Tag Archives: mommies

He thinks Mergers, I think Plumbers..

One evening, a few nights ago, I was lying in bed next to my husband. We were both tired after a long day and were similarly engrossed in our thoughts, of the day gone by, the one that lay ahead, all that needed to be done, stuff like that. We were having one of those, silently-reading-in-bed and thinking about battles ahead moments (am reading David Mitchell, by the way, and for those who haven’t read him, I highly recommend him) I had a hectic day planned – visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist, then to a birthday party, then rush home in time for the maid to leave, take the kids for their swimming lessons, call the electrician for the AC that’d started to make disturbing noises etc etc, you know working out the logistics in my head. My husband was lost deep in thought too, but his were, well, different, to say the least – crunching numbers, selling companies, handling employees and their emotions and the like. Not to put myself down, but compared to his, my list was full of mundane if vexing chores; his, probably both worrisome as well as mentally fatiguing. So we lay in bed reading, interrupted only with to-the-point conversations about this and that, such as “did my credit card arrive today, it’s about to expire”, or “how was the kids’ swimming lesson?”

There are times in everyone’s life, I am certain, when you have moments of extreme clarity, like you’d just spotted the obvious, which had been under your nose all the time. These crop up suddenly, almost without warning, seemingly out of nowhere, much like the Eureka moments that make everything lucid at once. Well, I had one of those that night. I realized why the distance that’d crept in between us had the dangerous potential of turning into an abyss.

This distance, I realized, had a perfectly logical and quite frankly a very valid explanation. We had sunk into such different worlds that on a day to day basis we had very little in common with each others’ lives. People at his work, understandably, knew much more about him and the issues that face him than I did. At my end, the mommy friends I’ve made in recent years around swings in parks knew more about the angst I feel as a mother or the issues that face me. True we try and involve each other in our lives, but that can only happen that much. I cannot begin to understand all the pressures he faces and he cannot relate fully to the life I lead. Our days could not be more different. And that’s where the danger lay. No matter how hard we try, at the end of the day we have such dissimilar events to deal with that we seem to be living on completely diverse planes.

Not that I didn’t know this earlier, but that night, somehow it became clear to me that something had to be done. We absolutely had to find a common ground and that could not be the children and the home alone. Something else needed to bind us. Yes there was love and friendship, but that’s something that needs to be worked on constantly. You cannot just lie there and say – ok so we have different lives but that’s quite alright because there is this marriage and love and all that jazz. No, that’s not enough, not near enough. You have to connect mentally – that’s what was was so clear to me that night. I can’t talk markets and numbers like he can and he can’t put in his bit about running the house, but surely there’s stuff we could find to talk about that was removed from or not connected to the life we lead together.

Mental stimulation. Yes, that’s what we needed.  That is what would keep us on a somewhat level field.

I am not sure if I make sense, but this is something I’ve only just fully understood. I mean I knew it, but somehow lost the thread in all the domesticity and the gap just crept in on us.

I suggested (not letting him in on my new-found epiphany, of course) that we watch a film – The Great Gatsby. We’ve both read the book and loved it. So we did and it was a wonderful idea. We came home talking about the film, the book, the let down (if you’ve read the book, you cannot like the film, Leonardo notwithstanding) and a whole lot of things that we’d forgotten about.

Not once did we talk about the kids or the house.

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What career advice will you give to your daughters?

When I was growing up all I heard my mother say was that we had to make something of ourselves; that we must “stand on your own feet” – a term that Indian parents love to repeat, ad nauseum, or at least they did when my parents were in the stage of child-rearing that I am today.  Hindi films extolled the virtues of the phrase with lachrymose on-screen mothers telling their kids to “become something in life”.

So, it was ingrained in me very early – parents, cinema, et all – that I had to make something of myself. Stories of didactic brilliance, against all odds, were fed to us on a regular basis. The boy who sat under a street lamp and topped the national level civil services exam was the role model who we had to get inspired from, if not emulate.

