The 2020 story

We start every year thinking this year is going to better than the last and writing this on January 1st, 2021, the bar is so low for this year. The year when we learnt words like pandemic, isolation, social distancing, and bubbles and tiers meant scary things. The year we said goodbye to hugs, jeans, make up and heels and embraced home office, sweat pants, Netflix. There was anxiety and worry, tears for lost loved ones, claps for our frontline heroes: doctors nurses, medical staff, police, emergency services and let’s not forget the unsung heroes delivery drivers, bin men, supermarket staff, teachers. It will be a year we will talk about for many years but how we look at it might differ.

It was a tough year no sugarcoating that, but I don’t want to lose the gems we got from it. As I think about the year past, the main thing I learnt is we don’t have control on everything and that’s not a bad thing. So much happens that we don’t anticipate- we started the year cursing ourselves for losing the green card, getting ready to move to America. I tried to sell my business and it fell through last minute and I was disappointed. But then covid happened, and we didn’t move. Work had stalled but I had to decide on whether I wanted to buyout or let it go and I took the leap. And it has paid off in it’s crazy way. I am glad the site sale fell through so I could end the year as a small business owner that found new ways to be relevant. We didn’t move and my daughter has joined a fantastic school that is a nurturing environment for her.

You have to be positive: when there is so much gloom and doom around, adding to it is no help. I tried hard to rally my troops: food is an easy way to bring up the mood, I came to realise! So samosa Fridays, cake sundays and whatever else floats your boat! We spoke to grandparents to keep their spirits up, we chatted with friends and zoom became our daily ritual. There were days when I was too tired to be chipper but that’s when YouTube comes in handy!

I always thought having my husband around 24/7 would be exhausting. Adjusting to it was hard but now I can’t believe how easy it is. With no commute to tackle, the kids see daddy as soon as his last meeting ends. He surprises them at breaks, we had all our meals together. Our kids loved the comfort of knowing daddy is in the other room and get so excited when they hear his room door open.

Spending so much time with kids also introduces you to your inner child: to spend hours entertained with bubbles or be excited to go on a walk adventure, as long as it sounds exciting they are in! They adjusted to losing their routine and not seeing their friends, sure we had bad days but they tackled the change far better than me! And we tried many new things: french lessons, PE with Joe, cycling. We are such skeptics with the questions and constraints that it’s fun to just say yea and jump on the puddle or hide and say boo!

A big issue in such times is mum burnout: working, cooking, cleaning, entertaining kids.. the load is too much. Doing little self care rituals is important and we need to do it without guilt. Whether it’s a walk, chatting with old friends or a hair mask, whatever you can do to give yourself a moment to relax.

I would end this by saying I hope take away the good and forget the bad- to remember to be calm and not worry, to be positive and try new things, to find a moment for yourself amid the chaos and above all, always look for the rainbow in the clouds!


Losing an anchor

Today the last of my grandparents left the world. Death is a funny thing: when she spent the last 5 years in a fog with Alzheimers, we hoped she would pass away peacefully and join her beloved but when it actually happens, you have a profound sense of loss.

I have admired the wake that Western cultures have honoring the life and legacy that people have left and I want to focus not on the last 5 years but the incredible legacy my grandmother has left behind.

Patti had a calm, serene and smiling face, with a big pottu and her 9 yards. She used to light up a room with her pleasing demeanor, smile and hearty laugh. It was amazing to watch Patti in her favourite Mangada group; her natural grace and modest confidence in being in the forefront of the proceedings.

My grandfather used to always say “I earned but your grandmother ran the house and eventually improved our standard of living”. In their modest life early on, my grandmother saved money and invested wisely. With the limited means, they still managed to bring family members to live with them.

Patti also taught me a valuable lesson on feeding everyone who came home. Every single person who came home got a cup of tea and hearty meal, even if they come home to do a small job. She used to even make the tea herself even when she was older.

When I was growing up, I always looked at Patti as always around but busy running the household. The first time I really got to know her was when she fractured her hand and I stayed with her to help out. We chatted about her childhood, life in the village and their journey. I realised how strong she had to be to live in Mumbai when they didn’t have money and my grandfather worked 3 jobs. She learnt Gujarati and Hindi, made friends and raised her children by herself. As a grandmother too, she was doting and relaxed – most people in her age were rigid about rules and customs but she never enforced with us.

