Friday, March 31, 2006

Role Model Needed. Suitable Candidates May Please Apply.

This working mom thingy sure is tough. And there are very few role models that one can look up to and get some idea of how one can best manage it. So far, I have none. Of all the working moms I know, I cannot find a role model in any of them.

My own mother was a working woman and other than the standard maternity leave of 6 months or so, she worked all through our childhood. And we never felt orphaned or alone or neglected. So I guess that makes her something of a role model. But her job and pressures were so different from mine that I find it hard to take a leaf from her book. She worked (and still does) in a government job. And her hours were so much more manageable than mine can ever be. She was able to bathe us and get us ready before leaving for office. We lived in a small town and her office was pretty close by so she usually came home for lunch and hung out with us for a while. And she was home by six in the evening - well in time to play with us, feed us dinner and tuck us into bed. Now compare that to my life (or what it will be when I get back to full time work in a month from now). I would need to leave home at 8’clock – with just enough time for a good morning kiss and hug for my son. My office is at the other end of town so coming home for lunch is just not an option. And I would be lucky if I got back in time to tuck him into bed, forget about the rest of it.

Some of the working moms in my company are lucky enough to have a support structure in place. They have either their mothers or their mothers-in-law living with them - filling in for them so that they can continue to work the kind of hours that they need to. But both our parents live outside of Mumbai and have commitments that don’t allow them to come and stay with us other than for short trips. And even if they could, I am not sure that I would want them to and whether that would assuage the guilt of not spending enough time with my son. After all, he is my child – I brought him into the world and I don’t want to delegate the responsibility of his upbringing to someone else.

Yet other women I know are resigned to their children being largely raised by the household help. I was speaking to one such colleague the other day and she works really late hours (she is in office till 9.30 p.m. almost every day) and feels that that is something she needs to do to succeed at her job. But at what cost? I often think about this in terms of how I will feel about all this when I am on my deathbed. Will I be prouder of the fact that I became the CEO of some Fortune 500 company or that I raised my son to be a good, intelligent and successful human being? To me, the latter is a pretty obvious answer. So I cannot seek a role model in a woman who is willing to make her career a priority over her child.

And finally there are the women who manage to find a compromise. They either work out of home (like Mint) or manage to find a job that is not so demanding on their time. And these women are closest to my ideal role model because they have managed to keep working without compromising on their roles as mothers. But I have yet to find a way to make this happen in my occupation (marketing) or identify another occupation that I have the skills for that would allow me to do this.

So the search continues… both for a suitable job and for a suitable role model.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Over the Hill

I turned 30 yesterday. I am old. I am over the hill. I am middle-aged.

The way I spent my birthday totally symbolises this transition from the twenties to the thirties.

Saturday Night – Still 29…

Went to Zenzi with some girlfriends.

Saw John Abraham at the restaurant and made two (unnecessary) trips to the loo to get a closer look (he's cute...)

Had an entire bottle of wine

Came home to find husband waiting with a surprise midnight birthday cake

Ate Maggi for dinner at 2 in the morning

Slept at 3 a.m.

Sunday and my birthday – 30 plus

Went to the Marriot for a super-expensive and super-relaxing massage (birthday gift from husband)

Had to fill a form prior to massage – and mention my new age

Sunday is the maid’s afternoon off so came home and fed and generally tended to my son

Went to Jogger’s Park with husband and son and interacted with other kids and their parents

Came home and put Ayaan to bed

Cooked dinner with husband (our new definition of a romantic dinner)

Watched Desperate Housewives

Went to sleep at 11 p.m.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Moment of Reckoning

Yesterday was the day of the doctor’s visit. As I have mentioned before, this is always something that I go for with great apprehension. Since he was a month old, Ayaan’s weight gain chart has always given me cause for worry and each visit felt like another exam that I had failed if his weight was less than what it was supposed to be. And over the last two visits, even his height gain was less than satisfactory. To add to that, he has been suffering from an endless cold for over two months now which we have not been able to banish. And last but not least, there are the dreaded vaccinations, which make Ayaan, cry so much!

