Tag Archives: mommyhood

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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Ok, so the angst is back. And this time, it’s brought Shelly and Frost..

Does it ever go away? I mean completely go away – as in, never to return, go away? I think not. It’s a bit like psoriasis, you can suppress it, but it will eventually come back, if only to go away again.

And, this is the angsty age anyway – by age, I mean both my age (40, sigh) and the age we live in (Kalyug, or the age of downfall, as it’s called in Hinduism). So the combination is pretty crappy. I know this is a bit of a pessimistic take on a pretty perfect life, but that’s the way I am feeling right now.

Why? Not sure. I have all the makings of a great life – three wonderful kids, a nice, big house (nightmare to maintain), a loving husband (trapped in the wheel of life, would ideally like to quit work but that’s unimaginable with three kids in junior school), supportive parents (old, frail and alone), caring siblings (sister has been menopausal pretty much for the past ten years), an affluent lifestyle (thank God, no really)..You know, all the ingredients that one needs to be happy.

And yet, I have the angst. Does this prove, then, that human beings can never be truly happy? As Shelley writes  in ‘To A Skylark’ (Gosh I still remember this, bless you Miss. Mehta, my English teacher in the year of the Lord – 1988):

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Good Lord, I am quoting Shelly. I think I need help. That, or maybe I need to get out of the house and do something that does not involve sorting fights about who snatched whose pen first, or being told that life was not fair, or calling the plumber to fix a pipe, then calling him back four hours later. Maybe I need to be talking to adults during the day for a change, and adults who are not the help or, worse, my mother-in-law, whose perennial problem is trying to work her iPad. Yes, I now have the itch to get out of the house. And I can’t.

To be honest, I’ve always had that itch (take it from me, every women who gives up work does) but now it’s becoming unbearable. You know you’ve been home too long when you tell your seven year old about the sacrifices you’ve made for her and expect her to understand the magnitude of your decision. Worse, I now say this to my three and a half year old twins. Of course, to them I say it more like a threat – “mama will go to office if you don’t let her work”. Again, I expect their little minds (quite capable, might I add, of impressive analytical reasoning when convenient) to take me seriously and leave me and my computer, and my iPad, alone.

Do I succeed? Do I really need to answer that?

So, the angst grows. Husband has his own angst, so I don’t dump mine on him. Also, mine sometimes involves gripes about his mother (we live together) and that’s never a great topic, to put it mildly. To be fair to him, he does not talk to her much either, he’s got quite the male, if I shut my eyes it will go away, attitude towards his mother and my relationship. Well, it does not go away and every so often blows up in his face, leading to more angst all around.

Anyway, coming back to the current anxiety in question, I am not sure why it’s bonked me on the head without warning. No, it’s not PMS. Well, unless, unless, PMS now takes over half the month? Hmm, possible; forties have lots of surprises and I have been craving chocolate lately..

But, the reason this has caught me by surprise is that I would’ve thought that now my restlessness would wane a bit – twins are in school, I’ve started to work from home a little (though that’s hard to do with the motley group around me) and we even had that splendid, splendid holiday (just husband and I) which I actually described as honey-mooney (blush, blush). So, then? Why all this fretfulness about what if I’d taken up that job?

Not sure I want to answer that. Somewhere deep down, I may know why, but I’d rather let that lie where it is. Tugging it out will bring up other stuff and before we know it, I’ll be quoting Frost.

Well, what the hell. Here it is:

‘The Road Not taken’

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

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We did it. And it was heavenly (pun fully intended)

The world, I believe, is divided into two kids of couples – the ones who holiday with the kids, and the ones who don’t (there are, of course, those who fall in between, but they remain irresolutely on the fringes).

We, till about a week ago, were quite firmly and utterly incontrovertibly the former. All our holidays for the past eight years – i.e. pre-first baby- have been with kids and all the paraphernalia that goes with it – you know, the occupy-them-on-journey games, the read-at-bedtime-books, the what-if extra pair of clothes, the can’t-leave-home-without them toys, the worst-case-scenarios medicines, the diapers, formulas, sterilizers, towels, potty seats, agh- the list is endless, and yet, totally relatable (not a real word but oh so apt) to any mother (not going to say father. Yes I know there are exceptions) who has packed for a holiday with the kids.

That, however, changed last week. And in such an unplanned and completely out-of-character way that it still makes me wonder if we really did this. But we did and I’ll tell you, it was the best thing that happened to us. Don’t get me wrong, I felt guilty about leaving the kids (a guilt that melted away, quite magically, as the aircraft lifted-off towards our holiday and hubby and I played scrabble on the iPad in an almost unsettling  silence, without some kid snatching it to play Temple-Run, or, worse, Dress-Up! See what I mean?)

