Why you can never be really ‘ready’ for a baby

Mother and babyWhen I was growing up, I thought I would get married by 27, because that’s when I would find the perfect guy, settle in my dream job and ace it. I would have a baby at 30. And would swing back into my career by 35.

30 came and went, and I neither had the dream job nor the man. The baby of course had flown off the radar. My mother treated me like a time-bomb with every oncoming birthday. Soon, relatives stopped asking me when I would settle down. Meanwhile, the rest of my friends were busy tying the knot and popping babies. I was busy playing the cool aunt and buying books that no one else would buy for them.

One day, I was 35. And I was told that I had totally missed the man and baby bus.

In the next five years, dream job, man and baby happened. I didn’t plan it this way. But I think the fact that I had stopped thinking about them had something to do with it.

Was I ready? Hell no. Being a cat lady, playing aunt all those years, buying baby clothes, books and toys, playing peekaboo was hardly a qualification. I had no idea how one tiny person can change your life so irreversibly, enough for you to never be able to find factory settings again. I still go to bed wondering if I could, just for one day, wake up single. And the strange part is, I have a good kid, and he is really fun and kind and sensitive and bright  and I had no idea of the person I could be without him around. Does that mean I was ready for a child? No.

My friend A’s kid and mine share the same name. Hers is 16, mine is 6. She and I are the same age. Hmm, maybe it’s a good thing to have kids early, I thought. You can just get on with the rest of your life soon. She has entered the second phase in her career, and is pursuing her new entrepreneurial role with renewed vigor. We met last year. And then she told me about the black hole her life had been for the better part of the last 20 years. And then I felt bad that I was backpacking the countryside and switching boyfriends when she was tending to two kids, trying to get a new degree to stay relevant and managing a home.

When someone tells you what is the right time to have a baby, they are actually talking body time. Which is also fairly subjective, because your body is not readier just because it is younger neither is it less able because it is older. I never thought I would be able to dissect it this way, but there are three things in close competition in this whole phenomenon of baby-readiness: the biological clock, the career clock and the emotional clock. For the purpose of convenience, let me divide this into three time zones when babies are usually had: the 20s, the 30s, the 40s. The inbetweeners get the worst deal. And ironically, this is the time when most women are choosing to have kids- the early thirties.

The flip side to this is: women who have their kids in their twenties actually have a shot at getting their life back in their forties. On the contrary, women who have kids late have been there, done that, hopefully ticked off some items on their bucket list by the time the child comes along.

But no matter how much you factor in and how ready you are with a plan C, D and Z, a baby is one thing that will most certainly throw you off the loop and leave you wondering: is this what I bargained for? And worse, you will use your situation to feel that sense of entitlement because others did it to you and you will never forgive them.

Motherhood is the most irreversible thing that can ever happen to you. And yet it is the one thing that is the least thought through. Most women end up having babies either when it’s too early for them to actually evaluate what’s happening, or too late for them to have the luxury of thinking it through.

I can’t really tell you when you are ready for motherhood but I can take a good guess at when you are not:

