Thursday, May 31, 2007

The McCann abduction

You may have read/seen the news about the abduction of Madeline McCann - which apparently has been given widespread attention by the media in Britain.
Articles such as this and this have drawn attention to this case in particular because it leaves room for a lot of thought and discussion at various levels. It also strikes a chord with the fear we have as mothers of such possibilities. But what I find amazing is how many articles about this story have made this an issue about working mothers vs non working mothers. It also truly was a revelation to me that there are a lot of people who do leave their very young children alone in hotel rooms while they go down to get a drink at night or like the McCanns did to get dinner. Supposedly they checked in on their children every half an hour. Every half an hour?! Things can happen in a minute. As someone who feels a pang of fear if we forget to turn the child monitor on if we are downstairs while our little child is sleeping upstairs in our bedroom I find this quite unbelievable. And I worry if I too could end up making some ridiculously stupid mistake like this. I see this as a case of poor judgment on the parents part more than anything. How can you leave three very young children alone in a locked room and go get dinner in a foreign place that too? Abductions are stuff of nightmares and to leave room for such possibilities by being out of sight and away from the children for a duration of half an hour seems so thoughtless to me. These are two educated doctors. They are intelligent people obviously...if they are capable of making such costly mistakes,it makes me worry as to where I could go wrong in my judgment. It may not be of the same sort, but one can panic and make costly errors. Makes me want to think of all possibilities - like what should be my first response in protecting my child say if there is a fire...if he is choking (a friend told me her husband was looking up the Heimlich maneuver on the web while her toddler swallowed a couple of coins - she in her state of panic just ignored him and called 911 not wanting to take any chances which is what I would have done)..if he is missing suddenly in a crowded place etc etc...
Honestly I don't understand why some cases of missing children get such high visibility. I have nothing against it - just feel bad for those that don't - I do understand not all cases can be allocated so much media coverage. But it is most of ten only the children of the rich that get so much visibility. And especially in this particular case, had it happened slightly differently - say had the kid choked while the parents were away they could be charged with neglect. At least here in the US. The People magazine article describes her as a devoted mother who cut down her work hours to spend time with her children - so obviously she does take parenting seriously but how can she and her husband do this - I just don't get it. How can they as parents leave three young children out of your sight and sound and be so far away for a considerable amount of time! Also I find it amazing that in every such case the attack (or support) focuses on the mother mainly. She is a doctor too like her husband but she is the one to scale down her work hours to raise her children well. For all the advancement and progress in women's rights it still is not an equitable distribution of responsibility between the mother and the father. The mother is expected to do more and sacrifice more and any compromise from the father is applauded greatly while automatically expected from the mother. Society is still not geared up to accept fully stay at home dads or dads who really scale down on work and income like it does for mothers. Decisions are not often made by "Who contributes more income to the household?" - even in cases where the mother earns equal or more income than the father, it is the mother who scales down on her career related goals.
The McCann case is reflective in several ways of our current society and where it stands on different issues. Cultural differences in parenting, gender roles, why rich white kids always get more attention in cases of abduction etc etc.
I always feel so sorry for the child that is abducted - it must be extremely traumatic for the child and it is the worst nightmare for a parent - to not know what is happening to the child. I sure do hope and pray they are able to find this child. And so many other missing children who have suffered this horrible fate.

Friday, May 25, 2007

No more periods?

You may have heard about this new pill. Essentially if a woman takes this pill she can stop her period entirely...
I personally would not feel comfortable taking this pill much as I hate going through "that time of the month" and all the joys that come with it. But it could just be mental conditioning. May be the next generation of girls will find this a perfectly normal thing to do and a matter of their choice. A young girl may just say "hey - I am busy preparing for SAT's, applying for college - I don't want to deal with periods now!" and casually go about doing what she needs to do. I guess parents of the next generation will have a host of new issues such as this to contend with based on their own personal preferences. They may not be used to this idea but if the young teen wants it and if it is widely used (remains to be seen if this pill can really succeed) then it may not be easy to refuse. I do wonder how many women will feel comfortable with the idea of not having a period for a whole decade. No matter what scientific explanations say about the period, it is something that is considered so much a part of womanhood. I had gone to a wedding a few years back and I met some woman who told me she just takes the pill all the time so as to not get her period - at that time I found it so strange. Now with an FDA approved pill like this I wonder if more and more women will choose to avoid all the discomfort associated with the period. Curious to know if you would take this pill to avoid periods for a long time...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

8 things tag...or 9 ?

