A Tribute to my Mum, my Guru on Guru Purnima…
Is it just me who feels like the year 2020 had just begun? It was a long, tiring and endless one, yet to me, it seems like days just went by, each one looking no different than the other, and now it’s already coming to an end. As each year passes by, I always tend to look back and think about the year that was. So here I am, reflecting upon what was achieved this year?
This year was like no other, PERIOD! 2020 was globally defined by the COVID 19 pandemic and no one can deny that it was a devastating year as a whole. We all experienced the same crappy bag of mixed emotions in different homes, different countries, at different intensities and at different frequencies. It was a year of dreadful uncertainty and intense anxiety for the entire human race. And this year, instead of looking back on what I achieved, I am compelled to do nothing but simply be grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to experience the grief of losing anything significant or someone precious to me. In fact, I gained a lot … in ways I didn’t expect.
It definitely wasn’t the kind of year during which I achieved everything I had ever “wished for” but it was the kind of year that made me deeply appreciate everything I have. I didn’t really achieve any personal goals as such and even the handful of progressive moves attained in life were time and again dampened by the depressive bouts of coronavirus related news. In spite of making a big move into a new city this year, to live the American dream apparently, I didn’t really get to explore and experience it’s newness as would normally be the case. And speaking of explorations, what I missed the most this year, were those annual holidays or even those long-weekend getaways, which I had so gotten used to thanks to my travel enthusiast of a husband. Although I took those travel experiences for granted, I realised their true value this year – how they happen to help me to switch off and enjoy some time away from the daily grinds of life. And given that I was primarily catering to the supersonic and largely assertive, never-ending needs of a high spirited, energetic toddler, in a new home, in a new country; it goes without saying that I didn’t really make any quality time for myself either. Through most of 2020, I was far away from living a well-balanced life, yet towards the end of it, I am now so very close to living a well-cherished one.
During this year filled with uncertainty, I was abruptly and unexpectedly gifted with an opportunity to live my life in Slo-mo, wherein I could experience each and every moment, in its most basic and simplest form. It was a perfect year to realise that I already have everything I need. Although this year was challenging and testing beyond boundaries, this year also surprisingly evoked a stronger sense of gratitude in me for everything that I am blessed with.
2020 gave us the gift of unlimited time to spend more qualitatively together as a family. As the world was silently mourning for the loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus, I was blessed to be “stuck” in a home bustling with nonstop action thanks to my little one who can barely let us finish a sentence or even a thought, let alone have an adult conversation. Sadly, at first, I didn’t know how to handle this gift of unlimited, uninterrupted and isolated face-time as a family… I was simply lost… I complained, I panicked, I prayed, and put a negative spin on everything at first. And as time passed, it was something I got happily used to and so very comfortable with. As a first time parent, I got to experience how “all-time active parenting” in a socially distanced world can drive one up the wall and yet make one fall in love with their resilient little one, more and more with every passing day. This drastic yet pleasantly welcome change in our family time routine presented us with this rare opportunity to microscopically observe our little one grow, a bit by bit everyday and marvel at how we were raising this little human, who was completely unaware of the global pandemic and its effects around the world. This was a blessing in every way!
We not only grew to value the emotional bonds at home, but we also saw how humans in general crave for not just emotional but social contact too, even though one might not be a party-animal kinda human. And in that quest, we discovered creative ways of staying connected with the world in isolation. We connected for reasons so unheard of and in ways so unimaginable but we made connections at a whole new level. We gave our best to celebrate each and every moment, event and festival by unleashing our hidden talents, expressing our deep-rooted feelings for each other and embracing this positive human spirit to not only find, but also share the light, even through all of the darkness.
Of course this wasn’t a year anyone was prepared for or even wildly dreamt of, but it certainly gave me a startling reminder that I desperately needed … To never take this beautiful life for granted and to appreciate life in all it’s glory and gloom. The glory makes us rise and shine while the gloom enables us to sustain and survive. And I feel, both these are so very necessary to live and appreciate a meaningful and well-balanced life. So here’s my GoodBye to 2020 … thanks for teaching me some harsh life lessons that only made me stronger as a believer. And with that I warmly Welcome 2021 … I hope you can be kinder and milder in your teaching style. Regardless, I shall continue to learn, grow and preserve with humility and faith.
I am learning that motherhood is simply full of contradictions and I am starting to believe that it is all in the mind – my mind!
As a stay-at-home mum with a high need for order in my life, I try my best to not just plan my days but also to keep up with an organised routine. I am doing fairly well and so is my two and a half year old. Routine gives us the satisfaction and stability that we both need and have both grown to love. Yet I find myself getting bored of it from time to time. That’s when I kind of crave for some noise and chaos to break the monotony of a toddler care routine. And within minutes of facing the challenges brought about by that “out of the ordinary” routine, I start to miss the calming sense of happiness that comes from the very same monotonous routine which I wanted to escape in the first place. Yes, I hear myself and I know how I sound! This is the paradoxical nature Im talking about. The feeling that “Grass is greener on the other side” followed by an instant realisation of the fact that its not.
