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When I stopped trying to do it all…

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I see acquaintances on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp making elaborate plans for weekends. Afterall, they are meant to be two days of pleasure, of not having to do anything you don’t fancy. Right?

Wrong. Weekends for me meant 2x times more pressure – social, parental, personal and domestic – to do something “fun.” I actively dread these two off days. Why? Beacuse, the mommy and wife in me, tried doing it all with military precision and ended up frustrated, angry, guilty, confused, super-tired and demotivated. I was annoyed with my husband. I was angry at everyone around me.

I am a Leo mom (zodiac sign) and suffer from a very bad habit of trying to do everything by myself with all my heart and with my head high in the sky. Motherhood is my biggest project (ongoing one) till date and I constantly battle with its growing ‘to-do’ list. To ease the chaos in my life, I tried creating a highly detailed and concise schedule for everything. I crashed and burned, again.

So, what’s different now?

Do a lifestyle audit on your schedule. Are there too many things being jammed into a short period of time — so much so that it’s practically unavoidable for you to go crazy?

I have redefined the term ‘Good Mom’ in my head. I think, a good mother isn’t necessarily a person who gets the most activities done in the least amount of time. Many moms, like me, get over-scheduled because they feel they have to be the most efficient, most giving, most sacrificing, highest achieving, “best” mother they can possibly be. (Anyways, I sucked at all of these) But moms don’t give themselves any downtime and that does no one any good. We want to excel in everything – including socializing, child rearing, domesticity and the works but it also stresses us to our roots.

My weekend stress sprang from my conflicting needs i.e. wanting a social life and a tidy house at the same time. Conflicting, right? So, last several weekends, I have tried to delegate my set of ‘to-dos’ or overlook the ‘cleanliness issues’ in order to spend some quality time with family and my toddler while giving myself an opportunity to relax. This also includes the accepting help — as humbly as possible, to manage miscellaneous mundane chores and a squirming toddler — without feeling guilty. I also had to control myself from hovering or micro-managing a task, once delegated to another family member.

My biggest struggle (even today) is finding time on weekends – the number one issue that I believe all working moms need to tackle. In past, whenever I found time to do any non-child-related activities, I ended up feeling super guilty while doing so. In my heart, weekends were meant to be dedicated to my toddler and family since on working weekdays, I had little energy to spare. Any minute I spent on my own led me to the Mommy Guilt Land.  Today, I do not allow guilt to take over. I learnt to mitigate it.

On Weekdays, my “being mom time” and “me time” go hand in hand. I take my boy out for a walk every evening (after I’m back from work). I make it a point to listen to my selected collection of audiobooks, music, or anything that will help me unwind, on my smartphone. Once at the park, its playtime for both boy and me.

On Weekends, I HAVE to have my time outs. Be it watching a movie in solitude, or tucking in a relaxed dinner with spouse fussing over the toddler, or walking all around the city, or perhaps just being out with family/friends & letting all those bath-nap schedules go to hell. I had to cross some things off my schedule permanently because I CAN’T DO IT ALL and it helped a good deal in cutting back my weekend stress. Occasionally, I also make an appointment with myself, get out of the house, away from everyone and do what makes me happy.

What on earth was I trying to prove by being a dedicated mother on weekends, a zealous house cleaner and family schedule organiser? Was I trying to prove to myself or to the world that I could be a Supermom, with Red Bull energy levels?

I don’t know.

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Why I Love My Daily Escapes From Motherhood

Yes, I love Mondays and every other weekday. There I said it.

Why? Because it gives me a Break from my otherwise all-encompassing motherhood chores, duties and must-dos.

I began work early this year with a sense of guilt. Or something similar like that. At one point, when I had to travel out for work, the feeling ‘I am neglecting my child for the next 48 hours’ swamped me.

And then somewhere down the line I have stopped feeling terrible about leaving my toddler every morning for work. I actually look forward to work now. To put it in a word, I feel Exuberant. Really. It feels so good to think about normal human things, to feel my brain kicking into gear and having longer than five minutes to really think about something.

