Motherhood: A Choice

Today is Mother’s Day and my timeline is flooded with articles and posts on mothers and how wonderful they are. Some groups have a hashtag trending #justlikemaa. And this hashtag got me thinking how different my mother and I are; and how little we have in common when it comes to motherhood.

My mother has never been the typical Nirupa Roy. She was more like Lalita Pawar from Junglee, who believed in tough love. She taught us all the right things and gave us a lot of attention but was a little miserly when it came to showering us with love. Something that all of us craved for all our childhood. I resented her for it till recently, when at the time of my brother’s wedding, my mother and I ended up having a very candid conversation. I don’t know how we got to it, but we did and I am thankful for it. She told me that she considered us lucky being able to make our life’s choices on our own. She said no one asked her if she wanted to marry, who she wanted to marry, if she wanted to have children or how many children she should have. The decision was always made by others; decisions that should have been her own or at least in which she should have had a say. I immediately countered her and said that she should have said something. My mother is quite a vocal person and the strength to speak up is something I have got from her. So, it was a bit disconcerting to think she wouldn’t open her mouth when it came to life-altering decisions. But she was brought up in a highly patriarchal set-up where decisions were made by the elders and it was the duty of the younger ones to listen. So, she didn’t say anything. Maybe she didn’t want to have any children? No one asked her, because it is assumed that a woman’s existence is essentially to bear children. And the irony of it all is that she ended up having four of us.

I asked her, though I was terrified of the answer, whether she wanted to have any children. She said, I don’t know. I knew it wasn’t my decision to make so I didn’t ponder over it. And this truly broke my heart. And I realised just how privileged a lot of us are. So many of my friends, cousins, have taken their own decisions on whether or not they marry or whether or not they have children. And while I am sure that they have faced enough family and societal pressure especially when the decision was against the norm, they’ve had some support from somewhere to help them to stick to their decision. I am sure my mother was afraid that she would have received none of it even if she could speak up.

I always knew that I wanted to have children. But having a child was my choice. If I didn’t want to have any, I would have discussed it with my husband before we got married. I have the privilege to choose to be a mother. My mother didn’t. And despite all her failings, she made us strong human beings and instilled the importance of taking our own decisions and being independent in every sense of the word. And for that, I am eternally thankful to my Lalita Pawar. My ma.

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The art of doing nothing or the story of my life

I suffer from laziness. Not just the kind of laziness that you see in people. I am lazy in every sense of the word. It’s in my bones, my mind. I like to do nothing else but to laze around. But when I get active, I am a different person altogether. Super charged, burning the night candle. I am two opposite persons. Maybe my moon sign is Gemini? I don’t really know. My alter ego, or the nag, is a completely different person. It is she who essentially pushes me around to do things. Me, I am the lazy one. I love to procrastinate. I often don’t reply to messages just because I feel lazy. And then I feel mortified at behaving so badly. Especially when they are people you don’t really know. Especially when they have seen the blue ticks. Then days become weeks, I end up losing sleep over this. But do I do something about it? You see, I am inherently lazy.

The bigger problem I face with is that I have a tremendously strong conscience. Or maybe it’s just my active alter ego. I don’t know. But its presence is very strong. It’s almost annoying. I can’t shake it off me even for a second. So, this voice keeps reminding me of all the things I am doing wrong and that I should do something about them. But you see, I am lazy. I can’t get myself to do something about it. Thinking about the right course of action is too much effort. So, I don’t. Till the voice in my head becomes so loud that I feel my head would burst. But how do you explain to someone that you didn’t do something because you were lazy? So, I make up some lame excuse which invariably involves my daughter. I say things like my daughter kept me so busy that I clean forgot to reply to you. That wouldn’t be a complete lie. My daughter does keep me on my toes and I try to use my phone as little as possible in her presence. But I don’t forget to reply. At least not always. I invariably remember right before going to sleep because that awful nag makes sure to remind me of it. But do I do something about it? You see, I am inherently lazy.

Then there’s my darling daughter. Let’s call her N. She is an extremely active soul but just like me loves a good lyadh now and then, especially after waking up. I do love the French language. Too bad I can’t speak or write it well. I am not very good with languages. But I do like the sound of it. And some of their words. See, they have a word for waking and a separate word for rising and getting out of bed. I think the French too, mostly suffer from lyadh. So, we nous reveillons but then only we nous levons after spending a considerable amount of time rolling in the bed and doing nothing.