So, my question is this. And, just to clarify, this is not to assign blame or say that my life would’ve been different had my mother prepared me for what lay ahead. But what I want to know is why no one told me one day I’ll have to make a choice – work or home? I spent years thinking, studying, working towards a career and then, whoosh. Before I knew it, I became that Stay At Home Mom, wondering if someone out there wants to hire a freelancer who is willing to work harder than “regular employees”, whose only limitation is that she cannot leave home for hours on end.

Why was I told that I must “stand on my feet” when that is exactly what I am not being able to do, whatever the term means?

The question that could be thrown back to me is – who told you to have kids? Or, did you not think about who would raise them? Well, not really. I mean, you reach a point when you want kids and you feel you’ll be able to figure to out as you go along. After all, the world has kids and juggles. My mom did. Couldn’t be that hard, right?

It’s not hard. It’s just life-changing. For those who can strike that magical (but it so eluded me) work-life-balance, I sound like a whiner (don’t like that term, my blog name notwithstanding). But I am not. I am asking a real question; more because I want to say the right things to my daughters. I do not want to lead them down a merry path only to have them reach a dead end later, or worse, to reach that wretched fork in the road where they’ll stand and dither and fall into the deepest quandary, the answer to which they will seek for the rest of their lives.

Should I tell them that they must work hard and dream big, but that one day they may have to let go of that dream, or a family? Or, should I tell them to be realistic and choose a path that will allow them to strike a balance between work and domestic life? So it’s better, say, to become a writer, academician (but wait, not dean, that’s time consuming), entrepreneur, teacher, consultant (so many women I know now “consult on a freelance basis) as opposed to any other profession, enriching as it might be, but which threatens to take them away from their homes for long passages of time?

What’s the answer? Is there one?

I want to, just because it’s sort of relevant, tell you this story. Make what you want of it.

I have a friend who was brilliant in college – the sort we thought would lead the way and we’d just follow. At 21 she got married. No one could understand it. One fine day, she just married this guy her parents had chosen for her. Just like that.

It turned out that her mother was this control freak who had figured life out and had laid out a plan for her daughter. She got this rich guy to marry her. By the time she was 23 she’d had her first and only child. She then, needled by her mother, did an MBA (while changing nappies – no diapers then). She lived with her parents-in-law (she, husband, kid on the top level; they on the lower, pretty common in India) So, the child was magically brought up while she worked. Long story short, today, she’s only 42 and her son is safely pursuing his undergraduate degree somewhere in the US. She’s on her way to the top management of her company with which she consulted (surprise surprise) for a few years while her son was young.

So, she’s set, as they say in Indian-English parlance. No stopping her till she reaches the top, which is less than an arm’s length away anyway. Her mother always wears this smug expression on her face – she’s something out of a Jane Austen book, where her only aim in life was to settle her daughter, first into a wealthy household by way of marriage and then into successful employment. Both were achieved.

Well, needless to say, I am not that mother. Don’t want to be. Besides, I’ve never asked this friend what she thought about being married so early. She never questioned it, at least not publicly, but I am not sure she loved being coaxed into domesticity while her friends went abroad for further studies, or ones like me who enjoyed single hood till my twenties ended.

I have no doubt about the reaction my kids would have, if I was to, in some wild imagination, turn into that controlling mother with the all-good intention of planning their lives. There’d be a mutiny, to put it mildly.

So back to the original question. What do I say to my daughters?

I ask, but I think I know the answer.

I am going to let them figure it out for themselves. Limiting their imagination right now for some future dilemma seems unnecessary and frankly foolish. They’ll cross the bridge when they come to it.  Hopefully, I’ll be living on the ground floor, looking after their babies..

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My Little Princesses. How I came to not mind that word.

When I was young/er and full of that – ew-no-pink-for-me, if someone had told me that my three daughters would play princess-princess in the afternoons wearing sparkly crowns, silky pink and (ugh) Disney-inspired Cinderella blue  satin dresses (given as gifts, I feel the need to clarify, from dear cousin visiting from Australia) I would’ve scoffed and told that someone they needed to get their Time Machine fixed. That ain’t me honey, would’ve been my only callow retort.

