I’ve always said that my husband and I are both mom and dad to my child. Many of you that have met my other half, Daddy A, know that very well. Ever since I’ve had our child he’s been just as much a ‘mom’ to her as I’ve been a ‘dad’ to her. In fact beyond our gender differences and the fact that I gave birth to her and breastfed her for a year I’ve not seen much of a difference in how we treated her, each other and how she treated both of us as parents. And living in California for the first 2.5 years of her life absolutely gave us the cushion and the bubble we needed to nurture this. He woke her up somedays, I woke her up some others. We took turns putting her to bed. He fed her breakfast, I took over lunch and he, dinner or vice versa. He kept her busy with blocks and puzzles and trains on days that I wished to work or days that I cooked elaborate meals that involved 7 layers or baking! I took her to the park or the book store or a friend’s on days that he wanted to slog it off on getting our startup going. He loved washing her hair and cutting her nails. I loved sitting by her in the bathtub and singing with her. He brushed her hair fondly on days she allowed him to. He played the guitar for her while I sang and fed her. She would sit on her high chair, munch on her food and watch dad and mum do a number for her. I was the one with the travel diaries .. I traveled once a month or so on work. From the time she was 3 months, she was used to mom being away for a couple of nights a month. I’d reduced travel considerably since I’d had her. With a startup, I knew it would be difficult for him to handle her for more than a couple of days. She would cuddle up with dad, wake up with him, brush her teeth in sync with his brushing movements … they bonded. She would talk to mom on the phone or watch her on Skype when she missed mommy. But she was used to it. Dad would send photos of himself and the baby girl every few hours to show what they were doing and make sure mom wasn’t feeling lonely. Almost every day when in town, at the end of a long day of work, baby, food and activity we’d sit and watch TV together and talk till 1 am – He and I. Life was awesome. Parenthood though stressful at times was absolutely a joy because it was us … together. There were the occasional pangs of loneliness or the longing for a big family with tons of aunts and uncles .. there were several nostalgic moments and we yearned that for our child. It certainly played a part in our decision to move.
I generally don’t write about these things. I don’t like to talk about how happy I am. I love just being comfortable and content. But today I’ve decided to lay it all out there. I’ve decided to talk about it and reflect on how this place has a role in breaking us apart one day at a time. Or should I say – how we’re letting this place break us apart one day at a time. I’m not blaming this on the country completely though I am making an observation about the people I see around me, the way people here talk to me, the way everyone including my parents talk to me about mommy hood and how I need to learn from other Indian moms about parenting. If you’ve read my blog you know we’ve had a rough transition to Bangalore from California. My little girl suffered the most. She had the most issues adjusting. Thankfully we had help. We had grandparents, a new nanny, neighbors, new kids on the block and cousins to help us ease this process. What I didn’t realize these past few weeks, is that with seeking support came the joys of judgement. In most cases thankfully they weren’t meted out then and there during the first few weeks. But now as I get more and more settled in … I hear it from everyone. I was naive enough to think people were readily extending their hands to help with no strings attached. Strings here come in the form of advice I suppose and comparison. Now that I’ve used their assistance, be it in the form of my kid playing with theirs, or just their company .. I feel obligated to listen to the bag of shit that follows. Now that they’ve seen and heard of the difficulties of my transition they’re readily available to judge and advice. It’ll be 2 months in 2 days since the move and life’s light years better than the day we landed. My girl’s happy. She clearly loves it here now. Still working through a few issues .. but whatever, who isn’t!! But I feel 2 months of company to help with the transition has resulted in a life time of obligation to sit through insults and remarks I would have never put up with had I been in the US now. Here’s a sample of what I’ve heard these past 6 weeks.
“You need to step it up and play the role of a mom. You need to tell him (husband) to stay away and not interfere. Sometimes you need to distract her not explain to her or reason with her … it’s your job to nurture the child and teach her right from wrong in a loving way, not his.”
“You need to make sure you’re not the disciplinarian … you’re the loving mom who she listens to”
“As a mom you need to provide the emotional quotient (EQ), he can provide IQ!”
Mom friend I met here in Bangalore proudly said: “My husband’s rarely been around her, I’ve raised her myself completely and I take 100% credit for the adorable child I have”, a comment in response to me explaining that it was 5 pm and I was waiting for my husband to join us to a visit to the bounce house.
Another mom I met at the park said: “It’s really hard moving from the US to here with a child, but children are resilient especially when they have their moms around to trust and be with them”.
