I was out with a few friends for dinner a few nights ago; 3 of us being mothers. Once we had silently shovelled enough food into our systems, we took a break and started discussing whether or not a holiday in the near future seemed like a possibility. When the spotlight rested on me the question became would I be able to take a few days off from my soon-to-arrive baby bundle? My answer was yes; since I was planning to solely formula-feed, it would be no problem. So my friend turned to me as some of my other friends also have in the past, and said “you are probably the most chilled out pregnant person and mother I know.” I laughed and told her that if she were to see me at home and ‘behind closed doors’, she would probably have a very different opinion! But her statement got me thinking about how all mothers handle motherhood uniquely – both at home and when out.
We have many sides to our personality. I am talking about the roles we all play as women – daughter, sister, wife, mother etc, and about the various emotions we experience and are able to manage and maintain. I know that being a Gemini, I can easily turn my different ‘faces’ on and off! My family has always joked about how diplomatic I am, and that I can be one person one second and a completely different person the next. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes bad. Jokes apart, the various roles we play in our daily lives lead us to experience a range of emotions which we, over time, learn to turn on and off as the situation demands, and also depending on whether we are in our own space at home, or outside.
As a mother, you experience so many emotions that you previously didn’t realise existed! You also feel a mix of various emotions, and you have no clue which one to deal with first. How do you separate and deal with them? As an adolescent I was told that I used to bottle my feelings and not talk about them, and that this was unhealthy. At that point in time being young and stubborn, I never understood what those words meant….until I became a mother. I realised that opening up and talking to my mom friends about what I was feeling and experiencing behind closed doors, helped me not only handle the situation at hand well, but also emotionally be more stable and a better mother to my child. No mother enjoys only hallmark moments at home; that is not how motherhood works. The effects of not having dealt with the challenging situation at hand, eventually seeps into other aspects of life. We end up channelling our irritation and negativity onto our loved ones, through no fault of theirs.
What we don’t realise most of the time, is that our sponge-like children are watching and soaking up every word we speak and every move we make. There are times when one second I have been dealing with a situation at home with my child, and the next second I am in the car with my friends going out for lunch; situation unresolved. My happy face is on with great difficulty, but subconsciously the irritation and anger still linger. I have always wondered to myself – is this healthy for me as a mother and for my child who had no idea what just happened and was left without any resolution or compromise?
What kind of example are we setting for our kids? Are we subtly teaching them that it is acceptable NOT to deal with the emotions they are feeling and that they will disappear on their own if left unexamined? We may not be doing this knowingly. A controversial topic which is still a hot topic for discussion is whether or not boys should be allowed to cry. There were a series of ads released by Vogue (VogueEmpower) on this very topic. I have recently learnt to control myself when I realise I am starting to tell my son to stop crying. Telling him that sets a precedent that it is not ok for him to express himself and it is better to keep all the pain and frustration inside. Something to think about.
Social media, especially Facebook and Instagram have become a source for people to portray what their lives are like. It has become a necessity these days for many, to make a point and show the world that they are happy, problem-less, everything-figured-out -24/7 kind of people. By people in this particular article, I mean mothers. But is that an accurate portrayal, or are they mothers who face challenge upon challenge behind closed doors, but to the outside world they seem invincible?
When you start telling yourself that something is true because you desire it, when it actually isn’t, it is just a matter of time before it becomes a fixed truth in your mind. If you keep wishing away a problem, keep telling yourself it will disappear on its' own, and go about your day, that more often than not will not work in your favor. Handling infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, teenagers etc, all have their share of difficulties. I think it is unreal for mothers not to be up against any walls at home when raising a child. But you need to be able to accept that these walls are there and find ways to break them down without trying to create small holes and crawl through them.
To all my fellow moms out there, we all want motherhood to be a fairy tale and sometimes we do whatever it takes to get as close to one as possible. I know I do. But somewhere we need to draw a line between fantasy and reality, not caring about how others see us as mothers, and handle motherhood the way it should be handled – with lots of LOVE, COFFEE & WINE!!!
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this!
The 30s are the new 20s. We all remind ourselves of this when we see our 30th birthday fast approaching; except maybe for the ones in denial. We hear many 20-somethings say “The relationship I am in now is just a fling; I have my 30s to find someone and settle down”, “It’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do career-wise; I will figure something out by the time I turn 30”, or “What have I accomplished in my 20’s? I have nothing to show for it.” Different strokes for different folks.
