Tiger mother or Total sucker?

This piece has been inspired by conversations with various friends and clients on whether they are making the right choices when raising their children. The issues range from how much to breastfeed, when to start solids, what type of solids to start, how to deal with tantrums, how to build confidence and so on. I’ve been working in pregnancy and childcare for years now, however I feel the true answers, the correct ones for each woman and her child, lies in her instinct. There is no right and wrong and all the Parenting Gurus can only give guidance; each child is different and each parent’s approach is based on them and their children.

The last week has been gruesome at home. Number Two and me have had our swords drawn and for once none of us is backing down. For the past 6 months she has wanted to join all the extracurricular classes her brother does and yet when I pay the money and get her set to go, she backs down. This has resulted in a lot of money down the toilet, a lot of tears (from both of us), a lot of angry tirades (again from both of us) and a lot more grey hair joining their comrades on my head.

After a lot of analysis and thought on what type of mother I am, I have decided I oscillate between Tiger Mother and Total Sucker. I believe very strongly in a few things which I then stick to like glue and expect my kids to. Many a time the kids have been woken from slumber to be somewhere at the right time, dragged away from family gathering to be put to bed despite the other kids in the family being around and fed meals crying that they just don’t want it. From day one, my chosen way was the Gina Ford routine monger diluted with a little bit of supermom nurturing. I am a working mom and so my kids were born and raised to adjust to my life so that we are both at peace. Plus I believe that routines and discipline provide security and comfort to kids as they know that no matter what happens, life goes on and there are certain expectations they have to meet and certain basics which WILL be provided to them.

One of the strong beliefs that Man-of-my-Dreams and I have for the kids is that they are exposed to sport, the arts, music, drama and dance in these early years. They must try everything out and then I trust my children enough, even at this age to be able to make their own choices on what they would like to pursue.

Number Two is not like Number One who has toed the line (ok my kids have too much personality to toe the line but at least he didn’t fight me as much) and the last minute ditching of her summer camp was just too much to bear.  I am not going to be pushed around. So harsh or not, I have ‘grounded’ her. Yes, at four years old. So what, I say? She must learn to be responsible for her actions and all actions have consequences. I have given her the freedom to stick with her choice of not going. But as a result, she is now not allowed to leave the house for other activities either. No park, no Nani’s house. I had given her a choice and continue to give her one. But until she ‘decides’  to give life a chance, her life is restricted to her house. I am still as loving, nurturing and considerate as I always was BUT I am standing my ground and want her to understand that.

My family seem to think I’m being very tough on a four year old but I believe that these young years are truly the formative ones and it is at this time that I need to set in place the values I deem important – commitment, not quitting, achieving success when you overcome fears and above all – being confident enough to try out anything. I don’t know how long I will last but day 4 seems to be going pretty well. Wish me luck. I’m just doing my best by following my instinct – a mother’s most powerful tool.

Zindagi na Milega Dobara…with the bubbas

We just returned from a 10 day road trip across Spain. The whole world and their aunt had plenty to comment about how mad we were to attempt such a holiday with two kids under 7 but we pooh-poohed them and with full confidence ploughed ahead with all the arrangements. The thing is that Man of my Dreams and I were great travellers BK (Before Kids). Living in London we took full advantage of all the Bank Holiday weekends and budget airfares to embark on various adventures across different locations. We are not the lying-on-a-beach type of people. We are the lets-not-stop-moving-for-even-a-minute type of people. We like seeing different places, eating different food, experiencing different local lifestyles and for the past 7 years AK (After Kids), our holidays have been restricted to resorts which have beaches, swimming pools and in-room dining; punctuated with theme park based kiddie friendly holidays in between. This year I put my foot down. We work hard all year long which means the least we deserve is a holiday of our choosing once a year. After much deliberation, Man of My Dreams and I narrowed it down to Spain motivated by the fact of course that it was closer than South America which was our top choice, more economically friendly than Fiji and Number One was still reeling from his ‘how cool’ hangover of the flick Zindagi Na Milega Doobara which is what he thought he would replicate on his own trip (even though he was 7 and travelling with his family).