Patti was the central force of family: she commanded everyone home, mandated Sunday lunches and was everyone’s favourite. We got to know our extended family thanks to her and I see that trait in my mother too. I wish the gene transferred to me, but it skipped me!

The most devoted wife, dedicated mother and a loving grandmother, she has left a large hole in a lot of us. I will miss her calm and serene personality, generous nature and happy laughter will be missed.

Miss you Patti, Thatha will take care of you.

Life in time of Corona

I am imagining our quintessential Sunday routine: a walk to our local park that’s full of kids. We bump into friends, share hugs and stories then meander for some lunch that’s bustling with locals. We do our grocery shop at leisure, perusing through items without a care in the world.

That was the routine, nothing special. But ask me today, and that feels like a lifetime away. You see in 2020, our life changed. You can almost categorise it as life BC (before corona) and AC (after corona). Who knew a word you associated with beer changed our world forever.

We balked at the idea of a lockdown, shuddered at the thought of working from home with kids, panicked about groceries. We worried about family who are far away, especially our parents. There were sleepless nights, hours of reading articles online, anxiety about juggling it all, and tears all around.

And one week in, here’s where we are: it’s hard, there’s is no way to sugar coat that. No one knows the answer, even people who profess they know the right way aren’t sure. Plans change daily, news is updated daily. That’s the hard part: during the Spanish flu, there was no internet spewing theories and we weren’t experts on social media. Information comes at a cost, and sometimes that is our sanity. We become so obsessed with learning about things we can’t control that it is all we think about. I went through the stages and now I am stepping back. I check in the morning and night but try and leave the constant updates (more so because I can’t check more often but more on that later). The mental health aspect is largely ignored but will be a much larger conversation in future, I predict.

A crisis brings the best and worst in people; you see those who flout rules and have barbecues on lockdown or hoard in supermarkets leaving nothing for others. But you also see the scores of people who worry about the vulnerable, who rally to help those affected, who care about the front line. The media focuses on the worst and that can make you feel jaded but with a little focus, you can find the gems that make you believe in the world again.

The family dynamic struggles to adapt but it will amaze you how quickly children adjust to the new normal. My elder one loves her friends so we were worried about her being home all the time. We were easing her into the lockdown and I got consumed with building a nursery routine for her. She couldn’t care less, she found mum as a teacher confusing and there was very little listening. So by day 4, my respect for her nursery tripled and I abandoned all hope of homeschooling. I realised she loved being with her sister, she learnt from the books we read. Daddy working from home was another treat. We coloured and played with bubbles, sometimes we just hung out and they were happy to be together as a family. I am not saying it’s all rainbows and butterflies, it is hard to even have a minute to think. But I guess that’s less time checking news and being anxious so a win?

So how do I feel after a week? I am ok: It’s hard but I have a good partner and we found a rhythm that works for the family. I know some weeks will be harder than others but eventually things will go back. We will get to a life AC (after a Corona). There will be a Corona babies and Corona divorces, but I would like to think most families will remember the time they were together 24/7 and laugh about the fights, the silly fun and the time they chose health above all else.

I am chronicling our life through the lockdown so when I look back, I will never take our Sunday routine for granted again.

To my second child

My lovely baby

You are going to be one soon so here is a little story about you!

Your mummy and daddy yearned for a second baby and then you were in my tummy. It wasn’t easy, with lots of scares. But you hung on, and you made sure I was strong.

As your arrival date came closer, I wondered am I prepared to be a mum of two? Can I handle it? Will you feel loved and cherished? I wondered because we didn’t spend hours reading baby books, we didn’t go to ante natal classes to prepare, there was no exciting shopping and envisioning cute outfits. The build up wasn’t exciting, it was anxious- we were worried about you and we wanted to make sure your sister didn’t feel neglected.

And then you came- like a bullet! You were in a hurry to meet mummy and tell her it will be ok. And with such a swift arrival, mummy was home the same day. Your sister was thrilled to meet you and suddenly all the anxiety and the fears melted away. I held you and I understood why it didn’t matter that you weren’t my first. Everything from the pregnancy to the birth was unique and everything after will be too! Your cries, your smiles and every little gesture are a first for me.You were the missing part of our little family.

