Category Archives: parenting

Finding your Village

It’s quiet. 
You see I’m a mother of an 8 month and a 6 year old, so this silence comes at a price. The last 10 months or so, I’ve had my village with me. My parents and my Inlaws helped me find my bearings after I had my second child.
When you live in a different country, you sign up to the good and bad that comes with it. It’s different when you’re single, or when you’re married. It’s having kids that make you crave for belonging. A steady state. An extended family. Being equipped to handle their needs and be everyone they can’t have with them.
So much pressure. You know how you feel when you have a nagging headache? That times thousand multiplied by two is how I feel on a daily basis. 
Don’t get me wrong, I love these tiny humans. Love that consumes you fully, that kind of love. Love that walks around you as your heart is now beating in those little beings. 


A few days ago the extended family had to leave. I didn’t realize the gravity of how dependent I was on them and how much help I had. I felt like my fort starting crumbling all at once.
Kids were both sick, and it was snot filled chests and noses times two. I was running on an average of two hours of sleep a night (where’s my fucking award already?) and was ready to give up. To make things worse the older one has a massive meltdown stating boldly ” I don’t need you anymore. Go away” with snot and tears and a hoarse voice. 

I suddenly remember the innumerable times I’ve said the same thing to my own mother. It’s all coming back to me at the speed of light. I’m really sorry, mom. I know how it feels now. 
I’m trying my best. We all are. Some days we scrape through and on the other days, we don’t. And I’m here to tell you that’s ok.

If you’re failing, let them see it. There’s a certain lesson they can learn in it– their mother is human too. It’s taken me six parenting years (equivalent to 500 human years, heh) to learn this.
I wanted to be the perfect parent ( bhahhaha, I know right?). If there is such a thing. I shut all my fears, worries, my inadequacies in the back of my head. I refused to give up. I tried and tried and oh my god it was so exhausting. I was exhausting. 
Slowly, I learnt it was ok to shove a mouthful of candy and drown it with a glass of something strong and I was going to be ok. I learnt that it was ok to cry, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I learnt to gloriously bask in my failures because (wtf) raising a human is hard. 
The cleaning, cooking and all the million things we mothers do on a daily basis would get done, if not I could prioritize and choose the top 3 things I could do in my list of 150 things. (For example: Today I showered, cooked, showed up at work and kept the kids nourished and alive. Win!!)
I am now at a stage where I don’t have a list. I let inadequacies visit me once in a while. I beat myself up, but also learn to take responsibility. I now know that I’m human and I’m taking baby steps everyday. 
Two kids is so so hard. Don’t know how you parents with more kids do it. Mad props to you guys. Recently when I was talking to my girlfriend Nicole (she has 3 kids, God bless her)– I told her “I wanted to jump off a cliff and kill myself but I think I’ll be ok”. She laughed saying that describes parenting perfectly. I think so too.


Parenting is never going to be a set of directions you can follow. There is no gps to wing this thang. You hold on to a paper map like you hold on to dear life, get lost many many times before you are on the right track, and that’s ok. Never mind the muck, and bites you got along the way. 

When your village leaves (it’s ok to panic) but realize that you become that village. Outsource as much as you can (except love of course), and cut yourself some slack. I’ve read about the CTFD (Calm the fuck down) approach and let me tell you, it works like a charm. 
I’m writing all this down because I would need to read this. Everyday. Every week. This is a letter to myself and to every other mom out there who is trying to do her best every day. 

 

Hang in there you guys. It’s going to be ok, if not, you will figure it out eventually. Breathe. 

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Letter to Stuti’s Teacher

Dear Ms. P,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to introduce our child Stuti to you. We are so excited she is a Kindergartner at your school.

Sanjay and I have been in America roughly for over twelve years. We hail from Bangalore, India. Over the last decade or so Bangalore is better known as the Technology hub of South Asia. We currently both work in the IT sector and support our companies in various capacities.

I had the opportunity to take a break from my career when Stuti was born. I’ve seen her transform into an amazing child from a tiny baby. Most of her learning started at home, with us. Since our family is back In India, Sanjay and I have given her the best of both worlds and culture. We speak Kannada at home, and Stuti is bilingual. Over time she has shied away from conversing in Kannada, but we continue encouraging her to speak the language at home.

Stuti’s strongest trait is the ease at which she is able to strike a conversation with people. She will walk into a group, introduce herself, and make friends immediately. I think it’s so wonderful that kids have that ability. She is a visual learner, and enjoys learning by association and conversation. She has great social skills and a lot of empathy.

