Monday, May 30, 2011

Working Women vs Working Men

On an ongoing debate at a coffee table as to why women are better than men at multi tasking, I was amazed how some of the men thought that we end up glorifying the role of a woman much more than what we end up doing. Now that was too much so I asked them a volley of questions for them to answer. Now since I am a full time professional, this was limited to the working women- working men debate. Its also limited to an Indian setting where House helps are around and hence as per men, we don't do most of the work ourselves and as part of the debate was pointed out to me that you have a driver, a cook, a nanny for kids and someone to clean the house and yet you claim that you do more work .
So here goes the argument

1. You don't manage house helps - Having house helps is of help only when you efficiently manage them. Its like having an extended team working for you and that too in your absence - virtual reporting for a large period. How they do and what they do if not monitored can leave your entire house in a chaos. Managing them, their egos, their desires is not easy especially when you know thats your support system. Any breakdown and the entire house comes down. It comes with a lot of stress as well. How are they keeping the kids? Are they being given proper meals? Is the hygiene being maintained - I must admit to at times not only checking but even smelling my kids clothes to ensure they are properly washed. This privilege comes with a lot of stress and ask any mother who keeps a house help- working or not working. Its the most difficult people management experience you will gather.

2. You don't get 5 missed calls from your house and then have a panic attack seeing them after a meeting only to call back and find that your 5 year old daughter wanted to know where a particular book is kept.

3. You don't have to decide and answer everyday as to what will be cooked and its gets challenging as the demand for something different emanates from all corners of the house.

4. You don't manage Birthday calendars and play dates especially during 2 months long summer vacations. Acknowledgements of invites, reminders in mobile phones a day before and arrange the logistics to get them dropped to the endless pizza huts ,MacDonald's and malls food courts ( why cant people be more creative when it comes to arranging parties for their kids ? that's for another day perhaps !).

5. You don't remember that Monday is skating day , Tuesday is swimming day , Wednesday is sports day and arrange respective stuff to be carried to school a day before.

6. You don't come back from work and then check your kids school diary on a daily basis, write notes for the teachers and make notes for yourself on the key dates in the month.

7. You don't spend at least 25% of your weekends pulling out winter clothes, dry cleaning them , putting them away and again getting them dry cleaned to manage the seasons we have here in north India

8. You do attend PTMs and ask some questions to the tutors but I bet half the time you would not even know the current topic being taught in the class.

9. You do spend time with kids reading out to them and playing but you don't bother whether their shelves
are dusted and the same books kept properly

10. You are not pulled by your children the moment you get down the car to keep your stuff aside and jump right into the park to play with them.

11. And you certainly don't get a frantic call from your child asking you to come on skype in the middle of the meeting because she wants to show the bruise her brother has given her right there and then and you cannot even explain office firewalls.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A note from your mother on Mother's day

I am a little agnostic to Mother's day or for that matter any other day. Well for one , this was never part of our growing up years ( Valentines and friendships days were in vogue) and my children are too young to have that as part of their celebrations.

So whats its like to be a mother? Oh ! We can find enough books, blogs, opinions on the same and I am not even going there. Its actually different for everyone. I haven't yet found one for myself for every new day is a discovery in itself. There are moments when you wish it could have come a little later in your life and there are days you cannot imagine your life otherwise. You fret, fume, cry, sulk, rejoice, love -do everything . So here's a note from me to the two sometimes angel, sometimes devils of my life.
Note 1:To Nia
We always wished for having a daughter and when you came, everything fell in place. Your dad sent text to all in the middle of the night signed off by your name saying you have entered our life. You are so like me and yet so unlike me. Gentle, frail and loving as ever, you are a toast of the family. Your love for art and music makes me feel like a celebrity mother considering I never had flair for one. You were born with a smile on your face and you carry that always.You have a mind of your own and an opinion. As i say often, you are an ideal child. You were so easy and non fussy to bring up that I actually thought raising children is the easiest thing to do. ( till your brother arrived). You are so much a daddy's girl but you are so much a mamma's darling as well. I love your non stop bantering in the evening sharing your girlie gossip in school and your admissions that you hate boys especially those in the neighbourhood who try to be your friends. You handle the pressures of being the elder sibling so well. I promise to do lesser experiments on you - pushing you to do all that I would have liked to do- from Tennis to Abacus to swimming.  If only, you can do with a little bit of less dominance on your younger brother who follows you like a little puppy as well as dad who has a reason for your any misadventure ( and thinks that its valid and logical as well). Love you darling for having you is such a blessing and a joy. There cannot be a better gift than you to me on mother's day forever
Note 2: To aadi
We were indifferent before you came but I was happy to see a boy for the family was complete. You landed and comparisons started with your sister- she is prettier, she started walking earlier than you. We were a little scared as you started speaking late but unlike your sister, you grew slowly in our hearts- mom, dad and nia. You are 180 degrees apart from your sister. I realized how difficult raising kids are only when you came. You are the little monster of the family. You keep us entertained and me physically active by making me run behind you all the time. Your special love for mom makes my heart swell with pride. If only, you can let me sleep in piece rather than moving cars all over me or if you can stop lying flat down in the middle of the corridor to get everyone's attention. But your endearing nature makes you the most popular guy in the neighbourhood. I have had strangers walking up to me mentioning how you will go and hug them. You make the family proud as unlike your mom, you chat more with grandparents on the phone compensating for her. I lover baby bear when you take my face in your hands forcing me to look at you while listening to you, when you lie next to me to sleep putting half of yourself on me or even your manifestation of stranger anxiety by hiding behind me. You made the family complete , You made us complete. Big hugs sunshine