Over the last year, we have learnt how to be a family of 4. I was more prepared this time, the first few months I knew what to expect and stayed calm. I realised my fears were unfounded- I didn’t have to read baby books but I had to learn how to deal with two. It was more complex and I felt guilty all the time. But you didn’t complain as I learnt the juggle.

What’s new for me is watching someone be as important as mummy and daddy to you (maybe more): the person you love and adore, who you follow around: your elder sister. Both of you are obsessed with each other: she can’t let you sleep because she misses you. You want to grow up so fast, wishing you could do what your sister is doing- your cheeky smile and determined attempts tell us that. And then there are the sleepless nights where you wake each other up and I am sure there will be many fights but watching you both giggle and cuddle are worth all that!

So my darling girl, remember even when you grow up, you don’t have to fret that you are second. From birth to the first year and beyond, there is no one like you! Every step you take, every path you embark on and everything you become is uniquely yours and we can’t wait to watch every step of the way!

How a second pregnancy differs from first.. things no one tells you!

We are reaching the end of my second pregnancy (hopefully the end is soon!) and as I am deep in nesting mode, I wanted pen some thoughts on how different the experience is emotionally on mums (mine anyways).

During the first pregnancy, you are overwhelmed- worried about doing the right things during pregnancy, trying to take in information from apps and books, advice from other parents (both solicited and unsolicited) and wondering if you will be a good parent. The baby shower, the shopping for baby things (including the cute but one time use outfits, soft toy mountains), the scans build the excitement slowly but surely. Watching your friends and family spoil you and pamper you makes you feel special. There are scares and fears along the way but you also have tools like antenatal classes to help you along. You are excited, anxious and in most cases, your partner is in the same emotional space. Even when you go in to labour, you are excited to finally meet your baby.

The second time round feels different- firstly you don’t bother about gathering information because you feel like an expert already. There is no real shopping to do because you already have the basics and you are smart enough to not buy any frills or impulse buys. There’s no special treatment for the mum (baby shower, spa day) unless you are Kardashian 🙂 Not that you are thinking about that, because you have one thing on your mind: your first child. You are constantly trying to be the same mom before you were pregnant, although you would love a long nap or take a relaxing bath. Most thoughts about the new baby are tied to how your child will react, making sure they don’t feel left out and figuring out how to juggle. Even when you think of labour, your main concern is how your child will take it, will they be alright without you.

My initial thought was a second pregnancy would be easier because you know the drill and there are fewer scares and surprises. But boy was I wrong! Anxiety was like a shadow, always there. I had a tough pregnancy and worried about how it will go as I get bigger- would I be able to run around with my child, can I manage my home, what about work. As my daughter became aware of the impending arrival, I worried if she would resent her sister for coming in the way of mummy/daughter time, especially when I was limited with pelvic pain. As the pregnancy progressed, I also felt guilt about not being excited enough for the new baby with all these thoughts and fears. Between the guilt and anxiety, I have been on the edge and speaking to friends, I realised I am not the only one. My friends reassured me that the anxiety is often worse than the reality- it was never as bad as I feared. I also found that often your partner doesn’t get the same anxiety so it isn’t a shared state. You find yourself worrying alone many a night on how things will turn out.

But I am hoping once the baby is actually here, the anxiety will go away and all my fears will be unfounded. That’s what I am told anyways 🙂

In the meanwhile, tell me what you think? Were/are you as anxious as me? Did it all work out? Share your experience in the comments below.

Ironies of pregnancy

(Not mine, found it on google image search)

When you are pregnant the first time, it’s exciting and you get so swept away in planning and reading and the baby showers, that you don’t focus as much on what’s going on with you.

But the second time around, you are completely aware that pregnancy is a really weird experience, feels somewhat cruel at times!

Here are some examples:

  • You are always hungry or craving food but for most of the pregnancy you are either suffering heartburn or indigestion.
  • You should be drinking litres of water but your bladder has shrunk to the size of a pea so you basically live in there bathroom.
  • You are always tired but sleep is hard to come by (read above mentioned bathroom trips along with pelvic pain and finding a good position and being able to breathe).
  • The lack of sleep makes you crave copious amounts of caffeine which you are not allowed to have.
  • Your lack of energy makes toddler care challenging and after a long day, there is no wine o’clock.
  • You can’t bend down and grab things easily and you are at your clumsiest best!
  • You should stay active but with zero energy and the ridiculous pace, you take twice the time to get there.
  • You have great skin and hair when pregnant but rarely the energy to go anywhere (especially true for a second pregnancy).