So how did it happen? Well, I was talking to husband about a friend who lives in Goa (for those who don’t know, it’s a beach haven in India) and before we knew it, he was searching for flights in a general,  how-much-does-it cost kind of way. Cleartrip threw up some very enticing numbers for a weekend, with air-fare and hotel costs bundled into a most alluring sum.  It was a random Sunday evening and we’d had some wine; I sighed and said, only half-seriously, that we could think about it. I didn’t think he’d react, more because he knows my obsessive mothering disposition only too well. But, he’d had some wine too, which had probably had the dual (and extremely fruitful) effect of dulling his doubts and honing his confidence in my letting-go abilities. Anyway, long story short, we bought the trip. That was that. There was then no going back (Cleartrip does not let you).

In the next two weeks I went through mixed angst, which, of course, I completely shielded from the husband. I wanted him to see the new-me, the new, I-can-do-this me. So I nonchalantly walked about the house ignoring and pretending that the storm in my head was really my imagination; that I was this cool mum who was not going to fret about what time the kids would sleep or if they’d eat well and all of that. I completely resisted any what-if scenarios and did not even tell the kids till much later.

Instead, I called my mum. Wonderful as she is, she promised to stay the weekend (they live six hours away). And that was it. I knew it would happen.

Not only did it happen, it was glorious. Like a love-soaked honeymoon. It was hard leaving the kids, yes. And my older daughter (who knows only too well how to touch those buttons) was upset and cried a lot. She understood but didn’t accept it. Once my mum came, she was better. Once I was out of sight she was better than better! (any mother can attest the fact that kids reserve their worst behavior for their mothers – I still do.)

The weekend was unreal, and not only in a no-wailing-toddlers way (though that was a welcome change that took some getting used to). It was splendid because of the time that we spent together, most of which was spent talking, and not about the kids – something we tend to do so much when we are home. We talked about sundry things, drank copious amounts, unabashedly slept-in till late – sigh, it was perfect, so perfect that when I returned, I refused to jump back into reality (of course, I was pulled into it headlong)

So now we are one of “those” couples. I’ve crossed over to the other side, one to which I did not ever imagine I would. It is a side towards which I have always looked with a covetous (though detached) distance. And now, here I am, with a foolish grin on my face, completely rejuvenated, basking with contentment, glowing with utter joy and wondering why I didn’t do this earlier.

Our next holiday will be with the kids. Yes, that is true. The guilt has not left me. It had dissipated temporarily, but has been cajoled out of its dormancy by the kids and the control-freak mommy in me.  Also, it’s not about guilt really. We do love our holidays with the kids, the paraphernalia notwithstanding.

We’re not making any rules about this or that – some holidays make sense with kids and some don’t, that’s the reality. Earlier we’d just never consider the latter. Now, we’ve tasted blood, and also realized that some things are bigger in your head.  Of course, it’s not like one can mindlessly get away without thinking about who will take care of the kids, but the thing is that it can be done, with a little effort.And that effort is so so worth it.

I feel connected (for lack of a better word, really) to the husband again. Our lives have been so different in the past years, with him sinking himself into work and me into the house and kids, that this time together has breathed new life into our relationship.

I will always remember Goa as the place where I fell in love with him all over again. That, for me,  is a priceless. Hopefully, when my kids grow up and do this for themselves, they’ll understand why their parents needed to do this.

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Work From Home. Really? How Do You Do That?

I’ve been trying to work from home. It’s a tiny little step, but am trying to take one step at a time and it’s hard. It’s hard not because I am not disciplined enough to do it (OK, that too, but that I can work on) It’s the disciplining of the people around me that’s tough to do. The trouble is that everyone is so used to coming to me with the little problems that I cannot have a moment of peace when I can sit and write (yes, have taken up some writing work). So, a lot of my time is spent in telling everyone to let me be when I am at my desk. And, it’s not the kids alone who need to be told this.

Before I launch into the angst and the rest of it, I feel almost obliged to say something. Which is this: I know I am fortunate to be in a position where I could choose to be at home with the kids. A LOT of women don’t have that option. As a fellow mommy blogger recently pointed out that I didn’t have to leave the kids at home and go to work, something she had to do and hated doing. For all my angst about staying at home, at the end of the day I did it because I wanted to and because I could.

But, having said this, what I will add is that maybe I would’ve gone back to work earlier, if I had a support structure to depend upon, where I could leave the kids and work without worry (not without guilt though, THAT never goes away) . But I didn’t and I decided to become a SAHM (have given in to that word/abbreviation).

So, now that the girls are a little older and there is some semblance of sanity, I have decided to work, a little.