Signing off with two of Mom's favorite picture

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cracking the code : Summer Vacations

Vacations and that too summer vacations have become a major area of contemplation for modern day parents. I don't even remember any planning and process for the same. Actually the children remain agnostic to the fact - its an extension of a holiday from a weekend of 2 days to that of 60 days , its the parents who have suddenly catapulted it to be an event that needs attention, planning and super perfect execution and the success metrics is how busy was your child during these holidays.

I will be honest. I have also given in to the this fad of new-age parents. I had a single child then and seeing the craze for summer camps and courses around for kids, I actually thought that leave aside being fashionable, if I  don't put my daughter in any one of these, it might impact her learning progress. The camps were teaching everything from yoga to dance to reading etc. I scrambled through multiple sites, got her into one of those only to find that even during these vacations , she was having a packed schedule. It actually suited me as i am a working mother. Its good to come back home to a child whose been busy - somewhere takes the mental pressure off your mind. But when I noticed her reluctance for the same and the fact that 15 days of these courses cannot get her to pick up a book and read or develop love for music., I stopped all of it. My son now 3 has not been to any summer camp and i don't intend to do it either.  My daughter attends piano lessons twice a week with 2 of her best friends for over a year now and she loves it.

But the challenge was not over yet. It had just begun. Like a super mom, i decided a big NO for summer camps but what to do now? Here's what we do during summer's over last few years
1. Plan a trip : Vacations memories are always of some fun trip or another. We ensure that we take good 10 days off  and plan a trip. My kids are yet to get exposed to lavish vacations in Swiss alps but like good old north indian parents that we are , they end up in Indian alps to beat the heat . Be it Nainital, Manali  or coorg, they have all been there. You can be a little innovative and indulgent here - choose an offbeat resort, plan some activities like nature walk and you will discover that bang in the middle of being at a typical Hill station during Indian summers, you can find your tranquility. A little planning here always helps.

2. Friends , Family & Fun : Often we plan a good day out for the kids. There are so many in the building that each family takes turn on a week day and we have at least once a week for next 5-6 weeks which is play dates in friends house. They dance, play, eat, sleep, fight, make up  - all together. last year, the girls- all of 4-5 years prepared a dance under supervision of one lady and then presented the same to all of us one evening over high tea. Similar to what we used to do. I felt such great joy - nothing any summer camp could give me.  We have family over for sometime if they can. Nothing like enjoying the days together - In one word, Vacations means chaos, chatter, bantering and getting pampered.

3. Food : Quiet hot afternoons of Indian summers has always been full of great food. From watermelons to ice creams to mangoes - all to beat the heat. A quick instruction to daily staff and personal supervision in the morning ensures that before I leave for work, the melons are cut , icecream preparations are complete ( yes, we do  give them home made icecream even if sometimes its mango juice made to freeze). The kids are home, a little bored and these little surprises brings them immense joy. Sometimes you can get a little creative and leave a note for them with chocolates

4. On their own: Vacations are to be on your own- laze around, play, dance, study whatever suits the child. A planned summer camp can help but only this much. Most of them get 25-30 kids in one class and of not much use. Remember as children, we enjoyed when we were with friends or family. An exciting camp can at best keep a child engaged for a week. More than that, its as good as going to school. The exorbitant fees they charge morally forces the parents in turn to force the child to attend such courses. I remember paying one such tuition fees for a private swimming lesson with a dedicated instructor for my daughter- Certain days when she did not feel like going, I was so livid with her as the money wasted pinches you.

Finally, as working professionals , we all yearn for vacations. We look back with nostalgia on those days. The irony is that for our own children, we end up having a different speak.