Right. So what happened? As I sit here and write, my daughters – aged 6 and almost three – are shrieking with delight as they swoon from room to room playing princess games with crowns and flowers in their hair, preparing for a make-believe tea party.

How did this happen? How one earth did I allow this? I mean I never bought (and that I still never do) clothes that say cutesie things like ‘li’l princess’ or worse, ‘daddy’s li’l princess’! I read to them about adventure, goblins and the Far Away Tree (sigh, to be six again); husband and I spend many evenings with them watching Serena Williams smash the ball to smithereens and terrify her opponent to bits (as my twins ask me about what happened to Sharapova); my six year old tells me all about how Mr. Pink-Whistle would become invisible and come to her school and then there’d be lots of fun. That is what our world is usually like. I want my girls to grow up not as princesses, but as independent, thinking women who’ll chart their own course in life (as opposed to mademoiselle damsel-in-distress Cinderella)

But then, there are days like today, when Enid Blyton sits in a corner and all that the kids wants to do is play princess. Do I mind this? Does it bother me?

Well, here’s the thing. I don’t mind it, somehow. I’ve come to believe – and this has been a journey, because even after I had them I was quite convinced that I’d never allow all this pinky-Barbie-oh–pretty-pretty-stuff – that some things are a part of growing up and deprivation is not always the right thing. If I banned Barbies (much as I’d like to) the kids would only pine for them more.  Let them have it, purge it out of their system and move on.

So, I allow them, in moderation, and use their non-playing time well. Also, I believe that kids need to have free play, one that is non-structured. This builds their imagination.  Even if it is playing princess, they are using props using their heads and having fun along the way.

So, if princess is what they want to play, then so be it. It makes them happy, keeps them engaged and that makes for a very happy mommy! Win-win really. To a point, of course. Any signs of the stuff taking on serious tones and I would kick into overdrive, starting all the diversion tactics.

For now, it’s a pleasure watching them giggle and play. Their tea-party looks like fun and my writing table is now full of all sorts of make-believe food that I am supposed to finish soon.  I am going to let them enjoy this afternoon and play.

Any mention of the prince, however, will need some mommy intervention.

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Time to listen to the body, and unfortunately, to the husband too!

My husband has been telling me for a while to calm down, to not get stressed about little things, to learn to take things as they are and not look for perfection in everybody and everything. He’s been warning me of medical repercussions, which, according to him, are just a matter of time.

I, needless to say, have not been too receptive to such candid feedback, which I see as a bit unwarranted. Predictably, I’ve countered his observations by insisting that since he is not in the house, it’s easy for him to tell me to let it be. After all, if I let it be, nothing will happen, nothing. The dinner will not be on time, the daughter will not finish her schoolwork (or eat properly, drink her milk, get her hair combed, etc etc), the laundry will not be done in time, or, worse, if allowed to get done without my fine supervision, it’ll be done all wrong, with the red sock making its way into the machine and turning all his clothes baby pink, the car will not get cleaned in time for him to leave for work, the driver will not show up in time, till I’ve called him a zillion times and he’s claimed to have been five minutes away for the last half hour, and all the rest of it .I have to yell if I need to get anything done, otherwise it will not happen. That’s the truth, really.

Also, I make it a point, at the end of any discussions of this nature, to point out that I wasn’t always this way, that this is something I turned into and I don’t like it any more than he does.

But, the hard fact is, he’s right. (how I hate that – that “I told you so” look!) My head has been reeling with attacks of migraines, of the worst sort. I’ve had them before; it’s something that’s been handed down to me as a legacy from them forefathers. Yup, it’s in the genes. You can escape everything, but you cannot escape your genes – not a chance. I thought I had though, but hitting forty is life changing in more ways than one. Your body starts to tell you things, things you don’t like but have to stomach. And them genes, they decide to come out of their dormancy and say “aha, so you thought we’d spared you? nope, not a chance in hell!” (You know that box that you fill in a health form – “family history of” – that box starts to mean something). You think about the blood pressure your mum has, the stent in your father’s heart, the rheumatoid arthritis in your family, and you take a deep breath. Then you think about combat measures. How long can you delay the inevitable? How long before your genes get the better of you? You get into survival mode (for the sake of your kids, you better) Yoga? That’s got to help you. Isn’t it the magical answer to everything? That and a host of other stuff like: low salt, low fried foods, low alcohol, sleep in time (early to bed..) I can almost feel my genes smirking saying “you want to beat us? Go right ahead dear, live this way if you really want!”

