Tit-a-tete

(Circa 2009. December. When my boobs were my best friend.)

If pregnancy makes you shed your inhibitions (I actually posed in a bikini top for a mommy and baby magazine in week 37), motherhood destroys the last vestiges of it. May be it has to do with the fact that the whole of womankind now has a claim over your body and how to rectify (or optimise) it and therefore, nudity (part or whole) is never an issue for starters. Neither is talking about stuff as it is.

But the one thing motherhood doesn’t really prepare you for is a strange phenomenon called lactation politics. It’s as though every woman and her cow (pun intended) has an opinion (or some advice) on your lacto-barometer. Which is why questions like “Are you producing enough?” or “Is he exclusively breast?” or “No top feed?” or “Have you started pumping?” pepper every conversation, no matter whether the said party is one or six degrees of separation.

The problem with nursing is that whatever you do, you are upto scrutiny. ‘Have access, will ask/tell’ seems to be the norm. So your place in the mum hierarchy is decided by whether the baby latched on instantly, whether you have to supplement with formula, or are rich enough in the milk of human kindness (aarrrgh!) not to, and further, how long do you intend to nurse, when will you wean, are you having enough oats/methi/juices/milk/Bournvita/badam/whatever, have you turned to the bottle yet, etc etc.

It takes gumption to get this intrusive, I thought, but turns out, I was wrong. There is no such thing as subtlety in titspeak. Asking a woman if she’s doing well on the milk-front is like asking a man if his sperm count is okay, or whether he is getting an adequate erection. Would anyone do that? So why is it legitimate to subject the woman to such intense scrutiny?

On the other hand, may be it’s an opportunity for hitherto marginalized women to re-establish themselves in the power ladder through their lacto-quotient. “I could feed the whole of Bombay”… or “I have enough reserves for six months” or “I am leaking all the time” makes them look good vis-à-vis seemingly over-achiever mothers who have otherwise been ahead of the game.

I wondered what the big deal about, one wasn’t about to give competition to Nestle, all one needed was enough for the little one. And if anyone ever asked me about a rainy day, my answer was, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Anything more than what the boy needs is really a waste.”

Therein ends my tit-ology.

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Back in the game: Of course mommies can score!

(I wrote this in Aug 2009, as a response to my first outing post-baby. The piece appeared in my column Chickwit in Hindustan Times)

“I expected you to be fatter,” he said, accosting me at a house party. The chronic smug singleton was visibly shocked at my reappearance in the circuit in what was almost my old form, pre-pregnancy. Funny thing is, he looked disappointed, as though I had proven him wrong, or beaten him at the ‘I bet she will never get back in shape’ game.

I told him I had good genes, but it was clear that I had the will to get my life (and body) back post pregnancy. However, it got me wondering. Shouldn’t he be happy for me if he is a real friend? Shouldn’t there have been delight and not disappointment in his eyes upon sighting me?

What he is actually thinking is, “Hmmm… it’s not all that bad then to get married and have babies. She can still score..”

What he is not saying is, “I love how you can have a baby and not lose yourself.”

What I am thinking is, “Did you actually expect me to be a fat cow, you loser!”

What I am not saying is, “Why is motherhood=loss of sex appeal=out of the game?”

The fact is, I just wanted to ‘get on with it’ and fill my life with other things that also deserved my attention besides the infant. That simple. No glorious motherhood theories there.

People live their lives by extrapolation. What they see around them, they apply to themselves and visualise. If it doesn’t work, they reject it. It’s a great way of not changing the course of one’s life. The thing about the chronic smug singleton is that he/she always finds excuses to feel happy about not being in your shoes.

If you don’t show up at social dos post a change of status to mother, you are a sad sack who has no life, who cannot multi-task, who probably has a low body image, who is probably so emotionally overwrought that she could actually be bad company.

If you do, you are a careless mother.

If you get back into shape, you obviously care more about yourself than a new mother usually does.

If you don’t, you are just another new mom who has lost herself in her baby.