As any first time toddler parent, I continue to sacrifice my own sleep to ensure that my little one gets a quality one for herself. Through the day, I then console myself, by counting down to when I can get to make up for the loss of my beauty sleep. Meanwhile, as I am running all of the chores and errands of the day, I simply love observing anything and everything my little one does around me. She’s growing into this wonderful person that I can’t seem to get enough of. Her energy and enthusiasm is so very inspiring and motivating but at the same time it can be so testing and annoying. There’s no doubt that she keeps me on my toes and her zest for life also gives me a purpose to contribute to it all. I enjoy it all thoroughly but at the same time, I’m secretly waiting for my “quiet ME time”. But when I do get that kind of space and time, I find myself wide awake and lost, for no reason as such. Very often, I end up using this time to look at photos of my little one or writing a blog about her and find myself missing her as she sleeps right in front of me. I start thinking about all the awesome stuff she does and how fast she’s growing up! I sit and smile in awe, as I am struck by this feeling of nostalgia. And even before I have made the most out of my much awaited “me-time”, she’s up and about.
And then we are back to the grind, moving at a pace so fast that at times feels like a familiar movie reel going in slow motion. In that grind, a moment to myself is hard to find. A moment of calm, just for myself – physically and mentally. And when I do somehow manage to get that moment, I end up feeling lost, all alone. How can I possibly feel lonely when I am never really alone, when I am constantly spoken to and when I am constantly needed? I am in conversation all the time, yet I feel like I have lost my conversational skills. My brain cells are constantly up and running and yet I feel switched off up there. How can I feel unproductive when I am constantly on my toes, doing something or the other? Why does my “to-do-list” seem so small on paper yet takes up my entire day? How can I want to hold on tight to my little one’s love for me and yet want her to be more independent? Her independence is nothing but a testimony for how I am doing as a mum, yet I tend to constantly question my skills as a first time mum. I feel like I know nothing, and yet I am confident that I’m doing the best for her. I loose my patience and burst out of frustration which is instantly followed by me running to comfort her. I spend my days teaching her to be a better human being and yet wonder if I am in fact living up to it myself. I am constantly feeling divided, sitting on a fence, yet I know that I’m doing the right thing.
I often revisit those days before my little one came along, and think about how life was much simpler in terms of catering to my own likes and needs. Although I didn’t see much value in it back then, I could sleep late without any worry, I could watch tv without being constantly interrupted, I could engage in an adult conversation without any distractions, I could read in quiet and peace, for as long as I wanted … I could practically do any task at my own pace without a clock ticking at the back of my mind and I could just focus on my own “to-do-list” – for the day and for life. Basically I had all the time and space I needed back then. Although exhausting and frustrating in a whole different way, I look back on my decade as a professional educator and can’t help but think about how I loved that feeling of excitement and the whole rush it brought along. It all seems like a different lifetime now but if I have to honest, as much as I might miss those days, I am not willing to turn back time and wouldn’t want to trade in what I have today! NO WAY! I don’t want to loose myself in motherhood and at the same time I can’t seem to be able to let go of my little one’s growing years.
I know it all sounds like a complaint but I‘m not looking for a fix. I know it all sounds like a problem but I’m not looking for a solution. I have come to accept that motherhood is all about embracing these contradictions and making the most out of each and every conflicting moment because very soon, these moments too will be long gone and missed. And even before I realise, I would be walking into another phase of motherhood which will continue to be paradoxical by nature, at a whole new level. But that’s life – moreover a mum’s life and I am learning to love it, just the way it is.
Motherhood changes everything. PERIOD! Being in-charge of raising another human is not just a huge responsibility but it is also an overwhelming experience. It has those “Awwww” moments along with those “Ughhhh” moments. It has moments of pride, it has moments of guilt, it has moments of frustrations. And I have come to realise that the best way of dealing with this roller-coaster of emotions is to accept and embrace every moment and the emotion it brings along. There was a time when my last thoughts before falling asleep every night used to be around what I should wear to work the next day and what are the things I could do to enhance my teaching skills at work. I used to doze off thinking about what would happen on the next episode of “This is Us” and here I am now, sleeping every night, doing a mental self assessment of myself as a mum. Did I give it my best? Did I enjoy my “awwww” moments? How did I respond to the “ughhhh” moments? Did I raise my voice? Did I mistreat my little one in the whole quest of disciplining her? Did I loose my cool when she threw a tantrum? Could I have been more patient with her? Did I feed her well today? Did she get to eat a variety of foods from the different food groups? At the end of this self created questionnaire, I simply reassure myself that tomorrow will be a new day, a new chapter, and yet another chance to try and be the best version of myself as a mum, as a human.
Amidst all of this, I have come to the conclusion that although I have this amazingly close and loving bond with my little one, I can be super mean to her every now and then! And I’m cool with that! Is that bad? I don’t think so, not as of now! But I bet my little one thinks so, although as a 2 year old, she hasn’t developed that realisation yet. I can so see her growing up to realise this “mean streak” in her mum and someday she is going to tell me how I invariably end up ruining all the fun for her, all the time. And although she might see it that way, I am okay with that as long as I am serving the goal of raising a decent human being, with a strong character and grounded moral values. This stuff is important to me and I need her to value it too. Just because I’m a “no nonsense” kind of mean mum at times (ok, many a times), I don’t think I’m a bad mum.
