Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Worst and the Best Job in the World

I have been thinking about how motherhood is simultaneously the best and the worst job in the world. Here’s why:

The Worst Job in the World?
  1. To start with, the job is completely unpaid. It is harder than any office job that I can think of and yet it comes with zero monetary benefits. In fact, if you want to take this job up full time, you actually need to give up monetary rewards altogether.
  2. Talk about jobs with irregular hours, this one sure does take the cake. Especially in the earlier months, you can simply forget about having any kind of regular sleeping hours. The job description also includes being prepared for night shifts without any compensating time off on the next day.
  3. We join our careers after some degree of professional training (e.g. MBA school), which is then supplemented by on-the-job training at work. All these combine to equip us with a fair degree of skills and confidence to handle our jobs. Not so with motherhood - you are simply thrown into the deep end of the pool without the benefit of swimming lessons. And you have to figure out your own way to survive.
  4. There are no vacations. There is no sick leave. Last week, I was down with a case of the flu. I didn’t go to office that day but I still had to go through Ayaan’s bedtime ritual and also wake up at a pretty odd hour in the morning to nurse him.
  5. The job also comes with stress levels much higher than your average corporate job. To add to the tough hours without leave, there is the constant worry and guilt – not a very relaxing cocktail.

The Best Job in the World?

  1. How can you even begin to compare the banality of walking into office everyday to be greeted by your boss and colleagues with a perfunctory hello to the smile that lights up your son’s face the minute you walk in the door? That very instant makes everything else seem worth the while and more.
  2. Sure there is no salary every month or a bonus at the end of the year. But how can you ever compare monetary rewards to a hug from your child or a smile when you least expect it or the way he puts his open mouth on your cheek (replete with spit) in his first attempts at a kiss.
  3. Here is one job where you are truly indispensable. You simply cannot be replaced. You are the mother and no one else can ever be.
  4. And what other job gives you the opportunity to create a human life and nurture your child into a person? What other job empowers you with the task of developing this little bundle of joy into an intelligent and caring adult?

In the final analysis, there is no doubt in my mind. Motherhood is the best job in the world. The rewards outweigh the responsibilties manifold...

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Ghost Maid

It seems there is an invisible presence of the supernatural kind living in my house these days. I call her my ghost maid. She is the person who does all the damage that the other maids refuse to take the blame for.

Having three maids is turning out to be quite a challenge - it is almost impossible to hold them accountable for anything as they simply pass the buck in a never-ending game of ‘Passing The Parcel’ .

Just today, I found some of Ayaan’s clothes soaked in a bucket that is actually only meant for soaking dirty nappies. On questioning, all three queens denied having anything to do with it. So there was not much I could do other than make a snide comment about how Ayaan seems to be developing so fast that he walks over to the bucket, removes the lid and drops his clothes in all by himself!

So far the ever-expanding job description of this ghost maid includes the following:
  • Forgetting to put clips on the clothes so that wind blows them away: just yesterday I found Ayaan’s bib on the window edge but of course none of the three had any idea how it got there…
  • Putting Ayaan’s clothes in the wrong bucket
  • Eating the missing chocolates from the chocolate box
  • Forgetting to tell me that the groceries are running out
  • Breaking stuff – Last week, I found the head of one of the porcelain dolls lying severed from the body and tucked away in a corner of the kitchen. As usual, it is the ghost maid to the blame though this one had me worried about her state of mind. She must be somewhat menatally disturbed if she is getting pleasure from decapitating poor little porcelain figurines....

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ayaan is Nine Months Old!

Ayaan turns nine months old today.

Jai and I were just talking about this the other day and it’s amazing how differently we felt about the time gone by. For me, it seems as if he was a small baby only yesterday and I wonder where all the time has gone – it seems more like six months than nine. For Jai, it’s the other way around – he was saying that to him it seems as if it has been atleast a year or even longer. I wonder why that is…

A Weekend of Worry

When it rains, it pours. Both Ayaan and Jai caught the flu this weekend. So I was the one holding the fort (though now it looks like one of them has passed it on to me as well).

Ayaan has had a cold for a while now. He has not been cold free for almost a month, other than a gap of 2 days after some medications. Since it was pretty mild, I stopped medicating him, as the syrups didn’t seem to be working anyway. Anyway, on Thursday the cold went from mild to miserable and Ayaan also woke up with a fever of 100.4. So we hauled him off the doctor in the evening and the doctor prescribed a whole host of medicines (an antibiotic, an antihistamine and a decongestant). I was a bit uncomfortable with so many of them but after much discussion with Jai, we decided that we had to trust the doctor and he has not really tended to over-medicate in the past.

