Monday, July 10, 2006

Reporting from the Sand Pit

Given Ayaan’s newfound obsession with mud, much of our time at the park these days is spent in the sand pit. I have to admit – I love the sand pit. Ayaan really enjoys himself there and doesn’t ask to be carried around much – though one does have to be really vigilant to thwart his multiple attempts to actually eat the sand. But what’s even more interesting is that it gives me the opportunity to watch all kinds of moms in action – it’s fascinating to say the least.

I can almost unerringly make out the Working moms from the Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs). The SAHMs are really chilled out and pay almost no attention to their kids. I think this is because they have probably spent an exhausting day with them at home already and for them the trip to the park is more like a break where the kids do their own thing. There is one such regular SAHM who actually sits by the side and plays a game on her mobile while her daughter quietly plays away in the sand by herself. The Working moms (me included), on the other hand, count this as part of their ‘quality-time’ with the kid. So you’ll usually see them down in the sand with the kids, teaching them stuff, talking to them and generally hanging around with them.

Another differentiator between moms is how strict they are with their kids. Some are almost Hitleresque in their disciple and it only needs a really mean look from them to get their kids to behave in the desired manner. At the other end of the spectrum, there are the really Laissez-faire moms who believe in just letting their kids be. These are the kids that you wish you were the mother of so that you could teach them how to behave in a public place – they take toys from other kids without asking, refuse to share their own toys, throw mud around and have a complete meltdown if they are denied anything. The Laissez-faire moms either stand around looking completely helpless or give in to every demand their little monsters make just to keep the peace. Most moms fall somewhere in the middle and seem to draw a line between what falls under letting kids learn and explore and what falls under unpardonable behaviour.

Then there are the Paranoid moms. Contrary to popular beliefs (Mama, I hope you are reading this), I am not one of these. These moms will have their kids wearing thick cotton socks in the middle of the hot, sultry summer. They usually stay away from the sand pit and if they come, they carefully scrutinise the area to find just the perfect spot where there are no ants and not too many rowdy children. They dust their kids down every few minutes even though they are going to get coated in sand again almost immediately. In summary, they are exhausting to watch. The Chilled-out moms on the other hand don’t flinch when their kids swallow a fistful of mud, laugh it off when they take a tumble and see ants and rowdy kids as part of the park package.

Finally, moms can be divided up based on how friendly they are to the other moms in their immediate vicinity. There are the Chatterboxes who are usually SAHMs who spend a majority of the day with just their kids for company and as a result are completely desperate for some adult conversation. They only have to catch sight of a somewhat friendly face and off they go. They talk your ears off and will keep on talking till you tell them it’s time for you to go. At the other extreme are the Snobs. They don’t mix with the hoi polloi in the park and tend to keep themselves and their kids apart. Most moms however, follow their kids’ leads and get around to talking to the moms whose kids their kids are playing with. Amongst the social moms who will talk to other moms, their modus operandi further divides them into subsets:

The Complainers: These women just use up all their breath in cribbing endlessly. If they are working, they crib about the fact that they don’t have enough time for their children. If they are SAHMs, they crib about boredom and exhaustion. They crib about their children’s eating and sleeping patterns. They crib about how tough it is to get them into a good school. And on and on and on…

The Comparers: The primary agenda of these women is to establish that their kid is superior to yours. They try to be subtle whilst making this point, but they are pretty easy to see through. They will start with an innocuous question about your kid like “Oh when did your son start walking?” And when you reply, they will top your answer. Sometimes, they will sugarcoat this with an “Every child is different” but you can see the smugness dripping from their smiles!

The Conversers: These are the truly nice women who talk to you because they really are interested in meeting like-minded women, swapping parenting tips and befriending the moms of their kids' friends.

Anyway, that was my attempt at a categorisation of the kind of moms I see. Which one am I you ask? Ok so maybe you didn’t ask but I’ll tell you anyway – I am a Working Semi-Hitleresque Somewhat-Paranoid Conversing Mom. Phew!


  1. Next time I'm at the park, I'm going to look up from my knitting occasionally to see if you're watching me--I swear, you've seen me there!

    I would be the SAHM, also Semi-Hitleresque, fairly un-paranoid Conversing Mom. (Since the playground we frequent most often is directly over our back fence, and when I go up there it IS a break for me, I am sometimes happy/sometimes annoyed when there is actually another parent there that requires me to put down my knitting and make friendly conversation. Mostly happy. But sometimes, I just want to SIT!)

    Great post!

  2. [Talena] Guess I can add Stalker/ Spy Mom to my list of sobriquets :)

  3. Wow, thanks for helping me learn my new word for the day. I had to go look up "sobriquets." Definitely glad I did--cool word!

  4. Isn't it? Actually, I just read it in a book and only had a vague idea what it was too so I had to look it up as well before using it.

  5. Your writing style is very elegant and you convey a wide variety of thoughts with minimum of fuss.

    Now I have a fair idea of what the moms do at the sand-pit/play area.

