It’s been 3 years of motherhood. What have I learnt!

My son turned 3 recently. But not before throwing some entertaining drama our way.

As it turns out, kids have a knack of falling sick before any event.

What we thought to be a regular fever and throat infection developed into something way worse. On his birthday evening, we checked into the hospital and spent 3 nights there.

I want to write down my experience, so let’s get to that.

Take each day as it comes

No two days are the same. It is not only a great parenting tip but as I discovered recently, makes for a good life tip as well. It helps not to be hard set on how your day or life has to move on. So when things go south, you can always shrug and be agile. This doesn’t mean you should not have a basic list of things to start with— S-M-A-R-T goals are the way to go!

Find your non-mom groove

I’m not the mom who cannot stop talking about her child. It’s something I do a little consciously, but I’m not very rigid about it. That said, I do have mom friends who are my first point of contact for anything child-related. I also have other friends to keep my sanity in check when I’m tired of mom things. I watch sitcoms (The Office, again!) after my son’s bedtime and it makes a huge difference, especially with a FT job.

Children are resilient

It is us with our constant worrying that we undermine the true strength of children. My son was burning at 103 on his birthday, but still indulged us and cut his cake. Allow me to gloat- my child is the most understanding 3 year old ever. Last month, I was away to take care of my unwell mother-in-law. My husband was away on a business trip, and the child was with my parents. I’m sure he missed us, but he was a champ the whole time.
I draw strength from him from time to time.

The child and I watching out of the hospital window.

Humour me

Parenting is trying as it is, so why would you walk around with the grumps? It might be difficult at first, but being mindful about seeing the lighter vein of things can change your day. If there’s nothing to laugh about, I have giggle matches with my son. I guess our neighbours are used to all kinds of noises now. Also, a bad hour does not mean a bad day. If all else fails, then ice cream for days.

Show up

One of the biggest learnings of my adult life is (no, not taxes, still figuring that out) that showing up is half the problem solved. It could be a workout session, work, your duties as a daughter/wife/parent— just about whatever you’ve signed up for.
Give yourself grace, but show up and be consistent.

The last three years have been fulfilling. I wouldn’t say my child has helped me find my purpose, but he is my hope. He makes me want to be a better person than I was yesterday. In some moment of threenager despair, I cannot wait for him to be 10 years old already and in another moment of intense love, I want to bottle his tiny self up.

Baby A being his whimsical self.

His father might be my child’s ‘besteam’ (his version of bestie), wife (yeah, don’t ask me about this), baby sister (!!) and I am relegated to the mere position of a friend, but I’ll take it. (do I have a choice now?)

Not before reminding him how I went under the knife to get him out into this world 5599 times.

If you’re a frazzled mother reading this (also a note to myself), none of what is worrying you right now will matter next week or next month. Big picture, girl. You got this.

What is it like to be a woman in India?

The answer: exhausting.

On a good day, you will go about without having to come up against casual sexism, harassment, inappropriate touching, or being raped.

One evening last month, I decided to go for a run after sunset. 2 km into what I anticipated to be a fabulous run turned out an absolute nightmare when a young man on a bike thought it fun to slap my hip from behind. I was shocked, but gathered myself in time to yell obscenities at him (which I think he rather enjoyed. What is the deal with men, really?!)  

I informed my husband, shaking as I typed out the scene. He was beyond mortified, but didn’t ask me to come home either. With his words of support on Whatsapp, I decided to not let some doofus who couldn’t keep his hands on the handlebar win and continued running. Needless to say, I ran the rest of the distance in fear and watching my back constantly. I still do.  

I didn’t share this with anyone else because I know better than to do that. I’m 100% sure the fault-finding would’ve started with my running in the night. Why did I have to do that? Why wouldn’t I run in the daylight? I’m sure that if my non existent brother or son went for a run at night, they wouldn’t have to come up against harassment or fear, let alone this being a topic of discussion. We live with this imprint and yet fight patriarchy every way possible in the hope for a better tomorrow.

You will be judged, no matter what

The tomorrow seems bleak, however. Women who speak up are slut shamed, harassed and straight up told that they’ll be the reason why workplaces will think twice when it comes to hiring women in the future.

One of my male relatives has an issue with my having a career after a baby, and he’s made his disapproval clear by bringing it up multiple times. When parenting books say watch what you speak in front of your children, they mean well. Because this relative’s son who does not even have a degree to his name yet has a problem with my working and working out after a long day away from my child. This is a just a fragment of the balderdash an average Indian woman has to deal with on a daily basis. Said relative also has a daughter who thinks it is normal to shame women who pursue a career after a child.

Personally, I was mortified not because of what he said, but because he said this in a room full of opinionated people and no one thought to contend him. My 2 y.o son was in the room too, and I took a stance because I do not want him to think it was normal to judge people for their choices.

I have come to believe that this relative is very insecure from the realization that I can be anything I want to be and successful at that than he will ever be. And it’s about time I break association with the family for my sanity’s sake.

Everyday misogyny and patriarchy

The most venerated movie stars in India have spoken dialogues in their movies that are offensive to women. An aspiring CM candidate of the most progressive state in the country- Tamil Nadu and his son-in-law have spoken enough regressive and outrageous drivel against women in their movies to invite backlash, but have expressed ZERO remorse for it.