For example: I can seem mean when I don’t always play with my little one. Don’t get me wrong, but I do a whole lot of fun activities with her and I do goof around with her by being all silly from time to time. And I enjoy every bit of it. I even let her play in the rain although somewhere I’m worried that she might catch a cold. I try to keep my own OCD issues aside, when she is having some messy fun of her own. But there are also times, when I don’t want to play with her and I simply say NO, NOT NOW! And that’s fine, because although she might think I’m being a fun spoiler for her, I feel that I’m giving her a real world experience then and there. I need her to learn that in the real world, not everyone is going to comply with her needs. I need her to understand that everyone has a right to say yes or no depending on their own desires. I want her to respect this need that everyone has just as much as she expects everyone to respect and comply with her own needs. Life is about give and take and we don’t always get what we want, and when we want. She needs to learn to deal with whatever emotions such a situation brings her way. And it rather start early, and start at home – in the safety and comfort of her own people.
Another scenario that brings out the mean mum in me is when it is time for my little one to clean up her play things. I have this strong need for cleanliness and organisation. I can’t stand any sort of mess for long. In fact, I have rubbed off this quality onto my little one as well. She is generally is clean freak too but when she’s busy playing, she can get very messy. It’s a typical toddler thing and I respect that when it is her free play time. But once she’s done, she needs to clean up her mess. Maybe it is too early for her to learn this but I am consciously teaching her to play in an organised fashion. Like taking one toy at a time and putting it away before bringing out the next one. But she doesn’t get that and I’m willing to wait until she does. However, at the end of it all, she has to clear out the mess – she can choose to take her own sweet time, she can pretend to ignore my instructions, or even throw a dramatic tantrum over it. But she does have to clean up, period! There are times I wait patiently as I sing along and make the whole cleaning up process all about fun. And there are times I yell out my orders and throw a loud tantrum myself, to get the job done as soon as possible. I need her to realise her responsibilities and what is expected out of her. If I don’t insist that she is capable of doing this, she would never realise that she in fact is capable of doing it. And trust me, she is doing a good job at it and I hope this lasts. She is not just learning the concept of responsibilities and time, but she is even learning about consequences in the bargain. Like my silent treatment when she’s not behaved appropriately e.g., she accepts it graciously and knows exactly what called for it. She even tries to not repeat that behaviour in the future which is a big learning I believe. Yes sometimes, she will be adamant and repeat the same behaviour and just like her, I would repeat my reaction as well. That’s when she realises the existence of a concept called consistency which is very important when it comes to disciplining a toddler. Consistency in rewards and praise as well as in punishments and silent treatments. And by now she knows what to expect from me and most of the times, behaves appropriately. This is her window of opportunity to learn about complying with societal norms. And if she doesn’t want to do the time, then she shouldn’t do the crime.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I do give her umpteen number of chances to goof up, test her boundaries and test my patience. That’s also a crucial part of growing up after all… “to know when to stop”. And after she is done exploring those “chances”, she’s get “ONE LAST CHANCE”. If she doesn’t get her act together in those chances, guess what! She has to deal with something called “consequences”. That’s when my “enough is enough” look surfaces and “the no nonsense mum” in me takes over. A lot of the times, this involves me “yelling”! I feel awfully terrible when I do that but I still do. But again, that doesn’t make me a bad mum. If anything, I’m a real mum, an authentic mum who is not putting up a façade or pretence of any kind. She needs to learn that her mum is just as human as she is. Just like she gets to behave or misbehave in the comfort and security of her own home, so does her mum. This is another opportunity for her to see how I feel as a mum, each time she yells and screams to get what she wants. And hopefully, she learns how unpleasant and how unproductive yelling is and begins to control her own tantrums too. When I apologise after I yell at her, she learns something too. She learns the value of productive communication and how to do some damage control after making errors. We are all humans… and need to learn from each other. We need to respect each other and learn to coexist in a harmonious manner. And trust me, I can see her imbibing all of this, even though she’s so little. She knows that I love her to the moon and back but at the same time she knows that she has to do her bit as well. I also make it a point to highlight that it is her behaviour that I’m judging and holding up for accountability, not her as a person. She is a beautiful person and I can’t say that enough!
So yeah, here I am! To a third person, or even my own family at times, I might seem like a mean and yeller kind of mum, but hopefully someday they will get to see why I am, the way I am. And someday, my little one too will see the value in what I did and why. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry!
Today, social media has become the most basic form of staying connected and the most “glamorous” form of sharing our life updates. One might be living right next door or might be living miles away from his/her family, friends or from the place where they grew up, but social media continues to serve everyone as the most “creative” way of sharing their life stories. Don’t get my quoted sarcasm wrong; it is indeed a fun way of maintaining relationships, sharing interests and exploring identities. And I do enjoy seeing photographs and videos that people on my social network share – a lot of it is about their party life, travel adventures, food creations and… their… wait for it… “Little MEs”.
