Monday, September 04, 2006

Eating my words

Life has been so hectic and before I know it, it’s been two weeks and no post.

It’s a bit strange writing after so long. So far, I’ve always managed to find the time and energy to write about what’s going through my mind in a day or two after it first occurred to me. In the last two weeks, there were many would-be posts floating around in my head, waiting patiently for me to start typing them out. But now that I have actually got down to it, they all seem to have either disappeared or become too dated…

While I haven’t had the time to write, I did manage to keep up with my favourite blogs whenever I got a free moment. And I came across two posts that reminded me of how much my perspective has changed since I became a mother. The thing is that I could imagine having written either of these posts in my pre-Ayaan days and did, in fact, say and think these things pretty often.

The first post that I came across was this one which talks about this animal called an Uber Mom. It got me thinking about whether I am an Uber Mom myself. I sure do meet some of the criteria that have been set down in the post:

  • I regularly inundate my friends’ mailboxes with photographs of Ayaan. To my credit, I have been shaving down this list of lucky people every time, removing people who don’t respond to my mails or those who show little or no interest in the most important person in my life. But what if, like Vijayeta, the ones who respond only do so to be polite and to avoid seeming like misanthropes?
  • While my paranoia does not extend to clothing Ayaan in dye-free white clothes, I do obsessively check for the 100% cotton tags on any clothes that I buy for him. And though I don’t police my maids' deodorant usage, I do check the length of their nails and prefer them not to wear glass bangles around Ayaan.
  • And the Uber Mom’s passionate cries of “Blow a kissie” in the post sound suspiciously like my urgings of “Ayaan, say ta-ta to Auntie”.
  • Lastly, I often try to convince my married but child-free friends to traipse down the motherhood path - though my motivations are not quite noble as trying to convert other people to the wonderful joy that is motherhood. I just need some company and some friends who can actually get how bloody hard this whole thing is.

So have I indeed become an Uber Mom and crossed the line between crazy about my kid to just plain crazy?

The other post that got me thinking was this one. There is actually just one paragraph in this post that got quite a war going in the comments section between parents and non-parents:

Now I don’t know about you but for me the biggest terrorists abroad flights are those babies (from my experience, mostly South Asian) who keep on bawling like air raid-sirens and their ‘couldn’t-care-less’ parents, who seem to think that all of us are supposed to find their little cherub’s screaming as cute and hence obligated to grin and say choo-sweet. These are closely followed by those people who keep on kicking the back of the seat in front of them—just when you are about to doze off.

This post made me think about some the misconceptions that I had before I too had to undergo the horror that is air-travel with an infant:

  1. Bawling babies and their parents have gotten on to the plane for one reason and one reason only and that is to make my life as difficult as possible. I now realize that while this might be a plausible reason in some cases, it is much more likely that they are there because they need to get from Place A to Place B and air travel is the shortest and least traumatic way to get the journey over with. This is of course from the parents’ point of view – fellow passengers in the immediate vicinity of this family are likely to disagree vehemently.
  2. The baby is bawling with the express purpose of pissing me off. With a few plane trips under my belt, I know that this is not the case. Babies usually cry either because they are in pain or just seriously pissed off. Air travel is often hard on their ears and the ear pressure can be pretty much unbearable for them. My doctor suggests feeding Ayaan little bits of sugar every few minutes into takeoff and landing to ensure that he swallows and relieves the pressure. This usually works for us. What we find harder to deal with is the pissed-off part. The basic design of toddlers makes them prone to crawl, walk and run around during every waking moment. Any situation that restricts their activity (being held hostage in a cramped airline seat being one of them) is likely to really get their goat and then they won’t let a small thing like 100 other innocent bystanders get in the way of creating a ruckus, notwithstanding desperate efforts of parents to avoid said ruckus.
  3. These children are badly behaved because there parents haven’t made the requisite efforts to get them to shut up. Motherhood in general and air travel in particular has made me realize one thing for sure. There is no neat, mathematical equation that explains the input-output relationship as far as a child is concerned. On one occasion, the child might behave like a complete angel with little or no effort required from the parents to distract, amuse or comfort him. And yet on other, very similar occasions, the little monster (and we are still talking about the complete angel from the last sentence) might decide to scream his lungs out inspite of every human and superhuman effort of his parents to calm him down.
  4. Parents couldn't care less and are actually immune to the sound of their baby crying. I think it would take a really hard-hearted parent to be immune to the sights and sounds of their upset baby, who is after all the most precious thing in their life. I think the reasons why some parents might give the impression that they couldn’t care less could be:
    1. Nothing they are doing seems to be working. And one of the golden rules of dealing with a tantrum is to ignore it. After all, a tantrum is a performance and once you take away the audience, the kid’s incentive to keep performing is somewhat diminished.
    2. They are in the process of having an out-of-body experience so that they can cope with the situation without having a nervous breakdown.

