Friday, August 16, 2013

Long, Lonely Days

I don't know how these stay at home moms do it. My days for the last 2 months have alternated between utter madness and complete boredom, punctuated by a total lack of sleep. Since L was off from school, I spent the first month running between the two kids. There were times when I was breastfeeding the little one while playing puzzles with the older one. Yes, it can be done.

Days fall into a routine when you are at home and devoting yourself to the care of 2 little humans. Wake up at 7, bathe the two kids, feed both, find entertainment for one, put the other to sleep, feed the little one, feed the older one, put the older one to sleep, feed the little one, put the little one to sleep, arrange a play date for the older one, feed the little one, send the older one off for play date, take the little one out for a walk, feed both the kids, bathe both the kids, put them to sleep. Whew! In between these, you have snatches of time which you spend planning meals, doing bills and doing sundry chores. While breastfeeding you endlessly troll Facebook and burn with envy when you see other people having fabulous dinners and sky diving in Turkey. After the kids sleep you read books that you've had on your list forever and get hooked onto trashy TV shows that you missed because you were too busy working.

In the course of this time, I have encountered three kinds of moms. There are those who completely hand over child care to their nannies and spend their days shopping and getting manicures. There are others who are hugely energetic and organize parties and social events or run a small business from home. And then there are those who devote themselves completely to their children, planning activities and ferrying them from one class to another. I cannot see myself doing any of the above. The lack of a goal, of something specific to do, drives me close to distracted madness. I am like my father, who when given nothing to do, wilts onto the sofa with absolutely no energy. I've spent most of my time either studying or working (or both) and I find myself at a loss not doing either.

I exaggerate of course. There are moments of joy and some days filled with fun activities. Like when the little one laughs or the day he rolled over for the first time. There are days when I like not having to go to work and just wandering aimlessly around a mall buying things I don't need because I have nothing better to do. I like dropping L off to school and spending time there with her. I like not having to deal with work politics. There are dinners with friends who also have kids and understand that schedules need to be flexible. We even took a short vacation at a beach chalet in Bintan where we did nothing but swim and build sand castles. It was like something out of those French movies about families who vacation at the Riviera and look fabulous while doing it (I didn't. Look fabulous, I mean though we did have fun). But most days are just that. The routine. And some days your children drive you mad, with their whining and their endless questions and their need, need, need of you, all the time, every time. Then you resent them and hate yourself for being that way.

Most of all it gets lonely. Spending all your time with little people makes you crave adult conversation and company. I am beginning to understand why housewives have torrid affairs. Its probably just to see another adult during the daytime. Thankfully my reaction was less in that direction, but unfortunately it also meant I started eating a lot. When I got bored, I would pop some kind of a carb and sugar heavy item into my mouth. Not the best thing when put in context of all the weight I have gained due to the babies.

Finally the best thing ever happened. My boss called and asked if I could come back to work early. I've worked out a deal where I work just 3 days a week for a couple of months till I settle the child care situation. This way I get to be a mom AND put my brain to good use. At least I hope I do!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Consequences

Having an unplanned child so close after the first one has its unexpected challenges. And surprisingly enough, the negative impact is more on the first child than the second. Granted we take it more easy with Baby S. We don't freak out as much about illnesses and cleanliness and routine and all the other things that seemed such a big deal with L.

The truth is a part of me will forever feel guilty about all that I couldn't do for L in the last 6 months. For instance, starting month 4 of the pregnancy I could not carry her as much. And after the baby was born, I cannot carry her at all. While she is incredibly understanding about it (for a two year old), I know she feels hurt when I carry Baby S. One day she climbed onto my lap and said - Mamma, like you carry S carry me! My heart broke into a million pieces.

Other than that, I missed so many play dates and school functions and trips to the beach because I was tired or nauseous or just not up to it. Consequently she is much more close to her dad than to me. Its his name that she calls when she wakes up, him that she looks to when she is in pain. I have to admit, sometimes I am jealous and more than a little hurt.

More importantly though, I haven't been able to follow through on some of her basic needs. For instance, at 2 years and 4 months, she still isn't toilet trained (in fact she is afraid of the potty!). She is still on a bottle at least before her bed time. And as for her sleep, she has completely regressed from sleeping on her own bed to sleeping in ours while clinging to one of us. All in all, I have missed so much and messed up even more.

On the bright side, she is still the happy, energetic little girl she always was. She is doing wonderfully in school and talking a mile a minute, both in English and Mandarin. I can also look forward to the time (perhaps just two years away), when both my little ones will not just be siblings, but also friends. That I think is the best thing about having a sibling so close in age. You can grow up together in the truest sense, sharing everything from toys to friends.