The list doesn’t end. And I can see why this is the case. The reason for this is everywhere around me. It’s not like I didn’t know about life in India. I grew up here. But an adult life away from here in hippie liberal California can erase memories easily. I go to the park with my daughter and all I see are moms and nannies accompanying their children. I go to the play yard in our apartment with my husband, he’s the only father around there. I go to drop my girl at the school with my husband, he decides to stay there with her and help her ease in while I leave to run other errands. He’s practically the only father that those ladies have seen around there so often I think. I stayed outside the gate for 2 weeks .. I’ve never seen another dad around.
I’m not saying Indian men aren’t a part of their children’s lives. I’m not saying that women should go to work so men can have time with their kids. I’m just wondering why I haven’t seen any men around spending quality time with their kids. ANY. Really. I’m wondering why every dad in my apartment comes back home at 10 pm and why they work weekends. I’m wondering why the big MNC that I work for is so skewed in it’s women to men ratio. It fared as one of the best companies for women to work in this past year!!! Such a joke! I’m wondering why in 2013 we still see signs like the one opposite Lido Mall in Bangalore that says: “Why should the career woman be put in conflict with the mom”? I feel like I just died and woke up in the 1950s in India. Clearly corporate India couldn’t care less. It’s very hard to discuss this issue without referring to Corporate politics, politics of domestic work, child rearing and tons of other topics that have been debated and discussed for generations now. I guess I’ll move on rather than dwell. I’ve heard tons of moms talk about difficulty finding a job after a break in career post baby. I’ve heard tons of moms discuss no support during the post baby months. I’ve heard them talk pitifully about their husbands who have to slave it off late hours and the poor things just come home eat watch some TV and crash. The entire system seems designed to make the household what it is here. My biggest critics are of course … women. What a cliche!! I’m not judging what they are or what their choices are. I’m just wondering why their lives and the story of the city I live in allows them to judge me like I’m the silly one. One look around and it seems the other way round to me. The US has it’s share of birth control politics and many more laughable issues when it comes to women. But at least when I say that my husband works from home .. they don’t look at me like I spoke in Latin. I don’t have people watching my every move as a parent and commenting on every little thing I do. I don’t have people voluntarily telling me how their style of parenting is better or how what they do makes them a wonderful parent, and particularly I am referring to moms here. I’m sure they’re all over the heartland! And I am thankful enough for having lived in California instead. But seriously I live in Bangalore here. Isn’t it one of the cool capitals of India! Or did I miss something somewhere?!?
I must admit I was pretty shaken up by the last few weeks with everything we went through and let everyone almost convince me that I was doing something wrong. (And maybe I am .. but I’d like to come to that conclusion myself). I was almost convinced it was time for change and I’d messed something up in the way I raised my child. I clearly wasn’t mom enough! Stupid me. I even spoke to my husband and told him he might want to consider staying away for a bit while I took over. How can so many women be wrong while being so confident and in control of themselves and their children, I asked?! Their children seem like angels. Most of them at least. Well at least most girls in my apartment. Maybe it’s just our girl! Then thankfully my own parents said something today. My parents that played a huge part in actually shaping who I am today. It’s funny they’re slipping in their old age. Thankfully that gave me the roughest jolt I needed. I took a turn today – for the positive I must say. I took a turn because the final blow came from my parents, unexpectedly. And a best friend was by my side to remind me how foolish I was to doubt the path we’d chosen. This is what they know. (and at least they stay by my side as I argue vehemently with them about our differences.) This is what they grew up believing and learning though they wanted different things for me when I was growing up. It worked in whatever way it did during their time. These times are different. I know there are enlightened moms and dads in every generation. This issue is not confined to just ours. I’m sure every generation saw parents that bitched and moaned about the status quo then. But really. .. we’re in 2013. The world has seen tons of women do tons of things .. achieve heights that equal and exceed men. The world has moved on to a point where we really don’t need to distinguish the role of mom and dad to the extent people do here in India today. Enough is enough. Just move on and do what you think is right for you and your family. Stop judging me and my family. If it means I will live in isolation until I find sensible friends and family around me – so be it! I refuse to be bullied by all these people around me. It makes me shudder to think I came this close to burning 2.5 years of a solid foundation we’ve built for ourselves. I may just choose to live in the blogosphere here, here, here, here and here (amongst others) for a while until I find people I can relate to.
Let’s just say I’m going back to my kind of parenting. I’ve let 8 weeks slip by … it’s time I pick the pieces back up. There’s more issues to be worked out. More time and more thinking to get my girl back on track with my daddy A. Hey honey … I’m coming home! And I’m sorry.