I never had my path laid out for me and I never knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. My parents always made sure I knew that they would support my choices and they gave me the space to make those choices myself. Once I completed by undergrad in Indiana and spent a year in New York ‘soul-searching’, I then moved back to India when I was 24. I didn’t know if I wanted to start working and try to become the CEO of some company, work with my dad in the family business and eventually take over, travel the world, or get married and have babies. There are those who know step by step what they were born to do and they waste no time in following their plan. So I started working, hoping that this would pave out at least the short term future for me and add some certainty to my life. I am one of the lucky ones who met her future husband a few months after moving back home. After 5 years of being married, we had our first child when I was 31 and my husband was 35, turning 36.
Different women are ready to embrace motherhood at different points in their lives. Some are ready when they are 21 and some at 35, for various reasons. The 20s are a good time to start thinking seriously about what you want and for many that includes planning motherhood. This also doesn’t mean that sometimes things don’t change along the way and you are forced to take a different path. The things that you may have wanted to accomplish in your 20s are pushed to your 30s. So what are some of the factors which lead women to prefer becoming a mother in their 20s/30s, and does everyone feel the same way? Some of my mom friends have been kind enough to contribute quotes based on their personal experiences as well.
1. Career ambitions & independence
“I know that I am done having kids and that I am only going to get more and more free time as they get older. I can start a career and not have to worry about taking a break from it to raise a newborn.”
Many married & un-married women today want to ensure and establish their independence in their 20s before anything else, so taking their careers to a certain level is of utmost priority. This is not only in the ‘developed’ countries where women have always been on par with men, worked their whole lives and made their own money regardless of their husbands. There are women who want to do one or the other, not both, since establishing a career takes dedication, time and hard work. Once they are satisfied that they have achieved what they set out to do, then comes the option of exploring the next step. Gone are the days when only the husband is ‘supposed to’ support the family. Now both the husband and wife are content. From the 30s angle, there are women who want to finish having babies when they are in their 20s so that they have time later to establish their career without interruption. I started working in my 20s, got married and had a baby in my early 30s. My career is not fully established; I am still in the process of doing so, pregnant with my second child. So again – different strokes for different folks, revealing that nothing is written in stone.
2. Emotional & mental readiness
“I had my baby when I was 28 and I think it was just the right time. I am glad we travelled and spent a lot of time with each other before we had someone else joining us and becoming a part of our everyday lives. I also feel it makes it easier to divide responsibilities because we both know who is good at what and we are happy to perform our roles as parents.”
“You have more mental and physical energy to raise a kid in your 20s. You aren’t as afraid of trying new and interesting activities and methods to raise them as there is no set benchmark.”
“In your 20s, you are not as fixed in your parenting thought pattern.”
"I had my kids in my 30s and it was a good fit for me. In my 20s, I didn't know who I was and I think it would have been hard to become responsible for someone else's life, when you are still figuring out your own. When I didn't have kids, I thought parenting would be a breeze. Now I know the truth from experience..everyday is hard and challengung and you need to be mature to be able to manage those challenges. I am glad I waited till my 30s to have kids"
How mature are we (women) in our 20s? I know that in my 20s before getting married, I went to work and then at night my sole aim was to make plans with friends and go out – somewhere...anywhere. Moreover, once I got married, I wanted time alone with my husband for a few years to explore and live life together, without a third person depending on us for their every need.
There are women who get married young and in their early 20s, who have babies soon after as a ‘custom’ and ‘expectation’ in their families. But are they mentally ready for their lives to change? Are they able to take care of themselves, let alone take care of a tiny human? Many times, these young moms also do not have a benchmark to compare their motherhood experience to nor do they have a sea of information to arm themselves with. On the other hand, the younger we are, the more open we are to trying new things and listening to opinions and suggestions. From the 30s angle, women have benchmarks and stories from friends who have already had babies on what to expect. Confidence is in abundance and the world is their oyster.
Is the emotional & mental maturity needed to take care of a child equal in both our 20s and 30s? Often when it comes to the readiness of men, we say “he may not be 100% ready today to become a father, but as soon as the baby is born, he will be ready.” How many people believe that this maturity can appear overnight and can it be applied to women as well?
3. Fitness & fertility
“The main benefit (and a big one at that) of having my kids before I turned 30, was that I was physically strong and able to have healthy, easy pregnancies and deliveries, and was able to get my shape back relatively quickly.”
“The biggest question in my mind was – do I want to be active, run around with my kids, be a young energetic mom, or will I not be as energetic if I have a baby later on in life?”
