Parenting sharenting: Love, hate and social media

Funny things happen when you write parenting columns and blogs, especially when you manage to wing them for five years and counting. In these years, I have put a lot of my life and Re’s out there; I have been at the receiving end of a lot of love, warmth, affection, cheer and many meaningful friendships. I have also been hated, blocked, sly-tweeted, unfollowed, spite-mailed, ridiculed, even trolled by Chetan Bhagat fans post a blogpost that condemned his view of homemakers. But since the former outweighs the latter, I have let it slide.

In the recent movie Masaan, there is a scene in which a corrupt policeman, soon after threatening a poor shop-owner on his failing to pay a ransom, turns all warm and mushy when his little daughter appears. I figured all the people who showered me with hate must be going through the motions of love in the same manner. There was one woman, who in my early blogging days took the time and the effort to draft me a long email about my stay-at-home-motherhood decision then — about how I was self-indulgent, judgemental and living in la-la land. I don’t believe she even read my post entirely, so quick was she to attack me. I could have counter attacked her, and we could have gone back and forth spewing a lot of poison, but I did what I thought was best for my sanity. I deleted her email.

Another lady wrote to me post my column about how memories are our real estate and not the houses we live in or buy. She accused me of being an irresponsible parent who has brought a child into this world with no fixed address and urged others not to listen to me, and first buy a house before considering having children. Again, I ignored her, because clearly, we had different vocabularies. One thing you learn from having children is to pick your battles. At least I have.

A third pointed out to a study which mentions that “On one hand, social media offers today’s parents an outlet they find incredibly useful. On the other hand, some are concerned that oversharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children.” To which my response was: I don’t really live my life measuring up to ‘studies’, and I do what feels right. I first started blogging about motherhood when I was lonely as a new mother, and when I got lonelier, I wrote a book about it. The book came out when my son was four, by which time my sharings on my blog and column had grown organically.

But I can say this with a lot of conviction that by putting myself and my child out there, we have only grown together. And in a good way. We have been recipients of a lot of kindness and love and affection, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

There are many occasions in parenting where you just don’t know what to do; I often falter many times and hit a blank wall, and now I know I have this huge community of people to reach out to, some of who are not even parents. There is much wisdom in a collective consciousness.

Someone else warned me that the online world leaves a digital trail that never disappears. In that sense, the information that you put out about your children will always be there. How do you cope with it, she asked me?

I don’t cope; I don’t look at it as an ominous trail. I’m just grateful that I was able to document interesting bits about my life. When you write things down, they become clearer. You know why you do what you do. I am sure our ancestors had the same issues with the telephone that we have with social media. It’s just about accepting what’s part of our times and making the most of it. If you think of it as the enemy, it will always be the enemy. In any case, privacy in social media has always baffled me as a concept.

Of course there must be a catch, mustn’t there, people wonder. Well, I haven’t seen too many negatives, except being recognised now and then, and often people acting familiar with Re in the manner of “I know the things you say!”. But that is easily circumvented by establishing boundaries quickly. It’s not that I am a private person and my son is in the public eye. Very often, we are a unit. I also see that our circle of love had increased manifold in the last few years and so there are more positives than negatives.

But more than anything else, I follow the rule of my grandmother: If you have something nice to say to someone, say it immediately. If you have something nasty, wait a day. And if there’s something you would never tell a person to her/his face, don’t write it.

It has mostly worked.

 (A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 27th July, 2015)




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)