  1. You are not ready because you have a stable job you love: The job will be the most difficult thing to navigate post baby, because it will always demand a rational side of you that will often run in short supply. Plus there will be more able, less baggage workers dying to take your place when you are busy planning night feeds.
  2. You are not ready because you have a willing partner: Once the sperm contribution has been made, partners often tend to run out the door and invent meetings and difficult work projects that keep them as far away from home as possible. If this is non-negotiable, you need to have that talk before you jump into sex on ovulation days.
  3. You are not ready if you think having kids is fulfilling. Or noble. You are better off winning medals at sport or cracking sales targets. There is nothing fulfilling about never knowing if you are good enough.
  4. You are not ready if you think having a child will take your marriage to another level: On the contrary, this will be the most trying time of your marriage, but no one will tell you that because reproduction just means more companies can sell you more things for the rest of your life. And there is a lot of money to be made.
  5. You are not ready because the child has two sets of grandparents intact: After the initial photo-opps, most grandparents are difficult to sustain as a constant presence in the child’s life and involve careful engineering or emotional blackmail of the highest kind.
  6. You are not ready because all your friends have babies: There is no guarantee that their babies will be willing play-dates or holiday-worthy. Or that you still like them.
  7. You are not ready because you have had a cat. Cats do not ask you to read the same book 19 times.
  8. You are not ready because you were a really good baby sitter for your friends: There is always an exit plan for other people’s kids. None for your own.
  9. You are not ready because you like children: Children as playmates and amusement devices and children as things to care for 24X7X365 are very different things.
  10. You are not ready because you have enough money: It is never enough. Remember the black hole?
  11. You will never feel grown-up enough to know what to do, be a role model, give hope and direction to a small innocent child who will never tire of questions.
  12. You are not ready because you have a stable marriage: There is no such thing.

I find the whole process of “waiting until you’re ready” to be a ridiculous idea, because it’s based on the premise that one can actually “prepare” for parenthood. It’s a baby. It’s as unpredictable as you are.

So where is this going? My two bits: You are truly ready for a baby when you are truly ready for yourself. Because the extremes of who you are and what you can or cannot endure fully sink in post motherhood. And it is not always a happy place to visit, because you never know what you are going to find out. But if you really want to have a child, you are as ready as you will ever be.

(A version of this post previously appeared in the White Swan foundation for Mental Health website here)

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Losing me, finding me

me time

Every now and then, and sometimes for periods longer than you can control or imagine, you do lose track of the one thing that makes you “youer than you”, as Dr Seuss would say. When you have a child, you may go for a long period before you decide to do something about it. In my case, luckily, I am quick to recognise the symptoms (Re’s reminding me of my shouty voice is usually an alert) and sometimes, being a person who does things on impulse helps. There is only so much you can plot your life; everything else is chances you take (or don’t take)

This weekend, I packed Re and one of his friends into the car and took off on a road trip to escape the festival din in Mumbai. The idea of course was to shut down (at least temporarily) the several channels of communications that had once again, become a part of my life. Of course reuniting Re with the landscape where he had spent a great year and made some good friends was part of the plan. But mostly, it was about me.

I know putting the self before the child is not a parent thing to do; we have often been conditioned that parenting (at least lead parenting) is the road to continuous martyrdom. But I decided to rewrite the rules a long time ago, realising that only when I am happy can I truly and completely give to my child. Or anyone, for that matter.

Re and I have reached that place of peaceful coexistence where he and I can do (separate) things that make us happy, as long as our channels of communication are fully open. He still needs to share a lot with me, as do I, with him.

We went back to the school where I taught for a year, and just being reunited with the space that calmed us down, and distilled us a wee bit as human beings did great things for both of us. While Re was busy reclaiming the land, the lake, the mountains, the trees, the swings and his friends, I was finding the me that actually stopped to stand and stare. The me that found hidden treasures in every square inch of the landscape, sometimes in the faces of the children I taught and those I didn’t teach, but who shyly made eye contact with me. The me that found new stories unfolding in trees that had been standing for years. The me that gazed for an hour at a wild banana plant that had flowered for the first time in four years. The plant that had sprouted out of nowhere by the roadside and grown unattended, untended to, weathering sun and hail and heavy monsoon, and often appearing to have died. I had an intense conversation with a botany teacher who was excited that I was interested in the backstory of this plant, and she told me how it revealed layer after layer before it announced it’s grand finale as a full blossom. I could see myself in this plant. I felt as though Re’s arrival in my life had actually helped peel several layers of me, revealing my true self.

I signed up for a folk dance workshop with my students on campus. I have been a dancer in my early years; it’s something I was trained for and good at. But somewhere along, I had stopped being a student and that was the end of me. Now, inspired by this banana plant, I was ready to start all over again. I was weary and tired and my body didn’t feel lithe and graceful like it once did, but hey, I was on the road to learning.