Just keeping up with toddler’s meals, household laundry, and other chores takes all of my weekend. And it is not funny how much time I spend running after my toddler on off work days. Being a mom can be incredibly isolating, even though you are often surrounded by your family. But there’s only one mom in the house and that role remains undivided.

When I leave for work every day, I have goals to meet, plans to achieve, and finally accomplishing them is a definite high on many levels. Multiply this by 10 if your work serves a purpose you’re passionate about, which is the case for me. Sitting in office might not actually qualify as a meditation chamber, but “going to work” means exercising some control over my space. Why would any one not love this way of life?

Sure, there’s still a sense of physical cleaving that occurs when I cannot hold my child for an extended period. But guilt it is not. After nearly 2 years, I am still growing accustomed to the paradox that is Motherhood.

It is now very clear to me that becoming a mother does not erase the human need to achieve something for themselves, which is truly theirs to show & cherish & be proud of. I am no different.

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For the very first time…

Cal Closets travel business trips

…I am going to be travelling for a couple of nights without my toddler. In other words, I am finally getting my TRUE time out (first ever in more than 20 months) but I am not exactly jumping in joy. So weird this motherhood is! 

When I went back to work, early this year, I was fully aware that it would eventually take me away from home, for those extra important meetings. So, here I am. And even though my husband and paternal grandparents will be more than enough number of guardians for a single toddler for a couple of nights, it is me that needs some pampering & coaxing. I need someone to tell me that I will be fine. 

I like travelling, and have always appreciated the few hours that I get while traveling all by myself. But this time, this business trip away from my child is guilt-ridden — with me fretting about leaving my lil bun, worrying some more about how my absence may (or may not) negatively impact my family.

You may roll your eyes at this point since I am totally overthinking this situation. I have even thought of extreme cases that could happen in my absence and had some really bad nightmares about the same.

I then went on and read a zillion blogs, news articles and reports about traveling moms. All of these tell me that I need to give up some of the motherly control and accept that that my boi will be just fine. “Whatever you do, try to keep the guilt in check and remember the reasons that you are working in the first place. Is it to better the lives of your children by being able to provide for them? Whatever your reasons, keep them in the front of your mind when the mommy-guilt rears her ugly head,” tells me one parenting website. 

Yet, it is very very very difficult to turn off the ever-present maternal instinct and hand over the responsibility I feel towards my boi to another caregiver while away – be it the nanny, Grandma or even my husband. My logic says that only I know the best when it comes to my boi.    

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Mommy in Kitchen: No Bake Oreo Chewies

Mommy in Kitchen: No Bake Oreo Chewies

#nobake Oreo Chewies with nuts and Raisins. I followed no single recipe and simply pulverised Oreos, with nuts and raisins and a little melted dark chico chips. Later on second thoughts added condensed milk to make it chewy …

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Can be eaten hot or cold. I am cooling them but could not resist tucking in a couple while making them.

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Terrible Toddler-hood

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Just as I thought of patting my back for having made it through the sleepless nights of infancy, all those milestones of crawling and first steps with even a nap schedule in place, this toddler stage has come to bit me in my a**!

And this irrational creature living (or a toddler) in your house has the power to make you laugh & cry in an instant. They can destroy your weekends or simply make them memorable. They shove one tiny toe in your mouth, while asleep, & kick the other in your intestines. They own your iPhone, iPad or laptop just as they own your TV remote. There’s no grey — only white or black. Get it?

In my house, this soon-to-be 17-month old toddler has ultimate powers. He can swing elderly grandparents, not-so-energetic dad and always-on-her-toes mom off-track with a single whine, syllable or a head shake. Some basic samples of how my life, at present, looks, feels & smells like as mommy to a toddler.