As her parents, we have encouraged Stuti to be kind, loving, gentle, and a positive person. She has her days where she is vocal about how she feels, and some days where she prefers remaining quiet. We talk about everything at home, and encourage her to approach us if she needs anything.  We celebrate her success, and her failures in equal measures, as they are both very important for her to grow.

We had another addition to our family recently. Our baby boy Sachit is 5 months old. The initial days were hard on her; however, I am so proud of how she has come around . It’s a joy to watch her ease in to playing a role of an Older sister with such aplomb.

She consoles him when he is upset, talks to him, entertains him, reads to him, and in general is a goofball. Needless to say, she is the twinkle in her brother’s eyes. He loves her a lot!

It’s amazing how much hope, dreams, love, and wonder this child holds. I never want her to grow up, and become the boring, predictable adults we are. I love her spontaneity, her energy and always wonder where she gets it from.

We read to her every day (sometimes every hour!), and she has started reading books from memory. She can also spell words, and is currently reading Dr. Seuss books with ease. She has a LOT of books, and we never say no when she wants to buy books.

From a learning perspective, I want Stuti to continue being kind, having empathy, and being a good listener. I want her to develop her social skills further, and get confident. I would also like to see her actively participating in class/school activities.

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Stuti is not good with pacing herself. Eating is the last thing she wants to do. She is very slow, and often comes back with most of her items in her lunch box as-is. I would like you to work with her to build awareness around food. I am sure this will flow into building awareness around time management as well.

I still remember my Kindergarten teachers and how they molded me to being the person I am today. We are really excited to have you as her teacher, and guide throughout this year. Please feel free to reach out to us if anything needs our attention (good or bad). We will continue to work with her at home, and emphasize on what is being taught at school. Teamwork is so important, and I’m sure you agree.

It is so hard being a parent, providing firm roots to the child, while knowing that someday they will fly. However, it’s great to have a teacher, who would work with us to provide the skills the child requires in order to achieve their full potential.

Thanks so much for everything you do, and we look forward to learning more about you through this year.

Regards,

Shruthi Malur

 

 

 


Being mommy (again!)

As I write this post, I’m secretly hoping the newborn won’t wake up for at least another fifteen minutes. I have to decide if I want to eat, pee or sleep for an extra ten minutes. This is how precious time feels when you have a tiny human who has taken over your life. 
I’m nursing myself back to health, and a 5 day old has made me feel like I’m 50. 

It’s been 5 years but the kind of comments or opinions about being a mother that I’ve received from everyone has not changed. Why do we do this?

Here’s a quick refresher on what NOT to ask/ tell a new mother. Honestly we’re up to our ears with stuff and we don’t need more of this.

1. You’re still FAT.

Oh, this one is a classic. A great conversation ender because you won’t know what hit you after asking a mom that question. 

We’ve provided a harbor for a life to sustain, grow and bring it into this beautiful world. Please look beyond my size. 

2. Normal or C-section? 

The baby is born. Isn’t that enough? Why do you care if it was born naturally, or when I was up to my eyeballs in Drugs? I did what was right for me at the given time and situation.

Learn to respect my privacy and marvel at the newborn.

3. Breastfeeding Vs Formula (Is the baby drinking well?)

No, I’m starving the baby, because that’s what mothers do. Duh.

Honestly, the baby is getting milk, and nutrition. That’s all I care about. If you care about something else, that’s your call but do not intrude asking me questions about how I’m providing for my baby. 

It’s my responsibility to nourish and raise the child in a healthy manner, and I’ll do everything as humanely possible to make sure I do a fabulous job at it.

4. Calling/ Messaging/ Asking for pictures/ requesting a visit

It’s a blessing to have friends and family that care for you. I’m sure everyone means well. However calling incessantly or scheduling a visit early on might be a task on the parents. 

The first 6 weeks of newborn care is utmost important. Give the parents some time and privacy to recuperate and they would gladly host your visit and love for you to meet their little wonder 

5. Will you go back to work?

If not, will you pay my bills? Then it’s none of your business. It’s a personal decision and it’s the choice of the mom to make. Don’t weigh in on my personal matters, and I won’t do the same. 

6. Try this method for ( eating, sleeping, milk supply) because it worked for me.

Sorry, I don’t care if you wore a garland of  fresh garlic and did the hula dance to increase your milk supply. Glad it worked for you.CIO method may have worked wonders. Please don’t force your methods on me. It’s between the baby and I to figure out what works best for us and take that route. 

7. The baby looks just like the dad.

Really? This is what the mothers get for doing all they do. It may be the truth but it would be nice to hear about features that resemble, like he/she has your eyes. 