And hopefully that makes up for all the mistakes I have and will continue to make. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Taking a Break


It maybe blasphemous to say this, but the one thing I hate as a parent is putting a toddler to sleep. I simply don't have the patience for it. I think its a waste of precious time and certainly not the way I want to spend quality time with my child. Bedtime with L is contentious when I do it. We start off singing songs and end up at each others throats. There is only so much procrastination I can take before I start making mental maps of all the undone things waiting outside the closed bedroom door.

Thankfully K doesn't feel the same way. So these days he is completely in charge of L's bedtime routine while I focus on Baby S's needs. With the confinement nanny gone, I am spending all my time with him. I find myself enjoying it, even the most mundane of things. He is such a happy, easy baby. He doesnt cry needlessly and smiles all the time. Even when he wakes me up with cries at 3 am they are soft mewls, almost like he is apologizing for interrupting my sleep. Sorry mamma, he seems to say, but I have pooped and I am so hungry. Can you just take care of this and we can snuggle back to sleep? And then he smiles.

My mother teases me that (like all mothers) I will end up preferring (aka loving) my son more. Is this really true, I wonder. I take an informal poll of my friends and find that it sort of is. Its not really about more love, its just that their relationships with their daughters are more complicated, more fraught with drama. With sons, it seems much easier. They ask but little and appreciate small things so much more. I am guilty of the same with my mother. Obviously I realize this is bit of an overgeneralization, but close observation shows that it is true to a large extent.

The second time around my maternity leave is proving to be so much more enjoyable. Last time, I remember things being darker and full of tension. This time I find that taking care of a baby is getting easier with time and therefore I have the luxury of doing things that I didnt last time. Like work my way through a long list of unread books and unwatched movies. I've rediscovered Elizabeth Strout and read the new Khaled Hussaini book. I watched so many Malayalam and Hindi movies that I missed in the last couple of years (Ustad Hotel and Kai Po Che to name a couple I liked). I've worked my way through all the notable foreign films I felt I must see (Un Prophet, The Skin I Live In) and find that I dont like seeing dark movies so much anymore. In the next few weeks, I will busy myself with everyday things like organizing my closet and redoing the kitchen. Most of all I find that I really appreciate having more time not having to do "work work." Of course there is very little sleep, but I dont resent it as much as I did last time. I cant imagine my life like this always, but for now building my days around my kids, my home and my small diversions seems to be enough.

At some point I will have to step out and back into my job. Into the messiness, the politics, the rat race. I will have to consider my options, evaluate how to add new skills to my resume, network and play the games of life. I will have to think about money and the future. But it all seems a bit far away and irrelevant right now. Maybe its the hormones, but just like last time I find that the edge of my ambition has dulled a little. Whatever it is, I feel the need to keep the big, bad world outside at bay.

The bubble feels like a good place for now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What Happens Next

Sometimes I look around and cannot believe the new landscape of our house. Most of our furniture is yuppie stuff we picked up during our DINK days. Now the living room has a huge playpen on one side, the corridors are littered with toys and between our beautiful, carefully chosen furniture are tiny person sized chairs, easels and sundry kid's items. These days we stock up on two sizes of diapers, tons of milk and find our grocery bills running into absurdly high numbers for things that we didn't even imagine buying a scarce three years ago (feels like a lifetime).

Having a child changes your life, having two is something else all together. The truth is that my little boy is not that fussy. After that awful birth experience, he has settled into a rhythm of sleeping and pooping and eating. The only thing he asks of me is milk and that I am more than happy to give him. Otherwise he is a sweet, smiling little angel. Everything is easier with him. The breast feeding, the holding, even the bonding. 

What is hard is making time for two little humans, especially one who is old enough to vocally demand your time. I can see that the two years ahead are going to be challenging. There's so much of sleep training and potty training and feeding schedules in my future. There is going to be very little sleep and me-time. Balancing work and two children and running this household is not going to be easy. Feminism and women's emancipation is great in theory, but it also means you pull double shifts - at home and at work.

Even then, I am looking forward to it. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have help at home and a supportive husband. My children are healthy and normal. Between the late nights and the doctor runs, there will be days at the beach and laughter and sunshine and first words and little triumphs. There is so much to look forward to and so much more to learn. How could I be anything but happy? 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Deja Vu, Once Again

It feels like I've been here before. And yet it doesn't.

I was so enjoying parenthood with L who has grown into a beautiful, entertaining little girl that I totally forgot the time leading to this phase. The late nights, the incessant breast feeding, the pumping of milk, the hormones, the worries about the baby's growth, the night sweats, the tears, the pain. Oh yes, the pain.