  1. My little man has become very inquisitive as he quickly learns how gadgets around him are operated by adults. So, his favourite thing nowadays is putting his fingers on every button that he sees. He can now switch on the washing machine (has already run it twice, empty!), can capably use the Home button on iPad to exit out of boring rhymes, use the button on the remote to switch channels (accidentally mostly) and can even click “selfies” on my phone as camera function is just a button away.
  2. The living room floor, which at most hours bears remnants of a toy explosion, orchestrated by my toddler is my next battleground. Knowing that one can hide the evidence beneath the sofa, under the TV or dining table, my toddler works hard to ensure his toys, blocks and playballs are never easily retrievable. This should also explain my backaches.
  3.  I can’t name the recent song on any music charts because of the silly nursery rhyme tunes that are constantly looping in my head.
  4. This scene happens every night. I’m headed toward the kitchen/bathroom and step on something that either starts playing music, lights up or says It’s ABC time. Pick and put it back in its place fully aware I will be tripping on it again in morning.
  5. His perseverance, trying things over and over again, and sheer determination to master new skills is simply a pleasure to watch. But not when it is your costly makeup (fancy wrinkle cream) bottle cap or that super expensive shoe kept stashed away in a cloth bag. I almost had a heart attack when I saw my Dior perfume cap in his hands and the bottle rolling under the bed. *shudders*
  6. It is becoming impossible to talk to anyone on phone when my toddler is in front of me. It’s either I put the phone on speaker mode or put the phone on to his ears (which he will promptly want to hold in his hands instead), stare & smile while caller & me try desperately to get one word out of him.
  7. Noisy toys are my greatest friends. Why? Put a load of noisy, beeping, musical toys in-front of your toddler and these will amuse him for several minutes. You might even get a chance to brush your teeth, de-tangle your hair, even get to drink that elusive mug of coffee while it’s still hot. By the way, you need to see your toddler get down and boogie to the sound of these noisy toys. Try it, you’ll be peeing yourself by the end and feel ten times better about toddler-hood.

Do you have some tips or tricks to taming the wild bear? Please share.

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How exactly does a sick day look like for mom?

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When mommy is not well, all falls apart. Or at least that’s the case in my household.

I have been trying hard (armed with antibiotics) to get over a crazy throat viral that came along with mild fever and body ache over last 3-4 days. While still a day left to complete my antibiotic-led cleansing schedule, I’m ready to blog about the unfairness of mommydom.

(Yes, Once Again. Those who just rolled their eyes may stop reading at this point. It’s all mommy rant hereon)

In households like mine, where both parents work outside the home, I’m amazed at the unnamed/invisible things that have found their way into my “mommy chores list for weekend.” Result, pleading a sick day just seems like an unthinkable task.

As I lay on the bed on Saturday morning, I realised mundane chores like clipping my kids’ nails, researching on toddler activities nearby, scheduling grocery deliveries & buying-sorting the kids’ clothes-supplies would never get done if I did not move my posterior from bed. I questioned my husband – how exactly did a sick day look like for mom? He hemmed and hawed and in the end just stared at me.

Answer is, just like another mom-is-okay day — where everyone in the family needs to be fed, toddler needs to be put in bathtub and scrubbed, diaper pail needs to be emptied out, laundry heap begged to be sorted out (which daddy conveniently pushed in one corner), and a lot of ‘safe & inventive activities’ had to be devised to keep the toddler happily occupied without requiring 100% of mommy’s attention.

So, why is no smart people wondering aloud if dads are actually taking on their share of the thinking and planning of a balanced family life, and why are they simply executing orders from mom (when threatened with dire circumstances)?

For example, when my sorry achy body that had just finished stuffing the washer & sorting another batch of laundry, I begged my husband to feed the boi some breakfast. I needed my morning tea desperately. What did daddy do? Instead of mixing baby cereal, pulling out the baby chair & feeding him over an animated conversation, my husband opted to feed boi omelette from his plate (while continuing to eat himself) while boi sat on his lap mesmerized by TV. Sigh.

Being under the weather isn’t the ideal time to be picky about what your child is doing for fun. In fact, as long as he was occupied, I was grateful — even if that meant tearing off pages off the picture storybook or watching rhymes on iPad. As long as I could nap/lie down some minutes and boi was safe and contained to the house, I was happy. So was dad, who had brought office work home on weekend.

Renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her book, The Second Shift takes us into the homes of two-career parents to observe what really goes on at the end of the “work day.” No surprises that, it’s the working mother who takes on the second shift. Hochschild finds that men share housework equally with their wives in only 20% of dual-career families. While many women accept this inequity in order to keep peace, they tend to suffer from chronic exhaustion, low sex drive, and more frequent illness as a result.