As someone rightfully said ” the baby is just born it looks like a potato”.   :). Don’t get ahead in comparison and be gentle on the mom when you make such comparisons. 

Child birthing is hard as it is. Along with it comes all the physical and mental stress. New parents are mostly exhausted and extremely busy. Giving them space and time is  probably the best thing you can do instead of being severely opinionated. 


The White Canvas shoe

Often we tend to buy things that we feel would define us.  A pair of jeans of this brand, a shirt of this color, or a lip gloss of a particular shade.  We are often told things like “oh that dress fits you beautifully”, or “Red is definitely your color”. Our personality is associated with all the “attributes” that are responsible for defining us.

We tend to get comfortable thinking that way, or giving in to buying “things” because it’s so “us”. Once we start letting such “things” define us, what happens to us? I, for one who loves to buy clothes, accessories, books or anything pretty should know. I am asking these questions out loud, because I am still trying to figure this out.

When I became a parent, I had to be a little more careful about what is “wanted” Vs “needed”. It was a great time to introspect, and look back at the experiences I had. There are so many incidents but I remember this one in particular.

When I was in middle school, it was compulsory to wear white on Saturdays for physical training. That included a white uniform, white ribbons, and white shoes and socks.  Why they made us wear white was beyond me because the dresses and the shoes got very muddy and dirty. I washed my canvas shoes diligently, and with rigor to make it as white as it could be, so that I could wear it the following week to school. I guess over time they wore out, and I was due for a new pair. There were new ones in the market then (the sleek ones, with thicker soles, to last longer). They were so pretty, and also expensive. I brought this to my dad’s attention that I needed new shoes, and having the newer design might be helpful.

Times were hard then, we had to wait to get everything we needed.

White Canvas Shoe

The idea of the new white canvas shoe was happiness. I thought it would look perfect with my uniform, and it would make me look prettier. The anticipation became an obsession, and I started having dreams about wearing it, and being the best looking person in class (on earth!).

A few weeks passed by and I didn’t hear back from my parents on why they weren’t buying me these shoes yet. The obsession continued with my eyes glimmering every time we passed by a store that had these shoes. I could almost feel the soft soles on my feet and practiced on perfecting my walk. The shoes became the only thing I could think or care about.

The school had a few holidays during October and as always we visited our relatives. When I went to my cousin’s, I was so excited about indulging her with my latest obsession. She heard it, and then showed me a pair that she recently bought.  My face fell, and I was visibly sad. The next day when she went outside, I slowly tried them on. (they were slightly bigger, but who cares!). Determined, I walked around in the yard, and used a different entrance to the house so that no one would see me wearing these shoes. As luck would have it, I stepped on some dirt (cow dung perhaps) and the shoes got dirty. Hurriedly, I took it to the bathroom and tried to clean it, but, the stain wouldn’t go.

I had to tell my cousin, that I had worn her new shoes, and got them dirty. It was very hard, and what was even harder was facing my parents. I didn’t know what to say, I knew by the look on my mother’s face that I was in a lot of trouble.

I then looked at my father. He was disappointed, but he gently asked me to go sit next to him.

He told me “Shru, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since you asked me to buy you a pair of new shoes. I am sorry I haven’t been able to buy them yet, because we have had other expenses that came by.  I never had any shoes to wear until I was in college. My first pair was a hand me down, which needed a lot of stitching. I never let that stop me from being happy, or let that define me.  You will understand this someday. I will do my best to buy this for you at the earliest”.

I must have cried a lot that day, resented my parents, my behavior, my cousin for having those shoes before me, but I learnt a very important lesson that day, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Never let something apart from “you”, define you. Love people for who they are, not for what they have, or what they might be able to give you. I constantly struggle with this, but I am learning to see people for who they are.

I hope I can be half as good as my parents, and teach my child her importance before everything else that could or would define her. Someday, perhaps, I will teach her the importance of everything money cannot buy.  For now, I have to go back to look at the puzzle she just put together.


Dealing with Parenting Advice

One of my pet peeves with parenting has been the ease at which people give you advice. It sometimes is out of genuine concern, but mostly unsolicited. It’s like being at a party where no one cares whether you’re a teetotaler or not, you ARE NOT getting away without having at least one drink. We’ve all been there and I’m pretty sure that we don’t carry a board saying “Looking for parenting tips”.

I don’t know how these people find you, but they do alright. Being a parent suddenly means you are on the receiving end of advice. Right from the pediatrician, to the nurses, to the parent mafia you run into at the park, everyone suddenly is the expert, on your child.