On Saturday evening, I noticed that Ayaan was doing this occasional jerking thing. It was the kind of thing we do when we are taken aback by something or get a small shock. He was kind of jerking his head and shoulders back every now and then. I got worried and called the doctor but he was busy and could not talk. I checked in with the paediatrician I visited when we were in Jaipur and he advised us to stop the decongestant. Even my uncle who is a doctor was surprised that both the antihistamine and the decongestant were prescribed to be given together. So we cut down the medicine cocktail by stopping the decongestant.

I have been watching him closely. The jerking continued yesterday. It’s still there today but at a somewhat lower frequency. I finally spoke to him this morning and he said I should watch him for another couple of days and see if it increases or decreases and then give him a call.

I am wondering whether it was the combination of medicines that caused it. I am a bit worried about that as it means that I have to re-evaluate what I think about my current paediatrician and wonder whether I have to change him… especially since he wasn't willing to speak to me on Saturday when I was really worried.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Milestone Moments

Last week was really busy. I even ended up working on Thursday, which was actually a holiday. And on 3 of the 5 days, I came home only after seven in the evening. I think Ayaan now notices the days when I spend very little time with him and makes his displeasure quite apparent.

On Wednesday, I reached home only at 8.oo p.m. To start with Ayaan was really cranky and clingy and did not want me to put him down even for a minute. Then he did not want to go to sleep. While he still refuses to get fully sleep trained, he normally goes to sleep after 2-3 minutes of protesting. But on Wednesday night, he bawled lustily for 15 minutes. Then I went in and rocked him till he calmed down (which took about 5 minutes) but then he cried again for 5 minutes after I put him down before finally going to sleep. Poor baby!

But on a more positive note, I find him getting more confident and independent by the week. On Sunday, we went to visit Nafisa (Ayaan’s self-proclaimed 50% Mom). Ayaan was really good through the visit. He largely entertained himself for close to 20 minutes. Of course, he had to be closely supervised throughout as his current version of entertainment includes pulling himself up on things and pulling down things that are kept on tables, etc. But other than the occasional dive to save him for hurting himself or destroying something, he played on his own and didn’t demand attention or cuddling. I think that is a huge milestone.
Talking of milestones, he started cruising yesterday. For the uninitiated, ‘cruising’ refers to walking sideways while holding on to the furniture for balance. Also, if you hold him steady, he tries to put one foot forward. He is also starting to get brave and letting go of whatever he is supporting himself with – the result is that he manages to stay standing for a split second before plopping down on his bum. It looks a bit like those old Disney cartoons where the cartoon character runs off the edge of the cliff and is hanging in the air for a moment till he realises that he is suspended in thin air and then proceeds to plunge down!!!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thank God for Small Mercies

We all know about the great inventors and scientists whose ideas changed our worlds and our lives. The standard names that come up – Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, Madame Curie... But what about all those forgotten souls who had ideas revolutionised motherhood and childcare? Here are some of the products and gadgets that I feel I could not live without – or I could but with a lot more stress.

The Baby Monitor
Thanks to this simple device – which is really nothing much more than a one-way radio transmitter – I can put Ayaan down to sleep and leave the room with complete peace of mind. I don’t have to keep wondering whether every sound I hear is him crying and I don’t have to peek into the room umpteen number of times to see if he’s okay. I can just do my own thing with the baby monitor next to me to reassure me that he is indeed just sleeping quietly or that he is crying and I need to go in.

The High Chair
Here is one expensive product that I have no regrets in buying. As Ayaan started getting mobile, it became impossible to get him to stay in one place for his meals and he was far more interested in crawling than eating. The high chair has completely changed that. It took a couple of days for him to get used to it but he now sits in it quite willingly and has his food. And the one I bought has a large tray – so we just load that up with his toys and we are good to go.

Disposable Diapers
This one I do know who invented. It was a lady called Marion Donovan. Like all mothers, Donovan struggled with her babies' exasperating habit of nearly instantaneously wetting her diapers as soon as they were changed --- which at that time meant soiled sheets as well. Steadily working her way through a series of shower curtains, Donovan designed and perfected, on her sewing machine, a reusable, leakproof diaper cover. Later, Donovan began an even more essential innovation: the disposable paper diaper. Surprisingly, Donovan did not have instant success with this idea. She toured the major US paper companies, and was roundly laughed at for proposing such an unnecessary and impractical item. It took nearly ten years for someone to capitalize on Donovan's idea: namely, Victor Mills, creator of Pampers. Well thank God for that as I can now take Ayaan out with me without stress on what will happen if he wets himself. And he sleeps so much better at nights. Which means I sleep so much better at nights.