Personally, I have yet to master this skill but I’m amazed at how people can go about living their lives and yet find the time and energy to share their life stories and how. I simply can’t keep up with it, trust me, I tried and am still trying. However, I choose to keep my child out of these updates, paying no attention to the occasional temptations I might feel. I consciously chose to not share photographs from the time I was pregnant up until now that my child is a toddler already. And just because I choose not to do it myself, doesn’t imply that I judge those who do it. It’s great if their choice to do so suits their interests and needs. I honestly do enjoy watching and often end up admiring all of those fancy updates. But its just not for me…Why?
First reason being that I somehow have this strong feeling that I should protect those details of my family life from the “jungle (of information) out there”. Today, we live in a world where information is all over the place and its there to stay. Social media platforms have become this easily accessible space where anyone and everyone could learn a lot about me and my life, in no time. It’s actually scary when I think about it. I know there’s this thing called privacy settings but I don’t really trust it. Second reason being that my toddler doesn’t really have an understanding of this concept of social networking yet. As her parent, I feel responsible to protect and respect her privacy until she has the capacity to do so independently. In addition to a sound understanding of the same, she is yet to develop a voice, with which she can tell me if she’s okay with me sharing her life with the world out there. And whose interests will I really be serving if I choose to go ahead and do that without her permission? Hers? Mine? Our inner circle? Our outer circle? Or the online global community at large? In any case, I cannot and shouldn’t ignore the fact that its her life – however little she might be.
Well, she is 28 months old and loves her daily dose of music, songs and rhymes. We tend to sing-a-long A LOT during our routine activities, its been like that since the day she was born. You will often find her singing, dancing or making her toy friends do the same. She is fascinated by water falls and water fountains of any kind and in any form. She wants to grow up to be an astronaut and take her rocket from NASA to the moon. She enjoys exploring books and is even attempting to read them now. She is a big fan of trains particularly Japanese bullet trains and she can actually recognise them by their official names now. She is obsessed with swings, slides and particularly loves climbing and jumping on the bed. She is always on her toes, rarely sits, enjoys running, playing ball and most recently playing with sand at the beach. She thoroughly makes the most out of her showers and massages & gives us pretend showers and massages too. She is passionate about cooking with her play-foods and as she feeds us her delicious creations, she always makes it a point to ask for feedback…. Nice? Yummy? Hot? Sweet? Spicy? Crunchy? Tasty? And so on… Yes she’s a foodie, much like her parents. Its amazing to see her talking to and taking care of her toy friends. She plays with them, disciplines them and then comforts them affectionately. She does something amusing, entertaining and astonishing every day and as you can see, we can’t stop talking about her. Her giggling and laughter is so contagious that we often find ourselves laughing and giggling with her, over absolutely NOTHING! Of course I get EXTREMELY tempted to share all of this with my social network but I don’t. I do excitedly share it with my close family and friends on a one-to-one basis but I refrain from posting any of it on social media platforms as such.
The other thing is that I don’t really know how my child would respond to me posting her pictures and videos online. If she grows up to be anything like me, she would be grateful for the fact that I didn’t post any “embarrassing” stuff about her that stays online forever. She might end up appreciating how I didn’t publish her life online without her permission. If not, she might be disheartened to know that she doesn’t have a trillion followers on an account that I failed to create for her. In that case, she might even question my level of enthusiasm and my PR skills altogether. And if that happens, I can always have her look at the GBs and GBs worth of material I have collected on her. Trust me when I say that I have captured each and every special moment, every skill, every milestone she has ever been through. But, I need to respect the fact that its her life.
I know I can’t protect my child from the “outside world” forever, but for now I feel that I am obligated to treat her privacy with respect. When she’s old enough to understand this world of information sharing and when she’s wise enough to make her own choices about the way she wants to conduct herself in that world, I will be more than happy to hand over all the material I have on her. Then on, its her decision and her voice as to how she wishes to exist in this world. Till then, I shall continue to document every little detail of her life and share it only with a select few who really need to be a part of her life journey at the moment – people who she knows, people who know her and thereby can use those updates to connect with her. It simply serves as an extension of their offline and face to face interactions. Like I said, I need to consciously keep in mind whose interests am I going to be serving by sharing about her life. Nothing personal to those on my social network because if you do wish to connect with my little one, I will be more than happy to facilitate that on a one-to-one basis. Not on the World Wide Web. “This isn’t about you, it’s about my little one!”
Peaceful parenting: A Myth or a constant work in progress?
