Friday, August 1, 2014

A love message for the mother who saw red.

A love message for the mother who saw red.

This is it. Yesterday I was on the verge of falling apart tending to the needs of my daughter and at the same time trying to fulfill household, work and family needs. And suddenly my recent life flashed before me. Diaper changes, mind boggling laundry, midnight battles with weaning, taming tantrums, managing a work from home situation and more recently home work battles. And then I lost it. I screamed at my daughter for a passable mistake. I wanted to hide in a corner and cry but couldn't even do that in front of everyone.

But that was yesterday. Today, with a clearer head, I have a better perspective of things. Yesterday I was doubting whether I was cut out for this motherhood thing. I didn't think I was as strong as other mothers who seemed to tackle everything from tantrums to sicknesses with a calm that I so envy. Despite my husband's and family's constant support I just felt totally alone. Guilt ridden and alone,  let me tell you, that's a deadly mix to be in.

But here's the thing. Despite my outburst, my child still needed me like nothing happened.  She didn't need the angry mamma but her smiling, warm and caring mamma. She needed me and nobody else would do. I am writing this for mother's who find themselves in a similar situation.

So what is important about that moment of suffering is to remember that this is your journey and you chose it over other options available to you. It is your life together with your child and you've got to make it joyful for both. I mean hey, had you chosen another option who's to say that it wouldn't have come with its own set of imperfections? The ability to move through the tough moments and accept the beauty of life when it is not perfect is called living.

I found a mantra for myself that I'm going to use in such moments. Here it is

It is a bad moment, not a bad life,
It is a bad day, not a bad week,
It is a bad reaction, not a bad child.

Being a mother is being the light at the end of the tunnel for your family. The ability to see happiness where no one else can and keeping it intact today. That would really mean loving and accepting yourself with all your imperfections. And your child's too.

So the next time you are angry, turn to this mantra. Because you are what you exactly wanted to be, your child's mother.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida


The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida

I will never forget Naoki. This 13 year old boy with severe autism has written an intimate book explaining why children with autism behave the way they do. It has a powerful introduction by David Mitchel, who found Naoki's memoirs, soon after his own son was diagnosed with Autism.

Inspite of his severe limitations, Naoki is able to convey exactly how it is to live locked up inside a helpless autistic body through a special grid, like Braille, to help him express his thoughts.

Simple things like communicating that you are sleepy, tired or hungry is a herculean task because of language impairment. Imagine all languages around you sounding foreign, imagine there being no sense of time. So whenever you try to recall something, it could have happened 2 minutes or 2 years ago. The command over brain to extract only specific memories no longer exists. Images, thoughts, sounds and smells just come flooding in at their own free will. The brain refuses to obey any commands. Scary, huh?

The book also asks delicate questions like ," Why do you move your hands and legs in that awkward way?" "Why don't you make eye contact when you are talking?" and " What is the reason that you jump so much?"

His answer to the last one is "when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. Really, my urge to be swallowed up by the sky is enough to make my heart quiver. When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good."

Naoki Higashida
Photograph: Miki Higashida
This book is such a rarity, I read it not because I know any child with autism, but simply because I was curious. This book satisfied more than just my curiosity. It taught me that people with autism are actually more sensitive than normal people, a quality which is thought to be lacking in them. It also taught me to be sensitive and compassionate towards anyone who is caring for children with any learning disability. It requires constant motivation and every day can present a new struggle.

Read it if you want to feel, know and understand something that you have no way of knowing otherwise.

I rate it 4/5. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Going back on old promises....I've done it again!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - A Book Review

Struck by the travails of domestic life, my promise to myself, of writing at least one post a month has gone kaput. The very reason I started this blog, which was to document my life, my thoughts and things that touch my life as a mother, has now left me with little or no time to write. My new job isn't helping either ( which incidentally is also to do with writing!)

What I did find out about myself was that no matter how badly I manage my time, there is somehow always the time to read my books. Seldom a day goes by without a flipping a page or two. Even on the worst days, meaning on a trip to Goa or dealing with a persistent toddler tantrum, I still manage a page or two.

To cut the long story short, I am now preparing to start a book review blog right here. I sincerely believe I manage to read a lot of books and my opinion may help or eventually count.

