Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Many Faces of Romance

Remember those first few years of courtship. Everything was new. Every look and touch was special. Every night, you went to sleep with a small smile on your lips and in your heart – thinking about that one moment that he did something that made your heart beat just a little faster. You got out of bed each morning with a spring in your step, waiting to meet him again. What a wonderful time that was…

And then romance met the daily monotony of married life. Life changed, if not dramatically atleast noticeably. You’d wake up in the morning and rush about your morning routine, in a hurry to get a jumpstart on the day. And the last words you’d exchange at night would probably be something like “Did you remember to switch on the washing machine?” Things that were cute and attractive in the pre-marriage days now became irritants. What was admired as ‘attention to detail’ got re-branded as ‘control freak’ and what was endearing as ‘easygoing’, now translated into ‘lazy and careless.’

But life went on and you fell in love again with the person your spouse really was and not the polished, best-foot-forward side that you got to see when you were both still trying to impress each other. You began to see the romance in little, everyday moments of thoughtfulness rather than the grand gestures of the past. You looked for little ways to create small moments that would lift life beyond being ordinary. And it really helped that you still had loads of that valuable commodity – time. Evenings, weekends, holidays – they were all opportunities ensure that romance did not die an untimely death.

But then that valuable community got seriously depleted by the arrival of THE BABY. All free time is now invested in him – evenings mean trips to the park, weekends mean quality time with Ayaan and holidays (as I have previously said) shouldn’t really be called holidays any more! Romance takes yet another beating but still manages to squeeze into the cramped spaces left between work, sleep and Ayaan time. It often takes forms that non-parents might find really mundane – it could be something as seemingly ordinary as letting your spouse sleep in even when you yourself are sleep-deprived or baby-sitting a cranky toddler to allow your spouse a much-deserved break to catch the cricket match or squeeze in the much-postponed trip to the beauty parlour.

So take heart all you to-be spouses and parents, romance does stand a chance even in the face of the dual battering rams of marriage and parenthood. You just have to learn to recognise and appreciate it in its different avatars.

While on the topic of romance, I was also thinking about the romance that a mother shares with her child. This is quite different from love or bonding because these are of a more enduring and consistent nature. This romance is about brief moments of magic – they may not make your heart beat faster like the other kind of romance but they still do have the power to turn your insides to mush. Here are some illustrations of the ‘romantic’ moments that I share with Ayaan:

  • When he’s resting his head on my shoulder and suddenly lifts his head, looks into my eyes and gives me a gentle, contented smile.
  • When he’s busy playing with his toys and then suddenly looks up at me and says ‘Mama’ and then goes back to playing.
  • When I come back home, he runs towards me with his arms outstretched – it’s a moment that’s comparable to any Bollywood movie reunion scene.
  • When he’s sitting in my lap and he holds my hand and lovingly caresses it, finger by finger.
  • When he’s eating something that he really loves (like plain corn flakes) and he offers me a bite.
  • When he gives me a ‘flying kiss’ when I put him into his cot at night.

These are the moments that sustain me in my time away from him. Whenever I am feeling low, I only need to bring Ayaan's face to my mind, smiling with utter devotion and saying ‘Mama’…

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Day in the Life of a Working Mom

This is what my life looks like these days:
6:00-6.30Get rudely awakened by Ayaan’s morning greeting on the baby monitor. Listen to him entertain himself for a while before convincing myself to get up and go get him.
6:30-7:00Pick up Ayaan, give him his cornflakes and follow him around to ensure that he doesn’t drop any and eat it off the floor.
7:00-7:15Change Ayaan out of his diaper and nightclothes, attempt to look reasonably presentable, put on shoes for Ayaan and myself, strap Ayaan into his stroller and head off for the morning walk.
7.30-8.00Walk to the park, play with Ayaan in the park and then walk back.
8:00-8.15Feed Ayaan his breakfast.
8:15-8:30Eat breakfast with Ayaan hovering around and expecting every alternate bite to go into his mouth.
8:30-8.45Transfer clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Put away the clothes back from the dhobi. Take a 5 minute break away from it all.
8:45-9:00Look at the clock with shock – where did all that time go? Have a rushed bath and get ready for work.
9:00-9:30Drive to work.
9:30-5:30Work, work, work.
5:30-6:00Drive home.
6:00-7:30Take Ayaan to the park.
7:30-8:00Sort laundry out to put into the machine. Leave Ayaan with Jai to take another 5-minute break. Put finishing touches to Ayaan’s dinner.
8:00-8:15Give Ayaan his dinner.
8:15-8:30Play with Ayaan and attempt to get him to sit on his potty.
8:30-9:00Wash and change Ayaan, play and read to him and put him to bed. Phew!
9:00-10:30Eat dinner, watch TV.

To add to this, there are days when I have to work late or travel. And weekends are not time for rest either since I try to use them to make up for the time I have missed with Ayaan.

This kind of a hectic schedule arises from the fact I am much more hands-on than most other moms (both of the stay at home and the working varieties) I know. I think it arises out of my being a minor control freak and makes me hesitant to delegate Ayaan’s care to anyone since I feel they couldn’t do it better. When Ayaan was a baby, my mom was the only other person allowed to change his nappies (I couldn’t say anything to her since she was the one who taught me how to tie the nappy in the first place!). I had to relinquish some of this control when I went back to work but I still want to change his diapers, feed him his meals and bathe him whenever I am at home.

As a result, I am always, always exhausted these days. I can’t think of too many days when I feel rested – I think I might have forgotten what that feels like!

What irks me most though is that at the end of the day, I am still left with a feeling of discontent. I feel like I am not doing my 100% best at either of my jobs (mother and professional). I operate at lower levels of efficiency and effectiveness at both than I would like. I often envy stay-at-home moms for their ability to give that 100% to their jobs as mothers. I don’t however envy women without kids though – I’d rather be an 80% perfect mom to Ayaan than not have him in my life at all.

That being said, I have two disclaimers that must be put up:
  1. Though it may sometimes seems like it (because I don’t mention it often enough), it’s not like Jai has nothing to do with any of this. Often, when I have had a really late night or I am not well, he will pick up Ayaan when he wakes in the morning and tend to him till the maid comes. On the evening park activity, our aim is that atleast one of us should be back in time to take him to the park atleast 4 times in a week and so far we have managed to split it pretty evenly. And of course, he takes over the reins from me when I have to travel for work.
  2. I know there are many moms out there who will see this and say “Huh! You call that tough?!” I especially have a healthy respect for moms who don’t have the benefit of household help and have to do all this and also worry about the cleaning, laundering and cooking. Seriously, I don’t know how you do it!