So here is my guide how to survive Delhi-London-Madrid-Seville-Toledo-Cadiz-Sotogrande-Marbella-Rhonda-Cabo De Gata-Valencia in 10 days with 2 kids, the man-of-your-dreams and the-source-of-all-your-wisdom (your mother).

  • ·         Book a night flight so that the bubbas can sleep through the flight and be fresh to face the day
  • ·         Do not watch movies on that flight or the bubbas will be like energiser batteries the next day and you will be forced to cope with it on your lack batteries
  • ·         Take lots of snacks for the long car rides to keep the kids fueled and their mouths busy
  • ·         Ensure they do not eat or drink too much or you will be dealing with many more unscheduled breaks (either inside or outside the car)
  • ·         It would be handy if man-of- your-dreams works out a few weeks before the trip for the emergency bathroom stops where he has to grab a child in rugby hold underarm position and race to the loo
  • ·         Some useful in the car games to keep the kids busy are ‘I Spy’, ‘Name, Place, Animal, Thing’ and ‘Twenty Questions’. Pls note that questions don’t stop at 20 though
  • ·         An educational learning tool which also keeps little hands occupied for hours is creating a scrapbook of the trip which helps them remember places of interest
  • ·         Try and schedule all driving time post lunch which is the best time for kids and their grandmothers to snooze and so allows quiet time for driving parents
  • ·         If you are going to stress about the nutritional content of what your bubbas are consuming during this type of a holiday – don’t. Their diet will most likely comprise of fries and ice cream
  • ·         The best investment made on day 3 of the trip was a second pram – yes, for the 6 year old. It doesn’t matter if you judge me – I was judged all across Spain but my back, my arms and me are better for it
  • ·         A flamenco performance in Spain with kids means that your daughter will dress up in what she calls a ‘Flamingo’ outfit and dance the flamenco on your head
  • ·         Book as many vineyard tours, point to as many landscapes, reserve as many tables at fancy restaurants as you want; your kids will want to be on the beach or in the pool and that is what you will end up doing most of your trip. But you can always try
  • ·         A grandmother is a useful tool on a longish holiday with kids as she ends up diffusing tension (between the kids and more importantly, between man-of-your-dreams and you)

Most importantly, don’t give up trying to have the holiday of your dreams because the kids will learn to do it your way soon enough and you would have exposed them to far more than what you would doing it just their way. Live it up – after all, Zindagi na Milega Doobara.

What is a ‘good mother’?

I have been struggling with this for years. All the trans generational messages passed down to me from both sides of my family have always indicated that when you become a mother, your prime responsibility is to you child; i.e a career is not something associated with being a ‘good’ mother. Good mothers spend all their time with their children. They are physically there for them when their kids need them (when does a child not need their mother? I still need mine!). Is that even possible?

Last week, Number 2 was very sick; we were suspecting scarlet fever but it turned out to be a terrible stomach infection. The always-present knot in my stomach tightened at the thought of the coming days where work and motherhood would play a more intense tug of war. Guit. Guilt as a mother. Guilt as a person responsible for a business. My constant companion. My soul sister. No matter how hard I try to shed her, she sticks loyally to me refusing to let go. I have a pretty good deal. My work is my passion and the organisations I have worked for have always respected that. Work at home arrangements, flexible clocking in and clocking out have enabled me to give my best to work and my best to my kids. If this were not the case, I would not work. I have great household help to look after my kids when I’m not there, all who have been with me since before my babies were born. And yet, I spent the good part of last week crying myself to sleep, crying outside my office, crying before and after seeing clients (and I’m supposed to be a voice when it comes to Pregnancy and Parenting) at the thought of leaving my poor sick baby alone!

This piece is a result of two conversations I had with two of my closest girlfriends. The first one asked me why I work if it tears me up so much and this was my reply:

  1. To have something of my own so I don’t focus all my attention on my children (eventually they will outgrow me)
  2. To teach them to be independent – it is not possible for Mama to always be around
  3. To be a role model – it is important to pursue your dreams; to have a purpose

My friend responded that these were pretty good reasons for spending that time away from the kids and all logical reasons why this decision should also benefit them. I was not convinced. My other friend asked me to pen down what my definition of a good mother was. She suggested that perhaps my struggle was because of a clash between my child (the part of me that still carries messages from my childhood) and my adult (my present, rational self) and it was time to address this. Being a student of Transactional Analysis therapy, I understand that there comes a time when we become so aware of the patterns we keep repeating that they need to be addressed and so I accepted the next challenge, which was to pen down my definition of a ‘Good Mother.’ Here goes:

  1. One who is ‘present’ with her children. Gives them full attention and response with focused eye contact, body language and words.
  2. One who disciplines them when required, gives them values, teaches the difference between right and wrong.
  3. One who is there to soothe them when they are upset, kiss their ouchies, wipe their tears, massage away their aches and pains.
  4. One who is not always with them but provides them with the security to know that she WILL always try her best to be there as soon as possible. And until then, gives them the confidence in their own ability to cope on their own.
  5. One who exposes them to all that the world has to offer, encourages them to be confident enough to go get what they want and be okay if they don’t get it all the time.
  6. One who teaches them to give it their best, to never stop trying, to know that nothing is beyond their reach and yet one who is willing to throw out all rules and schedules every now and then to dance in the rain and eat donuts for dinner.
  7. One who is not afraid to show her kids that it is OK to be human – to cry once in a while, to lose some, to make mistakes and to say sorry. For it is only then that children learn that when you get knocked down, you can get up again and when you fail, success is just around the corner.
  8. Most of all, one who shows them that love is not shown by the amount of time spent together, but by the type of time spent together and that each minute, the ups, the downs, is worth it because it is part of the journey called life.

There are plenty of stay-at-home moms who are there at home every day with their kids, who make it to every extracurricular activity and every classmate’s birthday party. But do they really make their time with their kids count more than I do? I am up with my kids every morning, dress them, eat brekkie with them and give them Reiki before school. I coordinate their activities and meals while at work and have made it to every performance, award ceremony and PTM that any of them have ever had. I rush back from work to ensure I am the one who bathes them, feeds them and puts them to bed with a story and our nightly prayers. Our weekends are choc-a-block with activities like swimming, cycling at India gate, movies and play dates.

Every mom has a different parenting style except for one thing – we all do what we feel is best for our children. So if I am doing my best, what more can my kids ask for? When I look at them, they are happy, healthy, curious, all-rounded children. I turned from Marketing professional to Birth Professional because motherhood inspired me to support other moms. Now if only I could extricate myself from that loyal best friend – Guilt, life would be its chaotic, mad, fun, perfect best. Cut yourself some slack Supermom!

My heart belongs to daddy; because daddy…he treats it so well

Today I’m no Supermom. No Superwife. No Superworker. I’m just a little girl wondering where her Papa went. Today 6 years ago, God stole him from me. I tell my kids the reason why their Nana is not there is because God wants all the best people with him, but honestly that’s bullshit. There is no logical or otherwise, reason why my family was stripped off our central character; the glue that kept us together. We are not the richest, not the luckiest, not the smartest – but we were the happiest little family in the world.

How can somebody so real, so vibrant, so ALIVE just disappear off the face of this earth? It is an unfathomable thought. My father was surrounded by a constant buzz – he had a HUGE circle of friends and we had a large family who all gathered around him like bees to honey…that was just his way. His sheer energy attracted people and our lives were full of people, activities, laughter, love and new –ness. Papa was interested in so many things. He was a suave and sophisticated dresser. What I never appreciated earlier are the things I am amazed to discover now that they fit into my world – his wardrobe had aviators, leather bomber jackets, every kind of watch, pen and gadget of that time and of course matching shoes, socks, ties, hankies to everything. He loved music, food, port, cigars – all the things I associate with a worldly, dashing, charming man…only I never knew it then!

What I did know was that he was unfailingly, unequivocally, madly, blindly, in love with me. Girls spend their whole lives looking for the man of their dreams, that one man who would do anything for them, but what we don’t realise is, we already have them – our Fathers. We look and look and look and of course we don’t find. We find other amazing men, but not that ONE who is the Hero of our dreams; after all, who can compete with the one man who helped us understand what a man’s love was anyway? How can this adult man compete with the Papa who called his daughter princess, kissed her ouchies better, beat up the boys who came to date her, gave her away (protesting loudly) to another man, watched her become a mother? Papa’s hands were the warmest, his embrace the most secure, his voice the most soothing and without these things, I run from pillar to post trying to prove myself so I can get his attention….only to know that this is futile for he is gone.