Anyway, I digress. Point is, migraines have officially made their entry into my life. I’ve seen my sister suffer from them and, of course, have lectured her no end about the stress that she creates in her life (it’s always so simple to solve other people’s lives isn’t it? I mean all you need to do sis is blah blah and blah and boom problem solved!) Now I am eating my big fat words and holding the receiver five inches from my ear when I hear such useless advice from my sister and mother. (why, why, why did I tell them????)

So now it’s time for resolutions, again. I think it’s time I listened to my body, or tried to at any rate. Am not going to change overnight (if at all) unless everyone around me does! But I can try, which is something I am willing to do (again, for the kids, though they won’t see that. It’s weird really – I yell because I care about them and now I will stop yelling because I care about them and don’t want to deprive them of a mother and want to be around till they are on their way in life – whenever that is!)

What I will and will not do: Will try and not yell (ok I am going to try because sometimes yelling is therapeutic), won’t get stressed about the little things, will meditate (this I find hard to do), will sleep on time, not do any crazy diets, look at the positive sides of everything (ok, that’s a bit of a tall order – maybe not everything, but most things).

In a rare moment of confession I will admit that the husband is right about the potential risk of harm from all the angst. I have to find a way to lessen the stress – I know. I am going to try. The migraine was an eye opener of sorts. It was nothing serious but the pain put me out for two days and I am not going to let that happen again. I will take his advice, but will I tell him that and give him ammunition for the future? Not a chance.

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Have moved the kids to their room..

For some this may seem too late, way too late. Older one is six, younger ones are two, and they are sleeping in their room tonight, for the first time. For me though, it’s come too soon.

But, I’ve done it – for many, not necessarily related reasons. And I feel a bit empty tonight.

I’ve done this out of my own free will (despite the resistance of my older daughter) and even felt excited about getting a bit of my life back – little pleasures of reading in bed, not talking in hushed tones, watching a film after the kids sleep, and of course, “couple time” with the hubby. But, right now, at this moment as I write this and the room is so empty that it almost has en echo, my heart feels heavy. I miss them. Terribly.

They are right across the room from me and I’ve been to their room countless times already – looking at their sleeping, angelic faces, kissing their lovely foreheads and tender cheeks, standing like a shadow staring blankly at the darkness, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark so I can see their curled-up forms, adjusting their blankets, checking if the AC is not too cold….I can safely say that I will not get much sleep tonight.

I almost feel guilty for doing this. Try as I might, I cannot shake away that feeling. And I know that this is a bit of a cultural thing. In India, it is perfectly normal for kids to sleep in the same room as their parents till, well, let’s just till very very late into their lives. I have friends (though these are mainly those who have a single child) who’ve not moved out even 10 year old kids yet. And that’s not frowned upon here, in the least.

There is this mad urge I have to bring them back, to admit to them that the experiment has failed miserably! I know I won’t do it, if only for the fact that I’ve moved a lot of furniture around, made many adjustments around the house etc etc. But I now wish I’d waited a little more. Because this is irreversible. This first physical separation is just the beginning of many many separations and I wish I had not hurried it.

I know that I may be over-dramatizing this a bit, but it’s late and I am in a reflectory kind-of mood, the kind that the silence of the night brings on. My mind is in over-drive and I am willingly letting it loose to make all sorts of haphazard connections between this one little change and my issues of not being able to let go. (looked at deeply enough, though, there is a connection, is there not?)

I need a nightcap. But, far from aiding, that runs the risk of letting my thoughts wander into dark corners of my mind and doing some notorious digging. No, I don’t need that. I guess, I should just sleep. Yes, that’s what I need to do, that’s the only way I’ll stop thinking about it, at least consciously.