The kind of books I read are not always bestsellers, nor are they always only the most recommended ones on popular online websites. I choose my books based on the subjects that interest me at that point in time and the cover page of the book.

I do try to read subsequent books by authors whose first book I like. So here's to a new start!

Starting my first review with this amazing book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Book review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

This is the first Donna Tartt novel which I read and since then, she has become my go-to author when I am missing action in my life. Her story in The Goldfinch transported me to the bleak weather of London, the twisty lanes of Amsterdam, the dark underbelly of the Russian mafia and the colorful life in Vegas.
Pulitzer Award for 2013
But that's not even half the reason why I would recommend this book. Her characters are so believable and their emotions so tangible, they will make you ache inside when things don't go their way. The protagonist, thirteen year old Theo, struggles against a tragedy that renders him an orphan and the weight of a burden he inadvertently bears when he is witness to a violent death. This is not a spoiler- far more is revealed in the first chapter itself.

The first half of the book follows young Theo, unable to grieve for the loss of his mother, as he passes from one caregiver to another, never able to say or do what he really wants.

Eventually, many people enter his life, but the one who stole my heart was Hobbie. His presence in Theo's life soothed not only Theo but me as well as I would read in alarm when Theo would make yet another wrong decision in and about his life.

Donna Tartt writes effortlessly and manages to hold the reader in a grip when there is a twist to the tale. I found it hard to put down the book at such times. Stealing even 30 seconds to read when I could. A word of caution though for the impatient readers out there. This is a whopping 771 page novel and there are times when you will be tempted to skim through the pages when she gets too descriptive about seemingly unimportant topics. But most times it will transport you to the world of Theo Decker, his yearning for true love that can never be his, or his drug abuse that will leave you aghast.

Donna Tartt is an expert in writing about troubled characters. Her previous novel The Secret History too dealt with deaths and troubled teens. I am currently reading it and will soon post a review. Meanwhile, happy reading. BTW, this novel won the Pulitzer award in 2013. Although, I am not someone who necessarily likes award winning books, this one certainly deserved it. I rate it 4.5/5.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Childfree life by choice. Is it a valid decision?

My best friend is childfree by choice. I always knew that about her, and although she keeps wavering between the two worlds, she is mostly on the childfree side. When my daughter wasn't born, we never really discussed in detail about her reasons for being childfree, but once my daughter arrived, I was over the moon and generally kept insisting to her about having kids. Still my heart was not in it. I think I just wanted my daughter to grow up with her child and I said as much to her. Very selfish, I know.

Truth is, for the longest time, I was quite sure I would not have children. "The whole world is staggering under the population explosion with limited resources to spare, if I must have children, they will be adopted", thought I. Three years into my marriage, all that logic went out of the window. I felt this unrelenting and compelling need to mother a child. Something I couldn't ignore. Since my husband too was ready, soon our daughter was born, making it the happiest day of our lives.

And yet the trend of going childfree by choice is growing in India. The trend is most rampant in Double Income No Kids ( popularly known as DINK) couples. You just have to type childfree in google and you'll see what I mean.We live in such a child friendly country that not having kids by choice is considered a very western concept. I interviewed a few couples who are childfree by choice to get their side of the story.I have included only those who have mutually decided to be childfree for the sake of exploring one category at a time.

Pragya Desai, a 31 year old media professional from Mumbai says, " I don't think I was born with the maternal instinct. I never felt envious of my sister who has one child and is happily pregnant with her second. They have the perfect bustling household full of life and if it should have changed my perception about motherhood, it hasn't till now". Pragya is adamant she will never have children and neither does she think she will regret her decision 20 years from now. She is comfortable in a space where her social circle has single or childfree people and this circle keeps expanding. Her parents and her in-laws have accepted this decision as they already have grand children.

30 year old Neeru Panjabi, a Pre-School Teacher from Indore finds herself in choppy waters. Her parents and in-laws actually don't know about her husband's and her own decision to be childfree. They still battle questions from relatives on why even after 5 years of marriage, there is still no good news. Neeru says she often gets advice on which fertility clinic to visit. Neeru and her husband are a couple struggling to make their name in their respective careers and don't feel they have the time and commitment it takes to invest in a baby. Apart from that they are also not sure if they will be able to bear the financial burden of raising a baby in an increasingly expensive world. They have 2 adorable dogs who are like children to them. " Sure there are vet bills and there are times when we travel and the dogs have to be put into a hostel but it is still cheaper than raising a child", opines Neeru.

