Friday, January 25, 2013

Pursuit of Happiness - 'Me' time

"I need myself too" : If and how do you take out time for yourself? What is your most preferred 'ME' Time?

When I read the topic as the 'theme-week' topic, the first reaction was to shy away and ignore it - but after a few days of thinking about it, here is a heartfelt account of how I arrived at my me-time and my pursuit of happiness. 

As a child, I've seen my mom put aside whatever she was doing to make time for my sister and I. I imbibed it as a motherhood ideal and did the same for the first couple of years after Button was born. When he was almost 3 (And I was just past 30) reality hit me. I was growing older and I hadn't spent anytime on myself in the last 3 years. Choosing not to work. Being a good mother and homemaker had consumed most of my time, energy and thought, but I wasn't too happy. I felt I hadn't taken out any me'time. The realization brought panic and a few weeks of calming walks and tears gave me some answers and 'nirvaana'!  

First of all, me-time is now ESSENTIAL to my very living. I've come to that realization. As a SAHM, I had to learn to shed aside overwhelming guilt to go out with my friends leaving my child(ren) behind with my 'hardworking' husband. I understood over time that I work very hard too - at keeping my house, caring for the children and making & sticking to a system that allows everyone to be happy. I am the glue in my house and my family cannot function without me. I had to shed my own prejudices about not having a full time corporate career and yet be a contributing member of the society as a SAHM or a part-time worker. Then I had to learn to be happy doing that. Being efficient and happy allows the hard-working husband to be happier at work (which hopefully then translates to professional success). Given these realizations I came to the conclusion (finally) that a few evenings out or a trip sans the family will only enhance my happiness and therefore that of my family, as well as make my kids more independent. In 2011, I chose to exercise the right by two trips - to Isarel and to Bangladesh - with gal pals. Surprisingly, I did have lots of fun. 

  • During the trips I learnt something more - me-time is not time spent by myself or on myself. Its time spent doing something I like. Its time spent in enriching myself through doing or not doing. So story-telling with my son is also me-time in a way. As is going out to a movie-date with the husband. Just as much as coffee with friends or phone-rant sessions with gal pals! 
  • Blogging is another me-time activity. Special mention to Monika for revoking my blog interest! The usual suspects rank high in my list too - reading (EVERY night before sleep, and now when I breastfeed my daughter too) as well as music (mostly when I take a walk or when I am in the car) and of late regular walks (I try to walk 5kms at least thrice every week). 
  • With my 33rd b'day giving me a shock again about my age, I've included time spent on basic beauty care as me-time. 
  • You may've noticed that cooking doesn't figure in the list. I do enjoy cooking, but given a choice would spend time reading or cleaning up! 
  • I'd like to add a part-time role too as me-time, but its far away in the horizon. I'll always battle guilt for having a good degree but choosing family over a corporate career, but somewhere sometime, will take up a role that will give me happiness and time to do everything else I want to. 

My most preferred me-time activity is however traveling. It sings to my very DNA :) Give me tickets and I am ready to jump onto the next available flight to anywhere in the world. Real life interferes many times, but I will travel. Lots. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

S-E-L in Concert: A treat

On the 13th of Jan, the husband (P), sister (Poori) and her husband(AR) and yours truly decided to attend a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy concert at OAT(Open Air Theatre), IIT - M organized as part of their culfest Saarang. I had the tickets (the cheapest gallery ones). I arrived half hour before the start of the show (supposedly at 7.00 p.m) at the venue. The husband who was headed from Bombay was delayed thanks to Jet, Poori and AR were stopped by not 1, not 2, but 3 cops and were delayed. Luckily S-E-L were also delayed. So many missed heartbeats and banging of forehead later, we found corner standing seats at the OAT.

The concert was a story of how I'd forgotten life-before-I-had-kids! I've attended my fair share of outdoor concerts - mostly the rock legends who occasionally stop by in India - Waters, Knopfler, Bryan Adams etc. (and I confess, once even Venga Boys!) and some Indian biggies (Parikrama, Indian Ocean, Euphoria et al).

Cutting back to the present, I arrived half hour before the concert (earlier than the security and policemen), was drinking ONLY water (yeah, the H2O variety!) and had a handbag the size of my husband's luggage for a week. The ushers had a ball going through my bag and trying to understand what breast pads or mobile toys or wet wipes or lanolin cream was! Anyway, they let us in.

Once the concert began, I got my groove back. At least a bit. Esp when S belted out "Pretty Woman" (the dance song of several drunken nights!). The crowds were mostly 10 years younger and had a blast dancing away, singing loudly with the music and smoking up quietly! S was a treat. He is a performer. He knew how to entertain the crowds and did it section by section. Given that he speaks Tamil, he lapsed into the local lingo and Telugu (the lingua franca of most of the crowd, it seemed), he was able to garner tremendous audience reaction. The jazz-jamming was outstanding as was Ehsaan's rock guitaring at one point. His background singers (esp Anusha Mani) were good, but their voices jarred in the higher octaves and seemed to miss the shruti. 