But this time was different. It could not have been more perfect…
  • There are no vaccinations scheduled for the 10-month visit.
  • The cold has miraculously vanished in the last one week.
  • He has gained more than 800 grams. Usually this is more in the 300g vicinity.
  • He is 2 cm taller and his head circumference is up by 0.5 cm too.
  • The funny marks on his toes are because those are his pressure points that keep scraping the ground when he crawls and will go away once he done with crawling.
  • The doctor says we need not worry if he’s having less milk. It is not a problem.

Why can’t all visits to the doctor be like this?!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sisterhood of Moms

From the moment it becomes obvious that you are pregnant, you get inducted into the sisterhood of moms. The whole experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood brings women together like nothing else. Suddenly, all other barriers like class, age and personality types seem to melt away making way for conversations with people who you would never have spoken to otherwise or who may have never spoken to you.

For example, there was my boss’s wife – who had never really been too friendly. But after I got pregnant with Ayaan, she was really nice to me when we went to their house for dinner and gave me quite a lot of good advice about enjoying myself while I could before the baby came and also shared her experience of labour.

My department head’s secretary was another case in point. To start with, she hardly knew me as she had just joined our department 3 months before I went on maternity leave. To add to that, secretaries don’t interact much with the managers outside of work in our company – we normally even sit at separate tables for lunch. But just towards the end of my third trimester, she really warmed up to me. She told me all about her experiences in having and raising her son and gave me tons of advice. And on my last day in office, she even presented me with a book on parenting that she felt had really helped and guided her.

One of my male colleagues has been a good friend of mine for almost 5 years now. And until recently, his wife was just his wife as far as I was concerned. But now that we both have become mothers, she is one of my close friends too. Nowadays, we meet and talk independent of him more often than not.

It’s almost as if there is some sort of invisible connection binding all of us. You smile at random strangers on the road, women whom you would have earlier looked through as if they were made of glass, just because they too are carrying or accompanying a child. In the park too, I strike up conversations with all sorts of women these days. This includes a wide variety of mothers. Some of them are as different from me as chalk is from cheese. I am a working mom but most of the other women I meet stay at home with their kids. I would classify myself as fairly affluent (double income and all that) but I sometimes end up exchanging notes with women who are quite different from me, both economically and socially speaking.

I wonder why this happens…

Actually, I have a hypothesis. I think it is because motherhood is a completely life-altering experience and one of the most intense ones that a woman can go through. And who can understand it better than someone who has been through it too. And that is what binds us all – rich and poor, snob and social climber, working and stay-at-home, Hindu and Muslim…

Monday, March 20, 2006

Growing Skills

Until recently, the only way that Ayaan could communicate his needs and wants to us was by crying. And then we would try to figure out what he wanted by doing whatever it took (food, water, carrying, sleep) to get him to stop his wailing.

Now, Ayaan is starting to figure out other ways to tell us what he wants. Some of the ways he does this:

  • He can now tell us when he wants to be picked up. He sits up in a kneeling position and raises his arms upwards. He also does this if he wants you to hold his hands so that he can walk.
  • He has started pointing with his index finger. So now he just gestures in the direction of something he wants. This one is really cute. If someone else is carrying him and he sees me, he points towards me till I take him. Yesterday, he also pointed to the balloons being sold outside Jogger’s Park. I wonder if he’s old enough to have a balloon…

Other new things he has learnt recently:

  • We have started putting small pieces of food (bread, fruit, cheese) on his tray during his meals and he picks them up and tries to put them in his mouth. He is only partly successful and most of the stuff ends up on the floor and on his clothes but his aim is getting better every day. But he chews the ones that make it to his mouth nicely with his gums (no teeth yet) before swallowing.
  • He has started letting go when he is standing up and manages to support himself for a couple of seconds before plopping down on his behind.
  • He has now figured out that some things are to be put inside others. In the mornings, we play a little game. I hand him my car keys and stand him near my handbag and say “Ayaan, put the keys in Mama’s bag” and he does! And when I am putting clothes into the dryer and hand him a sock, he puts it in too.
  • He is learning to play his part in the hide and seek game. He goes and ferrets himself away into a corner and waits for you to come around and say peek-a-boo. And then he giggles.
  • He is beginning to remember stuff now. So he starts squirming at the second line of ‘This Little Piggy’, much before I actually tickle him.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Angry Young Mom