So now not only have I been forced to eat my pre-motherhood words, I also find myself sympathising with and defending other mothers in their moments of paranoia or when their little tyke is bringing down the house in a public place. I want to go upto all the people who are judging this poor mother for her lack of control on the situation and tell them that she really is trying her best and it is harder than it looks.


  1. ok speaking as a Pre- mom ..i can understand the irritation of people having to put up with a non stop screeching from infants in the plane...but also as someone who will be a mom someday i know it is VERY hard to keep a child under control when it doesnt understand all that much at that age....

    i think the first two points were just sarcasm and that the person who said it knew it wasnt the case...

    but ive also seen mothers who sit and let their kids scream adn screech and only very gently urge the child to "shhh"...i dont think that works...and ive noticed the child ignoring the mom completely....but short of slapping th e kid ( which will make it bawl even more)...there is nothing one can do to make a kid shut up if it doesnt want to...

    sigh...the evils of the freedom of choice i tell you!!


  2. There is such a big divide between the single / married / married with kids world, isn't there, sigh!

    It is too much to handle though when everytime you call the Uber mom you have to hear about 'how baby laughed today' and when you visit them all conversations are suspended to hear about baby's latest exploits and baby reciting Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. While the mommy group finds it funny and compares their own kinds, all others find it mind numbing.

    All the best to balancing the worlds till you convince everyone to get onto the mommy side.

  3. i must confess that pre-baby i used to scowl at ppl who had bawling babies on flights and used to shake my head at parents who brought screeching kids into movie theatres. now that i'm on the other side of the fence...perspectives have changed and how! :)

    an amusing incident is the trip we took to goa with tara. the kingfisher flight to goa was coincidentally full of young couples with kids. it was like a mini-creche or something. the babies bawled and screeched and we all looked sympathetically at each other. (even offered tips to a couple with a newbie baby)

  4. Hey just checked out great bong's post and yes, there's a mini war going on in the comments section...


  5. So have I indeed become an Uber Mom and crossed the line between crazy about my kid to just plain crazy?

    If you are wondering that, u r not an Uber Mom. Uber Moms never know they are Uber Moms and will not accept any kind of criticism!

  6. Just wanted to add to the iritating crying babies on flight issue. I have some friends who give their children a spoon of cough syrup before a flight, which I hear is also what my mother. That keeps the baby sleeping for most of the flight and not hyper for being restricted or in pain. Its is also not cruel or bad and this is paediatrician prescribed.

  7. [Grafx] At the end of the day, the kid is the responsibility of the parents and at the end of the day, you should atleast be able to say that you honestly tried to avoid him making a public nuisance of himself. There's no excuse for moms who make no effort to make their kids behave.

    [Dropping by] Actually I think mothers too have a responsibility to their friends to avoid boring them with an excess of baby talk. I am always conscious of how much airtime Ayaan gets in my conversations with friends who don't have children. But what I miss is having friends with whom I don't have to consciously monitor what I'm saying to avoid boring them to death.

    [Aqua] My comparative side really comes out when I am flying with Ayaan and there are other kids on the plan. I constantly monitor what the other kids are up to and my aim is to ensure that Ayaan is not the noisiest kid on the plane and then I feel I have done a good job!

    [Sudha] I sure hope so!

  8. I am really sorry to disagree, but as someone who lives in 2 continents and travels constantly, I can tell you, nothing ruins my day as a crying baby in the plane. I realize they have the right to fly but the cough syrup thing dropping by suggested is a perfect and appropriate method to manage the baby during a flight, particularly if it is over 4 hours. While it might not be a routine for the mothers, one has to remember that there are others like me, for whom, air travel is the only time we get to relax and adjust our body clocks every week... as such I am so jet lagged all the time.