    I was just wondering about a scenario where you have us dads at the sand pit . You would have only WD's and almost no SAHD's at all.
    You would find only the 'Conversing' type and the conversation would involve stock market, cricket/football, politics, job scene (crib / change of job), cars, planning of holiday.
    Maybe a cusory glance at the kids.
    As long as there is no sign of injury, blood or terrible crying the conversation will continue peacefully.
    Eating sand will most probably not be attended to as it will be considered good in order to ensure a strong immune system !.

    It would be interesting to hear your take on the lunch / dinner and feeding the kids. I believe that this is also a 'quality time' that WM's get which I think has a profound impact on the kids and is also one of the important conversation / crib topics at the sand pit

    About WMs/WDs and SAHMs/SAHDs
    In my experience most mom's oscillated between WM and SAHM status before ultimatetely settling down for SAHM (seemingly no option).
    A WM appears to be an unstable state of existence invariably tending to become SAHM.
    SAHD is not a viable state.
    SAHD results in an unstable SAHM and may eventually lead to WM or back to WD
    An ex-WM-SAHM is not the same as
    an original SAHM.

  6. Rohini,
    Very sorry to hear about the terrorist attacks... hope you and all your loved ones are OK.

  7. Hi Rohini .. I've been a silent reader of your blog for a while now, but decided to de-lurk considering the circumstances. Read about the bomb blasts this morning and the first person I thought of was you. I really hope you and your family are alright.

    Don't know what what else to say .. this is horrible. Could barely stand to watch the footage on CNN.

  8. Rohini,

    I did not know about the blasts when I posted a comment yesterday.
    It is really terrible. I do hope and pray that you and all your family loved ones and friends are OK.
    All my thoughts are with the people of Mumbai today.
    TV channels are presenting a picture of a city trying hard to return to normal.
    Take Care

  9. Wow. I am quite impressed with your self assessment. U r doing just fine. U r now beginning to enjoy Ayaan with his daily new antics.

  10. Thanks for the concern guys. It really feels good to know that there are people who know me just through this blog who care enough to worry. Thanks :)

    [Outsider] Actually I have a pretty good idea what WDs do having watched Jai in action. You are right - they are mostly the conversing type and the lack of
    other men does not deter them - they simply talk to someone on the mobile. I think men are not conditioned to feel the guilt that working moms do so they are quite chilled out about letting them play on their own on coming to their rescue if they get hurt. I am sure Ayaan eats a lot more mud when he's in the park with Jai!

    I agree with what you say about mealtimes. For this very reason I haven't kept a 24-hour maid so that I am forced to be home in time to feed Ayaan dinner and put him to bed. He's a lot fussier with me but I think it's still important for me to feed him atleast one meal everyday.

    I don't agree that the WM is an unstable existence though. I have seem many women balance career and family very well, my mom being one. You just have to be clear that family comes first and plan your life and priorities accordingly. I think it is a very individual choice and there is no right answer.

  11. I like ur candid non-fuss style of writing.
    and its obvious u wud categorise urself as a "converser" mom, the other 2 r too negative!

  12. [Sudha] Touche - I agree, a mom would hardly openly admit that she was a comparer or a complainer :). Actually, I am not a complainer mostly because it interferes with my desire to always present a 'in-control' picture of myself to the world at large. And I know a few comparing moms and they really piss me off so I try not to (though I have to admit I do it in my head :)

  13. I wanted to try and post a routine comment to state that nothing will shake the spirit and life goes on as always

    About WM's: what you say about women balancing career and family is absolutely right.

    My observation was based on all the couples (with kid/kids) I know of in this generation.
    Ultimately every WM went to a SAHM state.

    This was very different in the earlier generation (like your mom) I can think also of my mom, my aunts who handled both career and family and still continue to work !! (part time, own enterprise etc..)

    A lot has changed today.
    I think the number of challenges a WM faces is too much.(Again my observation is restricted to the Software/IT sector)
    The job scene is pretty turbulent with long working hours, stiff deadlines, coping with changes in technology,
    Prospect of relocation, WM/WD losing job suddenly... just to name a few.

    My gut feel is that maintaining a balance between career and life is becoming too much for the WM to handle.
    You are right that ultimately it is an individual choice but generally it is only the WM who has to make a choice of a career vs family
    Also a WM is constantly battling with the 'am I doing the right thing' guilt factor (OK so that's becuase its against mother nature).

    As a WD I feel equally guilty (sometimes) that WM is having to put up with all this while I have it really easy since no one questions my right to have to leave everything behind and go away to work. Travelling is an added bonus :-)
    So I think at this stage I am obsessed with trying to find out a situation which would create a level playing field where both WM and WD can make choices and not feel any 'guilt'.
    Remember 'Impossible is nothing'

    Hey look you guys are doing just great and just keep on going the same way.

    Someday I hope I can put together a 'Dr Spock' kind of treatise for WMs and WDs and hope that lot of people will buy it.

  14. really interesting post fatty.
    i will observe all this more carefully next time i visit the park with the two of you.

  15. p.s. i just read all the comments and i agree with the_outsider that eating sand builds a strong digestion. i remember building mudcastles and eating a bit even when i was a few years old.

  16. [Zen] Believe me, Ayaan gets his little bit of sand. I am just trying to avoid big handfuls from getting in...