— Read on mumconfessionsdenied.com/2020/08/04/peaceful-parenting-a-myth-or-a-constant-work-in-progress/
I am a person who believes in peaceful coexistence in general. To me, it’s completely alright to “agree to disagree” and still love & live in harmony. However, now as a mum of a strong-willed toddler, I often find myself struggling with the challenges of peaceful coexistence. I’m that mum who believes in peaceful parenting but somehow am not able to sustain that peace for long. I start every day on a positive note, promising myself that today I will be calm, engaging and productive with my little one but at some point through the day, something “snaps” and I find myself not living up to that promise I made to myself. Some tantrum or the other gets me all riled up… and I either loose my cool, give up or give in. And at the end of the day, I feel awful for failing at the whole peaceful parenting technique because somehow, I had had to choose between peace and parenting, at some point through the day. And an impulsive power struggle with a 2 year old, got the worse out of me.
As an early childhood professional and a toddler mum, I have read through loads of parenting related information and I have reached the conclusion that I can’t possibly follow any one parenting approach. I need a hybrid parenting style to suit my unique personality and my little one’s unique needs. Upon careful analysis of my situation, I have come to understand that my peaceful parenting approach goes for a toss each time I want to disconnect from my toddler because somehow that disconnect is instantly sensed by my toddler. By disconnect I mean, getting my space to do my own thing. By my own thing I mean, things I do for pleasure as well as the “endless” errands I run. To that disconnect, my little one responds with her tantrums and misbehaviour, simply to seek my attention and there begins the whole power struggle for my little one. And handling those attention seeking “misbehaviours” adds on to me feeling triggered, stressed and exhausted. So that’s when the “peaceful parent” in me has left the building and there begins the whole power struggle for me. WAR TIME! Our motto: Fight or fight harder… we both want to win after all. Like mother, like daughter. Head strong to the core.
So now I’m re-working on my peaceful parenting technique. I am trying to figure out how I can get my space from time to time and at the same time, have my toddler believe that I am not really disconnected from her. It’s all in the mind. I gave our communication a good thought and realised that when I am actively interacting and connecting with my little one, I am consciously trying to use positive words and phrases, even when I have to discipline her. Eg: Instead of saying “I’m mad at you for not listening to me”, I try “I’m not happy about it.” I noticed that somehow my little one responds to the second statement better and is more willing to consider ideas about how she can make me happy again. When I say “Lets talk about why I am not happy”, she’s more willing to address the problem and contribute with a solution. She not only understands how she has contributed to the “problem” but also “feels” empowered to solve that problem. Accountability and responsibility has diverted her away from her tantrums and “misbehaviours”. She’s responsive and productive! Mission accomplished!
So, I tried to use this form of positive communication to explain to her how I need my space, from time to time and to do what exactly. I realised that when executed in a right state of mind, this technique works wonders. She is more than willing to give me my space as long as she “feels” that I’m still connected to her and “knows” exactly what’s going on in that period of disconnection. So while actively engaging and interacting with her, its my job to keep that communication and relationship so transparent, authentic and connected that she is able to grasp that connection, absorb it within and sustain that into this sense of belonging, even during the “disconnect”. I noticed that when she “feels” that sense of belonging and security, it lessens her need to seek my attention because she doesn’t “feel” ignored even when I am not actively engaging with her. She feels adequate and confident to go about her own activities, “knowing” that there’s no need for her to “feel” alone. This way, we can eliminate the whole power struggle and coexist in the same space, doing our own things and getting our own way. I have come to the conclusion that my little one can only do well, when she “feels” well. Well, most of the times, she’s a toddler after all.
And guess what! When my little one behaves well, I, in turn, feel more relaxed, and am able to connect and interact with her in more genuine and positive ways. In this way, I am trying to create a space for mutual respect, unconditional sense of security, emotional growth and peaceful harmony that will enable us both, to sustain our connection, even during the disconnects. In fact, more so during the periods of disconnect. Parenting is for life and I intend to keep it as transparent and authentic as possible because that’s exactly what will build and nurture this bond of ours, for life.
No, I’m not all zen now and yes, I still loose my head, throw a tantrum myself, get overwhelmed and frustrated. And yes, my little one still gets all clingy, stubborn and annoyingly self centered from time to time; like I said she’s a toddler after all. But we are now able to cope much better when my peaceful parenting approach breaks down. Instead of feeling awful and guilty about the breakdown, I use that time and mental strength to introspect and restart the programme by addressing and fixing the glitch. I can now steadily and easily pick up from the point where I drifted off and give the whole “peaceful parenting” another shot, with an improved mindset each day. It’s all in the mind and its all about how one “feels” and makes their loved ones “feel”. This is what will matter in the years to come and I am willing to give it my best shot, every day, without giving up!
As a first time mum, I had absolutely no clue about what to do with my newborn. Yes, I was well read and well informed but somehow was lost when it came to applying that knowledge to my own child. As an early childhood educator myself, I knew what it was like to be responsible for a child and a student in my care. But I had never truly been solely responsible for another human’s life and well-being before. It felt like I was well prepared to be a mum, given my decade long experience and knowledge about children. But then it felt like I knew nothing and I had this new born innocently staring at me, completely dependant on my skills and knowledge.
