You know those times when you’ve been thinking about something and then suddenly there are FB posts on the topic, people suddenly sharing links to the same topic, wordpress freshly pressing out tons of posts on the topic … I mean it’s everywhere! While I could go with ‘I’m just seeing these things since I’ve started thinking about the topic’ … I’d prefer to go with serendipity. Wow we’re all thinking similar things and this is happening because they’re signs for me. Keywords pinging in my mind every 30 mins this past week include: Stay at home mom, boredom, exhaustion, excitement, working mom, little girl adjusting so well than before … There’s my abstract for the post. Pretty much.
I was sipping my 8th coffee yesterday morning at 10 am, thinking. The sound of Maya the Bee coming in from behind me. Pretty P (our house help / nanny .. henceforth I’ll call her pretty P, it’s kind of what we call her for the most part anyway) walked over to me and said I should consider starting a coffee shop. I mean someone’s got to put the 15 boxes of Daddy A’s books to use again and we need to make some money to pay for all the coffee I drink, she said. I agreed. That was a brilliant idea. And the garden is lovely. So why not I say. I laughed, fighting back tears. Another sleepless night. She was awake from 3 – 7.
I was happy and sad. I was overwhelmed and pretty comfortable with myself being overwhelmed. I so badly don’t want this phase and yet I’m learning so much, bonding so much and it’s such a challenge, that I crave for it as badly as I want it over with. This is the second time in little A’s almost 3 years that I’m playing stay at home mom. The first being my 6 week maternity leave. Caring for the little fuzzy ball and finding time for her has never been an issue. I’ve always had flexible hours, daddy and a nanny always at my side taking turns through the day while in California. 5 hours with the nanny while mommy and daddy were working, 3 hour nap time with one of us overseeing, and then daddy and mommy time in the evening (maybe some friends), and back to work and maybe some couple time at night. It was clock work, the routine. It was everything I could have asked for. Work was as much a passion as my baby at home. I live and love in the creative field. I design, brainstorm, produce new artifacts every day … work has been fulfilling. An integral part of my life. Adrenaline on one hand that propels me forward ambitiously each moment and a slow deep satisfaction on the other that helps me feel worth it, satisfied, making life meaningful.
I never knew what it felt like being a stay at home mom. I’ve been shit scared of the concept. SHIT SHIT scared. Yes deeply scared. I have always thought I had an attention span much much shorter than any kid I’ve seen. It was the only worry I ever had about having children. I’ve proven myself wrong sometimes. Sometimes. I’ve always admired my friends who chose or had to take to that path, whatever the reason. I’ve been in awe. Just looking at them with their children overwhelmed me. How could they be so selfless? Day in and day out dedicated to this little thing. I couldn’t do it, ever! Where do they get the patience? Where do they get that amount of dedication? I know it’s not all love all the time for them. I know that really well. But all of them, they stuck to it and got through it. Or are in the process. They bitch, moan sometimes, coo and pride some others. I don’t know how stay at home moms do this parenting thing. There’s no end in sight. Everyday seems like the other. Just a little different. Maybe it’s no different than my 6 + hours I used to spend with little A everyday. Maybe it’s completely different. I don’t know. But I’ve been in awe. They’ve always scared me, nevertheless. Even intimidated me a few times (especially the ones that insist on saying it’s the most beautiful thing ever and they wouldn’t trade it for anything and that everyday is such a enlightening journey! And trust me there are tons of them around). Maybe I’ve begun selling myself short .. maybe I do it all too I don’t know. (Mental note: maybe launch a research project shadowing stay at home moms for a long period of time for benefit of self!!)
It’s been more than 6 weeks I think. I have lost count of the days. I don’t know if it’s 5 or 6 or 7th of April. I didn’t know when Feb turned March. I’ve struggled, cried out of desperation doing this. I’m sure some of little A’s issues were a direct reflection of my own struggles as well. They mirror so much, don’t they? And you know how things like that can lead to endless cycles of guilt. It did. I would wake up, finish up my kitchen chores by 9 and then sit staring at her. Of course, things like the empty house didn’t help either. But I would just hope I could press a button and disappear somewhere without anyone finding me until I came back. I’ve heard other friends say this a lot. I felt this way for the first time. My whole body was consumed by this overwhelming feeling of tiredness and a weight so heavy .. I could barely drag myself around the house to do the things I needed to. Cook for her, feed her, clean her, put her down for a nap, wake her up, clean her, bathe her, take her to the park or send her with the nanny for a couple of hours, clean myself up a little, make dinner, put her sleep … the cycle just went on. I’ve never been so excited to see daddy A home in the evenings. Those 3 hours he took over … I begged him not to tell me how the startup was going. I begged him not to tell me about the problems, ask me for solutions or give me work to be finished. I couldn’t play co-founder, team mate, employee or any other term he wanted to throw at me. I just couldn’t. My brain was rotting I told him. I’m exhausted by 5 pm. I can’t think anymore. I feel so many things that all I can do is blog about them. Blog. Yes. That’s the one thing I managed to do everyday which was not domestic work. I’ve realized I write best when I feel such intense feelings. I can’t really write otherwise.