1) I just hate the wet feeling...I tell my husband to also dry his hands soon after washing his hands...and I can't continue working if my hands are wet - even when I cook I keep drying my hands in between...

2) I want to be able to speak Hindi fluently...I can read and write Hindi but my grammar is so bad that I never dare to speak any Hindi...

3) I was on a early morning flight back after visiting my (now) husband (he was my good friend then)and somewhere up in the clouds I decided I would marry him. I emailed him saying so that night after I got back to my place...

4) I so wish I had dimple cheeks!

5) I sing a few carnatic songs that I picked up from listening to people sing (though I formally learned to play an instrument) and dream of having the time to really learn vocal music enough to give a concert!

6) I get into laughing fits and just can't stop...and my son seems to have taken after me in that!

7) Much as I don't really believe in Zodiac (No really Geminians don't believe in Zodiac signs you know!) I think I am a typical Geminian - as extroverted as I am friendly as I can be distant (as I have been told at times) etc etc...

8) Bad as it sounds I want both my children to be more like my husband than like me - except may be for the laughter bit! :) He is calmer than I am and I want that for my children - I don't want them to worry like I do.

Mm... I don't know who has already been tagged from the list of people I have in my links and visit...Terri? Kodi? Aqua, Mommyoftwo, itchingtowrite, Orchid, rdbans, Rohini (if you have a blog), RanjaniSatish...If you guys happen to read this please do the honor and post on this tag subject. Consider yourself tagged!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stopping at one or...

This post by Rohini inspired me to write this. Her words “Zero or two” kids made me smile because those are the exact words I used in the context of having children. Nice feeling when you see others having a similar perspective. That said, I have to say I would have chickened out of the whole process of going for a second child had my husband not been absolutely sure that we should have two children and not just one. Any doubt on his part and I might have convinced myself to cop out of this even though I felt it was the right thing to do – have two children so they will have each other. In my opinion fear of the unknown can be strong unless you feel confident and absolutely convinced that you can do it and do it well. I did not feel that and I still feel anxious as to how I will get through the first year with two little ones (my second one is due end of June). My mother is here to help me out, but she is going through her own silent grief right now after the loss of my father. Also, she is much older now than she was when she helped all my other siblings with this whole process – I am her youngest child born much after the first five were born, clearly an accident as they say! Unless I hire a nanny full time (good part time nannies are almost impossible to find here because they are dedicated and want to do it full time) which is very expensive and not worth it if I plan to be stay home for the first two years of raising the child considering I am doing that for my first child. So I did find it daunting to think of being a stay at home mom for another couple of years and do child rearing full time with very little help at least during week days. It is not even the work, but the mental drain one feels on some days that prove to be very trying...I can believe people find it daunting enough to just not want “to do it all over again”.
Two of my brothers and one sister have only one child each respectively. And two of my sisters have two children each. Having seen those children grow up, I don’t see any difference in how fit they are, how mature or intelligent they are. The single children are all very smart, mature and well adjusted socially as much as the ones with siblings. Although I cannot deny that the single children would have been great as siblings and would have doted on their younger brother or sister had their parents decided to go for one more child. Interestingly of my two brothers, one tried to convince me not to go for a second while the other was trying to convince me “not the make the same mistake” they made in having just one child. A friend with a single child who is about to enter college, recently told me “You know, when I was your age people used to try to convince me that I should go for second child. I felt annoyed that they were advising me…now I find myself doing the same thing. It would have been nice if I had had two children”. Some people come to regret their decision to stop with one whereas some others (like my brother) are so sure of it that they even try to convince others as to why it is a good idea to stop with one.
I think if one is not mentally ready to have two children it is almost impossible to be bold enough to go for it. It is not easy to bring a life into this world unless you feel you can do it. Speaking for myself I went into this with much trepidation despite strongly feeling that it would be good for my children to have each other. When I see bickering siblings (as adults) who are not close or don’t care much for each other I wonder why they turned out that way – if it has to do with the parenting or really sometimes people just don’t get along with each other. I dread such an outcome for my children and I sincerely keep praying that they will always be friends. I feel like I am going through this “all over again” just for that one reason – they should have each other. Another friend who’s father recently died of Alzheimer’s disease told me – “ I was so sure that we would only have one child. But after what I went through with my father I realized that if I had been the only child it would have been impossible and devastating to bear it all on my own. That’s when I felt I had to do it for my daughter’s sake – she needs a sibling”. Similar thoughts were echoed by someone who lost her father recently and said that she had no one to share her grief with – what her mother was going through was different from what she was going through. She really missed having a sibling at that moment of loss.
On the other hand another friend told me a while back that she just could not imagine going through it all over again because she really did have an extremely difficult pregnancy. She also felt it was not in her to jeopardize her career by going for yet another child. My friend who’s father had Alzheimer’s also had a very difficult pregnancy but she still went ahead with the second and having somehow got through pregnancy and the first year after, she feels it has been absolutely worth it. It is a matter of finding the activation energy it takes to just bite the bullet and go for it – once it sets in motion, there is no going back and one somehow gets through the difficult years for a life time of joy – at least one hopes! Having a sibling is not just about having someone to share the burden of grief in life situations, but also having someone to celebrate with, someone who knows you through childhood and through all that your family has gone through, both the good and the bad. It’s about that bonding that comes with growing up together and having the liberty to call and laugh or cry about something that you know a sibling and only someone that close will understand. I feel strongly that it is a great gift that a parent can give to a child. You can have a fall out more easily with even the closest of friends and suddenly be left alone but it is very hard for siblings to not be there for each other no matter how many arguments or difference of opinion they may have with each other. As far as the single child, knowing my nieces and nephews who are single children, I don’t see any difference in how accomplished or happy they are compared to those with siblings. I only feel bad sometimes that they missed out on the joys of having a sibling, of growing up together and knowing there will be someone with a shared history and a sense of family for a long time to come. As I said in my previous post (about what my mother tells us), I imagine it is every parent’s wish that their children be united as siblings and always be there for each other. I too pray for that for my two children.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