I then realised that being a teacher has it’s limitations, but if you are a learner all your life, the sky is truly the limit.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 22nd Sept, 2015)

 

In search of the elusive “Me-Time”

BY BHAVANA VYAS VIPPARTHI

‘It’s weird being a wife.

A very good friend of mine had just gotten married. She was the last in our group to do so while the rest of us were swapping mommy advice and baby pictures.

“Did u struggle with this?”, she asked. Suddenly becoming a Mrs.So-and-so, from being single and carefree?

“Yes, I did,” I told her. But you get used to being a couple over time, from being solo to a part of a set of two. A unit. It sinks in slowly, its not like you can just throw a switch right?

Then I became a mother.

It was not as much as throwing a switch, as much as being instantly and permanently transformed for life.

When you become a mother it’s like jumping in head first right into the deep end. There is no looking back, no escape route, nothing to do but give it your all and try to stay afloat.

The first three months were the hardest for me and especially the first two weeks. I had a blissful pregnancy and had read up lots on being pregnant.

But when the baby came home, I didn’t know which end was up, how to get a good latch going without stripping down to my waist or how to handle the constant stream of visitors and family camping out in the house.

I hadn’t slept since my water broke (it’s been a year and I still haven’t gone past three full hours). And I was in constant pain from my engorged boobs and the C-section scar.

I was a mess. I remember just looking forward to the next dose of painkillers so I could stand up straight as I walked around with the “bundle of joy”. While everyone posed for pictures with the newborn, I quietly cried in the bathroom.

My other mommy friends jumped in to help. And I thought the best advice I got was to find some ME time. Huh? What? “ME-time?” was there still room for a me in here? The MOTHER had swallowed up my whole world. There was no break, no pause, no end in sight to the constant changing/feeding/burping/washing cycle. Plus you had to make all the decisions about this helpless little life form that you brought into the world. Breastfeeding/not co-sleeping/cloth diapering. But more than all that, it needed only you to survive and failure was not an option.

In all this where was the “ME-time” hiding out?

Soon enough I got used to a routine. It didn’t get easier but I learnt to deal with it better.

The extended family left, along with the pain and the uncertainty. What stayed was the marathon feeding sessions, the never-ending laundry and the sleepless nights.

The baby got on a schedule and we got to know each other better. Finally some “me-time” now?

“You have to make an hour for yourself a day, at the least,” they would say.

A whole hour alone? It seemed like an impossible reality. Here is where I would look for that elusive animal.

After the baby is asleep at night

After I put him down for the day, I need to feed/ play with the dog (who is sulking from being ignored all day in favor of the baby), fight the laundry monster, figure out what’s for dinner that night and drink a ton of water. Feeding before bedtime leaves me feeling like a raisin. (Yes I feed to sleep, if you can help me find a way out of this, please do drop by)

My son wakes up every two hours to feed. Every single night. Even after a big bellyful of dinner. He just turned one year old and something has changed so we do have rare nights where he sleeps for 3-4 hours at a stretch, which I spend jumping out of bed and rushing to his room to see if he is still sleeping.

Me – time? Does it count if I am dreaming of it during my catnaps at night?

Meal times

When the baby is exclusively breastfed, there is no replacing the mother. Convenient for every one else, but that’s the deal. When he starts on solids, it’s a whole new nightmare. I don’t know of any other species on the planet that has to physically strap their offspring into a high chair, wrestle on a bib, and do a whole song and dance routine, while sneakily shoving spoonfuls of food down their throat. Mrs. Deer doesn’t need to read three books every mealtime to get baby deer to eat grass. I don’t see Mrs. Lion singing old MacDonald on the Serengeti.