We do fun things. Parks, friends, relatives, painting, gardening .. yes we do a lot of fun things. But they get buried in the chores and the care taking. It’s so hard to focus and keep the perspective on. Progress is even harder to detect. Does she rebel because she’s smack in the middle of her terrible twos or because we moved and she’s still adjusting? Does she ‘disrespect’ elders so much because the hierarchy here is so overwhelmingly in your face than back there and she has to learn the rules of the hierarchy here or is she just that way, rude I mean and I didn’t teach her otherwise? Are her values very American and she’s just in her ‘fitting in’ period here? Does she not know how to share because of her age or because she didn’t have the same ‘always on’ company she seems to have here? I mean all the girl kids – note, girl kids here share. They listen. Obediently obey. Seriously. They all do. The ones that rebel around this community all have working moms. Yes random stupid observation. Yes that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever said. But there I did say it. I know that it is a ridiculous conclusion to come to. But try telling my emotionally bound, irrational self that. I’ve never punished or given so many time outs to little A until I moved here to India. I never found the need for it. She’s not sorry for screaming, shouting, throwing or anything else. One punishment and 5 mins after that she’s apologetic and very clearly articulating her mistake. Promising to never do it again. It’s heartbreaking. I have such mixed feelings about this punishment / time out thing. I never wanted to be this mom. NEVER. But here I am. Endlessly giving her timeouts. What choice do I have?! It’s not like she doesn’t understand. OH SHE UNDERSTANDS! TRUST ME! Like any other toddler I suppose she’s just acting out. I ignore sometimes, playfully distract when that works. But they don’t work most times. She’s focused as hell. But what about all these little girls around me. How are they all sharing so perfectly, always on their best behavior in front of me or when playing at our place or theirs with my child? I’m sure they rebel when we’re not around, I know they do but they’ve aced the social game, the way they present themselves in front of anyone other than family. That’s ridiculously smart and aware for toddlers. Should I be happy or sad that my little girl behaves exactly the same irrespective of who’s around? Same treatment for everyone. Period.Tantrums are not exclusive to anyone or any time. Though the best ones are of course saved for mom and dad!
And then there are mornings like today’s. All she wants is to cuddle up to mommy, make chappathis together, help mommy make more kozhambu in the kitchen, read a few books with her cuddled up in her bunk bed, eating her doses and cheerios by herself. Then at lunch time she said “mommy, little A’s cranky and tired. Can you give her some mammam (food)?” It broke my heart. There’s progress. I can tell. I can’t necessarily see it everyday. It’s hard to see the big picture. This work is not easy. But there are moments, when I’m rewarded for the hard work. I find her acting out our scenes with her toys. I find her articulating lessons so well, imparting them to her lions, dogs, babies and cats. Even friends who come over. It’s not like I’m hopeless. I’m being a little irrational (ok maybe a lot). I’m being as emotional as my not-so-toddler toddler. Yes I have 28 years over her. But no one prepared me for this. And by this, I mean being a stay at home mom. Not a parent. Being a parent the past 2 years was so awesome. She was so much fun despite all the work. But a stay at home mom .. that, no one prepared me for. And I can’t help feeling exhausted all the time. I have friends who raise 4 and 5 children. Yes read that again – 4 or 5 of them. I will never stop seeing them with such fascination. This is not glamorous work. This is one of the hardest things to do. EVER. I’m not saying it’s a breeze for the working mom. But it’s different. And I’m still largely confused about my opinions on this. Am I working so hard on parenting now because I don’t have the outlet I used to and my lack of adrenaline and passion in the form of my work? Or am I having to work harder than before because she’s almost 3 and age of the child is working on me? Or is it the move? Or is it all of them? And none of them and just that I’m not necessarily cut out to be a mom? God, seriously! There are so many options and possibilities. This is definitely not a controlled experiment, is it?!?! So many variables. Very few answers. No other option but to do the right thing. The thing I know is the right thing to do now. The things that I know will have the long lasting impact I want, even if it’s not in the best interests of the moment. Even if the work seems endless, to believe that it is not. I just must keep going.
It’s only been 6 weeks and all this ends in a month or so when I have to go back to work. Sabbatical ends. The big move must be made by then. Whatever it comprises of. “I’m in the middle of a relocation” is not an excuse anymore. Office resumes. And the startup can’t wait longer without me either. All my peers traveled and explored the world when they had their sabbaticals. I guess when I get back and everyone asks me, I’ll tell them, as though it’s a short term 2 month activity, that I was busy raising my child.
(P.S The other day the bride was making an argument, giving a perspective (whatever you want to call it) on what it means it make a choice about having a baby. I argued for the need for the perspective. I loved her post. Not because I want everyone to have kids. Hell No. My best friend and I used to make fun of silly parents we encountered at different places claiming there should be an exam to become parents. Not everyone should be allowed, we said. You can guess that that was before I had my own. I don’t say things like that anymore. But this post and the way I feel today brought back the bride’s thoughts on having kids. I knew for sure I wanted kids. I always did. I had little A when I was 28. It just felt like the right time. And most times when I look at her … I see someone with so much determination, confidence, attitude, analytical skills, and a lot of brilliance. So much that they are probably what scare me about raising her now. I know this is what I want and love in her. But those very qualities scare the daylights out of me. They must be harvested and directed the right way. And maybe that’s what I’m realizing in this stage of parenting now. My experiences now don’t change the way I feel about having children in general, it has made me think deep about work, kinds of work, where having a child intersects, disrupts and makes better different kinds of work, how you as a person change because of these, and the responsibilities you have in raising the child to be a wonderful adult). So this post maybe a little summary view of what it could take to raise your child, if and when you decide to. And note that I said COULD, not IS .. I’m sure other parents have different songs to sing. Mine is a mixed bag. And I’m not ashamed of admitting it. And just like marriage, there’s no preparing one for this. You just need to know that if you ever want it, you’ll learn it on the job as long as you’re open to the experience).