  9. [Brazen head] On a long haul flight, I would probably go with the cough syrup but I surely won't drug my kid for a one-hour flight. But even for these flights, I travel with a huge bag full of food, toys and books to amuse my kid, feed him lots of sugar to relieve the air pressure, try and wrangle and empty seat next to me so that he can have a little more space and walk him when the seatbelt sign is off. And at those times when nothing works, I am much more disturbed by my child's distress than any irritated stranger could possibly be and I just wish that people would understand that I am not just letting the kid cry for the heck of it and am in fact trying every trick in the book to get him to stop - for his sake, for my sake and for the sake of fellow passengers (in that order).

  10. hello Rohinni, I come to visit your lovely site from the Ginga/Boo dog diairies :). I just had a miserable time on an airplane a week ago and I think that flying can bring the worst out of people. Otherwise, how can anyone fault parents for their babies' crying ? That's what babies do when tesituation is a bit stressful. To complain about it seems a bit....childish ;). Plus, theare now great noise cancellors available or more "old school" earplugs. I greatly enjoy your site. Have a good one,

  11. Nice post. When I was single, I did not get angry with the parents whose children were crying their guts out in the flight, but I was glad to have a seat far away from them.
    When I returned from India a few weeks back to the US, the person next to me was travelling with a 4 yr old and a one yr old. I was shocked when the flight attendant told her in a firm manner that she should tell the kids to keep it down since the people behind were getting annoyed! I was sitting next to them and I didn't find it so unbearable to say the least! Not because I am a mom too but really they were not that loud at all. If people had such strong reservations about being around children, they should request for seats far away from children and find ways to deal with it rather than expect innocent children to keep mum all through the flight. It is simply moronic to expect a one yr old to do that! Plus you cannot drug the child with cough syrup and keep him or her asleep throughout the length of such a long journey anyway!
    I posted the text of a hilarious article by David Brooks on flying with children in my blog site - if you want to read it. It is really something moms can relate to...

  12. I can empathize with crying babies - they are too young to figure out what the heck is going on! But it is reality and one has to suck it up.

    The annoying kids are the older ones who keep kicking your seat.

  13. [Lova] Hi. Thanks for dropping by and for the support. Maybe I will carry ear-plugs and offer them to irate fellow passeners :)

    [Noon] There's an idea. Maybe airlines should proactively try to seat people with babies separately.

    [Ggop] Agree. Bad beahaviour is far less pardonable when the kid is old enough to know better and therefore should be better behaved. In those situations, it's perfectly right for others to judge the kid and his parents harshly.

  14. Rohini, you made me realize i have quite a lot of Uber Mom friends!!! And you forgot one major thing Uber Moms do. There is not one little baby I have not spoken to on the phone while i tried calling up my Uber Mom friends! After five mins of conversation, my friends(s) would go " hey just a min, speak to my little one!" (overheard) bayboo, speak to aunty, say 'hello aunty'" and the baby would go gibbledygeek(of course mom understands and goes into peels of admiring laughter!) while i try to make sense and laugh too, somewhat apologetically! wait till Ayaan starts speaking, you'll do it at least once :)

    nice post :)

  15. oops peals i mean :)

  16. Luckily I can sleep like a log anywhere so haven't come across that particular problem. My suggestion to non-parents is to relax, try some meditation on the plane. Flying these days is stressful enough without getting worked up about some random noise. [ducks down to avoid the flames]

  17. Uber mom or super mom??? :) Nice post!

  18. You comfort me... I've never been particularly irritable with kids while travelling, so I guess I haven't got any previously sent out good karma waiting to come my way either. *Sigh*

  19. hi rohini, i just caught up with joyee and piyush in chicago recently and they told me about ur kiddo... so congrats in order! ayaan is adorable :) it's been so long since DPS days but looks like you have a good thing going with this Mom thing!!

  20. I anxiously checked your list to see if I fall under the category of Uber-dad :) I don't.

    Your response to the flying-babies comment is excellent. I need to print it out and take it with me on my next flight trip. (shudders to even think of the flight journey)

  21. [Pearl] So far I have only done that with family members who asked for it. Let's hope I stick to that as the target audience for Ayaan's experiments with the phone...

    {ranjit] Here's to having more fellow passengers like you.

    [Inquistive Akka] Supermoms are a mythical stereotype - they don't really exist. Uber moms on the other hand do exist.

    [Sue] But you do. You have good karma coming to you from all the travelling moms that you did not judge harshly.