If you think you can leave a bowl of food with the spouse/grandparents/aunt and go find that bit of “me-time”, you will most likely come back to a wailing baby and have the bowl handed back to you with a shrug and a “ he doesn’t want to eat”.

What?! That was the only task. Transport this food into that baby!

Between Meal times

This is truly a beautiful thought. Really.

But for this to happen, I need a good co-pilot to take over. My dearest husband and I used to be a team of freelance animators. We had a little studio at home where we would work and chill and hang out out with our friends and play with the dog all day.

Now the husband has to bear the whole workload, we have moved closer to my parents who are not keeping too well, and all the friends I have now have kids of their own.

If I need to use the bathroom/have a bath/get the baby’s food/any other task, which requires two hands, I hand the baby over to his father and quickly get the job done.

Any other time

After my son had a brief stint in the hospital a few weeks ago, he became incredibly clingy. I had to always be at arms reach at all times. I do admit, it was very flattering and comforting initially, but I did miss the old times where I could leave the room for a few minutes and turn on the washing machine without being chased down by a baby crawling at top speed.

Any efforts to dodge said baby will result in high-pitched wailing and a full-blown tantrum. “me- time ? <Insert evil baby chuckle here> Mama, you are not going anywhere”

A few days ago, the husband and I had a small errand to run, and we left the baby with his grandparents for an hour and we drove off.

10 minutes down, and the car had a flat tire. As Murphy’s law would have it, the spare was also busted, and so the husband had to park on the side of the road, and go off with the spare to get it fixed.

Suddenly, after over a year, I was stuck somewhere alone, no baby, and with absolutely nothing to do. The mysterious “me- time” had crept up and sat down firmly in my lap. Hurray!

I sat quietly for a while, and then I called up a dear friend and caught up on her life. It was just perfect.

About the author:

Bhavana Vyas Vipparthi is trying to figure out mommy hood in Bangalore with her animator husband, a perfect little boy who prefers to say Zebra over mama, and the most obedient, ever hungry dog.

Marissa Mayer’s maternity leave is her problem. Choosing her as a role model is yours.

Marissa Mayer

So Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo announced (yet again) that she was taking limited time off for the birth of her twin girls in December. “Limited time” here refers to two weeks. Yes, you heard right.

Depending on where you are in the spectrum of mothers, babies, careers and work-life balance, this is either a complete blow or totally motivating. This is also incongruous at a time when companies like Flipkart in India have just started warming up to extending maternity leave

I have been hearing a lot of “how dare she?” and “what does this mean for mothers?” and “how can she set a precedent?” and other such outcries on social media and it’s amusing that history has repeated itself so soon. The reactions were not very different three years ago, and I had responded here to Mayer’s first micro maternity leave announcement.

A few months later, in a lean-in blog post, Mayer explained the circumstances surrounding her decision:

After 13 years of really hard work at Google, I had been envisioning a glorious six-month maternity leave. However, if I took the new job, a long leave couldn’t happen. The responsibilities were too big, and time was of the essence—it just wouldn’t be fair to the company, the employees, the board, or the shareholders for me to be in the role, but out for an extended period of time.’

Soon after that, she issued an internal memo to her employees on introducing a ban on working from home. Needless to say, the memo sparked a debate on whether remote working leads to greater productivity and job satisfaction or kills creativity and is just a chance to slack off.

Is this the same woman? Doesn’t this sound dichotomous?

But then, motherhood is the biggest dichotomy anyway. There are ways and ways of negotiating it and there is no right or wrong about any of them. There are those like my mother who get on with it, leaving the baby with family and formula (those were the glorious joint family days). She was a school teacher, so her hours were good. She loved her job and retired from the same school 36 years later. There are others who do daycare, nannies, grandparents, or a combination thereof, depending on what their sanity or salary can afford. There are those, who like me, decide that jobs can be got back, but baby time can’t, and plunge into full-time baby care.