Socket Covers
Thanks to these simple, cheap yet effective pieces of plastic, Ayaan’s curious fingers cannot access unused plug points. One less thing to worry about.

Gerber Foods
What did women do before this lovely brand came along. It really saves my day when I have to manage Ayaan on a day minus any maids. These pre-packaged bottles come with all sorts of healthy and preservative-free mashed vegetables and fruits and really cut the hassle in an already hassle-filled day. They are also very useful when we have to feed Ayaan out of home.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Motherhood Myths

Popular literature, films and even other parents tend to create a lot of myths about the nature of motherhood. Here are some myths that I want to bust based on my experience:

The Instant Maternal Bond
When I was pregnant, I met other prospective parents who gushed about the baby they were going to have and how they already loved it more than anything or anyone else in the world even before it was born. I didn’t get this at all. In fact, the baby was just a concept to me till he actually arrived. Sure, I felt somewhat mushy at my first ultrasound but that was really more awe at the fact that there was another human life being created inside me rather than the first stirrings of motherly affection.

Even when Ayaan was born, the initial feelings I had were fear and worry about my ability to care for this tiny, helpless thing. I have friends who cried when they saw their babies for the first time. I really felt no such great gush of emotion. For me, it is something that built over time. The fear became protectiveness followed by possessiveness (he’s mine!) and then affection. And soon, before I knew it, I was in love. But this whole process took almost five months and was definitely not instantaneous.

It’s a Wonderful Experience
Sure there countless moments and events that can be classified as wonderful. But there are just as many not so wonderful moments as well. What’s so wonderful about changing 20 nappies a day? Or about not knowing what on earth is making him cry so much and not knowing how to calm him down? Or how about the sleepless nights that you never quite make up for?

I think women who say stuff like this do a great disservice to the rest of us. It would be so much better if they were honest and let us know that we should expect both good and bad times ahead. And it would also make us feel normal (and not bad mothers) if occasionally we felt irritated, impatient or even resentful towards the baby.

Maternity ‘Leave’
There’s one of the most deceptive descriptions I have come across. It led me to have these lovely plans of surfing the net, playing online scrabble and reading a whole host of books during this time. Let me just say that not a whole lot of books got read (and even those that did were of the low-intelligence, low-involvement variety) and we gave away our PC after 2 months as it was just gathering dust in one corner of the room.

Maternity leave?? More like maternity boot camp!! I remember my brother called me after my son was born and asked me if I was relaxing and enjoying my maternity leave. Huh? I can say with complete conviction that these six months of maternity ‘leave’ were the most exhausting and draining six months of my entire life. Working 10-hour days seems like a vacation compared to this!!

It Gets Easier As You Go Along
Okay this myth is not all myth. It does get relatively easier as you go on. For starters, the baby cries a lot less and you get to sleep a lot more. But while it gets easier, it never really goes all the way to easy. It’s a tough job and will continue to be – it just that the worries and challenges keep changing as the baby grows

Mother’s Instinct
First of all, I don’t think there is anything called mother’s instinct. I think the people who believe in this are also the ones who believe in women’s intuition and love at first sight, which as far as I am concerned are as imaginary concepts as UFOs and ESP. I think you can develop a deep understanding of your child, his personality and his needs and that can help you make decisions on how to best care for him. But this something you have to work at rather than something that is born inside you just as miraculously as the baby is.

Parenthood Makes Your Marriage Stronger
I have heard of people whose marriages were not doing so well deciding to have a baby to make their marriage stronger. I have this to say to them – “What were you thinking???!!”

I would say that your marriage has to be strong to survive having a baby rather than the other way around. Before the baby comes, you have all the time and energy in the world to devote to each other. But once you become a mother (or a father), that becomes your primary job and everything else (wife/ daughter/ brand manager) comes a distant second. This creates a baby-sized wedge between you and your partner and that sure takes some getting used to. Add to this the sleepless nights, the frustrating days and the endless arguments about sharing responsibility. Does this sound like a formula that would strengthen anything, let alone a marriage?