    [Shilpa] Oh wow! It sure has been ages. What have you been up to?

    [Twisted DNA] I don't think there is an animal like an Uber Dad. I think dads are much better at separating parenthood from the rest of their lives.

  22. pre mom days- most annoying things in-flight- kids kicking the seat & pulling my hair & moms doing nothing abt it- the kid's action is not as annoying as the mother's inaction.
    airline requesting me to keep my seat upright- in a 4 hour international flight- since the mom behind wanted to keep the table open for her kid to sleep.-- cudn't the airline just provide an alternate seat?
    mom putting the baby on lap in such a way that the baby's shoe & legs constantly hit u./ ur purse/ ur book u r desperately trying to read.. & the shoes are full of dirt ..
    when i was travelling with my 5 month old twins, i had to literally fight with the airlines 3 days before for a front row with baby crib.. luckily i found a co-passenger who was kind enuf to giv up the 3rd seat so that i cud hav the whole row to myself.
    i guess a little cooperation from everyone & a little vigilance by the parents help in making everyones life easier..

  23. Oh no, certainly there are people such as Uber Dads. I've met a couple. Usually, they irritate their wives no end! ;-)

  24. [Itchingtowrite] You travelled with travels. I bow down to you. That must have taken some courage.

    [Sue] I have yet to come across one. I guess I'm just lucky.

  25. I think many other passengers/bystanders don't realize how embarrassed the parents of the screaming child are, or how they would give just about anything to NOT be drawing that much negative attention to their own children and themselves. Parents were pretty much all non-parents at one point, and know what the non-parents are thinking.

    Unfortunately, most non-parents forget that they were children once, too, and were equally loud and irritating to someone else. Very little grace is extended from the ones who forget this.

    Great post, Rohini.

  26. [Talena] I know. I don't know how people can say that parents couldn't-care-less if the baby is crying...

  27. After my baby, I think the world is divided into parents and non parents... there is very little common ground between them ...

  28. [Artnavy] I feel like that sometimes too. Not that I can complain too much - I was a violently non-baby person before Ayaan was born...

  29. Your post made me scratch out one of the ideas from my list which I might have posted eventually. It was based on one of your earlier ones which said 'having a baby changes everything'.
    I had thought exactly the same way as you about how my view of crying babies on planes changed virtually overnight after the baby came.
    I think there are many other changes which are deeper and do not manifest so openly as the plane experience.
    One of them i am convinced is that at the job front these days I tend to have a more laid back view of things and am much less aggressive/competetive. Somehow office politics and pushing oneself doesn't seem to the same anymore.

  30. It is not the crying kids who irritate me. As Itchingtowrite said, it is the parents' inaction that drives me to irritation. And believe me, there are parents who don't bat an eyelid when their kid is misbehaving/crying. I have two such parents in my friend-circle. One's kid used to bully my daughter around incessantly and she wouldn't say ANYTHING to her. I finally had to break ties with her for a couple of years to bring home the point. The other would just IGNORE her 6 month old daughter (read leave her in dangerous situations like perched precariously on the tray of a high chair) because she "had been looking after her the whole day and simply couldn't take it any more".

    This makes me believe that there are parents who don't care sh** if their kid is crying or misbehaving. It might be hard to believe for those parents who do care and who, thankfully, are more in number.

  31. [Outsider] I totally agree with you on the job thing. I am now pretty clear in my head that I am no longer working for the money or pushing for that scintillating fast-track career that I first imagined I would have. That's why it is really important to me that I enjoy what I am doing and working with people I enjoy working with. If that's not there, my motivation to work at all is gone because then work is not worth my time away from my son.

    [Gettingthere] Thankfully, I have not met such moms yet. But I am sure they must be quite pissing off!

  32. Rohini,

    Would you find this interesting ?
    ICFAI Call for Papers
    Just putting all your posts together might itself make a great paper.

    I hope you go for it and with your great writing style the article gets published and it opens a whole new avenue of opportunities ... :-)

  33. I agree with what scrapnqueen said, that these complaining non-parents are people who can't remember that they were young once. I want to add that I read a comment by a William Dyer in his book 'The sky's the Limit' that people who are in touch with their inner child are the ones who find it easiest to be tolerant of children :)

  34. [The Outsider] Thanks for the lead.

    [Suemamma] An apt punishment for them would be when they have kids and have to travel with them...