Tag Archives: Mommy Blogs

Why I Will Never Call Myself Fat Again

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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.

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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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Mother’s Day – What I Feel About it and What My Kids Do

I wasn’t going to write a post for Mother’s Day. I don’t much believe in it, because I know that this is a contrived, commercial, Hallmark sort of moment, which has been popularized for pure pecuniary gain, but which has now acquired a social life of its own and become the plank on which children must exhibit their love for their mothers. Businesses exist to make money, nothing wrong with that. But when you tie that in with what I am supposed to do and feel as a mother, or worse, what kids should do for their moms, then I have a problem. I don’t need a mother’s day to know that my children love me. Sure, it’s nice to be told that all I have done/do for my kids is appreciated and this is one day they get to tell me that. But the fact that my children’s feeling are being dictated by a larger societal force is what I have an objection to.  There is pressure on them to make cards, write me love notes, drag their fathers to the mall and do things that will make me happy. And all this is great, if it wasn’t for the fact that this must be done on a specific fabricated day when we are all supposed to exchange cheery, love-filled exchanges to show how much we care. Yes, I know I am cranky. But this has nothing to do with being crabby and jaded (which I am). I know many mothers who feel the same, and who are not cynical in the least, but who object to what this day (and many others like this) has turned into.

I think its my duty, as a parent, to make my children think and not accept things just because the world tells them to. And this may not be the best way to tell them, I know, which is why I wont. Yet. One day, they’ll need to be told -that they must question the accepted and the obvious. Only then can they become the individuals who will bring about change and learn to think on their own.

Anyway, enough ranting. Let me tell you what my kids woke me up with today:

Because I like planters on the wall with flowers in them:

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Mamma Duck

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And the heart..

 

They spent days hiding these from me and asking me for paint because they
wanted to surprise me. So I pretended to not know. And this morning they
let me sleep in and then woke me up with these.

Yes, that was nice. But I wish they didn’t feel like they had to do this for me on this day. They can do this any day of the year and I’ll feel the same. But I am not going to tell them this now, because they’re too young for my ideology (and cynicism). I’ll let them figure it out on their own. I know my daughters – they’ll grow up to become thinking individuals and see it on their own one day.

Till then I’ll vent about it here. And keep these lovely little notes and cards in my box (right next to the sorry letters they give me the rest of the year).

Now, should I call my mom?

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A Mother – In Life & In Death

Suicide Series 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Guilt of a Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Race Against Myself – It’s Marathon Time Again

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After I ran the marathon last year, I was on a high. For me, it wasn’t a tick-off-your-bucket-list kind of thing. I enjoyed running and despite finding the 21 K quite challenging, I wanted to do it again. I really did.

Except, I didn’t expect that time of the year to come rolling by so soon. Because no matter how much you run otherwise, training for a marathon requires dedicated focus for at least 10 weeks (if not more). The fact that I ran last year has no real bearing on this year, because I have to build up my stamina again.

So here I am, almost a year later, wondering if I can do it again. I mean, I know I can do it again, but this time, it’s not that simple.

Why? Because, as they say, I have a rep to protect. And it’s all about the timing. Last year, I was baggage-free. I was a novice, a mum who’d decided to run because she needed to do something that made her feel a little better about herself (let’s face it, that’s always a part of it) – I needed to get away and do something for myself and do that whole stereotypical thing about feeling a sense of accomplishment and getting the high of having pushed your body to the limits. All that good stuff that runners love to say. Yes, it’s all true and I felt all of it.

That, however, was then – a year ago. This year, it’s a whole different ballgame. Now I am racing against myself.

If you are a runner, or if even if you vaguely know one, you will know that there is one thing that is of supreme importance – and that is the timing. Anybody who tells who that it does not matter is basically fooling himself or herself. It matters big time. I cannot possibly take longer to finish than I did last year. I mean I can, but I am not going to be thrilled about it, especially when all and sundry ask me what my timing was.

And it’s really not about other people either – I have a benchmark, and most people don’t like to fall short of it.

So I have little choice but to train hard again. And it’s not that I don’t want to, but this year has brought a big change in my life – I have started working, which leaves me little time to run. Yet, I will try, because running changed me in many, many ways. Not physically (though toned legs are always welcome) but mentally. I feel it made me stronger mentally – I learnt to push my mind to believe that I could do it. And that’s half the battle won.

I am not sure I can repeat last year’s magic. I want to, but it’ll take work – more than last year in a way – because, as I said before, now it’s a matter of reputation 🙂

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From Kids to KPIs

G4 and womans hands

The past few months have been interesting. I’ve been working full-time, sometimes more than that. And all that I feared would happen, has happened. Kids have fallen sick, maids have gone on leave, weekends have been awash with work. Yes, I am quite the working mom now and it’s amazing how I have slipped into that role like I was always doing this. The truth is five months ago I was your typical stay-at-home-mom, quite reconciled (if grudgingly) to the idea of never setting foot in an office again.

And how dramatically that’s changed.

I know I’ve said this before, but I am already facing a lot of pressure – mostly from myself. So on the back foot am I that I feel I have to constantly prove something – that I am serious about my work; that women who return to work after a hiatus may not be able to ace power point presentations, but they do add a lot of value to a company. And in my blind wish to prove this I have gone and done something that I now find impossible to get out of – I have poured cold water all over the negotiations that I made when I joined work – that I would leave at 4 and work flexi.  Not only do I not leave at 4, I also had a washed-out weekend where I worked flat out for a deadline, while my younger twin lay next to me with high fever. On Sunday night at 11:30 when she finally looked at me with watery eyes and asked me if I had the time to lay next to her, something in me snapped. I know there are good days and bad days and I was determined to not let anything get in the way of me proving myself – but when I saw her tiny face, all I could think of was the fact that she needed me. I sent off one last slide to my boss and shut my computer down. I was tired. And I thought about how much my life had changed.

I guess this was a test, of sorts. To try and work when you have a sick child tugging at your clothes. I did it, but with a lot of guilt. But, guess what, when I shut my computer, the guilt did not vanish – it merely shifted base – to work. I wondered if my boss would think I was shirking work – the fact that I worked the whole weekend with a sick child was not enough I guess. And I didn’t even want to tell my boss that my daughter was sick – because, in this flu season, my kids have been falling sick one after another and I didn’t him to think that it would affect my performance.

Anyway, long story short – the basic point I am trying to make is that a working mother has to constantly shift gears – from work to home and back to work, and to home again. It’s a constant cycle and I am still getting used to it. I am trying my best to do both, but there’s always guilt – of leaving the kids, of leaving work – that I haven’t been able to escape. And I doubt I ever will. It’s a woman thing.

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