Which brought me to…Am I also guilty of ‘Been there, done that’? Perhaps I am. Like once-upon-a-time, I would look at married couples who barely spoke to each other, let alone laugh, and think, “That’s how relationships decay,” and then feel happy about being single.

Clichés are a double-edged sword. Damned if you fit, and damned if you don’t. This is how it happens.

Scenario one: Girl gets married. Girl has no time for friends. Girl disappears.

They say: “We knew it…”

Scenario two: Girl gets married. Girl still hangs out with old friends, with or without husband.

They say: “Something must be wrong. Why is she hanging out with us? Doesn’t she have a life?”

Either way, you lose. At least they think you do.

Taking the bully by the horns

 I am in a bit of a dilemma. Roughly 10 months ago, the boy was un-insulated from the comfort of his home and his stroller and introduced to the big bad world in the form of play-dates, restaurant visits, the mall, walkabouts in the buildings, and the rest.

I reckon he is a nice boy. Perhaps I didn’t have much to do with it, but it has just turned out that way. Neither does the OPU (other parental unit) for that matter, who spent most of his childhood fighting for his place. Being the third born, he figured being a bad boy was the only way to get noticed. Until he met me, of course.

It’s different with Re. Being born in a house with two cats, he has had a sibling advantage from the word go despite not having any. He has learnt to be compassionate towards animals — not just ours, but even those outside our universe. He has learnt to apply the same logic to people on twos, both little and large. So it shatters me when another boy walks into my house, pushes him, pushes the cat, or worse, pulls its tail or whiskers. Or sometimes, when Re is walking about in the park, doing his thing, and another kid just walks up and pushes him. Or he is putting his musical instruments back in class and another child just walks through him, tripping him. I fear that he may be too nice.

The first time it happened, I was shocked. The mommy-in-charge (MIC) told me this is normal, and that her boy had also been pushed and shoved when he was Re’s age, and that he will also do unto others what has been done unto him, so the law of the universe balances it out. It has been a good eight months since we had that conversation, but I don’t see Re indulging in any form of aggression with littler ones. So, a part of me is really happy that I will not have to be the mommy apologising after her child. The other part is hurt that my child is hurting.

Another play-date repeatedly did the same, and when things didn’t get any better and when I got nothing more from the MIC except, “I wonder why he behaves like this?” or, “He is always so good, wonder what’s happened to him today?”, I did what I thought was right. I starting avoiding her and the boy.

Re is confused. His response to such situations is to act slightly annoyed, and to want the object of irritation to disappear. My dilemma is: should I let his innocence and goodness be and just hope that other kids will learn to behave better? It hurts me to see him hurt, but at the same time, I am left wondering at what point should I tell him that a tooth for a tooth, a shove for a shove is how the world works. When will it be imperative for him to ‘be a man’?

 It bothers me that mothers all around pretend that children will be children and that aggression and bad behaviour is normal, and just shrug their shoulders, pretending all is good, when it is so not. Perhaps some of them are not around all the time to see what’s happening and are dependent on day-cares and nannies. I have seen that perhaps one in ten mothers will truly take it upon her to explain to the child and demonstrate to him or her why it is wrong. Perhaps my decision to be a full-time mom has led to my microscopic observation of such things, else I wouldn’t know any better and Re would learn how to fight his battles anyway.

I discussed this with the OPU and his take on the whole thing seems rather simplistic, but fair and sensible. Any act of aggression that does not result in a larger good should be deemed bad. According to him, violence or aggression if used against someone equal or above is ok, if it results in a larger good for the victim. So for instance, shoving an older brat per se is bad. But shoving a brat who is pulling a cat’s tail is not. But shoving anyone younger or weaker than you is never ok.

I am now wondering how to explain this to a 17 month old. Perhaps I won’t have to. I think I will leave the ‘how to be a man’ bit to the OPU, as I still haven’t fully understood the male dynamics despite writing a column about men for years.

You win some, you lose some.