The age at which women are most physically fit to have a baby, is a discussion that has dominated social gatherings. There are two aspects to this – one is being physically fit to be able to run around after your child without having to rest every 10 minutes, and the other is medical fitness. Yes, it is believed that women are at their agile peak in their 20s.Therefore some women look at it this way – they would rather give birth as ‘young 20-something moms’ with enough energy to be active with their kids, rather than ‘older 36 year old moms’, who are over 40 when their kids become Toddlers.
People quote studies and research done on this as proof of what age is best. Popular medical research states that the 20s are your more ‘fertile’ and are the most ideal to have kids, with minimal medical problems that can creep up. Many factors dominate medical fitness in your 20s, one of the main factors being lifestyle. Often we are told to believe that unhealthy eating, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of sleep, stress etc are the biggest vices and affect the body negatively, even leading to infertility. There are tests which doctors recommend women in their late 20s/early 30s should do to ensure that the body is working right. Having said that, you can be the biggest protestor against alcohol and smoking but still face challenges in getting pregnant at the time you planned, in your 20s.
There are women who are unable to conceive in their 20s for many years and then finally do. You find that for them, conception the second time around may happen in a jiffy! The human body is strange that way.
This article is not meant to be a final consensus on whether the 20s or 30s are more motherhood friendly, but to provoke mothers into sharing and discussing what did and didn’t work for them.
I would love to hear from you!
My previous blog posts have briefly talked about the pressure we as mothers tend to pile onto ourselves every day; sometimes subconsiously. A behavior becomes a part of your subconsious when a certain pattern has been formed over time. This pressure is either formed by patterns created by ourselves, or based on what we have seen others do and how they behave, thereby creating expectations and a different standard to what has been followed till now. More importantly, a standard that may be ideal for the other person but not ourselves.
To be completely honest, I was inclined to write this post to reassure and prepare myself for my second child who is about to arrive any time now. The pressure points I am going to talk about are all things that I have experienced earlier as a new mother. So here goes - how can we as mothers, relieve ourselves of the pressure points created either by ourselves or other people, and make our lives just a little bit easier?
1. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
We all have FOMO at one point or the other; FOMO on dinner plans with friends, a gathering of schools mothers, or your child missing out on a playdate and so on. There is a constant expectation that mothers place on themselves to ensure that their child is entertained and kept busy from morning to night, especially around the holiday season when schools are out. I am already looking for a summer camp for my son and we are only in March. But having said that, I know that it is ok for him to get bored and entertain himself from time to time. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, many mothers do not want to be percieved as having no life beyond their children. They don't want others to say "oh she never comes out" or "she never brings her child for any of the planned playdates." So instead of balancing out mommy time with social plans and taking some 'me time' when exhausted beyond belief, many mothers tend to push and push due to FOMO and what other people might say. My reaction to that - each mother's situation and life at home is different. Do what your body and mind tell you and not what others tell you.When you can make things easier for yourself, why not do it?
2. School before drool
My two sisters live in the U.S. My nieces and nephew were born and raised there so I have seen firsthand what the school application processes are like. Boy, it has to be easier running for President!! Detailed applications, standardized tests, essays, parent interviews, behavioral observations etc are all a part of the pre-school application process! So when my sisters used to tell me what they were doing, my mouth fell open in disbelief. But they were doing what is mandated there, so they complete what they are supposed to do and then sit back and wait for decisions. I used to say, "thank god the entire school process in India is not as complicated," which is true to a certain extent. However, the school selection process is not as easy due to a lack of options in some cities.
There are schools which require mothers to apply for their child while the child is still in the womb, sometimes not allowing the comfort or option of time to really think about what kind of school would suit their child; after all how would you know that, before the child is born and becomes a little older? So mothers make their selection and send in the application(s). But does it end there? I am afraid not. Many mothers now take it a step further and start comparing, which is where the pressure starts to build. "Which school have you registered your child in?", "I think school abc where I have registered by son has better reviews than the school you are thinking about","the crowd in school xyz is not upper class so aren't you worried about the crowd your child will mix with?","I heard that school xxx focuses on academics and zero extra-curricular activities.What do you think is best?" Exchanging notes with fellow mothers is one thing; we all want to know where each other's children are going to be attending school. However, the pressure and doubts start building up when mothers start second guessing themselves about the decisions they have made. School is a critical part of a child's life, but definitely not a life or death matter when they are tiny. So moms - relax a little when it comes to school selection and trust your instinct and judgment. There are a million challenges when it comes to motherhood as it is a huge transformation - let's not try and add to it!
