue to do so as long as I live). That was the truth.

Why? Because I am the mom, and that’s the way it is. Mommies fix things, as everyone else pretends that they can’t. That, and also because I earn so little that it has no bearing on the husband’s life. He still has to bring home the bacon – so his life has not changed, while mine has turned on its head. And that’s why yours truly still does the stay-at-home-mommy things – ferrying the kids to classes, remembering the vaccinations, getting berated by the doctors when she forgets, rushing home to tend to a sick child, getting the house cleaned, things fixed, dry-cleaned, darned, repaired, cooked – you name it. And of course, added to this is the unenviable task of making a dash to the stationary shop on a Sunday evening, when mommy is most kindly informed about a project due on Monday morning. Yes, that is fun and brings me to the conclusion that real estate prices should not be driven  by hospitals or schools in the vicinity, but by the number of stationary shops near the house – try getting into one on a Sunday evening. I can tell you, from experience, that entry into sold-out Broadway shows are easier, as opposed to getting into a shop to buy Blu Tack. Try elbowing out harassed moms being trailed by sulking kids. I do it with more regularity than I comb my hair.

My bag, much like the rest of my life, is also bearing the brunt of the additional responsibility. Because it’s still a mommy bag (I am just not the sort to change bags, and when I have tried to be the sort, I have ended up returning home to pick up my wallet I forgot in the old one). So I carry one bag that lets me switch from the calm, working-mom at the office to the, never-know-what-you’ll-need mommy once I am back home. Which means that in office, when I reach for a pen, my hand returns smeared with ink from a leaking felt pen or a half-eaten melted chocolate (which I had refused to mop up and shoved into my bag a month ago). Or both. I also find broken crayons, smiley stickers, biscuit crumbs, spoons, flattened candies, paracetamol syrup, headache medicines, tampons, tissues and often, an expired credit note I had declared lost. Underneath all this is where I usually find the notepad on which I scribble notes while my boss rambles on about strategies we ought to be impressing our clients with.

So I would say that working has not changed so much as it has added things in my life. And on that note, of adding, guess what else has been added on me? Yup, the weight. I haven’t been able to run that much in the past year and bulges have started to appear, much to my consternation.

But, having said all of that, I will take the working mom, any day, over the stay at home one. No question about it. Sure, I am tired and my plate is spilling over, but I will not trade places with my old self at all. I love the fact that I leave the house and get into my own space, even if that space belongs to my boss and even though it’s not exactly the corner office (to put it mildly). But, just being out of the house and leaving the chaos behind me is liberating. Of course, the chaos tends to follow me – with the maid, the kids and the mother in law calling to ask inane questions. But still, I am physically away and don’t have to deal with it all the time.

“I was in a meeting” is a wonderful phrase I have re-discovered and use it quite liberally.

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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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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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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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Minority Report

I am of the firm opinion that if Salman Rushdie tried to make a living as an online writer, he’d starve.

Why? Because he’s a master of the loop, of delightfully long and punctuated sentences that would send editors of online portals, much like Microsoft Word, into a tizzy, and they’d both come up with eerily similar suggestions to the tune of: “fragment – consider revising”. The unfortunate truth is that few today appreciate the beauty of long sentences, articulately written.

Don’t get me wrong. I know well the use of periods and their impacts – as Isaac Babel the brilliant Soviet playwright who was shot by the Stalin regime, (not, I suspect, for his love of periods) put it : “No iron can pierce a heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”  I am all for periods and their uses and well understand that brevity can have an impact in a way long-winded sentences can’t.  But, I believe that it takes a superior writer to write a lengthy, masterful sentence. There is nothing more pleasing than  reading a long, perfectly punctuated sentence, much like the ones Emily Bronte writes so adroitly in Wuthering Heights.

By whining about this issue, I am not, for a moment, pretending to be a superior writer, one that the world has not recognized yet but for whom it will hold a bicentenary two hundred years from now in a belated attempt to assuage the guilt of not having granted her due recognition (though that would be nice). I am merely lamenting the fact that editors today, and I generalize here so pardon me those who do not fall into this miserable category, are incapable of appreciating a bloody good sentence just because it exceeds what they feel is the right length.

Where is all this coming from? You guessed it. From someone who recently asked me if I could shorten my sentences – you write well, except that the sentences are a bit, er well, a bit long. That was his only gripe – that the sentences were long – the only disqualifying factor. If I made it short (like some of the extremely mediocre writing on his site) then he could consider hiring me for which, mind you, I’d be paid some measly amount until  “you prove yourself and get maximum hits”. It’s all about SEO, you know, he added sheepishly. Stuff it, I told him.  Not in so many words, though, unfortunately.  Gosh I do want to say it once to someone real and not on my blog!

We now live in an age of instant gratification – there is this mercenary, make-it-short attitude towards everything. Publishers look for the next quick book to become a best seller, one that’s produced quite magically and sells a million copies.  Who has the time for tomes, no matter how well written? So, what about the people who seriously love to read writers like Salman Rushdie? Well, one word clubs them all wonderfully together into a nebulous mass – minority.