So, today, I would like to enlist a couple of “small” nothings I wish I had known before my first and only child was born. Hoping this could help some new mums out there…
1. Follow your own instincts: Trust me, you have those! Everyone will always have their own inputs and opinions based on their own experiences and knowledge. And most of the times, although shared with good intentions, these inputs can be more confusing than helpful. I didn’t always know what I should be doing and honestly didn’t even have the time or energy to seek anyone’s advise. But advise somehow has its strange way of making through all that chaos and noise (be it warranted or unwarranted). I wish I knew a more diplomatic way of managing these back then– given that some were absolutely impractical and some were truly invaluable. And whatever decisions I made back then, I’m sure there was always someone who thought that I was crazy enough to do that. I didn’t care of what people thought of me as a mum, I cared about what my baby thought of me as her mum. She is and will always be the only one who has the ultimate rights to comment on my mothering decisions and skills. And regardless of whether her feedback will be positive or negative, I know for sure that it would be real and meaningful, just like motherhood.
2. Babies are born strong and resilient: Although its our human instinct to see babies as cute, fragile, cuddly, dependant, helpless and so on…more so when they are newborns. But they are “human” babies after all and they are born with some innate skills. They are capable of sensing, coping, and surviving. I wish I knew this back then because one of the constant fears I was living with, was that I might “break my baby”. However silly and irrational it might sound, but the most valuable advise given to me back then was by my paediatrician. He had a casual attitude towards every small and/or big concern I raised and always said “Nothing to worry! Babies are born to survive the errors made by their new parents.” Back then I complained that he never took my concerns seriously, but now I wish I had taken his advice more seriously.
3. Babies cry and its only natural: And that’s fine. They can be persistently loud and that’s fine too. I wish I had not instantly answered to my baby’s every little sob and cry. It was my new mum’s guilt that made me do that and somewhere I was projecting my own anxious feelings onto her. Her every cry made me think about where I was falling short. I wish I had known better that babies often cry in their sleep and if given some time and space, might simply go back to sleep. I was guilty of being a helicopter new mum, never letting my baby be. Now, when I hear my toddler cry in her sleep, I pause for a minute or so before running to go check on her. Most of the times, she just needs a tap of reassurance and she simply goes back to sleep on her own. Much like us adults, babies too need to be given that space and time to understand and deal with their own emotions. I don’t really need to overanalyse and overreact by clobbering her with my understanding of her emotions. I need her to learn to figure it out on her own and adapt. This is the very beginning of a toddler’s problem solving skills and of course, I will always there for her, like I have always been, on an “as and when basis”.
4. It’s perfectly fine to let your baby cry: As a first time mum, I was an anxious, helicopter parent since day 1. I hovered over my little one and wanted to fix each and everything right away. I didn’t even let my baby cry for more than a minute. In a quest to comfort her, I overburdened her with my own anxieties and caused her even more discomfort. Probably, if I had simply sat down next to her and given her some place and time to cry and calm down, it would have not only relieved her of her own anxieties but also given me some time to settle my own and clear my head. I could have raised her to believe that crying is healthy, at any age, instead of making her believe that crying is always a sign of weakness and misery. Better late than never! I did learn this soon enough and now we are able to better handle our emotions – specially feelings of disappointments and sorrow.
5. Babies don’t go “by-the-book”: They are called “little humans” for a reason. Just like us adults, they don’t necessarily follow all the guidelines of ideal existence. Although there are tonnes of books about babies and their care, but they are merely guidelines. And more importantly, much against our wishes, our babies aren’t well versed with those books and articles that we, as “mums-to-be” have spent days and weeks brushing up on. Yes, there’s research and statistics to back up those guidelines but then there are always limitations and outliers. Babies, much like adults, will do as they please, regardless of our well planned routines and repeatedly revised schedules. However, one of the many super powers of motherhood is that we not only learn to flourish on the job but we soon adjust to this “new-normal”, even before we know it.
6. Silence admist the noise and chaos: Another mad quest that I was constantly on was to ensure that there was no noise or sounds of any kind, when the baby is sleeping. Newborns nap a lot but in comparison, mine did not nap as much through the day. She wanted to be carried all the time and fed often. Sleep was not really her priority back then and when she did happen to sleep, I became this insane person who ensured that there was absolute silence. I wish I had known better and trained my baby to sleep through the noise and chaos of a typical household. I couldn’t possibly tiptoe through all of her nap times and sleep times for the next decade or so. So, more than training the baby to sleep alone, its more important to “not” train the baby to sleep in an overly hushed environment. The key is to strike a balance between excessive noise and pin-drop silence.
7. All is well, even if you feel otherwise: Feelings cannot be right or wrong. It’s okay to feel stressed out, anxious, inadequate, guilty, overwhelmed, and anything of that sort. Its natural and right, even if its illogical and irrational, even if you are the first one on this planet to feel so about motherhood (which you are not!). I wish I knew that I was not alone. I was not the only one who let my baby cry for a few more minutes just so I could breathe and clear my own head. I wish I knew that I was not the only one to cry hysterically myself as a new mum who is usually portrayed as being nothing but overjoyed. I wish I knew that I was not the only one who found my life and routine going haywire. I wish I knew that back then there was nothing more important than being happy and healthy, rather than being perfect. Eventually, through that chaos, emerged a routine and through that routine emerged a “new normal” – which I have now grown to accept, will never be perfect and will need constant review and revision. Bottom line is that it all works out just fine. I can now be a much better mum when I have let go of the yes and no’s, rights and wrongs, perfections and imperfections of motherhood.
