"The Hardest Job on Earth"
I had a very rosy picture of what it meant to be a parent. My mind painted a very naïve and Bollywood version of how my life was going to play out with the perfect husband and the most adorable kids who were always happy, healthy and smiling and we would all hold hands and sing songs in our garden. In my dreams, I never pictured us getting ready to go somewhere to eat and everybody arguing about which restaurant to go to or us going on a long road trip where kids were asking us every five minutes how much more time is left till we reach our destination. I never visualized them throwing up one after the other while I was cleaning vomit drenched sheets and comforters. I did not know that the terrible twos/threes would have its share of tantrums and hyperactivity.
It is indeed God’s miracle that they calmed down after that stage and turned into model students by pre-kindergarten. So, whenever I see a frazzled and stressed out mom with a two year old who will not behave in a grocery store I feel like giving her a hug and telling her that believe it or not, he will get better as he gets older and understands the world and its rules, this too shall pass.
When my daughter was born, we were ecstatic but when the euphoria wore down I just felt like a zombie with the massive sleep deprivation. She, like every other baby woke up every three hours to be fed and changed and then you repeat the cycle endless times. I love her to death but those early days were strenuous. It is like God is testing you, he is throwing the worst at you and if it does not kill you, it will only make you stronger. Even now, when I see a new mom I feel sorry for her that she will never get a good night’s sleep for a long time.
The first child is so special. I wrote down everything she did on a calendar, her first smile, her first big laugh, the day she started crawling and so on. The first time we saw her talking to her musical toy in the crib we nearly died of happiness and excitement. If we were trying to get her to burp and it was taking a while, when she would finally burp we felt so joyful and victorious! She has so many picture albums and scrap books; I took her to the doctor every time she sneezed, if she slept longer than usual I would think she might be hungry (even though she is sleeping soundly!) and I would wake her up and give her milk. If somebody came to the house with a cold I would open the windows and spray down the house after he left. We were and still are very protective of our precious princess. Recently, a boy handed my now fourteen year old girl a piece of paper with his message and phone number and I saved it as the memory of the first time someone gave her a handwritten note. However, she never called him. I was more giggly and excited about the whole episode than she was; she has a great head on her shoulders.
My two sons were born in 2002 and 2005 and we love them all equally but like everybody who has more than one kid knows you stop sterilizing the pacifier and your baby is eating chips off the carpet and you know what over the counter medicines to give your child when he is sick. Unless there is a fever or an ear-ache there is no point going to the doctor and paying the co-pay. The other day I was trying to remember when my youngest started walking but I could not. I know that is shameful but my memory is getting from bad to worse. I do remember that my first born was walking at 10 months and my middle son started walking on his first birthday!
Parenting does not come with a manual but the oft repeated advice is to be consistent, to love without spoiling them, to establish boundaries and consequences. It is easy to discipline someone else’s child but when it is your own child it is really tough to enforce rules and curfew as they are so good at tugging at your heartstrings and melting your resolve.
Yelling is never appropriate as they are not listening, they zone you out. Over the years, I have learnt to count to a ten or a hundred or whatever I need, to be able to talk calmly and not scream. I still lose my cool once in a while but I have improved tremendously. You have to talk to your young ones and you have to really open up your ears and listen when they tell you something and you have to keep the lines of communication open.
We are not believers of spare the rod, spoil the child and we have never hit our children. We are also very laidback parents and we do not understand the need to be pushy and put constant pressure on our kids to achieve perfect scores and aspire to be doctors and engineers when they grow up. They can follow their own passions and desires. We try not to hover so that our kids can be independent and they do some chores regularly too.
I have learnt from my husband how to play with the kids. I used to read to them every day when they were younger as I enjoyed doing that but I am making an effort to play with them as playing does not come naturally to me. My husband does it effortlessly, he is tickling them and they are all laughing and running around in circles or mock fighting or playing Uno, scrabble, banana gram and balloon volleyball in the house.
Their dad also swims and plays soccer and badminton with them and they adore him for that. I have also learnt from my husband that if your child falls down and gets hurt and is crying, instead of sympathizing and saying poor baby which will make him/her cry more, try diverting your child’s attention to something else. He is good at making our kids laugh even through the tears.
My sister who is a Psychology graduate taught me a very important lesson. She told me that very often parents are critical if the child speaks too little or too much or if their boys do not like sports or if their girls are overweight. She told me that you have to love your child unconditionally. When you love your child for who they are, when you let them be who they are, when you are proud of who they are, and you accept them whole heartedly as how God made them, it instills in them tremendous security, confidence and capability. You can encourage children to eat healthy or play sports in smart ways without constantly being harsh and hurting their self-esteem.
Did you watch the viral video doing its rounds on Facebook where a Boston company takes an ad out for a Director of Operations job and it entails working unlimited hours 24/7 without any salary or breaks? 24 applicants are interviewed via webcam and their reactions are captured. When they realize it is a fake ad and the employers are talking about motherhood, the applicants talk respectfully about their mothers and realize the sacrifices mom has made. I like the video for the whole surprise factor which gets your attention, but it almost makes mothers sound like poor victims who have such a hard life. Yes, it is difficult and demanding but you enjoy it too! I savor my evenings out just with girlfriends and I have gone on vacation alone. I make sure I take my much needed breaks.
It is supremely blissful to sleep with a baby and cuddle with your kids who give you the best hugs and kisses. There is no sweeter sound than the pure unadulterated laughter of children. We get to see our babies growing and blossoming into beautiful individuals with their own little personalities and this gives us utmost job satisfaction.
There is nothing more endearing than the little cards and gifts your kids make for you. I cherish little cards from my children which say things like “you are precious to me like water is to flower” and “you are like the strawberry jam to my peanut butter sandwich” complete with adorable kid handwriting and spelling mistakes.
There is nothing more hilarious than the things little kids say. When my son was younger we decided to pay a quick visit to some friends in India and when we got ready to get up and leave he blurted out “Mom, do not leave yet, I had gone to their kitchen, they are bringing out some snacks and drinks on a tray for us!” I used to babysit a little girl who loved me so much that she told her mom: “Can Miss Mona be my mom and you can be my grandmother!”
With time, new parents are promoted to the ranks of experienced parents. Worry and guilt are a part and parcel of parenthood but with time, I have improved at managing both of these emotions. Parenting has unlimited perks and everlasting rewards. It is a gift which keeps on giving, in our old age we are looking forward to beautiful grandchildren we can love and treasure. In the present, I enjoy spending time with these little people who teach me and inspire me every day with their wisdom and behavior. They are there to cheer me up when I am sad, if I have a problem, they really give me the best solutions.
If anybody is critical of me they will stand up and defend me. Our kids love me and their dad equally and unconditionally and teach us every day how to do the same. We are dreading the day they will fly away from the nest and leave us lonely and heartbroken but we will have the immense pride and joy of knowing that we have contributed the best products (humor me on the job metaphor) to society.