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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 & 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

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Work & mommies

I took to the title of a Working Mom a little over 3 weeks back. I kickstarted my career because I have always enjoyed working. What I do is interesting and challenging without draining the life out of me. I have a wonderful boss and a lot of flexibility, the hours are manageable, and people around me nice. I definitely like the adult interaction, critical thinking, and the feeling of being part of something important in an organisation. I signed up for this career (fully aware that it means staying away from my boi for few hours everyday).

After several hours of working & travelling in public transport, coming home to care for a child and a messy home can feel like you are pulling a double shift. But hey, you have the money now. So shed some of it, get a maid & lessen that stress. And some days it’s all right to shut your eye on the messy house and overflowing laundry basket. It won’t bite.

What’s the highest high in this new role of working mom? That I can be of assistance in caring for a child and family financially, renders a sense of confidence and self-worth to me. As my boi grows up, I hope I can use my ‘working mom’ role to teach him how his dad and me work & make sure the family is provided for comfortably. This could be his biggest lesson in life – work to fulfil your needs. Value the dollar(s) mom and dad bring home.

What’s the low in this role of working mom? There is indeed a lot of my boi’s life that passes by me while I am making those conference calls, researching, making a presentation or discussing budgets with colleagues. I am fully aware that I will miss out on several of those special, spontaneous moments. Like my boi could speak his first legitimate word (after Mummmmaaa) any day now and I won’t be there. The grandparents, who are taking care of him, will probably be the first ones to witness this moment.

But I refuse to slather & drown myself in mommy guilt.
Be it in an office. Or on a plane. Or in the quiet of a baby’s room.
Each one is important work. What my husband does and what I do. It’s not always easy and it’s not always fair, but every day we do the best way we know how.

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A new routine, once again

After 13 months of my stint as ‘stay-at-home-and-work-from-home’, I am now officially out of home to pursue my career.

Are there anxiety pangs, you ask? Yes, there are a lot of those. But it’s not the boi who is feeling them but me. I am up at dawn, something that’s unnatural to me as a human, to get the cooking done. Thank’s to boi’s grandparents (maternal and later paternal) I can step out of the house knowing fully that they will cater to boi more dotingly than me. Yet, there’s no stopping those mommy pangs when I leave li’l tyke having his breakfast.

Hilarious thing is that you can take mommy out of her home but you can’t take the ‘mommy’ out of a mom. Ever.

Even though I have become a working mom just a few days ago, I’m adding my affirmation to an already established truth that there’s no tougher job than being a mom. Desk job and all those mental jigs one does at work to earn the paycheck, does not hold against the physical & mental extremes one pushes themselves while being a mom/stay-at-home-dad. Keeping a child (or multiple) interested and happy is as tricky as making your boss appreciate your presentation or ideas.

I am not here to make controversial comparisons between who has a tougher job.Women throughout history have fought hard to have their careers, and they should be commended and supported for wanting to maintain those careers after they become parents. The balancing act is hard and an emotional one to achieve, but it’s certainly not impossible.

The reality is that stay-at-home parents have as much stress as working parents, if not more, depending on the age, temperament and number of kids. I relish my solo commute to work, that quiet cup of coffee at desk and reading the news on my computer. These were precisely the things I missed when I was home full-time, begging God for few minutes of time-out & a hot shower bath.

I never regretted motherhood because of lack of salary or the recognition I got for a job well done. Motherhood was a choice and I was super lucky that I got to be a mom. But working again is a whole new phenomenon, thoughtfully chosen by me with always an exit in sight but motherhood is unremitting.

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Here’s what’s good about motherhood

Life as a mother is tough per say; gets tougher when you are outdoors with your child and is toughest on weekends, public holidays and festivals when you like everyone want to do ‘your’ thing but can’t.

So, exactly when is the good part, the good days of motherhood? I will speak for myself that there are some fantastic times as a mother and days when you can’t contain this joy in your heart and have to take to Facebook, Twitter, social platforms to share it with the whole damn world. Like me. And this joy gets multiplied every time someone ‘likes’/ comments on your social update.

Oh, my mommyhood’s happiness is when…

  1. …on days I learn that one CAN live without make-up, good-fitted clothes, fancy shoes and expensive perfumes. And that the people you share your life with – spouse, kid(s), parents etc – don’t give horse’s ass about your physical appearance. 
  2. …on days when body hair begins to resemble prehistoric proportions but boi giggles while twirling these in his tiny fingers. Mind you, this also brings a very hearty laughter.
  3. …on days when boi finishes his bowl of food without messing up the just-cleaned floors. 
  4. …on days when I get to chew food, sip a drink along, and watch the whole episode of my teleserial or youtube videos while boi sleeps or plays happily by himself. The feeling is actually between ecstatic and is-it-really-happening-to-me.
  5. …on days when boi sticks by my schedule. Example, wakes up on time, naps on time, eats and poops on time. Bliss.  
  6. …on days when I venture out in public places and boi gets so busy soaking up the outside world that he forgets to throw a tantrum. Makes me beam with joy. 
  7. …on days when some stupid trick (totally fluke) of mine cracks boi up. I have collected a stock of giggling videos of boi when I got lucky with some funny face, a silly nursery rhyme adapted in Hindi, unexpected behavior like talking into a banana (yes, this one was the latest). The trick is the highlight of my and boi’s day and we love to show it off to everyone who would care. Although next day, its promptly forgotten.