Also, I do get particularly confused when people without kids give advice how one should raise their child. That surely is a contender for testing every last ounce of patience we have left (haha—like our kids don’t do that enough already).

I have devised my own advice warding-off techniques which has helped me not to punch the said people in the face (it was TOUGH) and I’m sharing them with you:

  • Wear earphones in a public place. Malls, Parks, Libraries, Buses. It’s a real conversation killer. Helps with situations where strangers come up to you and tell you how your child is wearing a wrong shoe or mismatched socks. (You see toddlers HAVE to wear what they like, sometimes five days in a row).
  • If you can’t concur with them confuse them. If they start talking about your child, you can steer the conversation to the new outlet store you visited, or talk about “Breaking Bad”. Gosh, everyone loves that series.
  • Keep staring at your phone every three seconds and act important.
  • Smile and nod at everything they say. They might think that you are either deaf or gone in the head.
  • Wear sunglasses in the park. People usually leave you alone. If not, follow point number three.
  • When friends or strangers who don’t have any kids yet give you advice regarding how you must raise your child, laugh loudly at their face and ask them to call you once they have kids. You can continue to laugh until you cry.
  • When your parents give you the “I told you so” or “You were worse” talk on the phone, just pretend that there is static on the line and hang up.
  • Sing your most favorite work out song in your head. LOUDLY WITH LYRICS.
  • Put the ball in their court. Make it about them.

I know, I know. That sounded a bit harsh. But I’m sure a LOT of people here will agree with these techniques. Of course I was kidding (maybe).

I remember when my daughter was tiny. I remember how inadequate and scared I felt as a mother. Every day was different. Every new routine stuck for a few days, sometimes a few hours. It’s really tough. But during that time, I realized something. You and only YOU are the expert on your child. Not the pediatrician, not the nurse, not your friends. Trust your instincts with them. You will figure it out. It’s almost close to three years now, and I still keep telling myself “Don’t drop the baby, everything else will be fine”. It’s okay to follow your rules to maintain your sanity, and your family’s sanity in the process. It’s OKAY to let them wear the same tutu three days in a row.

Whenever you get advice that helps you out, make it a part of your routine. If it doesn’t apply to you, listen, and let it go. As hard as it is to keep your cool when you feel the whole world is plotting against you, and judging your skills, remember that you’ve come this far. Give yourself a LOT of credit and take it one teeny tiny step at a time. If people still get to your nerves, well, there is always the bullet points above to maintain your sanity.

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Stay At Home Mom– So What?

(This article first appeared on Masalamommas, an Online Magazine for Moms with a South Asian Connection. You can also read it here)



“Stay-at-home mom.” I didn’t know this was even a term until I had my child in the US and quit working full time to take care of my daughter. The term ‘Stay at home mom’ always threw me off a little and made me want to stand up and ask “wait, but everyone comes back home at some point, right?”

Ah, there was no escaping this I sensed as and when it was thrown at me at every instance. It was then clarified by a dear friend that a “Stay-at-home mom” was someone who “stays” at home to take care of her children full time. It’s pretty common where I come from, and looks like its common here too; however the terminology is very different.

Growing up in India, it wasn’t a familiar term. Familiar terms were “housewife” or “homemaker”. My mother was a housewife and a rather successful one at that. I’m sure a lot my fellow South Asian friends would agree.

Growing up in a middle class family in India, mothers were always around. There were very few instances where a mom worked, and when they did, it was a set up that worked with the family schedule. I guess a lot of women stopped work, once they had a child due to the sheer demand of taking care of a newborn and running the household.

I think this holds true even now.
Fast forward to present, I guess it’s up to an individual or their family to decide what works for them when it comes to childcare. I’ve spoken about this in many of my previous posts. Having said that when I get stopped by random parents at the park, store, library, malls who I run into say “Oh, so you’re a stay at home mom?”– I almost want to turn around and say “If that means putting my child before everything else, and being able to afford it– Then yes.”

My family members in India have been pretty supportive of this decision, however every now and then they get curious about when I will actually go back to work.

‘Take everything in your stride’ they say. I, for one think moms’ who stay home with their kids are constantly under the microscope especially if they have recently quit working full time and are now home to nurture their child.
The jabs and the misconceptions never end. Here are some of the most common things people have said to me.