3. Motherhood myths
Myths are traditional beliefs and stories that each and every one of us have heard. Most mothers raise their children with the help of the internet. Along the way, there are countless websites which talk about all the various motherhood myths out there which you should/should not pay any attention to. Unfortunately, it is does not stop there for us mothers. Everywhere you go, there are people who come up with different versions of various myths they have heard about pregnancy and delivery. On one level we listen when it comes from our parents or someone close to us out of obligation, but it doesn't stop there. There are always acquaintances, colleagues, family friends etc who take the liberty of divulging the myths they believe in, not considering for a second that the mother probably does not want to hear it, and makes the concept of having a child that much more difficult.
The two 'myths' listed below are not the usual run-of-the-mill ones we all laugh about, are not deeply rooted in Indian culture, but are ones that struck a deep cord within me. I guess you can say that they are myths from my view:
"If your children make bad decisions while they are growing up, it reflects poorly on your parenting style. So be careful how you raise them. Read lots of books"
"There is a right and wrong way of parenting."
Buying into many of these myths are the real reason for the frustrations mothers feel and it takes strength to untangle yourself from them. But once you do so, the benefits are great!
4. Doctors without borderlines
You would never think of your child's pediatrician as being a pressure point. But you will be surprised at how many are and it takes mothers a long time to realise it. Whether it is views on breastfeeding and as a mother you are not able to/not comfortable with feeding, your child not eating well the first few months after starting solids, or the medicines you want to/don't want to give your child, there are pediatricians who push and make you think it is their way or the highway. Period. Example - Breastfeeding vs formula has always been a controversial topic among mothers and rightly so, each mother has her own belief and opinion. But at the end of the day it is the mother's choice. I was unable to directly feed my son. It is a mother's instinct and I knew from day 1 that this was not going to work. As a mother, you are better equipped than anyone else to understand the uniqueness of your child's wants and needs. If I had listened to my gut and fed my son formula right from the beginning, my first month as a mother would have been very different, and a happy one. My son's pediatrician at the time refused to acknowledge the 'not being able to feed' aspect and pushed me to such an extent which led to unhappiness and discontent. The pressure I felt from the pediatrician on this particular issue didn't make adapting to motherhood any easier. In the end, it turned out that mommy really did know best!
When you have a baby, people always talk about feelings such as happiness, pride, joy, fear etc. But there are some feelings which we never talk about aloud - a sense of loss of identity, loss of a sense of self and in general a transformation of who you are. You lose your way for a while till things settle down and fall into place. Each day, we try and find new ways to create more hallmark moments as a mother. Being aware of various 'pressure points', makes taking the leap into motherhood just a little bit easier.
Here is a sappy poem for all moms out there! The fact that there are only a few more weeks for my second little bundle to make his/her entrance into the world, has probably made me a tad bit emotional. I hope you enjoy it!
I open my eyes and blink a few times,
Waiting for the nurses to remove all the grime.
The first thing I hear, are people all around the room,
And I finally realise, after 9 long months, I am finally out of the womb!
Hi mommy! I finally get to see your face,
You made your warm tummy a really comfortable place.
While I was inside, I could feel every stroke and touch,
You wouldn't have realised, but I was trying to say I love you so much.
You gave me life, you give me love,
There is nothing that I want more, that I can think of.
I have heard people tell you that the beginning is always hard,
I will hold your hand so tight throughout, that you will never have a chance to be scarred.
There are so many times now after I was born, that I see you cry,
Feeling like you have been left in the world, high and dry.
I am sorry mommy, I know this isn't easy for you,
But as each day goes by, I will help you push through.
It doesn't matter if I have to drink milk from a bottle and not from your breast,
All that matters now is that I am full and can rest.
You are providing me with more than enough,
So please don't worry and let's not make it tough.
Every soothing whisper and every soft song,
Makes me understand that you and I belong.
God helped make sure that I chose you,
To be my protector, soul mate and forever love, through and through.
This is a post which I have been wanting to write for a while now. It is a somewhat sensitive and well versed topic amongst most moms, which I have tried to turn into a humorous one, since we all at some point or the other have experienced ALL of these situations. So here goes.
There are many times that we want to say something we notice, to a fellow mom, but we end up internalizing it and don't say it out loud. "Hey, your kid is standing dangerously close to the edge; you may want to pick him up" "Your nanny is swinging your son a bit too high" "I think your daughter is trying to stick a marble up her nose and you are watching her do it" "No, it is not cute to watch your son eat food from someone else's table."