My heart aches when I think of all that he has missed, that he is missing, that he will miss. He would have loved all the happy times, stood solidly strong against the sad and booed the scary ones away. But more than anything, I miss being my Papa’s little girl. Today, 6 years ago, his little girl was forced to grow up.

I envy those big business families who immortalise their parents through their family’s work. I neither have the money, nor the bandwidth. But in the name of my father, I live everyday. I work everyday. I try everyday. I grow everyday. And I know for my Papa, that would be enough.

Siblings: Partners from the womb

My new year’s resolution is to write my blog at least twice a week. It April already and this is my first post! I’ve had a lot to adjust to….a new job, kids going into new classes, lots of studying to arm myself with more information, more expertise and so more to offer my clients. I feel good this morning, in the quiet of my home before I leave for work. The kids have left for school, Man of my Dreams on his way to the office, Source of all Wisdom is peacefully asleep next door, the staff are cleaning the house, the birds are chirping. All in my little empire is well.

What plays on my mind however this morning, are my kids and their relationship with one another. I always wanted one of each – a little boy and a little girl – the perfect family not because the world says so but because of my own history. Having a brother completed me. Our relationship prepared me to deal with so much – the opposite sex in general, working in a team, healthy competition, unconditional love. How amazing is it to have someone in your life who understands your history watches and contributes to your growth and shares your life from start to finish. Siblings are the longest intimate relationship that anyone can have. Not to say that siblings can’t be highly annoying, very often put a spoke in your wheel and most of our lives, we treat our siblings as our personal punching bags.

My brother and I were fiercely protective about each other – against our parents and the world at large. We shared a room till we were in our teens which created an atmosphere of companionship and fun. It taught us to share, to adjust and to love unconditionally. I grew up to be this maternal creature because of him and he was cossetted and cuddled as a consequence. I took full advantage of having a baby brother – he was a superdog one day, a bridegroom in a pretend wedding another, the office boy in my thriving business and he never once complained! Because I work in birth, I marvel at the thought of siblings coming from the same place, growing in their mother’s womb and I wonder if they leave messages for each other….the first ones giving warnings to the ones to come!

I do see similar traits in my kids as well but they fight like crazy and this worries me. Will they grow up to be the type who never speak to each other? Will they grow up to look the other way when an outsider attacks them? Will they not band together in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer till Man of my Dreams are long gone and death do them part? I hope not because we view life long partnerships as those of husbands and wives but we don’t give enough credit to those longer relationships which can be even more powerful. I live next door to my brother and rarely see him. Every day I miss him life crazy. My children tease me that he’s my number one ‘small baby’ and he is. But I know that when it counts, he is there for me as I am for him. I can only wish the same for my children and more…May they value their partnership till the end of time; for they started in the same place – inside me.

Teaching kids self awareness

I recently attended a TA 101 workshop. TA or Transactional Analysis is ‘a rational approach to understanding behaviour and is based on the assumption that all induviduals can learn to trust themselves, think for themselves, make their own decisions, and express their feelings. Its principles can be applied on the job, in the home, in the classroom- wherever we deal with people’ Born to Win; Muriel James.

This course was extremely valuable for me and the multiple hats I wear – Parent, Team Leader, Holistic Practitioner, Daughter, Mother, Sister and Friend. Although the course which goes over a few months has just begun, it has already started making me aware of who I am, what has made me think, feel and act in certain ways, what motivates and drives me and most important – the consequences that my actions have on myself and on others. Self awareness, self understanding, self accepting and through that, self confidence are crucial to surviving in this tough, scary, competitive world that our generation lives in.

Our generation feels so much pressure, so much stress that we have been hit by the highest rates of infertility, cancer, breakdown of endocrine and digestive systems, skin disease and depression that have ever faced this earth. We have no coping skills to manage our emotions, balance life, believe in ourselves and in others around us. We are inundated by negative feelings of self inadequace, self doubt, guilt, anger, sadness and the consequences of these feelings are constant games that we play with ourselves and with the people we interact with. As a generation, we are adept at manipulating, bullying, coaxing, cajoling, crocodile crying as a means to our end. On the contrary, we challenge those positive emotions of pride, love, happiness; not believing that we are deserving of them, not believing that we are worthy. These coping mechanisms and tools are engrained in us from our childhood by the interactions we have and the messages (both verbal and non-verbal) that we receive from the people around us. As Parents and as Teachers, we have the power to shape the next generation, honing their skills to cope, to lead full and happy lives and so this is a job that must be taken seriously.