Let me tell you what today was like. The morning started with the pipe of the wash-basin in my bathroom breaking. So I called the plumber, he was busy, his wife’s new-born niece had just got jaundice, so he was at the hospital. I could hardly press him to hurry. As I was talking to him, my maid, unaware of the broken pipe opened the tap. The next twenty minutes were spent mopping the floor. I didn’t have to do it, but had to make sure the kids didn’t go rushing into the bathroom to inspect damages, something they LOVE to do.

After avoiding slipping and breaking a leg, when I was settling into my chair to pound away at my keyboard, the electrician called. There seems to be some grave wiring issue that needs to be looked into urgently. He asked what would be a good time to visit. I gave him a time. Eight hours later, he’s still to show up.

The plumber called as I was ending the call with the electrician. He had decided to resume work in the afternoon. Great I said. But, he would need money for the pipe, so would come in a while to collect that (he asked me if I could get it, which, of course, was not my idea of shopping. Besides I had work to do) So, knowing well that he was going to charge me more than he payed for it, I told him to get it.

OK, I said. Now let’s do some writing. My cook then decided to ask me some irrelevant question about food. I told him to decide, only to have him give me options to pick from. I turned from my desk and reminded him what I’d told him a few days ago when he’d disturbed me while working. “That I should come to you only if the house was on fire” he nodded merrily. I asked him if the house was on fire. He shook his head and informed me that the real reason why he came to me was because there was no oil in the house for cooking.

Now, this seemingly innocuous declaration sent me into a tizzy. I lost it. I know it was an overreaction. Anyway, long story short, I gave him the money and gulped a glass of cold water and sat down to work. This is when the kids decided to invade the room. There had been a fight, of course, and it was impossible for me to decide who did what and when. All three looked upset and had a side of the story to tell. Sigh. I took a deep breath, and tired to solve it, which, needless to say, was impossible. The twins were not in a re conciliatory mood, to say the least. The older one, who has just turned six and reacts to most situations with a sulk, just walked away telling me that I was not being fair (why do schools have spring break, again?)

After the matter was amicably settled, with a bit of television thrown in, I returned to my desk. I’d lost my thread. I stared at my computer blankly. Nothing. So I got up, had a bath and returned to write. Just then the bell rang. The plumber had arrived.

There’s more to this story. But you get the drift. I turned Skype off, didn’t want my editor asking me how much I’d written. He didn’t want to know..

Ah, well. At least I’ll make history for having had the shortest job ever.

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Now She Ok, Now She’s Not..

Before I say anything else, I must admit that I am not a strong person, not strong when it comes to people I love. I have a lot of angst about, well, about many things in life, but also about mommy issues, as is apparant in this blog, but, the big but, let’s just say, I ain’t got nerves of steel, to put it mildly.

So, last week when my daughter sat inside her classroom with total strangers, I was happy. She has a lot of stranger anxiety and one of the reasons I wanted to put her into playschool was to try and cure her of some of it, so that she does not recoil each time someone waves a hello. She never liked school (its only been a week and a half) but, once there, she would go in and after a while I’d leave the room and she’d be fine.

Day before yeaterday she just didn’t want me to leave, but the teacher made me, so I had to. I felt terrible as they took her screaming from my arms. I skulked around corners for a while till I was scolded and then I left the hall and sat outside with the rest of the mothers and soon I was swapping salad recipes, though my mind was inside the classroom.

I told myself that she’d be ok, that this is something she had to learn to do and I had to be strong. But I could not get that image of her out of my mind, her sweet face and large teary eyes looking at me. I gulped a few times to stifle the lump that was, once again, beginning to form in my throat. Then I started wondering if I was doing the right thing, because though in my mind I was doing this for her betterment, just like everyone around me, I was very upset about the fact that she cried the way she did.

The thing about her is that, though it may appear to be the opposite, she actually loves kids her age and once she is familiar with a place, she tends to love it. So I had hoped that she’d start liking the place soon. And while I know that such moods are cyclical, I am dreading going to school tomorrow and leaving her in the classroom. The last time she told the teacher to bring all the mommies inside, she had pleaded for me and when I was finally called in, I found her eyes red with crying. She ran to me and clung and cried, then laughed, then asked me not to leave. I could not say anything but I held her hard and after a while told her that I was right outside and had not gone home.

I know all kids go through this and they settle down after a while, but, like I said, I am not strong enough. I hate it when I have to leave and she is crying, I hate it but I still do it because I think it’s good for her, because the whole world does it, my parents did it too, and all the rest of it, I know all that, but it’s still not good enough for me because I simply hate seeing her sitting at a table crying for her mommy.

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