Parenting help at a very high price!

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.

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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, herehere, 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.

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15 responses to “Parenting help at a very high price!

  1. People love to give their opinions on parenting, especially moms (and I live in California). My opinion is that if you’re happy, and your kids are happy, there’s nothing wrong. We’re all just doing our best. I think people just need to take themselves and their opinions a little less seriously- and let go of being “right.”

  2. 🙂 Yep. I know it’s true anywhere in the world … it’s just a little heightened here in India where doors are always open, neighbors and friends walk in n out all the time, moms are all over the place and dads nowhere to be seen. A little too much exposure here … hence you get this crap in concentrated doses.

  3. Hey, you forgot to mention that I am faster than a speeding bullet and can jump over tall buildings without having to wear my underpants on the outside!! And here I was thinking that I could become alpha male, top dog and totally milk the patriarchal bulls***. Sigh, another day, another country maybe. 🙂

    There have been days when I feel like saying something bad to a few people… when this guy is sitting next to the door, and the doorbell rings, and expects his wife to come over from the other end of the house to answer it… when these guys tell me, don’t do that, it makes us look bad, and they don’t seem to be joking… when i hear men being proud of the fact that they have not changed a single diaper in their life…

    It took a while before crunch’s mother was able to accept that I could and would in fact come and get my own food rather than expect it to be served to me. The problem, as I am fond of saying, is conditioning. And even sharing ‘their opinion’, is something they have been conditioned into doing. It’s automatic, they HAVE TO say something counter to what you are doing, even if they don’t actually believe what they are saying. I’ve seen them often contradict themselves over the course of a few days, because we would have actually listened to their advice, and they would be advising against that in a few days. They can’t stop themselves, and accepting that they will always do that may be the key to some stress relief. Disclaimer: I do not always follow what I preach.

    and while I don’t think I really did 50% in CA, I hope we can continue to do this together.

  4. Yes super woman that’s too super and busy to be mommying the right way some would say 😉 Oh well whatever! Come home I’ll bake you some yummy 7 layered spicy dish for that comment while you baby sit her!! 🙂

  5. I dont think theres a formula for the right kind of parenting. Parents tend to figure out what works for them. And their children. So if you and Daddy A have a system that works, I say scr*w what the others are telling you. I dont know what its like in California, but in India people tend to think theyre entitled to share their opinions about everything. Everyone has some pearls of wisdom to drop, and nobody thinks twice before they do. And just so you know, its not only about mommyhood and parenting 🙂 So you might as well learn to ignore, let those who want to talk, talk, and do what you know is best for your family..

  6. It’s funny reading this response now after having just read and responded to your note on intellectual douchebags! I feel like you and I are having vaguely similar experiences touching similar themes. Hence my comment on douches coming in various kinds … intellectual just being one of them. I guess I’m coming across the parenting category of douches lately.

    • Yes, evidently there are several sub-species. SOmeone should gather them all, put them in a massive cage together. That should keep them very entertained. And leave us normal people in peace.

  7. I think you need to move houses 🙂 I have friends and family in India where the father is as involved in the parenting , if not more. And then there are the sorts you described too. It may be that the move has overwhelmed you in more ways than one. Had you been back in CA, these comments and issues (if ever you have them there) wouldnt upset you as much as they have here, in Bangalore. I think its only a matter of time before you develop a thick hide (you need to!) , a good nose (to smell those interfering sorts before you see them!) and ears that practice selective hearing (for you know what!).

  8. Hahaaa!!! Love that. Yes please. Thick hide, good nose and ears that practice selective hearing. I think I’ll write my imposition for the day!! I really will. If that’s the only way I’m going learn. And totally yes on the house. I’m smack in the middle of Indiranagar .. you’d have thought people here were half way decent about things like this. I guess it’s just bad luck. I’ll start planning my move already!

  9. I normally never reply to blogs, but was so very moved by this post that I just had to. I just wanted to say that I applaud both you and your husband’s strategy of sharing the responsibilities of parenting (and ultimately sharing the rewards). It is apparent from how close you are with your husband (his post was adorable, and I promptly sent it to my own husband!) that your choices in working together have strengthened your marriage. Growing up in (shocking!) the Midwest, my parents also shared the parenting roles 50/50. My dad has always done the dishes and cleaned the house, even scrubbing the grout between the tiles in the kitchen with his bare hands, and my mother takes care of the laundry (only because dad tends to accidentally bleach things) and all the gardening, including mowing and weed-whacking the lawn – typically a male role. As a child, I never knew that this was different. In fact, even while growing up, and noticing that some of my friends’ mothers had far different roles in their households, it always seemed to be a lifestyle choice for these families – and discussion about this decision between families was unheard of. I saw differences in parenting styles merely through observation, never outright discussion. Watching my parents and their choices, I grew up to be fiercely independent with large aspirations for my future. I never saw my life in any way as being confined to a societal role, and I believe that your decision will make your daughter a stronger person as well. My interest in learning led me to have a love of diverse cultures, languages and travel. This was essential, because without this trait that my parents so proudly encouraged, I would never have met, nor even have been interested in, my Indian husband. 🙂

    • Aha Indian husband 🙂 Well I hope he was raised in a setting as awesome as yours! It’s wonderful – your story of growing up. Makes for such an interesting group of people in the world I think, given how few there are in relation to the rest. And it’s always so wonderful to trade notes with folks from different places. My story was kind of weird. Parents super liberal when it came to education, work, role of women at work etc. … but very stereotyped gender roles at home. I should write about it someday. While my folks totally taught me to be bold and gave me tons of opportunities, I was brought in a household rather traditional in it’s gender roles. My gradschool life in the US and life with Daddy A really helped shape the way we’ve run our household with little A. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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