So, am going to call it a night, with one last peek into the room, one last kiss and to do my bit for the benefit of the tooth-fairy. Yes, she’s going to visit tonight, to take my daughter’s first tooth and leave her a Doraemon bed sheet – for her new bed in her new room..

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The Twins Have Started School

The twins have started school and I have mixed feelings about it (they don’t, by the way, they hate it).

I am relieved that they are now out of the house for a few hours, but, I miss them terribly. I am so used to waking up to their combined chatter, non-stop from the time they wake up, to the time they can’t fight sleep anymore and flop down in the night, that now the mornings seem empty and quiet.

Also, I have a confession to make. I cannot take their crying and yelling, as the teachers take them away from me at the school gate. I can hear them (the younger twin especially) pleading for me, and I cave. Yes, I cry. I feel silly, of course, but that does not stop the tears – they keep rolling down and I find it hard to swallow that lump in my throat (it’s coming back now with the memory of that parting)

I dread the mornings, when I have to drop them to school; when I try and create an artificially lively environment in the car by singing and talking about some irrelevant topic as a distraction method. I put on nursery rhymes and ask them to sing along. Needless to say, my completely transparent efforts are met with stoic silence from my otherwise chirpy twins. They look at me with sad eyes and declare that they don’t like school. It makes me want to turn back and take them home. Clearly, my nerves are not exactly made of steel, to put it mildly.

I called my mum when I was at school the other day. She understood, of course, but then she asked me how I’d feel when they’d grow up and go away. I could not imagine it. I don’t like to think of myself as a clingy mother, and I always thought I’d have the strength to let my children go, but now I am having serious doubts on any such abilities I thought I may have had. (God bless my kids!)

These years will pass I know. They’ll pass too soon says my mother, I guess from experience. If she could, she would summon Well’s Time Traveller and go back in time, to when we were little. She does not understand why I want to do just the reverse, to get propelled into the future! I see her point now, though. I cannot imagine how it will be to be old; to see my kids only once in a while; to call them and be told that they were busy- that they would call me back. In theory I know that’s how it will be, but when we are actually there, it’s not like all this reflection would help the reality.

Anyway, I digress. Didn’t mean to write all this. I meant to just pour out some feelings about my “separation anxiety” in child psychology parlance (except that in my case both the kids and the mother suffer from it!!)

I know they’ll settle and I can start to make use of my time. It’s a milestone and I am not sure how I feel about it. When I picked them up from school today, the younger one said “mama, I like home”..

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Am crabby. Again.

We’ve just returned from a holiday in the hills. It was glorious.

But, what could be more depressing than coming back from a holiday and jumping right into reality?

My mom called. Her hello was enough to make me sit down, I took a deep breath and I knew she had something to say and I also knew it was about my father. He’s had a minor surgery for some “growth” which has been sent for a biopsy. She took him for a routine prostrate check up and they admitted him right away to take the stuff out. She was not even sure if they’d given him a general anesthesia or a local one. I think it’s disgusting how doctors take some special pride in keeping the truth about patients to themselves and treating the caretakers as irritants asking irrelevant questions. While I understand that the constant pestering can test anyone’s patience, they should be a little more considerate and at least give out some information. Here my mom was waiting outside the room, unaware of what “procedure” was going on.

Now my mom is not someone who loses her nerve quickly, but, today she sounded tense. That’s got me so upset. I feel helpless sitting so far away, listing to her say that she would be able to drive him home without a problem. I know that she’s worried. And, at 76, this is not something she should be doing – driving her 80 year old husband home after the surgery (the driver was absconding, again)

I can’t do much, except call. I wish, well, I wish for so much that I won’t even start.

My husband says that the reason why life kind if “hits” you when you turn forty is that you feel the stress from all fronts – your children are young and your parents old, and they both need you. The road ahead looks long, and all your fears begin with – what if?

Today, I am going to try and not think about any what ifs? it’s not going to lead to anywhere good..

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