How I love to do nothing! Though I suppose even when you’re not doing anything, you’re doing something. Nevertheless, I love it. As a teen, I used to be super excited when my parents would go out somewhere and I would have the whole house to myself. Not that I would do anything significant. But I just liked the idea of being able to laze around with no one around. I would hate it if anyone called or rang the bell. I just liked being on my own. Most of the time I would day dream. Day dreaming is really the most amazing thing. You can be anything you want, be anywhere you want, have the kind of friends and family you want. Who wants to be interrupted by reality? I didn’t want to waste a minute of my free time and always planned it out carefully. I didn’t like anything to interrupt my reverie. My mother would invariably give me some dreary work to do while she was out, so I made sure I finished everything I was told to do as quickly as possible, and then, do nothing. I didn’t do anything of consequence in this free time like reading or doing something constructive. Those things I could do with the parents around too. I just flitted from room to room instead, dreaming of a fantastic life which I believed in fiercely, sang loudly, played games on the computer, took an hour to shower and sang loudly and danced while bathing. Oh! What a life it was! Even thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

Once I started to work, mata char gayi, or the nag took over. Thankfully, I was back to being the old me once my baby was here. I have also been incredibly lucky as I could afford to be lazy even with a baby around.

I hate Sundays. It’s the one day of the week where neither of my maids come AND my husband has office. That means I have to do everything by myself. I ensure I have a good stock of koka and maggi so that I don’t have to cook a thing for myself. I just make N’s food. Though I love spending the whole day with her, it involves too much physical exertion. And she does love to run around. The nag reminds me that it’s a good thing as I have started to look like a triangle, with my butt cheeks as the two corners. (I always had a problem with that though; even when I was reed thin. My roommate used to call me Buttoo. Now of course, it’s grown out of proportion.) I cannot laze around as much as I do the rest of the week. N’s ayah takes her out to play so I get a couple of hours to do nothing and it means that I am spared a significant portion of the physical exertion. Then N takes her noon nap. At that time, I quickly finish whatever household work there is and take a bath. If I am lucky, I get some more time to do nothing. Then, in the evenings,  since my husband often ends up working really late, once she goes off to sleep I have time to do nothing again.

Only now, in my nothing time, I actually end up doing some constructive stuff too. Like reading, or making something for N. So, my nothing time has actually just been reduced to being called free time. I don’t have the opportunity to day dream anymore. Reality has made such a strong impression on me that I can’t seem to shake it off.  I have become too pragmatic. Too practical. I spend my time thinking about all the things that need to be done. Like my daughter’s vaccine. Getting to exercise. But then I think if I am to have another baby, shouldn’t I just have it and then start to exercise? I mean what’s the point of so much hard work if I am going to put on weight again? So, I contemplate every single day and do nothing about it. You see, I am inherently lazy.

The importance of being the perfect mother. or not.

 

It’s International women’s day today and there’s heated discussion all over social media on whether or not it should be a celebration. Since this blog is on motherhood, I am not going to get dragged into that conversation; instead, I’d like to acknowledge that motherhood has taught me so much about being a woman.

I’m really surprised that the society world over, is essentially patriarchal. I mean, this immense, amazing power that women have, the power to create, is next to only God. Shouldn’t that have automatically made us the more powerful one? 😛 Anyway, I digress, that isn’t the point of this post.

I found out really early that I was pregnant pretty much by the missed period and morning sickness. It affected me so much that even the thought of entering the kitchen would make my stomach churn. My husband didn’t so much wait for me to ask him, he took over the kitchen and pretty much every aspect of the dull household chores that I usually took care of. Every morning I’d wake up to a glass of fresh coconut water, followed by fruits and whatever else I could eat. He would have his breakfast in a different room so that the smell of eggs wouldn’t bother me. My lunch was packed, dinner was cooked, boy was I pampered. And do you know what it made me feel like? Privileged. And the moment it did, I found the ridiculousness of the situation. Did my husband ever feel privileged that I took care of all these things on a daily basis?No, he didn’t. So why was I feeling so?

Because unfortunately, that’s what I am. We share equal responsibilities in the house; some days he cooks, some days I do. But how many women get that opportunity?