And that is the essential problem. That I am in the minority. Not that I am not going to, or can, do much about it. I sort of like being here, in the minority I mean. Am used to it, really. Go to a shop and ask for party-wear dresses and be prepared to be treated to piles and piles of outfits that look more like layered, fluffy puddings than dresses. Ask for a shoe and you’ll be shown an array of super-shiny, high-heeled monsters that look more like miniature rocket ships than something you’d put on your little one’s feet.  Wonder aloud about who wears this stuff and you’d be told that this was very much in demand and was “fast-selling”.  Sigh.

Back to the editor, though, (yup, not going to forget him in a while) – maybe someday I’ll write that book which has been exploding in my head for, well for as long as I can remember. Then I’ll send him a copy with a note, which, of course, will not be short, but long, with many punctuations.

Now there’s a happy thought.

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Have It All. Why The Fuss?

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about women and their issues (not a fan of that word) – the whole work-life balance that’s quite suddenly become the thing to talk about in living rooms, when one is done venting about the government and the weather that is.  Not that I went looking for these articles in particular, but I guess it started with one article I read about women and related issues and surprise surprise suggested articles and blogs started popping up seemingly out of nowhere, but we all know how that works. Not that I care about being tracked, no really, I got bigger things to worry about.

Anyway, I digress (oh so easily). Point is, I’ve been reading stuff about how women can have it all if they do this or or if they do that (not relevant to the point I am making). It irritates me, this whole have-it-all discussion.

Who can have it all? Do men? Sure, in many homes they work and the wife looks after the family, but does that mean they have it all? I think not. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you about the grueling hours he puts in at work and only comes home to see the kids asleep – asleep when he arrives and out to school before he can say Johnny Cash, after a tornadoesque morning (three kids, two of whom are yet to be four, to get ready, feed and then drop to the bus stop by 7:20 – yeah, it’s a fun morning). He gets little time with them and does not have the moments I do with them (moments, I admit, I would now, after years of being home, trade quite happily for a teller’s job that requires standing on one leg – you can see I’ve had an eventful, tantrumy morning) But the point is, he has not had it all either. He’s missing their childhood in the aim to secure their future. He’s working his ass off, going through mid-life angst, well aware of the long road that stretches ahead of him. Not defending the men folk here before anyone accuses me of that (ironical that would be, really) but just making a point about this whole fuss about having it all.

What, by the way, is having it all? I don’t get it. Ask anyone if they have it all and you’ll get a answer in the negative. Any road to success (pecuniary success I mean) is paved with sacrifices and regrets, be it for a man or woman. Also, who says that having it all is the key to happiness? So much is in the mind. You could have it all (whatever that is) and still not be happy, or you could have some regrets in life and yet be content with the way things are. I made the choice to be at home and am living with it, angst et all. I got to do what I wanted with the kids – to bathe and dress them, to be there for the school drop and pick-up, to read to them in the afternoons, to take them to their tennis lessons – so I did. Now, I still want those things, but, my need to get out and work is higher, maybe because I’ve had enough of the domesticity and also because they’re settled in school.

I am also aware that for many women, it’s not a choice – they have to work and leave the leg-tugging baby behind. In my mind I was indispensable at home (with three girls I still think I am) and since the house did not depend on my income (though that would’ve led to less stress on the husband and thus on everyone else) I decided to stay at home with the kids. Sure they got looked after and the husband could work tirelessly without home issues clouding his analytical brain. But I too got to do what I wanted, at least initially. For many women, it’s hard because the house needs dual incomes.

What I want to say is merely this, as we were taught very early on in school – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This little adage, for me, says a lot about the whole discussion around having it all. No one can have it all. No one.  It may appear so, but it’s not true. So why the fuss?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t understand the issue at hand here. No one knows that better than me – since I’ve tried to strike that work-life balance and have, in vain, tried to get jobs that are satisfying enough and yet don’t threaten to consume you, leaving you to attend to your other full-time job of mommyhood in peace. It cannot happen. You either do some mindless work where you shut shop at five-o-clock  sharp and go home, or you find something meaningful, in which case leaving at will, or at a family-conducive hour,  is probably not that easy. Or you stay at home, and write (like I’ve been trying to do – yes, yes, a book is in the head). So I do get the point about how hard it is for women who want/have to work and have kids to go home to.

I guess what irritates me is a lot of hyperbole around having it all. I have a problem with the whole concept of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. Maybe it was how I was brought up, to believe that to get something you have to give up another. True, in an ideal world a woman (or a man) should be able to work and be there for the kids all at once. But, is that possible? Ask anyone who’s made it to the top. Or rather, ask the kids. If you are going to slave to get to the top of any organization, something will have to give. And that something will be your home.

Ask Enid Brighton’s daughter (or husband who she had a tumultuous marriage with) what they thought of their life with her. She wrote more than 600 books for children, but did she have time for her own? Did she have it all?

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