Pregnancy for all its discomforts is an enjoyable time. You feel a baby grow inside you, everyone is extra nice to you and your life is pretty normal except for a few physical setbacks. The actual arrival of the new baby on the other hand is a whole other thing.

Going into the C-Section last Sunday, I had a feeling something would go wrong. And it did.  At the end of it both the baby and I are alright, but there were a couple of days there where I thought I just wouldn't make it through. And there was one terrible hour after the operation when the baby was in the ICU which neither K nor I ever want to experience with our children ever again. I don't want to relive the details because they were truly the most horrible things that have happened to our family and we want to put it behind us.

I just want to rejoice in the fact that now, barely a week later I sit here with my painful battle scars and can be thankful I have something wonderful to show at the end of this ordeal. My son.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Looking Back (and Ahead)

Its been a strange sort of week. I woke up on Saturday morning to a text informing me that a friend from B-school had a heart attack and stroke which has left him paralysed on the left side of his body. He is 37 years old. Back then we were pretty good friends. We studied together, drank together, hung out at college fests and generally had a good time. After school, we drifted apart the way men and women often do when they are "just" friends. We stayed in touch sporadically, birthdays, weddings that sort of thing, but nothing that preserved the camaraderie we once had.

Then another friend who I hadn't from in years sent me a Whatsapp message. He was from high school and we were in the same "gang." We never related on a personal level, but he was fun guy and always looked out for me in a brotherly sort of way. We met a few times after high school with the others in our group, but after R killed himself I just couldn't bring myself to keep in touch with anyone from that group (except my friend U of course). I found during the course of our hour long texting, that he had gotten my number from my mom who he bumped into at the market, that he was going through a messy divorce and that he was back in Cochin running his parents shop. It was all very surreal and out of the blue for me.

I realized that in a way I have a habit of discarding people from my life, even good friends. I thought back to all of the people I have known and I was close with it for a time. Only a handful have made all the way to this point of my life. Others I have just let go of and they have become fuzzy memories (if that). But once in a while things like this happen that make me wonder at my own callousness. Or is it that? Friendship does work both ways after all. So if I didn't make an effort, they could have (well, in some cases they did).

All this has left me in a ruminative state. Which honestly I don't have time for. With just 2 weeks to go to D-day (yes, this time its going to be a planned C-section), I am actually overwhelmed with all the things I need to wrap up at work and all the last minute things I need to get done at home. The baby's room, his clothes, even his name. Nothing has actually been done. With the second child, everything becomes so last minute. There is no time to think and rethink and plan. It all sort of just happens.

And it happens all at once.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tantrums

Immediately after I wrote my last post, I regretted it. I know I was throwing a mini-tantrum about things that I should be grateful for. Of course I know my life is good and easy and very blessed. Everyday I see examples of why I should stop complaining about the littlest things. L's nanny for instance, who left her two kids behind in the Philippines in a village 3 hours away from the nearest doctor. How stoically she bears her lot and how well she takes care of a child who is not even her own. In the news everyday are reports of kidnappings and rapes and murders that makes me question again and again why anyone bothers to believe in God. I am reading a book right now called "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" about life in a Bombay slum that makes me feel guilty and horrified at the same time.

Closer to home, a friend of mine just discovered that she is carrying a baby who most likely will be born with Down's Syndrome. Another friend lost her father and broke her spine in the course of one year. Yet another had her mother die of cancer, discovered her son had dyslexia and that she was going to be laid off in a space of 3 months. We take for granted the most basic of things - like our health, our relationships and our relative prosperity, until something goes terrifically wrong. Why does it have to be that way?

The truth is we live in a beautiful little bubble. Our worries are about stupid things like we make less money than the other guy or why someone else got promoted at work. I worry about my daughter and my unborn son, about sending them to college, an event that's 18 years away and who knows what the world will be like then. In our worrying and pushing to get ahead, we often forget to enjoy the small things. At least I do. Like my daughter making tea for me in her plastic kitchen set and climbing on my lap while I eat dinner so she lick the crumbs off my hand. I forget how much I loved the smell of a new baby, the softness at the top of the head, that overwhelming rush of love that comes with breastfeeding.

I watch my daughter grow right in front of me. She is no longer a baby, but a head strong toddler who wants everything her own way. I empathize with my mother now and understand why she got so upset when I refused to wear a dress she lovingly bought for me or rejected the jewelry she had worked so hard to buy for me. L does the same with me at this young age. Part of me is angry and the other half thinks I deserve it for what I did to my mother. I cant help be amused by the situation. Its a cliche to realize this I know, but we cant really change our children, can we? We can only accept them in their beauty and their terribleness. Just like we accept everything else that's uncontrollable.

Its not wrong to want more from life, but it does seem a waste not to appreciate what you already have.