So I wanted to do this as an Instagram post and again, because I typed this on the computer instead of directly on the phone it went on for too many words and is now a blog post. But hey, I’m not complaining. This is my entry for Life of Real Moms’ April 2018 Challenge – Surviving Parenthood Prompt 13: #FridayIntroductions – 10 Parenting Mantras our Family Swears By.
1. Respect baby’s schedule.
Or be prepared to pay for it. I don’t know how others do it – going everywhere with their baby, any time of the day. Maybe they’re just better at this motherhood thing or maybe their babies just sleep anywhere. Mine doesn’t. I’ve tried. She wants the comfort of her home, her bed (that used to be ours too, once) and Mamma’s duddu to fall and stay asleep. Every time we have tried to schedule something around her nap time, or meal times, we have suffered not just for the rest of the day, but also that night and a few days after that. Since then, we try to schedule things around her day, and not the other way around.
2. Babywearing for the win.
Thankfully, I realised this very early on. We had our first Anmol Baby Carrier delivered while I was in the hospital because she came 12 days before her due date. And since then we have been wearing her whenever we can. Before she could walk, we have carried her in wraps, ring slings and SSCs every time we stepped out for a walk. After she started walking, we still carried her in our Anmol when we were out for a long time and that has saved us some energy and also allowed Laddoo to catch a quick nap whenever possible.
3. Respect baby’s choices – verbal or non-verbal, within limits, of course.
Just like we, as mothers, know our own bodies, babies know what they need and what they don’t. I learnt it the hard way, but trying to put a baby down for a nap, when the baby clearly doesn’t want to nap, has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do and the biggest waste of my time and energy. Same goes for when she doesn’t want to eat. If she has decided that she only wants Mamma’s duddu instead of the delicious raajma I have made, no matter how much I try to cajole her into believing that she will love it, she simply will not open her mouth. In fact she will throw food from her high chair because despite all her efforts to tell me that she doesn’t want it, it would appear to her that I haven’t understood so she has had to resort to extreme measures. And this ends up being a waste of time, effort, and food.
That is not to say that every time she says “no” she will have her way; certainly not. But I have avoided a lot of tears (hers and mine) by just trusting that she doesn’t want something and letting her be. And this IS after shedding a LOT of tears while trying to force her to eat something, or putting her down for a nap.
Lesson learnt: She will sleep when she’s sleepy and will eat when she’s hungry. Also, I have realised that giving her some time and then trying again can get better results than trying relentlessly for an hour. Or two.
4. Baby-Led Everything!
Paying attention to baby’s cues has also saved me a lot of tears. Observing her for signs of hunger or sleepiness and addressing those issues before she gets too hungry or too sleepy to think straight has also been a great lesson. This also goes hand in hand with not messing with her schedule. And even though I don’t follow a time table to the minute, but yes, having a schedule that’s based on number of hours has been a blessing. For example, her first nap happens three to four hours after she wakes up, so I try and finish two meals and her bath before we are ready for her nap.
5. Early to bed, early to rise is perfect for Mamma’s sanity.
A: This is good for baby’s health, and
B: Mamma can have some quiet time of her own at a decent hour too.
I could have quiet time if the baby sleeps at 11 PM too, but by then I am also ready to wind down and go to bed. But waking up early has its benefits and I have discovered that I can get much more done, that too with a fresh mind, if we follow the early to bed, early to rise mantra. Barring times when Laddoo’s going through some sort of sleep regression (which is, like, three months out of four) we try and follow this and there is some semblance of peace in our home.
6. Silence please!
I am not fond of continuous noises. Recently, I discovered that I have a condition called misophonia where sounds bother people. And it’s not just the annoying sounds like nails scratching on a chalkboard, or someone chewing too loudly. It’s any noise and I am suddenly relieved that I’m not trying to be annoying when I ask people to stop making whatever sounds they are making; it actually bothers me to the point of making it difficult for me to concentrate.
The biggest culprits when it comes to these sounds were the phone and the doorbell. The phone – with its continuous pings for notifications, and the doorbell with people showing up when I was in the middle of some important work.
Even before I had the baby, my phone was always on “Vibrate” because I didn’t like noises. In fact, when Apple introduced the DND feature in 2012, I was over the moon and used it to the full extent when I was writing. Once I got married, I eliminated the ringing of the door bell by keeping the garbage bag outside my door the previous night (-1 bell), cancelling the newspaper (-1 bell) and no milk deliveries (-1 bell). So only the maid rang the bell and my husband used his keys to open the door. Barring deliveries, there was no other reason to ring the bell.
After Laddoo was born, we realised that sounds disturbed her sleep. I was advised against making the house too quiet for her to sleep and thus getting her used to pin drop silence. I barely had a choice there since I was alone with her most of the day and I don’t like noises myself. So she got used to sleeping in a quiet house.
Now, the maid is instructed to always knock lightly on the door, the watchman is instructed to ask anyone who comes upstairs to not ring the bell. We could have turned the bell off, but ours doesn’t have a dedicated switch. And because the watchman sometimes forgets or isn’t around, we now have a sign on the door that asks people to knock lightly on the door.
I know this may sound like we are catering to her convenience, and maybe we are. But here’s the thing. Don’t you feel more refreshed when your sleep isn’t interrupted? I do. I wake up happy if I’ve slept well (and this is something I have forgotten in the last year and a half – not how to be happy, but what it feels like to have slept well). And I know for a fact that noises bother my baby and then she wakes up cranky and that affects the rest of our day, sometimes even night.
So for the sake of all our sanities and happiness, the phones are perpetually on silent, doorbell shan’t ring.