We normally don't end up saying these things because we don't want to be seen as 'that mom who looks down her nose at everyone else' or 'that mom who criticized someone else's child'. How do you sound helpful and not judgmental? So we think twice and keep our thoughts to ourselves or maybe even say it to others we are with, but never to the mom directly. Motherhood has made us all, that much more sensitive!
Let's take a look at some of the situations where we can all agree, we want to say something out loud to other moms!
1. The Bragger
First and foremost, every mom thinks her child is the cutest in the world. I do too. Each mom feels her child is the smartest, most well dressed, most well behaved and in general, perfect! In general, we all think our kids are baby geniuses. We wouldn't be normal mothers if we didn't feel that way, right? But we THINK it. I say it to my husband, mother in law, parents, sisters etc. But I draw the line there. So when we hear some moms (maybe not consciously) brag openly about their child, who is the reincarnation of an angel and an image of complete perfection, it makes other moms want to only pretend to listen. This is where the comparison starts. "My child started sleeping through the night at 3 months. Your's still doesn't?" "I am so surprised that my child is already speaking full sentences!" "I don't think you are spending enough time with your child, so maybe that is why there is speech delay" and so on. Needless to say, this is a situation where other moms, in order to avoid an unpleasant situation, just say something diplomatic and walk away. Some want to say more.
2. The Restaurant Goer
You are out for Sunday brunch with family, at a family style restaurant. When your child is with you, more often than not, it is easier to go to a child-friendly place where space is abundant and kids can run around freely and enjoy themselves. The other tables without families don't get disturbed and everyone has an enjoyable boozy/non-boozy Sunday. Then there are those restaurants which are not exactly family friendly and business lunches take up most of the space. But there are still some families interspersed here and there so it is inevitable that there will be kids running around trying to entertain themselves. There are situations where kids are running around AND touching food on someone else's table, lying on the floor because they weren't given something, running into waiters causing them to spill their food and more. Our first thought would be "they are kids; these things are bound to happen." But here is the clincher - many times, their moms don't react at all! They look at the kids proudly and continue to eat and drink, not once saying "behave yourself" or "be quiet and come sit down". What do you as a mom and an onlooker, feel like saying then? Do you keep quiet?
3. The Frequent Flier
TV ads are meant to create wants in people and then turn those wants into needs. For all the Indian moms - I am sure most of you would have seen the gaana.com ad on a plane, where a child starts crying and the mom immediately plays loud music on her phone to distract the child. The rest of the passengers on the plane also start dancing and singing. If only reality were like that. Reality on the other hand is the extreme opposite where airlines have made certain rows 'child free zones', making it that much more difficult for moms to be comfortable on flights. Many people take TV ads literally - I have been on flights where moms play music loudly (without headphones) for their child in hopes of entertaining them, not taking into account the disturbance being caused. Many of our experiences have been with either kids continuously kicking seats from behind or, kids dancing up and down in their seats seeking attention, with no reaction from the mom. Sometimes you wonder - how is there no response? Planes are closed quarters filled with other tired moms or business travellers wanting some space to catch up on their sleep. Kids can't be quiet all the time and it is not fair to expect them to be. But it is hard for other passengers to keep quiet for a long time without expressing their frustration and as another mom onlooker, there are words of advice you want to offer to the indifferent mom. At that point, you want to say that everyone else on the plane does not share in the child's enthusiasm.
4. The Public Restroom Visitor
Ok, so this is my biggest pet peeve and always has been - badly maintained and careless use of public restrooms. I have personally experienced kids peeing all over the place in hotel & airport restrooms; not because they aren't potty trained, but because they think it's funny. Lo and behold, this is again a situation where some moms are oblivious, do not clean up, and don't even address the hygiene standpoint! What are some of things you would say to that mom?
5. The Movie Theatre Encounter
Last but not least, the movie theatre. There are two ways I look at this - either a child is old enough to sit through a full movie without feeling the need to scream and cry every few minutes when he/she is hungry or sleepy, or a child is still too small to be taken to a loud movie theatre where you need an attention span of more than 15 minutes. My heart goes out to those tiny infants and toddlers who are have to experience 10 pm shows where they inevitably start howling due to the loud noises from the movie, or from extreme tiredness. This sometimes goes on throughout the show without any movement from the mom to take the child outside. What would be your first instinct in this situation as another mom onlooker?
Do you agree and what are your thoughts? Do you want to add on any more situations where you have felt compelled to say something to other moms? I would love to hear from you!
Hi! I'm Antara and I was once a 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend' kind of girl. Now at 33 and a mom of a teddy bear looking 2 year old boy (with another little bundle on the way), I am still that 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend kind of girl.'