The moment I realised that there were some (very minor) complications in my pregnancy, I decided, I’d quit my job in Bombay and shift to Calcutta to stay with my parents. It was a huge decision for me as I have been independent for a long time and I’d lose it for a long time, I knew, but I was scared and didn’t overthink it. Being pampered in my house during my entire pregnancy again made me feel privileged. Because I mean, how many women get the opportunity to just sit at home, taken care of, and be pregnant? My mum gave birth and raised 4 children, managing the entire household in the process. She didn’t get half the facilities that we get today. My sister worked until her 9th month. I have no idea how these women do it. I was so tired all the time, even when I literally had nothing to do. Would I have been able to do it? I don’t know. If I had to, I’m sure I would have.

All the posts on FB keep celebrating the hardships women go through. It does need to be acknowledged but an ideal woman is projected as the martyr; who sacrifices everything for the sake of the others. What kind of standard is that? And by that definition, I suppose I am not a woman enough since I refused to go through the ‘hardships’ and took the easy way out. Why is it an accepted thing that despite carrying a child in the womb, a woman would continue doing all the hard work of the household, because that’s what women do, and rave about the man who serves his wife breakfast when she’s sick? Continue reading “The importance of being the perfect mother. or not.”

6 uncomfortable truths I didn’t know about pregnancy

 The world only talks about how beautiful pregnancy is (and it is, no doubt about it) but you only hear about the glowing skin and the luscious hair, and not the other side of the story.

I was in for a shock when I discovered these truths about pregnancy.

  1. Trust your nose and not your craving. In the initial days when I had just discovered my pregnancy, I could smell things I didn’t know had any smell. One day I was craving for KFC. We were in Bombay at that time and strangely there’s no KFC in Lower Parel. So I made my husband go all the way (to Bandra or someplace I don’t remember), to get me a burger and chicken wings. I was salivating at the thought of it. And then I opened the box and the waft of chicken smell entered my nose and immediately made me want to throw up. But I ignored it because I thought I am just sensitive to smell, I’m getting this craving that means my body wants it. Two bites into that zinger burger and I was throwing my guts up. Lesson learnt: Before giving into your craving, smell it first. If your nose says no, don’t try it. I had turned into a vegetarian for almost the entire pregnancy :(. The third trimester I started having fish.
  2. Your abdomen has a big ball of gas in it. Yes, that’s true.God did I hate going out in public. I would sometimes dream that I didn’t have a baby inside me, and I gave birth to a ball of gas. I mean how is it possible to have so much gas and a baby inside your tremendously cramped abdomen, I don’t really know. My ladylike burps started to sound like the growl of a lion, and I couldn’t even control it. And as for passing gas, I don’t even want to get into just how embarrassing that was. Second trimester was a little better, but come third trimester, and it was back in full force!
  3. Hold your pee. How difficult can that be? You can’t even imagine how difficult that is. If you were embarrassed enough by the gas, see what you do about this!! You sneeze you pee, you cough you pee, you throw up and the whole floor is wet. I couldn’t believe when it started to happen in my first trimester, I mean the baby was microscopic, so why was this happening? I have no answer to that unfortunately, except you feel like your bladder is forever full and no matter how much you pee, it’s never enough. Strangely enough, when the baby was bigger in the second trimester, the urge to pee was way lesser. Of course by third trimester, you’d wish to set up house in the loo itself, if it was possible. Indian doctors never advise you on these things so if it’s your first pregnancy you don’t really know what to do! Thank god for obsessive Americans, because of their strange questions all over the net, I knew how to handle all kinds of weird issues! Kegel is the best exercise and I actually managed to control it significantly ( not completely. I mean at least I wasn’t all over the floor when I was throwing up in my third sem). Continue reading “6 uncomfortable truths I didn’t know about pregnancy”

What’s in a (sur)name?

 

Whenever people ask my baby’s name and I tell them what it is, they look at me as if I’m forgetting to say something. Then they look slightly uncomfortable and with an awkward ‘uhh…ok’ they quickly change the topic to how cute she is and start cooing at her. I’m of course talking about random people who either don’t know me at all or know me very little.

Seeing them feel uncomfortable over something as silly as a name really makes me want to laugh. My daughter doesn’t have a surname. Before I get into the whys and the wherefores, I’d like to tell you that people also feel uncomfortable by her name. And that really stuns me. And this has happened with people I know. So they know I am Hindu and sort of forget (conveniently or otherwise, I don’t know), that I married a Christian. My daughter, therefore, is bound to have a little bit of both right? Isn’t that what they should have expected?