If you do the former, you are often looked at sceptically as someone who chose career over motherhood, money over emotional bonding, bottle over breast. If you choose the latter, you are looked upon as someone who was using motherhood as an excuse to sit at home and ‘do nothing’, who is an emotional sucker waiting to be manipulated by her child, who wanted out of the rat race and has found her way.

Not that quitting work is an option for most women – you need a partner who is willing to put the bread on the table, sometimes jam and cheese too, for an indefinite period of time, while you play primary caregiver to the baby.

So damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Your reasons for going back could be as compelling as your reasons for staying at home. Money, of course is the biggest reason, considering that two incomes are better than one, now that there is an additional member in the family.

What about caregiving to the newborns, you may ask. It’s evident that Mayer won’t be breastfeeding her twins (most of the times, twins are not breastfed anyway as there is never enough milk). It’s silly to even ask if she has support because she can afford the entire daycare industry. She can build one right next door to Yahoo if she so chooses.

And why is no one questioning her husband’s paternity leave? Isn’t that equally important in a power couple scenario? Why is he not being judged for that?

It strikes me as odd that we are discussing Marissa Mayer only when it comes to her maternity leave, and never for the work she does (which must be a lot, as Yahoo! CEO). And that, I think is a greater crime against feminism than questioning the signs she is sending out, coming to work two weeks after popping twins.

If she joined Yahoo as CEO when she was 28 weeks pregnant, her game is clearly different from millions of other mommies. So why judge her for playing what is clearly not every woman’s game?

Of course, the US has a dismal maternity leave policy and surely the law in the country should be strengthened to guarantee paid parental leave. But the jury on when is it okay for mothers to return to work post-childbirth is still out there. I would certainly judge her if she applied the same rules to her employees, but she hasn’t done that yet, has she? In fact she has changed maternity leave policies and granted eight weeks or more of paid maternity leave.

The point is, none of you is Marissa Mayer, and so your motivations will never be same as hers; her stakes are very different from yours. She signed up to be the CEO of Yahoo, not a maternity leave role model; she is only doing what it takes to keep her equity as a CEO intact. If she has decided that much rides on her FaceTime with the investors of a much crumbling Yahoo, that is her strategy. It need not be yours.

Marissa Mayer is not asking you to give up your maternity leave for your career. If that’s what you are reading as a subtext of her decision, that is clearly your problem, not hers.

(A version of this post appeared in indusparent.com)

(image courtesy: glamour.com)

The day my heart went walking around outside my body

GUEST POST: BY RUTVIKA BHIDE CHAREGAONKAR

When I look at my two-month old baby sleeping on my lap, satisfied after nursing for half hour, I often wonder: how did this miracle land up in my life?  The baby was just a thought up to a year back and now he is here. And then I realize: Oh, I made him. These tiny little fingers, that beautiful curve of his lips, the peach coloured skin, I made all of him.

Why did I decide to have a baby? Frankly, in my mind there was never any other way. Having a child was always the plan. Like millions of women, I always wanted to get married at an “appropriate” age, and then eventually have kids. Preferably two.

Having a baby seemed the most natural, instinctive thing to do.

When I started seriously thinking about it, I realised that the baby business was a permanent fixture, an irreversible act, which will be our responsibility at least for the next 18 years. Were we in the state of mind to make a lifelong commitment we could not run away from?

I had read many articles where women/men said most people have babies to make their life complete. That was not true for me. I felt complete enough. I have a good career, a challenging job and a baking and blogging hobby which filled my weekends. The husband and I love to travel and we travel very often. So I felt completely satisfied as it is. Even without the baby, I had a big list of things I wanted to do. Accomplishing those would already take a lifetime.

 So having babies to feel complete was out.

 The second common reason was ‘wanting to live your life, fulfil your dreams through your kids’. Hell no! I have to live my life, be happy with the way I do things and only then can I provide a stable, fulfilling life to my kids. I never once thought that I will live out my dreams through my kids. My dreams are my own. I want to fulfil them. Our kids will have a life based on their aspirations, their view of the world. Some of our goals may coincide and I hope they will want to do some things their parents like to do, but that’s about it. Thank you.