Pragya and Neeru represent two sides of the same coin. Both are battling the social stigma attached to not having children post marriage. While Pragya's motivation for remaining childfree is driven by an internal force of an absent maternal instinct, Neeru's motivation is external. Her choice remains centered on their aim to focus on their respective careers and the expense involved in raising a child. But for Neeru, being from a small town has its own downside. Not only has she been unable to communicate her decision to her parents and in-laws but she also has to live with the tag of being called "barren" behind her back.

Nisha Rao, yet another woman in her early thirties who is settled in the US, admits it is not easy to make the older generation understand her decision to be childfree. Her reasons for being childfree are rooted in external factors like the cost of bringing up a child in a very expensive US of A, loss of freedom and internal factors like the inability to feel maternal towards children. But most importantly, after a grueling work day, she doesn't feel she would have the time it takes to bring up a child. The typical reactions that she gets from her relatives on knowing about her voluntary decision to be childfree are 

1. “You’re crazy.
2. “What kind of a woman doesn't want children?”
3. “You’re going to regret this later in life.”
4. “Don’t you want someone to take care of you in your old age?”
5. “Think about all the women who cannot have children. You have the gift of having children; don’t throw it away.”
6. “Have a child, then you’ll know what love is.”

Not once was she asked why she chose to make this decision. 

Some other respondents to my research shared their stories too.

Arpita and Deepak are avid travelers. They simply don't want to interrupt their lives for a baby that they are confident they would not be able to care for, given their lifestyle.

Neha and Amit are happy being around children as long as they are not their own. They enjoy babysitting their siblings' children and return them to their parents when the time is up. Neha insists she would never bring a child into a world that is already battling population issues.

A particularly funny response that I received from Maria D'Souza went something like this. An intrusive aunt would constantly keep asking Maria about why isn't she conceiving even after 6 years into her marriage. Maria stonewalled her for the longest time possible until one day she decided to settle matters once and for all. Maria's aunt called her and here is how the conversation went:
Aunt: "Maria, you must have children now. Remember your clock is ticking!" If there is some problem, you know you can talk to me about it".
Maria: "Aunty, actually I may as well be honest with you. We have been trying to conceive since the last 5 years and still nothing. We try day and night. Sometimes in the afternoon also. But still nothing! Speaking of which, it is now our time to try again, so Bye!"

The older generation automatically assumes that there is a problem in conception if you aren't pregnant after marriage. This perception is so strongly embedded in their minds that when they hear that the decision to not have children is a voluntary one, they are simply stumped. As Nisha Rao aptly summed it up, first comes the confusion what!?, then the disbelief but why would anyone want that?, then the concern problem conceiving? and finally the emotional blackmail don't you care about what we desire? we want to be grandparents"
  • 10% of the couples who participated in this research think they may change their opinion later in life and adopt.
  • Another 10% don't admit their decision to be childfree publicly
  • 65% feel they won't make good parents
  • 90% of the respondents's parents and in-laws haven't been able to accept their decision
  • 100% agreed that their immediate social circle accepted their decision and were genuinely okay with it
I have refrained from giving any personal opinion so far in this post. It is mostly up-to the reader to find his or her own conclusion based on the stories shared. But I do have one thing to add. When people complement me on my beautiful family, I am never asked why I chose to start a family, and in that lies the respect that I receive for making this very personal decision. I wish there would be more respect and acceptance for the CFBC couples, especially among the older generation. 

This post is already too long and I still have a lot more to share. Well, basically my own opinion to add, but it'll have to wait for now. 

PS: Unlike the first two posts, this one took a couple of weeks to write. It involved a fair bit of research. I would like to thank all the couples who answered some very personal questions and helped me gather the information I needed. More power to all of you guys!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is everyone destined to turn into their parents?

A few months back, I overheard my mother's closest friend, who was looking for a prospective daughter-in-law for herself tell my mother," if I really want to know how the girl will turn out, I'd look at her mother". I frowned at this suggestion but didn't say anything for obvious reasons. But I did find myself thinking about it more than I should. Perhaps I realized there was some truth in it, but not consciously.