8. Stay in love with yourself: Postpartum anxiety and depression is real and can go easily undiagnosed. It’s more common than we know of and is only natural. I wish I hadn’t been through it but it was beyond my control. But I’m glad I accepted and addressed it in a way that made me the hands-on yet laid-back mum that I am today. We excitedly waited for the arrival of our little bundle of joy and I knew that it was going to be all about her, once she was born. But it shouldn’t be so as the new mum is just as important as the new born. I learnt the hard way that it was so critical for me to look after myself so that I could better look after my baby. I deprived myself of being “ME”, I deprived myself of my “me-time” and that was my biggest mistake when I became a mum. I could have been a way better new mum if I had focussed on my own well being too. Happy Mum = Happy Baby, its true. Today, even if I have to squeeze it into my schedule, I focus on my own well being just as much, without feeling any guilt. I have grown to accept the most logical reality of motherhood: I cannot serve from an empty vessel, and I shouldn’t even have to try.
9. Parenting as a team: This doesn’t mean that both parents need to do the same amount of work and feel the same way towards their little one. More than a battle for being equals, I believe its about playing a balancing act. As new parents, we were equally lost but somehow took turns to freak out on the emotional roller coaster that we were on. With time, we learnt to support and help each other to form a balanced parenting team. We fill in for each other and keep each other in check on an “as and when basis”. We have our own set of duties and roles, we don’t interfere in each other’s parts and yet we stay involved and provide each other with honest feedback and productive strategies to carry on. It’s not about who does more for the child or who spends more time with her. Naturally as parents, we both love our little one to bits and do whatever it takes. But its more about what we do for each other that makes it easier for us to deliver as parents.
10. Enjoy every phase, as much as you can: In those early clueless and chaotic days of motherhood, I was often told to enjoy this new baby phase as much as I can because, before I know it, it will be gone and it will all be missed. I simply rolled my eyes to those remarks and I still do. With time, I realised that I somehow tend to always look forward to the next phase of my baby’s growing years. Probably because I focus on the advantages of the next phase and disadvantages of the current phase. However, in this race against time, I realised how it’s important to accept that every stage of childhood will continue to have its ups and downs and secretly hoping for time to fast forward, isn’t going to make that “joyride” any better. So its best to make the most out of every phase, accepting and working around its ups and downs. Trust me, there will always be more ups than downs, although the downs can be extremely frustrating and “in our face”, but the ups have this humbling yet powerful emotional value that gets instantly engraved, deep into our heart. And in some way or the other, at some point in life, even if I don’t wish to rewind the time, I find myself often looking back on those memories, with nothing but a wide smile. So now, I have learnt to consciously slow down my pace of motherhood so I can cherish every moment it brings my way – the good and the not-so-good ones!
Being a mum isn’t easy, it sure has its ups and downs,
Being a mum was never easy, as we grin on and simply get over our frowns.
Yes, we laugh, we play, we learn, we sing, we dance, we hug, we cuddle, we snuggle,
and often rather conveniently forget to highlight how we SNAP and STRUGGLE
Yes I confess, just like my little one, I snap, I yell, I shout, I scream,
and I can throw a bout of tantrum just as dramatic,
or even much worse than what she’s ever seen.
I often say “I’m busy”, “Go play alone”, “Don’t disturb me” and many other such statements which basically imply “Please leave me alone!”.
And each time I say that, I can feel her heart break and the shattering of my own.
My heart skips a beat or two, as I see my little one startle and panic,
when I throw a tantrum of frustration which can be just as erratic.
My soul is crushed when I see my little one looking for someone to run to,
Some one to rescue her from me… searching for her next best person to go to.
But then something miraculous happens…
She instinctively runs to me, in no time,
as she cries uncontrollably, her soul shattered just like mine.
Her eyes reflecting an intense mix of fear, disappointment and hope…
a hope to never have to go through that moment, that made her feel all alone.
My heart cries a thousand rivers when I snug her tight into my arms,
and she grips me with a force so strong,
that its hard to believe that she’s only a 2 year old trying to figure out what she did wrong.
Although the fear and confusion continues to exist,
the relief that follows is hard to resist.
And wrapping her arms around me, she squeezes me so very tight,
Only hoping that now everything will be alright.
In that moment I realise, how her love for me is so pure and unconditional,
and I feel so shallow when I expect a 2 year old to be all rational.
While raising her, I often struggle to have some personal space,
but I fail to realise how I am her only “safe place”.
I am eternally grateful that my little one exists,
and continues to not only test me but also manages to tactfully twist my wrist.
Yes, I feel stuck and suffocated at times but she only makes me a better person,
and when I am not, she forgives me as if nothing wrong was done.