 Then why do I want kids?

Till now I have been a daughter, a sister, niece, wife, daughter-in-law etc. But not yet a mother. It is one role I get to play in life only after I have kids. So much has been written and said about ‘mom’ that in a strange way, I want to live up to that image. I want my children to grow up into enriched individuals and look back at their childhood and say, “It was good”.

My mom is my shrink. There is nothing in the world that she doesn’t understand by merely looking at me and nothing she can’t solve by a few soothing words and a warm bear hug only moms are capable of giving. I want to be my child’s shrink. I can’t give up on being that amazing person for my child as my mom is for me.

 Also, I want kids so that I can look at life from a different point of view. Life makes us all cynics. Growing up takes us away from innocence, one day at a time. I want to see things from my little child’s perspective. Everything in the world that we take for granted, is new for them. I don’t remember the first time I saw a dog, or sat in a Ferris wheel or felt rain pouring down my face. But I will see my children discover all these things and I will capture those moments as if my own. I want to take a swing so high that the world looks tiny. Dance in the rain, sing silly songs, go running after a butterfly, or simply kneel in front of a dog and stick out my tongue like he does. Only a little kid will give me the liberty of doing such childish acts. And to look at the world through a wonder filled kaleidoscope.

It is a going to be a beautiful journey, but right now I write this when my days and nights have morphed into one unending time slot of 24 hours which is on a continuous loop of feeding, burping, nappy changing, soothing and back to feeding again. But yes, now I know.

About the author:

Rutvika is a Chartered Accountant, so she crunches numbers on the weekdays and spends her time writing and baking for her blog www.sizzleanddrizzle.com on the weekends. She has done a Basic Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and wishes to go back once her 8-month old baby Arjun is a little older. She lives in Mumbai.

 

An online letter to my mother who is too busy doing motherhood offline

Dear Amma

I am doing something so typical of our times, which is writing an online letter to my mother, as opposed to just saying this aloud to her in person or on the phone. But then, like so many other things that seemed alien in the beginning, for example, the concept of  “parenting” or “work life balance” or “gender neutrality”, I think this is also one of those. You have so much to say to your mother, that you may as well put it out there, on the World Wide Web , so others can find a vocabulary for their feelings too. And it also becomes clearer when you write, doesn’t it? Although I know you believe in the philosophy of show, not tell.

First off, I salute thee. You are a true rock star. You had three children (two of who were twins), a real job, that you managed to keep for 36 years (I am guessing that was enough time for us to turn into adults), you kept our big fat south-Indian family together (in-laws, out-laws, the whole deal) and you are still the glue, you had friends for life (some of whom you still speak to every day), you made every birthday memorable (you still do), you never let go of traditions and rituals and when I look back, I wonder: how did you do it?

mommygolightly with ammagolightly

mommygolightly with ammagolightly

You got Appa to be an equal partner in parenting and got him to be a hands-on daddy before hands-on-daddydom existed. You just threw him into the deep end, he figured the rest. You and Appa defined gender neutrality for us before the term was even invented. It was never a case of who did what. Things just got done, whether it was cooking or time spent with the kids or markets or planning holidays. Never once in our growing up years was the boy-girl divide as strong as I experience in a sometimes overt, sometimes covert way in Re’s world on a daily basis. The two of you define ‘leaning in’ for me.

Yes, sometimes when I was growing up, I longed for the words “I love you”, words I say to Re often enough so he doesn’t forget it. But you made up in actions what you didn’t say in words. I remember you would always tell me, “You will only understand when you become a mother,” and I always thought there was a veneer of martyrdom behind those words. There were times when I hugely underestimated how much you were capable of understanding me, times when I wanted to run away to the hills and start growing coffee and starting a bookshop, times when I wanted to remain forever single, times when I changed careers before you even understood what I did.