Candles are out, as are cigarette lighters, its mobile phones that light up to appreciate 'Taare Zameen Par' and others! Amazingly, there were no serious rowdy elements in the audience (though there were pick pockets and they managed to rid my sis of 10K that night). I remember attending Saarang in 2000 and 2001. The campus is the same, but the scale of the programs significantly bigger. Sponsors were giving away Wildstone perfume bottles and Lee T shirts! A far cry from 1L Coke bottles and coupons for a dosa in the past! The campus still follows a jhola-chappals-cycle code still and the deer still roam about with nary a worry.

All in all, a lovely night and a great experience!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Parenting Conflicts

When you have a two-month old, patchy internet and phone access and a 6 hour break from the older one, its time for intense parenting-philosophy reading and wondering what to apply and what not! Currently am reading "Bringing up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman. Did a lot of research on "Attachment Parenting", "Baby led Weaning" and of course been faithfully reading "What to Expect". Aftermany nights of thinking and re-thinking, I realized that Parenting is not just unique to the child and parent, it extends within the microcosm to where you are (for example, currently with my parents in Chennai, vs. a nuclear set up in Bombay) and what you believe in (for example in getting Button to master English speaking first vs. Twinkle being spoken to mostly in Tamil). Of course it changes as the kids grow and you do too, and depends on mommy's moods which depends on multiple factors from the maid's work to her husband's travel to the song she's listening to or the dress she's wearing!

Based on Button, some parenting do's and don'ts in my report card.

1. I do not want to wait endlessly to potty-train Twinkle. It really messed with my mind and happiness when it came to Button. Can live without it this time.

2. I want to introduce Twinkle to more junk food. Actually, the verdict is out on this one. Button's food habits are so regular that even if I offer him chocolate after he has eaten or take him out to the most yummy bakery in town, he will not touch a morsel. Is that good? I think so. But take him to a friend's house for an impromptu dinner. Our man will still ask for dal-chaawal, dahi and subzi and refuse to touch pizza or pasta or even french fries. Introducing any western/junk/deep-fried/strange-looking food to Button is a nightmare. I want Twinkle to be more open to trying. Of course the flip-side of getting addicted is also possible.

3. I'd like Twinkle to speak more Tamil. Button understands Tamil perfectly, but his Tamil accent would rival Prince William's (if he chose to speak Tamil, that is!). He still can't pronounce the famous "zha" sound. So he says Tam-iL, instead of Tam-izh, for example.

4. I'd like to continue with Twinkle the lack of obsession with TV, or TV characters. In addition, I am going to try to keep her away from Barbie for as long as I can.

5. Button has some stranger anxiety (like several 4 year olds). He sometimes smiles instead of giving his name when asked, or finds it tough to walk up and talk to a kid that he likes on sight. Its partly because I never encouraged pushed him to speak to strangers, including neighbors in the lift and fellow-parents at school. I let him be. With Twinkle, I want her to be more social. But I also want her to not be too trusting.

6. Button's curiosity is endearing. As are his mostly good manners (and of course, am NOT objective!) I'd like for Twinkle to learn to say "Sorry" and "Thank you" too. Irrespective of social stature. (It warms my heart to hear Button thank my helper when she serves him food, for every dish).

7. Button's independence is not very good. Relatively AND absolutely. I have to tie his shoe laces (even velcro ones), wash his bum, open a bottle for him, and the door, switch channels (if he ever watches TV) AND push his swing. And he's all of 4. I'd like Twinkle to certainly be more independent.

8. Button is a darling when it comes to younger children. He cannot bully to save his life and is ALWAYS gentle. In fact, he's quite the hero and stands up to bullies. Sometimes cries, but nonetheless believes in his stance, and sticks to it. I'd love for Twinkle to emulate him. I have to give credit here to Button's progenitor. My husband is inspiring when it comes to sticking to what he thinks is right. He will not bully, or take shortcuts, or be cowed down. He will not yell that he's right or preach his standpoint either. Just the right degree of being firm. And luckily Button shows signs of inheriting.

9. Unfortunately for  Button, he's inherited his mamma's low tolerance and gets frustrated easily too. And sometimes just doesn't see merit in sticking on to his task. Wonder how to inculcate Twinkle into being more patient, without learning it first!

10. Finally (and this is just to bring the number of points to 10, instead of stopping at 9) Button's great love for books, music and physical activity. All good ones. All to be emulated.

The question is now that circumstances have changed... am not mommy to just 1 child, I live elsewhere, Twinkle has her own stubborn personality AND my husband's LOI is lower (of course not intentionally), how do I work on these? And do I learn from French parents, AND Venezuelan tribals, AND Dr.Spock, AND my granddad? Parenting conflicts begin again. Sigh. Wish me luck.