I have to add here that many things in a toddler(s)-led household don’t need to be done every day. For instance, ordering groceries or supplies doesn’t take that long. Likewise, sorting through outgrown clothes and cleaning out the cupboards only happens a few times a year. But someone has to do it. And more than that, someone has to remember to do it. Dad’s listen up.

However, let me speak for the working mom’s who are trying to juggle all the details of home life (while managing to keep themselves healthy), the seemingly invisible tasks that surround us can feel like a burden on days when we want a little timeout. All of these have a way of piling up in our mommy brains and take up a lot more space than it deserves.

So will the dad’s show a little more compassion and grant mom’s sick leave(s) when needed?

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Mommy & son grow up

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I have to admit that when I came to Singapore, with a 3-month old baby in Feb 2013, nothing about living in this fast-laned country looked appealing to me. I had no immediate family (grandparents, friends and the handy helpers that one has access to in India) and honestly, I was scared terrified of being alone with a baby all day long. What if I could not understand what he was crying for? What will I do if my husband’s phone is unreachable in the event of an emergency? What if I slip in the bathroom, crack bones and baby left unattended?

Get the picture?

I was a stay-at-home-mom then and it can be a super hard life with unwarranted levels of stress on days. Housework, stocking grocery, laundry, get the cooking underway, eat healthy to be able to feed baby, ensure baby is cleaned-diapered-entertained etc. The list of what needed to be done in a house in insanely endless. And mind you keeping a few month old baby entertained is no joke.

My escape was taking walks with my baby tucked in his pram. One evening while strolling at my neighbourhood, United Square mall, it suddenly hit me why I saw so many moms with kids in tow in malls at any single day. Because everyone was like me! They were looking to keep their babies bewitched with mall, lights, bustling crowds, and get some exercise (walk walk walk) as they covered the length and breadth of the precinct. It’s all free AC, cheap food in foodcourts, some good shopping options and clean baby rooms for a quick diaper change. Win-Win all around. It is also a huge stress-buster for moms to be in adult surroundings.

This was complete opposite of how things were in India. With most neighborhoods in India comprising of crowded markets & encroached footpaths, there’s hardly a decent space to push the pram. Not to mention the blaring horns from all around that will in all likelihood scare the baby. Trying (and failing) to soothe a wailing baby, on road with everyone looking at you questioningly can make one feel most lubberly. Thus it is a rare sight in India to see new moms with babies in public places. Perhaps, the trend is changing in metros or a few posh neighbourhoods, but bulk of Indian babies have restricted exposure to outside world in early months.

It is not just the malls in Singapore where moms and babies are welcome. It’s a liberating feeling to be able to get out of house, onto the pavement with a pram and start walking. There are rarely any blaring horns, you won’t have cars or bikers jumping lanes and coming dangerously close to pedestrian areas, traffic signals are followed, pavements will never be blocked with wrongly parked vehicles, and most importantly the roads are designed to be wheelchair/pram friendly.

Most public places (malls, metros stations, bus interchanges even neighbourhood shopping centres) have dedicated spaces for kids & babies, complete with some swings in a corner. There are clean baby rooms in most malls that are terrific spaces for moms who want to breastfeed, or just quieten down a fussy child.

Even more amazing is the fact that Singapore, in its current political state, has only been around for 50 years. Yet, it has been able to think and plan its infrastructure for the 21st century and ahead. It leads the world in education, banking, shipping and has created a everyday existence of unrivaled cleanliness, safety and stability. In Singapore even petty theft is uncommon. I know it sounds like a rehearsed version of Singapore but for I come from a country which is still struggling to get its basic infrastructure in place and so it’s hard to ignore the built-in conveniences of this country.

If you are raising a child in Singapore or any such metropolis you would have probably used each of the facilities I have listed here, which we all often taken for granted, but mind you urban infrastructure is a blessing we fail to rightly acknowledge.

PS: Here’s one of my favourite guides to Singapore for parents. Via Sassy Mama