I love you for raising me to believe that every cloud has a silver lining, as opposed to every silver lining has a cloud hiding behind that some parents did. I love you for never getting in my way and for all the PTA meetings you never came to, for you trusted me completely and allowed me to be the person I was. I love you for never praising me enough; it was the only way I could have polished myself the way you wanted me to.

There are also times when I get into turf issues with you on Re, and there were enough of those when he was a baby (oh, how much you believed in maalish and swaddling!). There are still times, when you indulge him and I feel like the bad cop, but then I realize, just as I expect you to let go, I must let go too.

grammies are the best!

grammies are the best!

( A version of this post appeared here)

Mother’s Day and what I think it should be

Dipsy and her baby in the bath

Dipsy and her baby in the bath

A few weeks back, our teletubby, Dipsy had a baby. Now Dipsy was gifted to Re by my dear friend Roshni and has been with us for five years, and is still one of the most cared-for dolls we have. This little one was a gift from Sahajo, one of my students at the school I taught for a year, to Re, and was a tinier version of Dipsy.

Re immediately had to make sense of it and pronounced that Dipsy had a baby now. From then on, mother and baby were inseparable. Wherever Dipsy went, her baby went. They bathed together, they slept together, they ate together, they played together. They were a unit.

Hmmm, I thought, as I went into flashback mode of my first few years of being a mom. This is the real deal, isn’t it? You and your baby are a unit.  You are stuck, and sometimes, not in a nice way. Dipsy’s life will now revolve around her baby and her baby will have to be factored in, whatever she wishes to do from now on.

Re seemed to read my mind. The next day, Dipsy was promptly sent off to ‘a party’ as a part of a skit that he put together ( and there are several of those, as he is a single child) . He asked Dipsy to leave as he took her baby to the pool and assured her that he will look after her. Dipsy was free! She had a life!

It was liberating to have a child like him who believed in setting his mother free. Perhaps he knew that as long as his circle of love was still intact and the rest of the family made him feel secure, mamma could also do the things she wanted to every once in a while. Things that may not involve him.

Last week, I was Dipsy. I’ve been away in Srilanka. On a holiday. Alone. When I say “alone”, people still roll their eyes. It’s as though I have vetoed the power of making decisions for myself, and myself alone, once I became a mother. It’s as though not having my child with me on holiday is an unpardonable offense. And the strange thing is, he is with me, in the armadillos I spot, in the shells I collect, in the things I think he would have said.

Finding me in Cape Weligama, Srilanka

Finding me in Cape Weligama, Srilanka

I found some of my thoughts voiced in Radhika Vaz’s stand up act that I attended in Mumbai a few weeks ago. Titled “Older, angrier, hairier”,  she spoke, among other things, on how womanhood is defined by body image, marriage and babies and how your rites of passage are constantly chalked out by other people. She spoke to me, especially in how women are constantly reconfiguring their lives to fit into either their men’s or their children’s lives. I have done this, I thought, but at least I know it.

Ironically, I received three requests to write for Mother’s Day specials during this week. One wanted me to write a light, frothy piece on the cool and liberated mom. Another wanted me to tell mothers how to be cool. A third wanted a list of things one can do to celebrate mother’s day. I turned all of them down.

Because to me, this is what Mother’s Day should be all about. To have the power to say no. To, every once in a while, make yourself a priority. To empower yourself and your children enough to not abuse the whole umbilical cord business. To be able to, every once in a while, access the part of you that got lost somewhere in the whole motherhood business.

It’s also about having the power to say yes. To an inner voice, a calling that leads you somewhere, and it doesn’t matter where it takes you, as long as you are willing to go. And this year is my year of ‘go’.

Because if that’s not what Mother’s Day, means to me, then it has no business to exist.

 

(This post first appeared as my column in the Pune Mirror on 27th April, 2015)