As mother's day approaches...

As Mother’s Day approaches and shops gear up to profit from it, I can’t help but go into a dizzying array of thoughts about what motherhood has meant to me personally. I wonder whether I belong to the minority club of those who are unable to come up with some glowing statement proclaiming that it is the best thing that happened to them ever. It certainly has been wonderful but I don’t seem as emotional about it. I did not cry at the sound of the first heart beat at the very first ultrasound I went to and I did not experience any feelings when I held my baby in my hands for the first time. Relief certainly, but it wasn’t like anything that I had read in stories recounted by other mothers or even like the personal experiences of my sisters and friends. Nevertheless, over the past year and a bit, I too find myself having arrived at the same spot – having developed an incredible attachment to my child and wondering how empty my life would have been without him.
Having lost my father recently and still trying to come to terms with it, I remind myself constantly to live in the moment and enjoy good times while they last. Perspectives are always fleeting however. I think of all that I need to be thankful for when reading an article about children in Iraq and imagine how incredibly hard it must be for parents in such war zones. The next moment I am immersed in self-pity over battling a child who refuses to eat. I stare at the clutter of toys and crayons in the living room while my husband is upstairs making my son go to sleep and I wish for a magic genie to clean it all up instantly. These are not bullets or metal scraps for God’s sake, just toys and bits of cookies lying on the floor. I shouldn’t’ fret over this. If I didn’t clean up, I cannot concentrate on even watching TV let alone reading. I clear up some clutter and sit down to take in the quiet moment and revel in it for sometime. It feels like a long day but there is an abstract feeling of gratification.
For some, the desire and the patience it takes to raise children come very naturally. Maybe it does not feel as difficult for them. I can’t sometimes wonder though whether deep down, the surface ease belies some of the same anxiety and emotions that those like me for whom it does not come naturally go through.
My son turned 21 months couple of days back. I look at him with pride and joy and wonder how he will turn out to be as an adult. Sentiment stops me from wandering too far into the future – one day at a time I tell myself. I thank the stars for all that he is now and I pray for his good health and happiness. But I don’t linger in that proud moment for too long out of fear of casting a jinx. Much as it brings me joy, I can’t help but feel anxious about how I am going to find the patience and strength to do it all over again when the second child arrives in June and having two on my hand then to deal with. I blindly trust that things will somehow fall in place.
The reality of motherhood is not just full of those special-Kay moments of joy and smiles and pretty looks, as I have come to learn first-hand. My induced labor for the first delivery was quite easy and very quick. It only took three hours from start to finish. But I went through fourth degree tearing in the process. The pain I went through four days later is the real part of labor that I can remember now. I remember what my ob-gyn said, jokingly, when I went to her in utter pain few days after delivery. “You wonder if Catherine Zeta-Jones also went through such an experience, don’t you”, she said. Are there tears too behind the smiles for everyone? One understands motherhood only after going through it personally.
