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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

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Our own enemy?

Is ‘the mom stuff’ getting in the way of ‘the office stuff’, probed a female office help at the pantry while I waited for the microwave to reheat my lunch. I looked at her, smiled sweetly, took my lunch and walked off. I felt no compulsion to answer her.

She’s not the only one who has been hinting at “You can’t have it all” in not-so-direct way ever since I have returned to work. With my boi safely with his grandparents, doing his daily activities with aplomb, and showing fewer and fewer signs of separation anxiety, why should I double over in guilt? 

It doesn’t matter a whit about gender, age, marital status or if the person who questions your motherhood parenthood has kids or not. Either they get it – or they don’t. There’s little that you can say that will make them question their line of thinking. Frankly, you should not bother with such kind.

And why should you? Forming an opinion after you have seen somebody’s work is fine. Just like we are assessed at work for our capabilities, or how you grade a human being based on his physical/mental characteristics. And when someone decides to stick their heads deep inside their behinds, and comment on your parenting without ever seeing the child you are raising, try not to resort to violence. Remember, you have a lovely child back home who deserves to see you happy & smiling.

That said, women judging other women’s birth choices, baby milk feeds, kind of pain relief they choose for their children or the kind of school is beyond me. Breast-feeders sneer smugly at the bottle-feeders. Working mother-in-laws don’t think twice when suggesting their daughter-in-laws to stay back home and raise the grandchild. Friends with older kids will sagely shake their heads when you break the news of returning to work leaving your young child in care of grandparents or other care takers. The list is just endless.

I did ask a few friends who have chosen to work after having babies and it became clearer that the worst perpetrators of ‘judging a mom’ are not men but women who can render the harshest blows with a glint of evil satisfaction in their eye.

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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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Dont underestimate the power of simple toys

My toddler loves electronics, like many many other little kids. He can recognize the nursery rhymes from the sound and pictures and is all attention when one of his favorites is playing on the screen. In fact, play him the same nursery rhyme but if it looks different on screen then he will keep turning his head towards me or elsewhere telling us that he’s not that much in to the new one. 
I am all right with him getting to know the gadgets that are around him but I also know that giving him too much of some gadget is not right, at least not now when I can still channelize his energies else where.
So I have started experimenting with some home-made toys or go-break-and-bang-them kind of toys. There are many mom/dad blogs and websites that have listed some very simple toys, mostly made from stuff that is within reach in most homes. I have added my own twist to tickle my toddler.      
Day 1: 

There’s little a mother can do when it is raining outside and your toddler cranks up the decibel levels to take him out. So, amidst the thunders outside, I introduced my little one to empty vessels, tin & plastic containers, unbreakable plates and steel glasses. Trick for me was to give him one item at a time in order to keep his interest alive. Once he was done banging say a container on the floor, I swiftly added a plate, spoon to the pile. And poof, he wanted to be the soundmaker again.

Just make sure none of the items have sharp edges that may scratch your little one and are resistant to extreme handling. I am definitely putting this activity on my ‘repeat list.’  
Day 2: 

I got some shiny plastic (white) colored plates and easy to wipe off bright colored markers. I drew animals (in my own non-artsy way), alphabets, shapes etc. This activity may be really nice for slightly older kids who can hold a pen. The parent has to be careful with the markers as it is the first thing the child will want to hold in their hands, use them to chew etc. So, watch out. 

My toddler liked the idea of colorful markers for some minutes but then he wanted to use the markers on his own and I was afraid he will draw all over him or worse, eat the soft tip of the marker. But it is worth a repeat. 
Day 3:
This one was a big hit with my toddler. I got a pack of plastic glasses and bowls from the supermarket. Since it is christmas time, I got some nice colored ones. I colored a couple with bright colored markers, old nail color, stuck some left over ribbons on rest. It looked good too. These glasses and bowls make a fantastic stack-them-all game. My toddler had fun time running, crawling around the room bringing me the bowls and glasses after he had knocked them down. It is an activity that you should do with your child. Leaving him alone to play stack-them-all is kinda boring. It’s definitely on my ‘repeat list.’
Day 4:
This I read somewhere and thought it was fabulous. I got hold of an empty egg carton and glued little items at the bottom of each cup. This included a small colorful marble that was lying in the house, scraps of colorful ribbons, a toy train whose wheels had come off, small cut piece of sponge (i used a new utensil scouring one), and in another cup I stuck some star-shaped baby cereal. I painted (old nail polish) the cups, stuck some big colorful buttons around the carton. This ‘toy’ apprently encourages your infant to use their fine motor skills to point into and feel the items in each cup. Thus important to add as many textures and colorful things you can cram.
But do supervise while your toddler plays with this one in case any items come off. 
I will be adding some more toys as I go along. Will definitely list my hits and misses.