I was proud to hear that my children’s school Step by Step World is taking this on. Number One and I were chatting at bedtime as we always do, exchanging stories about our day and he told me about ‘Reflection Time’. I was ready for him to rattle off how him and his classmates recited a re-cap of all that they covered in class that day but I was pleasantly surprised. He said they discuss the things that they did in that day that they are happy about and would like to repeat and those that they are not happy about and promise to never do again. Here was my 6 year old son candidly talking about himself, tthinking about his actions, their impact, the things he was proud of and the things he needed to work on –  I was still too scared to admit this stuff to myself, forget out loud to someone else. Talk about self awareness!

As adults, we can keep working on ourselves, assuring ourselves that we are OK. As Parents and Teachers, we have a more important role, to teach our kids the same thing and to instill in them at an early age, the importance of belief in oneself, in others, the power of the messages we send out. I recommend TA certification for all teachers but until then – well done SBS – you’re on the right track!

Matters of the Heart

The tears are streaming down my face so hard, I can barely see what I am writing. Its been months since I have written a blog although there is so much to share. I don’t see tears as weakness, I see them as strength. The ability to emote, to feel, to relieve. And so I let them come as I continue to write.

This blog, I dedicate to the heart. The most important organ in the body, the symbol which is associated with the deepest emotion – love. When I was growing up, I thought the feelings of the heart were limited to love of the romantic kind; every teenager faces their own share of heart ache and heart break. As I grew up I realised how much more is associated with the heart.

The heart enables you to love your near and dear ones with a depth of emotion described only as ‘with ALL of my heart’. The heart is the part of your body that physically aches when you see a loved one in pain, sadness or any state of upset. My heart is that part of me that throbs with joy when I look at my children. My heart is that part of me that looks at Man of my Dreams and still skips a beat. My heart is that part of me that looks at my 30 year old brother and still sees a little boy clutching at my pyjamas, scared of the dark. My heart is that part of me that is still trying to come to terms with losing my father, the most generous, loving, loyal, helpful, obsessed-with-me person I ever knew. My heart is that part of me that wants to protect my mother, give her joy, happiness and peace and at the same time the part that wants to run to her and hide in her lap.

I pride myself on being an average woman from a simple family. We are good people, we work hard, we play hard, we love hard. We are blessed with family who are good friends and good friends who are family. We have always had more than what we needed and yet, not everything we wanted (as that list is endless for everyone!!) My brother and I are lucky to have parents who’s hearts are larger than life and our legacy from them will always be the lessons they have taught us, the values they have given and in their two very different ways, the love that they envelope us in.

Life is an ironic piece of work. My father died of a heart attack five years ago and my mother has a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy which is a type of heart failure. So what I’m hearing is, my parents have both been hit by heart disease because their hearts are not strong enough to do the job they are supposed to. What I’m telling you is – this is SHEER BULLSHIT. My father loved with so much of his heart that he needed to get it re-energised. From his perch up there, he is even more powerful to take care of all of us. The strength of my mother’s heart transfered to her kids and grandkids and so it is a little weaker and now it is our job to be her battery chargers; giving back a little of the surplus love she has given us.

I’ve had my fair share of terror, pity parties, angst at the world at large over the past few weeks but here is my overall conclusion. Some people have to grow up faster than others and thats ok  because we were blessed with more than our share of shelter and love as children. Some people have more responsibilities earlier in life and thats ok because our coping mechanisms get honed faster. Some people have shorter durations with those that they love and thats ok too becuase that time is far more love-packed than those who  might have entire lives together. God only dishes out to the ones he thinks are strongest, the ones he loves the most, becuase we can take it; we are not just fighters, we are also lovers. I would not trade who I am, where I’ve come from or where I’m going for anything. I’m right here where I’m meant to be and I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way; for I was born to the King and Queen of Hearts.