I am really, really ticked off. My company has always portrayed itself to be a woman-friendly organisation that supported women through pregnancy and childbirth. And this was initially borne out by the fact that I was able to take six months off from work when Ayaan was born and spent the next six months working on a part-time project. That is what makes what happened last week an even ruder shock.

I went across to meet the HR manager (a woman with two kids) regarding my next assignment, which will be a full time role. Admittedly, my case is somewhat complex as vacancies are hard to come by in these days of organisational pruning, which is further complicated by the fact that I am due for a promotion in the near future. However, the whole interview disappointed me deeply in terms of the message that was being sent to me. Here is one of the statements that really got my goat:

“I don’t think you should be upfront about the fact that you don’t want to work long hours. That is something that you have to struggle with. As it is, the bosses (mostly men) view taking on a woman who has just had a baby as a compromise as they would be less willing to work long hours and travel”

The whole experience pissed me off on many levels.

  • I was made to feel like I need to apologise for having decided to start a family. Why on earth would I want to do that? Why the hell should I come in from a defensive position just because I have a baby?
  • I am also totally shocked by the double speak. There is such a big gap between what they say (supporting women blah blah blah) and what actually gets translated into reality.
  • I have worked in this company for seven years (a lot if you consider that fact that only 12 other batchmates from my class of 180 are still with the first job they joined from campus and many are in fact in their third). I have worked crazy hours, weekends, travelled like a maniac and delivered on my targets. I deserve to be treated better than this.

I have decided I am not going to stand for this. I will not be apologetic or ashamed of being a mom. I will not compromise on the quality and quantity of time spent with my son. And if this organisation does not understand that my son is now a bigger priority and that I cannot be sitting in office till 9 p.m. everyday – then it’s not the company that I thought it was and probably not the company that I want to work for.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ayaan @ Jogger’s Park

This week, we were brave enough to venture into the Mumbai traffic and make our way across to Jogger’s Park both on Saturday as well as on Sunday.

On Saturday, Ayaan’s feet were introduced to grass for the first time. At first, he was very wary and suspicious of this new sensation under his feet and refused to put more than the tips of his toes down. But then he warmed up to it and really started liking it. Towards the end, he even sat down and played with the grass with his hands. Then he tried to eat some too!

On the way back, Sam and Anisha spotted us on the road and took us off to a coffee shop. This is actually the first time that we have taken Ayaan out to a restaurant in Mumbai. He really enjoyed it. I just set him down on the wooden floor and gave him a teaspoon and he spent many happy minutes banging the spoon on the floor, leaving me free to finish my chilli bun. He even made friends with the old lady at the next table by flashing her a huge, toothless smile.

On Sunday, there was a big surprise for us when we woke up - Mama had come to town. It was a good surprise for me but Ayaan took some time to warm up to this new presence in the house (rather fickle of him, since she has been around for almost a third of his life). So in the evening, all of us shipped off to Jogger’s Park again. Ayaan met Mr. Grass again and rubbed his hands on the ground till they were quite filthy. Then just out of the blue, a young boy came and started playing with Ayaan. He would come running up to Ayaan and then back off and Ayaan actually chased him. They played at this game for almost five whole minutes with Ayaan crawling round and round on the grass. I really wish I had takenmy camera. It was utterly cute and a great advertisement for having more than one kid!

After that, I decided I will brave the traffic more often and try to make it to the park atleast 2-3 times a week. I think the fresh air, green grass and interaction with other children is good for Ayaan.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Great Mumbai Squeeze

The other day, the newspapers were full of the Supreme Court judgment on the mill land in Mumbai. The Court has cleared the sale and development of 600 acres of mill land. While this is good news for space-starved Mumbai and will have a deflationary impact on real estate prices, there is also some cause for worry.

