If they were to draft historical accounts of my life say, for the purpose of studying a life unexamined, there would be two significant periods that would emerge. Before the birth of my daughter (Pre-Saanvi) and after (Post-Saanvi).
Now I have vague recollections of what my life was before my tornado-swept daughter came along as a moderately-turbulent upheaval in my life — I cry myself to sleep when I think about it just how much room there before was to sleep in peace.
Pre-Saanvi, I got my beauty sleep, preceded by a cup of chamomile tea and a feel-good classic (*cough* Lady Chatterley's Lover). I skipped work/college to watch pretentious movie marathons at the International Film Festival. I didn't break into songs like Skip to my loo at any given time of the day. I NEVER stepped out in starry PJs and flip-flops and giant heart-print bags doubling up as bottle-holders.
You can say in the pre-Saanvi period, I always held it together. [Carefully wipes off memories of drunkenly-throwing wooden straws on random people at a bar.]
My older sister was one of the first people who showed me the other side of parenting — you know the scary-ass, SOS side. I was in my late teens, fighting acne and sleep, worrying about lesser mortal things like what to wear or how to tame my curls. And my sister - she always looked like she could really use the snooze button on her alarm. She was the world's fastest Indian to shower. While I gave myself bonus shower time to recuperate from the horror of her uncomfortably short one, which was always interrupted by a loud "Ma" on the door.
Her life was a big mystery to me back then, just as much my current life situation would've been.
So it occurred to me, there are some things that one may not necessarily relate to (or "get baffled by") until one steps into parenthood:
1. What multi-tasking is really about:
If you are the sorts who thought doing Math while listening to music is multi-tasking, wave hello to newborn-parenting. While the entire process of reproduction may have involved a lot of parallel activities in the background, here's when it gets out of control. You're wearing a baby sling with your baby somewhat trying to latch on as you do laundry, chop vegetables in the kitchen, attend an urgent phone call, fight back a pressing bladder and sometimes, in dire circumstances, stuff your face with leftover food like a crow.
2. Why a mom's social media feed looks like she's running a little crèche all the time:
I mean there may be new world orders, earthquakes, change of presidents but a mom's social media feed is always talking about poo or sleep-deprivation or potty-training or DIY costumes, right? I mean isn't it annoying?
No, it's not. When your kid reaches the coveted potty seat, it means you don't have to sniff diaper pants any more, a welcome graduation to merely washing and perfuming his/her bum. It's cause for wide celebration. And the cute pictures? Let's face it. Kids in costumes are adorbs.
3. The curious case of the mom bun and ill-fitted shirts:
The 24-year old me used to see these moms, all sporting the same messy-bun hairdo and wearing ill-fitted gingham shirts with leggings and I, the aspiring fashionista, would be like, "I could so style these women."
Guess what? OOTD and style quotient are miles away from a new mom, buried deep underneath fantasies of long hairwash rituals and reading beauty magazines. She may be the most organized mom, running her baby five-course meals by the clock, or a klutzy, house-upside down mom perennially out of time. What she's wearing, in terms of being fashionable is usually the last thing to cross her mind, well, after she's convinced herself to not use the 15-minute beauty time-slot to take a nap.
4. Where's the father/father figure in all of this:
I remember as a kid we had these family lunches with all my friends and their families assembling at somebody's house, playing memory games that involved figuring out, quite literally, "Who's the Daddy?" We rarely met anybody's dad so it was all a bit confusing. Three decades on now, we're still somewhat struggling with getting dads to participate equally, perhaps with some trite hand-on dad definitions like "Oh, look. I can do her nappy." or "Come sweetie, let's take your cycle for a spin today."
Fathers are unsung heroes, "bread-winning", saved-the-day-by-showing-up parents. Even though I'd say my husband is a hands-on dad, we, as a culture, are still miles away from equal parenting.
5. Why do you have to bring kids to the movies if they're not going to be watching it?
I remember how I used to dread going to family movies because there'd be dozens of kids ruining the movie for me with spoiler alerts, loud ill-timed chuckles, antsy walks and screeching wails. And then I'd come back thinking, "Why can't parents control their kids? Why do they have to bring them to the movies?"
The answer is they need to get a break too. They're people. They don't have any other place to leave their kids. Besides, they probably wanted to watch Deadpool but picked this one cos it's appropriate for child-viewing. So cut them some slack.
6. Contemplation is a luxury. But hair-washing?
I used to hear all these new moms go, "Oh, I cut my hair cos I had no time to wash it, let alone de-tangle it." And it crossed me as strange. All they have is a little human, incapable of walking and running into trouble, sleeping most of the time, perhaps, just crying for milk and attention occasionally.
What we don't see is baby vomit and food getting in her hair. All the freakin' time. What we don't hear is attending phone calls and cooking and cleaning after her baby's mess and juggling kids' activities and grocery-shopping (with a baby) and scavenging for food. What we sleep through is her baby wailing through the night that got her to hit the snooze button eight times to let go of her mid-week scheduled hair-washing at 6 am.
With a baby, hair-washing is a pampering ritual, at best reserved for Sundays.
7. What sleeping like a baby really means:
And if you have one of those rare, miracle-of-life babies, who do actually sleep 12-14 hours at night, even through their post-midnight snacks, pray to God everyday. Cos you will need God to fight venom from your sleep-deprived peers. A typical night with a baby involves a lot of fumbling in the dark and rocking your baby at different hours of the night. You invariably keep a tab on the party people as they come blaring back at 2.00 am, listen to the chirpy birds who seem pretty pleased with their life, and appreciate the gorgeous sunrise horizons with misty-eyed, blurry vision.
As one of my mom-friends put it, "The person who coined the Sleep like a baby idiom didn't really parent any kids."
8. Why do moms carry a hideous, monster bag:
My sister would be taking her babies for a stroll till the end of the road and she'd be armed with an intimidating bag with refreshments and tissues for a year. I didn't get it. You just fed your baby. What could possibly happen?
Well, maybe she was standing in the line waiting to board a flight with her baby for the first time when her baby threw up and started producing these supersonic-frequency wails. And while she rummaged her fetchingly gorgeous new travel tote to fetch tissues and prepare milk under piercing, judgemental looks from the other passengers, she was internally telling herself, "Must buy giant bag with ugly, accessible pockets holding ready-milk and tissues at all times.
Any of these things eye-opening for you? Well, I'll come back for more while you go hug that tired-looking, unkempt mom in your block :).