· “Why are you all dressed up? Where do you have to go?”
· “So, what *exactly* are you busy with all day?”
· “What do you mean by you have no time?”
· “Since you’re home all day, could you do this small favor?”
· “Oh poor you, must be terrible staying home without working”.
· “Will you *ever* go back to work again? Looks like you are losing touch”.
· “Looks like you’re really enjoying motherhood and don’t intend to do *real work* anymore”.
· “You’re telling me you make fresh food every day at home? What a waste of time!”
· “I’m so sorry about rescheduling seeing you again since I’ve been busy. But since you’re home, any day should work right?”
· “Why don’t you answer the phone? It’s not like you are busy *all day* are you?”

I think it is unfair that people have this image in their head about how easy being a stay at home mom is. To keep it simple it isn’t all that easy. I don’t have ‘extra’ time to do things what interests me, let alone making time for everyday chores and errands. Many times at social gatherings or parties I’ve actually seen people subtly rolling their eyes when I’ve told them I’m a stay at home mom. A lot of times some of my own friends have hardly talked about how my life has shaped up, and trumped some of my conversations with the “important stuff” like work talk, or gossiping about an ex-coworker.

It is a privilege to be a mother, and more so if you are spending time with your child day in and day out. It is tiring and not glamorous at all. I have learned to tune out the comments (including people as well) and sometimes come up with some hilarious comebacks. That’s probably for another time.

I haven’t decided on an ‘exact date’ yet on when I will go back to work and I am not in a rush either. I, however do intend to go back eventually. I’m not going to lie and say that every minute is beautiful. It is a mixed bag, but I am definitely enjoying this time watching her grow up. We need to grow a heart and treat mothers equally; whether they are working full time and coming back to their kids, or whether they are home with their kids all the time. It’s a ton of hard work and I’m sure all of us here will agree.

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Thanking Fathers

(This article first appeared on Masalamommas, an Online Magazine for Moms with a South Asian Connection. You can also read it here)

There is always so much to look forward to when you become a parent. The good part is watching your child grow up, recording every milestone and beaming with pride knowing you are doing something right. The not so good part is having arguments about various topics under the sun. A new argument every day had become a routine with my husband. I always had something to say about his inability to help me with chores, and doing stuff around the house.

On more than one occasion I reprimanded him stating — we ought to teach the kids doing chores early, and you are not exactly setting a great example (with a slight hope that he would mend his ways). But, we all know how that ends.

Being successful parents sometimes takes a toll on the husband-wife relationship. Most of us would disagree, but we know we have been there at some point in our parenting lives.

Amidst all the clashes, I sometimes forget to compliment my husband on what a great dad he is. The minute he walks into the door–he has her full attention. No matter how crazy his day has been, he always reserves his special smile for her. He is a ball of energy and immediately switches to the “dad mode”. Keeps her occupied the entire evening with different tricks (while I try to take a shower, and remember my existence) and never raises his voice, or loses his temper!

We do give moms a lot of credibility, but often forget to acknowledge how much a dad brings to the table.
If we didn’t know how to turn on the “mommy mode”, it wasn’t exactly a cruise for them either. They always become the “punching bag” for everything we can’t do right. Sometimes, ranting and publicizing their mistakes makes our own faults seem smaller (I know I’ve done this a lot of times!) and it’s so therapeutic (*evil grin*).

He brings a lot of stability in our lives and keeps us grounded. He assures me that everything will work out when it’s time, and if it doesn’t we can figure it out together. When I get overwhelmed with being a mom, he calms my nerves and makes sure I get some alone time (lord knows we all need that). He is so patient with the child, and so giving which is very humbling.

Going back three decades, I still remember (or constantly reminded by my mom) that I was daddy’s precious little girl. His energy and love were contagious. He captivated my attention at all the times he was with me. He had so many innovative methods to spark my interest in various areas. Mom definitely had a lot of cleaning up to do after, but I couldn’t imagine me being me without all the madness we experienced as a family.

Even after he left to work in a different country, he constantly kept in touch with us kids through letters, audio tapes, goofy pictures, and the occasional phone calls (since it was expensive then). He was present with us, even during his absence with all the paraphernalia and his undying love for us.

I see so much of that same reverence for her dad in my child. It surely is unconditional love in its purest form.

Ever so often our own insecurities creep up and make us all very vulnerable. Parenting is the toughest job there is and I’m thankful that I have someone to share this journey with –as a fellow parent, a friend, and as a confidante. Knowing that we are not perfect and not always right keeps us going. Our roles as parents has definitely taken a front seat now, and I’m sure there will be a lot more challenges for us to face going forward.

The spirit of parenthood is something that needs to be understood and appreciated every day. On the occasion of Father’s Day I would like to thank all the dad’s who are pillars of support for their families. Not forgetting all the single parents who do double the work to make it all happen. This post is an ode to all the dads out there including mine and my daughter’s.

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