I now look at my mother with renewed respect for all that she has gone through in raising not just one but six children -- and never patting herself on the back for doing so. Due to her deep sense of gratitude and faith in God she only says “I didn’t do it, God helped me do it”. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been for her to have lost the very first one at a time when women were expected to bear a child soon after marriage while hers was already late by those standards and to again lose another adorable (the third one for her) child only a year and half after he was born. I feel as though I am looking at some super human who went through eight pregnancies and breast-fed every single child for over a year. And on top of that, she raised her six children while having several other children, my cousins, also growing up in the same house. Now, she is still fulfilling her role as a mother and helping me with my delivery despite the loss of my father and despite the grief that she is experiencing quietly. Her energy leaves me in awe. She was apparently a brilliant student in an English convent school she went to before she got married. Legend has it that the principal of the school,a nun, was nearly in tears pleading with my grand father to let her continue on with her studies. My mother may not have had the kind of career she was capable of, but she has led an exemplary life nevertheless. And it’s not even that she is humble about all that she has done. She does not even give it a second thought. To her, that is life. You just do your duty with love and sincerity. Simple. She does not preach the verses of the Gita, she lives it. Not just her, so many other mothers of her generation. I never paused to think about them like I do these days. Much as I mock Hallmarks’ days, I think a day dedicated to celebrating mothers makes sense.
Despite my great admiration for her, I still can’t help but treat her like a mother – I express my irritations at her freely even if I regret it later. I took my father’s presence in my life for granted and now I find myself doing the same with my mother. But I am now more aware of how precious my time with her is despite her good health and how it can just as easily be taken away when I least expect it. One just never knows what lies ahead next.
I can also not be as gracious as she is in hardly taking any credit as a mother. As a stay-at-home mother, I sometimes feel as though it is a penance that one goes through. One experiences those unbelievably joyful moments but also tides through a monotony of mundane chores and relentlessly repetitive tasks -- preparing the right food, feeding a difficult eater patiently, changing diapers and so on. I do sometimes regret that my career has taken a back seat in this process and I do envy working mothers for being able to enjoy their own time 8 hrs a day even though it is a choice that I have made for myself. Laboratory science does not lend itself well to part-time work and for obvious reasons not to working from home. I do not want to return to laboratory science and plan to change my career track when I return to working. All of this uncertainty makes me anxious when I actually pause to think about it. I am not one to advocate one or the other - working or staying at home - for anyone else. I only want to do what feels right for myself. And I hate the fact that society is still not geared up for truly equal parenting where both the father and the mother go through such difficult career decisions – stay-at-home dads are looked down upon even by many women, let alone men. Paternity leave is still not as extensive or acceptable as maternity leave is. And men who do parenting tasks are applauded even more than women as though it is only expected for a woman to do it. But having gone through motherhood thus far, there is a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that I have given my child all of my time, and made him my priority at the stage that he is most dependent on me. Despite all of the irritations and anxiety I go through in the process, I give it my best. I do hope that I can find it within me to cope with two children although I just can’t visualize it just now. And I sincerely hope that they will be there for each other as best of friends always. When my mother now tells us that the best gift we can really give her is for us siblings to be there for each other always, I understand what she really means and how much that means to her. There is so much about motherhood that you understand only as you go through it. It is like hearing the finer notes of a complex tune and appreciating it even more as you learn to play it yourself.