In moments of outbursts, when our patience and strength runs low,
we simply melt into each other’s arms,
And stay there safe, as we let all of our emotions flow.
That, then and there, is a moment we cherish,
Because that is called “coming back home” after we are done being foolish.
I whisper in her ear, “I’m so very sorry for getting upset”,
But in a way it puts our relationship up for a test.
Just as I tell her how I love her to the moon and back,
She gently reaches out to touch my tearful eyes and cuts me some slack.
And then as we close our eyes and call it a day,
We both let it go and have nothing more to say.
We get all cosy as we cuddle and sleep,
The silent peace that takes over is so insightful and deep.
We wake up to start a new day, as if yesterday never happened,
And yet accept each other in spite of everything that happened.
As I raise my little one and teach her how to be,
I realise that she has so much more that I can learn to be.
Strong headed, with a Forgiving Heart, Loving Soul and Caring from the start.
Emotionally resilient yet empathetic, and has so much more to offer from her cart.
I am far from being a perfect mum, but I’m sure that I was made to be “her mum”,
I goof up time and again and yet she chooses me over everyone.
I don’t have to be the best, or put our relationship to test,
As long as I know that she loves me come what may,
That puts all of my mothering doubts to rest.
She has taught me to believe that I can do it all, even when I can’t,
She has taught me to be “her mum”, and silenced all of those idealistic “motherhood” rants.
Loosing my cool, doesn’t make me a bad mum.
Messing up and giving up doesn’t make me a bad mum,
Wanting some me-time doesn’t make me a bad mum.
My little one has taught me to block out many such doubts that come.
If anything, she makes me introspect so so deep,
These are the moments when she tells me that I am forever hers to keep.
It’s as if she has hand-picked me to be her mum,
Good or bad, we shall only know in the time to come.
Even when it often feels and looks like something is amiss,
Her and me, as a team…we fight, we make up and we kiss,
Right then and there, we always end up making a promise,
Only to remind each other that “We’ve got this!”
A Perfect Upbringing in a Not-so-perfect World…
That’s what my mum gave me. I can’t even begin to imagine how she did it all but I’m proud of how she aced it all. It’s been her and me all the way and even more so after we lost my dad to a sudden heart attack. I was about 12 years old then and didn’t quite comprehend the complexities of the situation we were in. Now when I look back, I can only salute my mum for all that she’s done, all by herself. Yes, as any single mum she had to be a parent as well as earn a living for us but what makes her stand out is how much she made me learn through it all. I don’t know how she made it all look so easy but behind that calm and patient mum, I know there was a mum who was constantly feeling guilty, doubtful, inadequate and uncertain about each and every thing she was doing. She never really sat me down to give me any life lessons, but showed it all through her actions during those challenging life circumstances. Now that I am a mum myself, I can’t even imagine the emotional roller coaster that she was on. She had seen the worse of it all and yet given me the best from it all. But this blog is not gonna be focusing on her struggles and challenges. This is about what she taught me in spite of those constant struggles coming her way. The lessons that make up for a perfect upbringing in a not-so-perfect world…
She taught me how to think rather than what to think:
She taught me that with freedom comes great responsibilities:
She taught me to stay calm and battle on:
She taught me the value of effective communication:
She taught me how words have the power to lift as well as sting:
She taught me the wisdom in being silent but at the same time she taught me how to voice myself:
She taught me that learning and education goes beyond diplomas and degrees:
She taught me how to work hard towards achieving something you set your heart on:
She taught the importance of EQ, in a world that focused on IQ:
She taught me that hope and faith takes us a long way:
She taught me about individuality and how to respect differences:
She taught me how its okay to agree to disagree and yet co-exist amicably:
She taught me the difference between self respect and ego:
She taught me to always look into that grey area in this black and white world:
She taught me how balance is the key:
She taught me that beauty of the heart and mind is the true beauty:
She taught me how to be liberal in thoughts while staying grounded to traditions:
She taught me to never let success go to head and failure go to heart:
She taught me to understand the flaws in the world rather than be judgemental:
She taught me how to value commitments:
She taught me how every action has a consequence to bare and own up to:
She taught me about being flexible and adaptive, without losing myself:
She taught me the difference between being stubborn and perseverant:
She taught me to appreciate the goods and tolerate the not-so-goods in the world:
She taught me to see her as my strength, not weakness:
These are only some of lessons that come to my mind right now, in this very moment but there are many many more which I can go on and on and on about. And whatever life lessons she left out, my baby girl is making up for that! As a toddler mum myself, I am absolutely intrigued and extremely proud of my mum for not just doing the basic but going much beyond that, without complaining whatsoever. To think about it there are days when I complain, get tired and give up on doing just the basics for my little one… Phew! #mumlifeconfessions.
If I can replicate even 10 % of what my mum did, with my own baby girl, I would consider that a big win for me as a mum. Thanks Amma, for being there and for being you! You are the epitome of inspiration for me … at all times, good and not-so-good! Eternally grateful to have you as my mum who played so many roles in my life and taught me so much, without even letting your troubles and struggles show. You have been my Guru in the real sense… Happy Guru Purnima!