Throughout my teenage and early adulthood I have strived to be my own person. Irrespective of the genes I inherited from my parents, I consciously avoided mistakes that I thought they committed. And then very recently, when I was cooing lovingly to my daughter, I found myself repeating the phrases that my mother did to me when I was a child. And today, when I was struggling to get my daughter ready for school in time, I uttered the the very words that I vowed never to utter to my own child- phrases from my childhood when I was being scolded. Other things I noticed like I keep my kitchen exactly the way my mum does. A close friend of mine is up from dawn till dusk refusing to nap even when time permits, just like her mum. My husband trying to shield me from the big bad world (infuriating sometimes), just like his dad does for his much protected wife. Ironical, isn't it? For we all love the thought of being individuals exclusive of other personalities.

How does this happen? As infants, we obviously learn about interactions from our parents and siblings. And we do learn from there a lot more than we think we do. Our reactions to circumstances, pitch and tone of voice is all first learnt by observing our parents. Since we know nothing about the outside world as infants, we obviously think this is the only way things are done. As we grow older our interactions with outside world increases and we start observing friends, teachers and relatives. They form new brain patterns. Then comes teenage and we unlearn everything in the bid to be different (at least that is the way it happened with me).

Then why am I now regressing to my infancy?! Haha, as funny as it sounds, I did think a lot about it. And here is what I found. I am not a psychologist but I found there are specific times when my brain chooses to act like my parents.

  • When I am struggling with something
  • When I am extremely happy
  • When there is a festival
  • When I am undertaking a very risky venture
There are more but can't think of them now. 

Where does that leave me? Nowhere close to answering my question but there is something I would like to admit. Genes and family values, notwithstanding, I am grateful to my parents for passing on some wonderful qualities to me like reading, caring for others and how to have a blast on a family vacation, no matter what goes wrong. And then there are some things that I try to avoid like hurting someone or being unkind.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Are we all eventually going to turn out like our parents?

This is my second post and things look much better now. It took a little over a couple of hours and I am done just in time to pick my daughter up from school. Yay!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The real first post for a real happy new year

Before my actual first post becomes my last post, I decided to take to blogging more frequently. Why this sudden change of heart? Well, because I recently started working from home and my job is to write articles for online publishing. As I wrote more and more, I discovered I really have a knack for writing! Yay! So it was only natural to write my own blog, notwithstanding that I actually created the blog 3 years ago..sheesh, and never wrote anything.

Now, as to my knack for writing, I have spent nearly 2 hours figuring out what to write, then turned to fine tuning the blog, spent about half an hour there and finally realized that I, in fact, don't have a knack for writing stuff about myself. I dont know about others who started writing but suddenly all my wonderful ideas seemed stupid and not worth sharing with anyone. Sigh! Nevertheless, stupid or not, here goes.

There is something very fresh about a new year. it is almost like a clean slate where you can begin to decide how you will spend your time. Unfortunately, I was never any good at new year resolutions. so this year, I decided to adopt an attitude to remedy my myopic views in life. It's called, "will it matter five years from now?" I must have read about it somewhere because it is not an original thought. I have sometimes jokingly asked my husband this question, when were are in a heated discussion/argument.

I am not very good at keeping things in perspective. The earliest I can remember is any disagreement with my parents could kill my mood for days and more recently even a rude driver can ruin my day. A worthless argument here, a cancelled dinner plan there and an entire week gone. So, I started asking myself, "will it matter five years from now?" and ah, the relief! It just took the edge off things and helped me view things in a better perspective. The maid takes a leave without informing? Wont matter five years from now. My daughter refusing to give up breastfeeding at 2 years old? Probably wont matter five years from now. And so on..

These simple words have helped me focus on the really important things in life. I have big plans like any other woman, and now small things don't get in the way of my big plans. I am happier today than I was last year. I carry a lesser burden of guilt and doubts on my shoulder. And most importantly, it has improved my relationship with friends and family.

So, a big cheers to 2014 and hope you all have a happier one like me :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

1st entry in the blog :)

I'm starting today with the hope that I may write something meaningful and that I may be able to put all that I see, worth mentioning, into words.