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add to the list 🙂

Reactions to #metoo in India and my response

Source: buzzfeed India

The Me Too movement has reached India a little over a year after it took Hollywood by storm. What has been an eye opener to me is to see the varied reactions it generated. They bring a gamut of emotions from frustration, to anger and disbelief. So I want to address some negative reactions I have been reading:

– Why did the women just react if it happened years ago?

It is extremely hard to talk about these topics, people make light of molestation or second guess whether you are over reading the situation. The victim goes through periods of shame, self doubt before finally revealing such issues. And in some cases, when you can finally speak about it, you are doing it because you don’t want any other woman to go through what you did. The point is the victim often carries scars of these incidents for years, so why shouldn’t she talk about it?

– She put herself in the position by <insert reason>

This just makes my blood boil because men are expected to be animals and women have the long list of don’ts so they don’t invite bad behaviour- don’t be outside alone in the evening, don’t wear short skirts or anything that invites attention, don’t smile, the list goes on and on. No matter what you wear, how you look, or where you are- you can never relax. There are predators everywhere you turn. And this something we just have to accept. If the consequences to harassment were severe and swift, this wouldn’t be true. But we all make excuses for the perpetrator and find a way to blame the victim.

– This happens to everyone, why make it a big deal?

That’s a travesty, that we accept harassment as a reality; starting from public transport or crowded areas to work place or in many cases with family/ friends or neighbours. The fact that we are finally acknowledging this is not ok is a first step.

– Only film industry has this issue

The me too movement originated with the entertainment industry but let’s not forget it is also because they have a wide platform. By bringing up this topic, they are raising this for women everywhere. We all can start fighting back in our own worlds.

– There are so many false claims so i don’t believe.

If someone told you there was a 95% chance a vaccine or medicine works, would you believe it works? Especially if it really affects you. It’s the same here- 95% of cases are true but we shouldn’t focus on the 5% false cases and assume everyone is lying. It is a far reaching issue- more than 50% of women have faced harassment of some form.

This is the first step in a long journey but I am so glad India is finally having the conversation. Don’t trivialise such a serious issue with jokes about witch hunt and men being the true victims.

One month as an editor!

After a brief hiatus, I am back! And what a ride the last few months have been! Before I get to my post, lets catch up on the last few months. After my bubba turned one, I decided not to return to work and was searching for a new role which gave me more flexibility when I found out I was pregnant again. I decided to put my job search on pause and focus on having the baby before heading back, and then life threw me a curve ball and I miscarried. I took a while to process that, and I realised I don’t want to go back to my finance world. I wanted to do more but I wasn’t sure how. I was nervous about how I could do it all, and just then I chanced upon a post wrote by the editor of Clapham Mums who wanted someone to takeover her site as editor. I wrote to her on a whim- I had no real plan. The decision wasn’t easy- I was a world away and I had no idea what I am signing up for but something inside me felt it was ok. For someone who gets nervous, this decision was a completely calm one for me; I didn’t try to get anyone’s input and followed my gut.

Cut to now, after a month on the job, it’s been an amazing journey. The universe works in mysterious ways! The role has all the aspects I love- community, writing, working with people with the challenge of being your own boss. I want to share some learnings for me:

  • I miss structure- being my own boss meant no bosses, targets, or how to guides. I had some help from the Great British mums, who I nagged incessantly. I am learning to appreciate that sometimes things are messy and without a blueprint, and that’s fine.
  • Generating business takes hustle- I heard the term used a lot in RHOBH by Lisa Rinna for all the Bravo fans out there, didn’t get it then but I do now. It takes a lot of effort to generate every £1 of revenue- in my case it takes calls, emails, chasing for responses, writing, social media.
  • I got to meet amazing women- the world of mumtrepreneurs is inspiring, there are so many women running innovative businesses. Some as a primary career, others as a secondary one after family and they have the passion and drive to run their own business. There is a supportive community of these mumtrepreneurs- I found they didn’t haggle with you because they recognise you are self employed just like them (I was surprised at how much harder it was with bigger companies given their bureaucracy).
  • There are so many pieces to the business, and between childcare constraints, life admin, every free minute goes to work. It’s great but i miss my lie on the couch after a long day and watch reality TV time.
  • I missed the support of a large company, so I could leverage the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues, or call my IT help desk to give me how to help, or not have to pay for stationery and postage- all things I never thought about while working in a big company, but suddenly seem important now! 🙂

So there you have my first month realisations about being self employed- I am sure there will be more. What were your realisations?