She’s called Thea Nalini. We chose the name very carefully thinking about how both sides of the family will take to it. Unfortunately, though, one side of the family emphasises on the first name and the other side on the latter. So much thought put in the naamkaran didn’t come to much use. And I feel a tad bit bad about it because I thought Nalini isn’t an obvious Bengali name (and therefore shouldn’t have been a problem for his side of the family). And Thea is such an easy name to pronounce- it doesn’t change to sound something strange in Bengali (my elder sister’s daughter is called Adaa and a lot of people I know can’t quite pronounce it right and it ends up often sounding like the Bengali word for ginger, so most people refer to her as my sister’s daughter. No one really calls her by her name when she’s referred to in the third person). So, to avoid this situation, we chose a fairly simple easy-to-pronounce name, and my side of people aren’t still comfortable to call her by her first name. I guess because it sounds foreign? I don’t really know. Continue reading “What’s in a (sur)name?”

Gallivanter baby

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My baby’s first trip

A week before she completed 3 months, we decided to travel. I was feeling so claustrophobic and depressed for being stuck inside the house for so many months. Last two months of my pregnancy, I was so uncomfortable that the only trip I made was to go to see the doc. And after the baby was born, the story didn’t change significantly. My husband came back home for his winter vacations and the minute he landed, I told him if I don’t go out of town I am going to go mental. I need to see open space, I said. Since the sea isn’t very far from Calcutta (that’s where I stay), we decided to go on a short trip. My parents were excited too. I had told them about parasailing and boat rides in Digha and both, one 74 and one 68 really wanted to try their hands at it.

We decided we won’t go to the crowded Digha beach, but go to Udaipur beach which is not so popular and therefore, less crowded. It’s also right at the Bengal-Odisha border and all adventure sports happen in the Odisha side of the beach. We drove down. I was a little jittery going for a 4-5 hour car ride with such a tiny baby. But nervous as I was, I didn’t really care. My elder sister travelled to the hills from Delhi when her daughter was only 49 days old and my eldest sister went on a road trip with her daughter when she was 2 months old. My daughter was older than both before her first excursion so surely nothing could go wrong?

Well, nothing really did, actually. We had a near perfect trip. Whatever went wrong, was because I am a rookie mommy and didn’t quite plan ahead.

Things I didn’t do: Continue reading “Gallivanter baby”

Cry baby

I thought I was turning into one: a cry baby that is. Those hormones would play up occasionally, and then, her father’s in a different city, working. I had a tiny little baby who would bawl her guts out, sometimes just out of total frustration because I just couldn’t understand what she wanted. And this attempt at deciphering her cries, especially in the middle of the night, had to be done by me alone. Of course at day time, she wouldn’t give me half the trouble because I had help. She would only bawl in the day time on those days when her ayah wouldn’t come or my mother would be out of the house. All this combined together was a sure-shot mixture to get me burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Since all of this is behind me now, I think I have successfully cracked the cries and I have graduated from being a cry baby to a pro mommy. I am of course talking from the experience of having a 3+ month old baby. I don’t know how her cries will sound and what they will mean in a few months, but right now I am my baby’s master cry interpreter 😛 !

I have noted them down on the basis of how they sound:

  1. The attention cry (sounds like- Aiii): Pick me up or talk to me or play with me, or carry me/ hold me in a certain way, not the way you’re holding me right now-that’s what it essentially means. It could be at any point in the day or night. If you don’t pay attention, it could turn into something much worse: to point 3 or even more scary; point 4. In the initial days, I would always ignore this point which used to be my biggest mistake.
  2. The cry of pain (sounds like-Owaaain): This one was the easiest to understand as I could see her face contort, the lips forming the sad face expression. This one, at least in my daughter’s case, isn’t a very loud one. It just sounds like the whole world’s burden is on her tiny shoulders. This cry only happens when she is in genuine pain. Calming her down from this cry is the most difficult and frustrating. And this could also break you down into tears. It could sometimes take hours as sometimes no matter what you do, the pain/discomfort doesn’t go away as fast as you’d like it to. Of course figuring out where or what is causing the pain/discomfort is a Herculean task and if it isn’t addressed soon, it could quickly become point 3. Continue reading “Cry baby”