As it is, Mumbai has very little in the name of open space or parks. Here was a golden opportunity to use some of this land getting released to create something of this nature but that is now lost. As the Hindustan Times puts it – “The social repercussions of entire generations being brought up without recreation grounds are horrible to contemplate. Children develop invaluable social skills while playing team games, which thousands will now be denied, virtually for life.”

A scary thought and one that makes you wonder whether Mumbai is really the best place to bring up children. The problems are manifold:
  1. Lack of recreation space is a huge problem. Parents are pressured to send their toddlers to playschool as early as 18 months because there is no other place for them to play and interact with other kids. Even when they do go to school, entire schools are built on land that would have been the sports area in schools in other cities.
  2. Mumbai is one of the most polluted cities in the country and the world. That can’t be good for developing respiratory systems.
  3. The overflowing traffic on the streets of Mumbai too places a lot of limitations. Even taking Ayaan to Jogger’s Park (about 2 kms away) can be an exercise in futility. You spend almost an hour getting there, parking and coming back. It hardly seems worth the effort!
  4. The city also puts a lot of pressure on everyone’s time. Working parents spend hours commuting from home to office and back – precious time that could have been spent with their children instead.

    I fell in love with Mumbai when I moved here 6 years ago and thought I’d never want to leave. Mumbai has much to recommend itself to the single, young woman looking for a good time without having to look over her shoulder all the time. But as you grow older and have a family to think about, you start to really notice the paucity of valuable commodities such as space, time and even clean air and the love affair tends to sour a bit…

Don't Speak Too Soon

Just when we have been feeling all happy about the fact that Ayaan is sleeping through the night, he decided to throw a spanner in the works and stay awake all night.

Last night was a nightmare. After going to bed at 9, he woke up at 11 and refused to sleep again. For the first couple of hours, there was desperate patting, rocking and walking but all to no avail. Finally, we gave up and let him play for almost an hour. Then I re-enacted the bedtime ritual of book-reading and lullaby and put him down in his cot. He cried for 2-3 minutes but finally at 3.30 a.m., he drifted off into dreamland. He was still up at his normal waking hour of 6.45 a.m. So It goes without saying that there are two very exhausted parents who have dragged themselves to work today.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Daddy Says So

Jai (aka Daddy) makes his first appearance on the blog and here's what he has to say:

Happiness is…

Good morning smiles

When someone else changes the diaper

Sleeping through the night

Watching your child learn to put the ball in the right slot

Tickling little baby feet

Sniffing the top of your baby’s head

Realizing just how much you love your child

Baby hugs

Baby laughs

Playing with your face and glasses

Pictures of him growing up

Wet baby kisses

Spending alone time with your child

Visiting grandmothers

Seeing your wife in your baby’s face

Being sure that, in spite of the fact that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, your child’s turning out okay

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ayaan is a Social Animal

Ever since he was born, Ayaan has been extremely wary and cranky around strangers. But this weekend, we got to see a new and wonderful side to him.

Ro had us over for lunch on Sunday and since that is also the maid’s day off, Ayaan had to be invited too. I was a bit worried about him being a handful and ruining the lunch not just for me but for all the other guests too. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Ayaan behaved like an angel.

He played on the floor almost all of the time and didn’t cling to me or demand to be picked up. The cricket match on the television especially fascinated him. It was placed at a low level so he went right up to the screen and ‘interacted’ with the players. He even tried to kiss the TV! Of course, he was interested in a lot of other objects lying on low-lying tables so they had to be removed quickly before he could inflict any damage on them and on himself.

He was also in an extremely social and friendly mood and openly interacted with all the adults in the room and even allowed them to carry him – truly a first as far as he is concerned.

He has also recently gained a huge interest in the food we eat and demands to be given a taste of it. Since South Indian food was on the menu, he got a taste of vadas and idlis. He especially loved the idlis and finished almost a quarter of an idli!

My little baby is becoming a little boy!!!