Anybody read Madam De’s latest post? The furor in the comment space is largely over just one part of the post – the bit about admiring Anjali Tendulkar for giving up her career to be the perfect homemaker, wife and mother. But Ms. De also talks about other stuff – bringing up a hugely popular celebrity’s kids in as normal a manner as possible, staying out of the media glare etc. – that I too find admirable. I wonder why no one’s talking about that!
Anyhow, I don’t agree with the homemaker bit at all. To stay home with the kids, juggle family and work, remain a DINK couple, or even not marry at all – is each individual’s personal preference. What makes you happy could make me miserable! So it’s futile to argue over which is the best choice.
It’s hard to say what Ms. De was thinking when she wrote this post. Was it meant to be a cheeky piece pretending to admire while gently poking fun at the so-called ‘perfect wife’? Was it, as I heard someone suggest, a PR advert? Or was it a genuinely fawning fan-post, never mind the seemingly regressive statements like – “The Perfect Wife, who has understood her position in marriage (secondary)…”? Who knows! Or more importantly, who cares! But her post did get me thinking.
Now that I am myself a mommy-to-be, I find myself forming some strong opinions on child-rearing, a departure from my completely non-judgmental stance before. I still don’t judge those who choose not to have kids, but once you do, these are a couple of no-nos in my books nowadays:
Choosing not to breastfeed because we need to get back to work. I keep reading about the lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding for both mommy and baby and I wonder how could a few month’s pay/seniority/career growth/mental stimulation possibly weigh against all of that? Remember that bit about health being our greatest wealth? We spend nine months trying to eat right and natural for the baby and end up feeding it an artifical food later! Of course, some moms are just not able to breastfeed and that’s a completely different scenario. But wanting to get back to work in a hurry ‘because we need the money’ or ‘I’ll go crazy staying home all day’ – I don’t buy that. In most cases, finances can be adjusted for a few months I think.
In my case, I plan to breastfeed for as long as I can (although those tales of cracked and sore breasts give me nightmares) and everything else will just have to align itself around that!
My former non-judgmental self butts in: A possible solution might be to express breast milk for when you are in office. But a lot of my friends tell me that this does not work for too long and you end up feeding the baby formula anyway. If someone has a different experience, I’d love to hear from you!
Asking grandma and grandpa to stay over and look after baby. Now this is a common occurrence with desi couples in the US and no one seems to find it amiss. I can understand if you’ve stayed in a joint family all along. In that case, you take the good with the bad. But this is different. Parents and in-laws come over for the delivery and stay back for months on end. I always wonder how comfortable the grandparents feel with this arrangement? Sure, everyone knows grandparents dote on grandkids, but don’t they have a life of their own back home too? Don’t they get lonely alone all day at home in a strange land? And don’t they sometimes wish they had been invited over before baby came along, just to visit or have a nice time? Finally, how do the new parents manage to bond with the baby if grandma’s always around to take care of everything? Not to mention the practical difficulties – how do you enforce your parenting rules when you are not the ones doing the parenting?
Again, in our case, my mother plans to stay with us for a couple of months when I’ll need her the most, but beyond that I know she’ll be itching to go back home and we wouldn’t ask her to stay back either. Sure, we’ll very likely struggle to handle baby by ourselves for the first few weeks, but hey, baby’s going to be a part of our little family and the three of us will just need to get used to each other!
My former non-judgmental self butts in: Perhaps I am being too harsh here? If the grandparents and parents don’t mind, who am I to complain? But somehow this practice makes me very uneasy. What do you guys think?
And that brings me to the familiar stay-at-home versus work-outside-the-home mommy argument. I am still a fence-sitter on this one. As long as mothers stay home with their babies in the initial few months when babies physically need mommy, I don’t see a reason for women to give up their dreams and ambitions for their kids – unless they wish to do so. After all, kids will grow up and get busy with their own lives someday. What does that leave mommy with?
But yes, younger kids need a lot of time and attention. And after a certain age, a dad can probably meet that need just as well as (and sometimes better than) a mom. Again, each family needs to sit down and work out what suits them best I think. Perhaps one parent can choose to work part-time or from home. Or perhaps you will be amongst the blessed few to find a loving caregiver nearby or a day-care right in the office!
As for me, I am still undecided. I just know my impending motherhood is a great time to re-examine where I am headed. Am I happy doing what I am doing? Would I be just as happy ten years down the line? Nothing like a baby to jolt you into some major soul-searching!