I live in a joint family. My in-laws, my MIL’s mom, my BIL and his wife and my husband and me. So 7 adults, plus my 2 kids and one crazy puppy. Most days it’s not as intense as it appears, because we’re well adjusted and know our boundaries. Plus the house is large, and everyone has their space to hang out or sulk in. The icing on the cake is that my BIL’s wife is my younger sister, Krithika (BIL and my behna met at my wedding and got married 7 years later), so that makes it even sweeter.
Last Friday, after a grueling 31 hours, Krithika delivered her first baby - a darling little boy. Now she’s a lovely young woman, who’s very self assured and gracious. But you know how it is being a new mom. There’re no easy answers, the baby is cluster feeding, she’s sleep deprived and AAAAAH!
Because I’m a well-intentioned meddler, I have a tendency to pop out with pearls of wisdom and unsolicited advice, especially since I’m now elevated to Cool Maasi (Auntie) Status. I’m reminding myself to shut up, take a deep breath and only support her the way she wants to be. But I have all these amazing parenting pointers, and it would be such a pity to let those go to waste, correct?
So I’m writing them down here, putting it in a virtual envelope and NOT sending them to her.
Because I don't want to trample on her experience being a mother. That’s far more valuable than any piece of advice I can give.
But if she ever (ever) wants to know, here’re my ten rules to peaceful parenting.
1. Always ask for help. Doesn’t matter whether your baby is a newborn or a chubby 3-year-old. Stand up and spot all the people who can make this journey easy for you. Next, call them and have them chip in. Grocery shopping, cooking, folding laundry, running errands, watching the baby, playing with the noisy toddler. Give your helpers instructions and catch up on sleep/reading/anything non-baby related. Put your ego aside and take all the help you can get. Because trust me - on day 3 of zero sleep, you will get stabby and regret everything.
2. Invest in baby wipes or equivalents. My first child was born 9 years ago, and I still have an Amazon subscription for wipes. They are life savers, and if my husband gifted me wipes on our wedding anniversary, I would kiss that man so hard. That’s how much I love wipes.
3. Practice the art of selective deafness. Everyone, from the neighbors to Uber drivers think they know how to raise your child. IGNORE. IGNORE. IGNORE. Unless someone contributed to creating your baby, their opinion is not as important as your parenting instinct.
4. Find the humor in everything. Motherhood is a hilarious experience and remembering that can save your sanity. Whether it’s a poop explosion or leaking through your favorite shirt. Or even watching in horror as the baby boy drinks his own pee during diaper changes (moms of sons, I see you nodding). Figure out a way to laugh when you want to scream. It really helps diffuse the stress. And worst case, your maniacal laughter will scare the husband into cooking dinner for a change.
5. Forgive yourself. Parenting is daunting on the best of days and as moms, we are always on an all-expenses paid guilt trip. Don’t apologize for a messy house or eating cereal for lunch again. Accept that you’re doing your best. And some days even that will be hard. That’s ok. For your children, you’re enough and you’re irreplaceable. So forgive yourself.
6. It’s ok to stop at 1 baby. If you’re unsure, wait for a year and reevaluate. If you’re convinced, don’t let anyone pressurize you into trying for another child. And by the same token, you can have as many children (biological/adopted) as you desire, provided you’re financially, emotionally and physically able to care for them. Children are precious and should only be bought into a family that can nurture them in every sense.
7. Dads matter. Some men are natural parents and others figure it out with time. Give your partner lots of chances to bond with the baby- feeding, bathing, playing, putting to sleep. Don’t take no for an answer, hey it’s his child too! Every baby deserves loving, invested parent(s). And here’s where I pause and raise my virtual glass to single women (by choice/divorced/widowed). Ladies! You are inspirational and heroic, and seriously? Major respect for taking life by the horns. Your children are watching you lead by example. I know society is still cruel towards you, but you just keep rocking and being role models for women everywhere!
8. Self care is CRUCIAL. Sleeping, eating well, hydration, exercise, self love and doing things you enjoy. It’s easy to forget this in the chaos of motherhood. Be selfish and put yourself first sometimes.
9. There are no rights and wrongs. What works for someone else may fail for you. And vice versa. Make your mistakes and celebrate your wins. But allow other moms the same courtesy of forging their own journeys. As long as the child is well fed/watered and loved, everything else is not our business.
10. It’s ok to dislike this life sometimes. No matter how perfect our children are and how organized the day is, we all have those moments when we miss our bygone days. Those carefree parties and all the tequila shots we could down; the giddiness of a new romance and sleeping in until noon. It’s a huge, irreversible change, and it comes with baggage. We’ve all been there, crying in our bathrooms, while the children knock on the door incessantly. So, it helps to acknowledge these feelings and breathe through them. Accept the new normal, but still do what gives you joy. Be grateful for your baby’s smile and the way your kiddo still snuggles up with you at night.
And most importantly, know that, even with your best efforts, some days will suck and drain everything out of you. During such times, the only thing to do is order in pizza and call it an early night. Because tomorrow WILL get better.
The stadium floodlights are on. There’s palpable excitement in the air. A new inning has begun, as the young family takes their positions on the field.
From up in our box office seats, we cheer loudly.It’s going to be a firecracker of a game!
Welcome home baby Vedh. We’ve waited so long to meet you!