Other aspiring actors or actors at the bottom of the pyramid discovered this formula working and propagated misogyny because hey, the superstar does it and the audience seem to enjoy it!  The famous jokes by famous comedians are always at the expense of others, most often, a woman. I have a problem with standup comedy for precisely this reason (other than never finding them to be funny). Oftentimes, I’m labelled a spoilsport who can’t take a good joke. So be it, man.

Right from adolescence (wouldn’t be a bad idea to start from birth, given the current climate of women’s safety), girls in India are taught to make themselves less visible. If you can be invisible, nothing like it. Whereas boys are encouraged to go conquer the world. This gender inequality has percolated slowly but undeniably over the years that it has become a matter of glory for any man who “allows” his wife to work.

Relax gurl, not all men are like that

One of things I learnt early on in my life is to always make data driven arguments. According to statistics from the NCRB, I’m winning so far. (no link, because look it up if you really care) Show up with the data to support your argument, and let’s discuss this then? Also, masculinity is not a matter of pride. It’s just your gender- there, there I spelled that out for the feeble minded and innocent men who think women do not need the ‘special treatment’.

Okay, what’s your point here?

When a prominent figure of this country attributes his state’s high malnutrition rates to the figure conscious girls who are scared of getting fat, there’s only so much hope we can garner in the commoners.

Women in India and across the world are enjoying privileges (!!) today because of the persistent work of many feminist movements.  We must keep talking, challenging the status quo, and fighting for ourselves because in the words of the great poet Vairamuthu ,“Puratchigal Edhum Seyyaamal Pennukku Nanmai Vilaiyadhu” (The good will not come to women without many a revolution).

What am I driving at, you ask?

I’ve been riding a scooter since I was 14. But this post is about my experience in driving— or lack thereof— a car.

Growing up, I looked at women drivers in awe. Not in a condescending “Oh look, they’re made fun of globally for being bad drivers, yet here they are driving around like they’ve been born with it.” way, but in a very wistful manner that is reserved for things you can only dream of.
Sorry gentlemen, I don’t feel the same way about you driving. Maybe it is something to do with some reckless men on the road?

I enrolled in a driving class in the summer of 2008. My instructor was 60 year old gentleman who retired as a lorry driver. My cousin and I took these classes together, and often after the classes, we would wander off to the movies, forgetting all about the lessons for the day. It was like one of those not-so-serious hobbies that are meant to be forgotten soon after the summer vacations.

The second time I enrolled for driving classes was in 2014, just before my wedding. I never got around to applying for a driver’s license. I moved to Canada, and found the joys of driving an automatic car. Even bigger was the  joy of driving on almost empty roads with no one honking. I was driving around with my Indian 2 wheeler license. Don’t ask—I’m not proud of it, but we all have some illegal skeletons in our closet. Since I didn’t have a license, I drove less frequently.

We then moved back home, to India.

Three’s a charm

For the longest time after moving to India, I didn’t find the need to drive. Then the pining hit me again, and off I went to register with a new driving school. I was driving fairly well, took the test and passed it.

I drove short distances with my husband around, and it seemed easy enough. I was still very very scared of left side intruders, speeding, honking etc. I will explain the reason for this unfathomable anxiety in a bit.

One fine Saturday, armed with Youtube videos of “how to reverse a car without killing anyone”, I decided to take the car out without my husband’s assistance. I was so feverish with enthusiasm that I banged the car into the gate. It was so bad, the front portion (still learning the anatomy of a car, forgive me) of the car was stuck to the gate and would only come out with the combined effort of three strong people.

I was riddled with more self-doubt. Was I ever going to drive a car at all? Maybe I was not cut out for it.

Flashback— Why The Fear

We met with an accident in January 2017. What made it worse was the fact that my then 11 month old son was also in the car with us. Three men who were piss drunk in broad daylight and riding on a single bike hit our car (which I wasn’t driving, by the way) in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, we were alright but it was bad for the biker dudes— three of them flew in three different directions and were bleeding profusely.

We spent more than half of the car’s buying price to get it repaired, so can you even imagine the extent of the damage? People who saw the accident spot or photos of the damaged car told me that it was a miracle that we were unhurt.

It’s been 2.5 years, but I still shudder and jolt at sharp turns or when someone tries to speed past my car. I understood that this is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that this is a baggage I’m going to be carrying around for a long time. On some days when I’m overcome with emotion, I remind myself that I still haven’t given up driving, or the will to drive, and then I feel so damn proud of myself.

Driving it home

Soon as I acknowledged the fact that the accident was deathly serious matter, and that it was okay for me to feel scared, driving started to feel a little relaxing. Before this realisation, driving was extremely stressful and almost always ended with me cursing or eating shitloads of junk food to deal with the trauma.

Last Sunday, I decided to take matters (or the steering wheel) in my own hands and drove unassisted for a short distance on a busy road. This drive was such a confidence booster, and I take so much pride in it!

I owe it to my husband (or husbae, like kids these days talk) for the constant reassurance that there are far more terrible drivers on the road than myself. The man doesn’t coddle, it’s only tough love.

Since then I’ve drawing up an image of myself driving around the city, swaying to the music, sipping coffee—stone deaf to the horns blaring around me. There’s no stopping me!