7. Daddy-daughter time is also essential for a happy mamma.
I love spending time with Laddoo. I’m with or around her 100% of the time when she’s awake and sometimes, even when she’s asleep because she’s latched on to me. I have forgotten what it feels like to have a few uninterrupted hours to work where no one needs me.
I used to love watching an entire episode of a show without a break. I used to sit with popcorn and a beverage to watch Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy the show for the entire duration (with my phone on DND, and yes, I screened phone calls.) But now I’ve gotten used to watching a show in four or sometimes even five instalments and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with taking a break between meals to cater to her needs and come back to finish what’s on my plate.
But uninterrupted time is of prime importance when I’m trying to think and work on a blog post or just think in general. If I work when she’s asleep, there’s no telling how long I have because she might wake up to nurse in 30 minutes or sleep for two hours straight. And because of this uncertainty, I cannot start something that requires my attention for more than an hour for fear of being interrupted midway.
The only time I know for sure that I have an hour or two for myself is when she’s awake and she’s out with her father. I know, then, that I have a certain amount of time and can plan my work accordingly. I can even sit and do nothing and be sure that I won’t be called for nursing duty any time soon.
And this is what I need around once or twice a week to gather my thoughts and mentally organise myself.
8. You reap what you sow.
I don’t believe that someone automatically deserves your respect because they were born 2 seconds before you. Certainly not. Respect needs to be earned. But we need to be polite and nice to everyone we meet.
Until they give us a reason not to.
We want Laddoo to have that quality. We want her to be soft spoken, and kind, and polite. So we realised that we had to act accordingly.
I was told that babies are like sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear and then when it’s time for them to do their own thing, they repeat what they’ve heard or seen. We were very clear that we wanted her to speak respectfully to everyone and speak correct Hindi, not the Mumbaiyya version of mereko and tereko instead of mujhe and tujhe. So first, I took on the responsibility of teaching her the right way to speak Hindi. My husband speaks to her in Konkani and we both, occasionally, also converse with her in English.
As far as Hindi is concerned, we say ‘aap’ or ‘tum’ when we talk to her because we don’t want her to call us or anyone else ‘tu’.
When we speak in English, we use full sentences instead of the broken down kiddie version. We say, “What are you doing?” or “What do you want to eat?” instead of “What you doing?” or “What you want to eat?” We make sure we say thank you when she brings a toy or book to us, and at 1.5 years she may not say much but she does know how to say thank you. And that makes us pretty proud as parents. It sounds “ka ku” but we know she’s saying thank you. And now every time she says “ka ku” we say, “you’re welcome” so that she learns that that’s the way to respond when someone thanks her.
This does not mean I’m always polite with her or never scold her. I’m human too and despite my best efforts sometimes it’s just not possible to keep smiling and be Zen. She has been scolded when she does something despite being told not to. And even though I know that she probably doesn’t understand it, it does set the precedent that when she does something that Mamma has asked her not to – like climb on the dining table, or throw her sipper away, or step on her books – Mamma will scold her, or at the very least tell her, sternly, that she’s not supposed to do that.
9. Don’t be afraid to make your own choices, your own rules, especially if they are different from the set up you grew up in.
My parents had a very different lifestyle when it came to raising us and even though that worked for them, one of the biggest reasons it did was that my grandparents were in the same house when my sister and I were little. So my parents had their parents available most of the times and my unmarried uncles too, and were not completely raising the two of us alone.
But my husband and I are raising Laddoo by ourselves.
So while a 10 PM bedtime worked for them, it does not for us. While pureed food and spoon-feeding the baby 5 meals a day worked for them, it does not for us. While they used walkers and carried us around, we chose to babywear. While they used nappies, we use cloth and (sometimes) disposable diapers. While they didn’t even have the option to use gadgets to distract us, maybe sometimes they had more people around and didn’t need gadgets, whereas sometimes we do need gadgets to keep her busy when we have a cab arriving in 10 minutes and both of us have to get ready and pack Laddoo’s diaper bag to be able to leave the house on time.
The situations and family set-ups are different. The centuries are different. Of course parenting styles are going to differ. And I not only made my own choices for what suited us as a family, I was prepared to fight anyone who dared to argue with me.
Unless you’re here with us 24/7, helping us raise our child, paying our bills, please keep your ideas, tips, and opinions to yourself. Family or not. Especially if you’re not.
10. Embrace change.
Because it will happen to you every few months/weeks.
Imagine you’re appearing for a test. You have thirty minutes to write the right answer but the question paper is blank. Then after twenty minutes have passed, the question magically appears, and now even though you have only ten more minutes you at least know what the question is. Then, when you’re at the 25-minute mark, you figure the right answer out and rush to answer. At 30 minutes, it’s time to answer question 2, and once again the question paper is blank.
Does this sound familiar? This is what parenthood is. You spend most of the time first figuring out what the problem is: why the baby’s crying, why the baby isn’t sleeping or feeding. Once you’ve figured out what the issue is – baby is too hot or too cold, or baby is hungry, or baby’s tummy’s hurting – and you find a solution, the problem is no longer relevant and a new issue crops up. Or the problem is still the same, but your older solutions don’t seem to work.
I’m sure this has happened to most of us. What worked for a good two or three weeks or even months will suddenly be the thing that’ll make the baby cry and make a fuss and then you’re sitting there wondering what the hell happened.
With almost 19 months of parenting experience I have realised that if I sit around crying about why things or routines that were perfect suddenly don’t work anymore, then I’d spend 90% of my time crying and cribbing, and annoyed at my baby. But accepting that things constantly change, and mostly without a warning, has made my life easier. Knowing that sometimes the most tried and tested things don’t work has made me calmer and in a much better position to find alternative solutions.
So yes, one of the most significant parenting mantras in my life so far has been to embrace the fact that change is a constant part of parenthood.