I was a solo parent for a week, and we survived!

This week was a first: my husband was across the pond and I had a daddy obsessed toddler to deal with. My first instinct was to call my parents in India for a trip but I decided to wear my big girl pants and bravely go where I have not gone before: be a solo parent for a week! I wanted to share my tips and realizations as this experiment draws to a successful end.

To prepare for this daunting undertaking, I started preparing by reading blogs to find some hacks. While I am no expert, one tip that were hugely helpful was to prepare in advance- I stocked up on groceries, prepared a few meals for the week, and sorted out laundry. Our toddler is a terrible sleeper so I knew I will be tired, so anything that can simplify the week.

The other tip I loved was to wake up a bit earlier so I could take a shower and have my coffee before her day starts. Getting a good start helped me tackle the day.

I planned a few play dates and it was a wonderful distraction for both of us. We also did a grocery run everyday around the time dad comes home, just to get her mind off it. And the tv nanny time gave me a few minutes so I could eat dinner, do the dishes, and clean up the toy war zone!

A realization that helped tackle the tough days was to accept that things won’t go smoothly and that’s ok. On the second day, my toddler woke up at midnight and suddenly missed daddy, so we had a night of screaming from 12-3am. We were both tired the next day, and then the Chromecast refused to cast nursery rhymes making it feel like a never ending day. Accepting that such tough days will happen helped me be calm and patient.

I also planned a few treats for me, like a threading appointment or a quiet breakfast after the nursery drop off. That’s my takeaway from my osteopath: you need to slow down and breathe to let your body catch up!

It was still challenging week: my toddler was unsettled and looking for daddy. She talked about him all day, and seeing him on FaceTime wasn’t enough. She also got more clingy with me- followed me everywhere and would break into tears every time I stepped away for a second. It was stressful especially when you are doing small tasks like draw up her bath, or heat dinner. I felt terrible telling her off because I know she is just confused, but the crying does get exhausting.

I learnt a lot over the week- the first big one was I realized how incredibly amazing solo parents are- it’s not an easy job, and they deserve so much credit. Even when you are tired and cranky, you don’t have anyone to pick up the slack. Hats off to you!

I have a new found appreciation for my husband- I realized my husband does more than I give him credit for. He does the bath and bed time routine, but I realized most mornings he gets our daughter ready which gives me a bit of quiet to shower and have breakfast.

As I ready for my husband’s return tomorrow, I feel a mix of relief and sense of achievement- I didn’t think I could, but I did it! This week was an eye opener for me and a real confidence booster. At the end of each day, we went to bed with a feeling of accomplishment and for a few minutes, like a supermom. I am excited to get the family unit back together, to get some me time, and a tall glass of wine 🙂 !

When wearing black isn’t enough…

This year was a first for the Golden Globes- the women chose to wear black to protest the rampant sex abuse that was brought to light in recent months. The Time’s up campaign, that 300 actresses have signed up for, have teamed up with the National Women’s Law Center and have raised $15 million over the weekend.

The awards started the dialogue too with Debra Messings questioning E! on gender pay gap, to Natalie Portman calling out the all male best director nominees, to Oprah’s speech that many termed presidential. It was a defining moment for an evening that focused on glitz and glamor and the outfits to take on something real.

But something about this felt very hollow to me. It didn’t connect at all, firstly because the issues brought to light weren’t breaking news, everyone knew about Harvey Weinstein being a pig and yet fawned over him. I get that he was powerful and you don’t mess with that, but no leading lady came to support the first accusers until there was enough media attention. Other examples: Roman Polanski got a standing ovation when he won the Oscar for Pianist, and Woody Allen got a free pass for being a genius. Yes, there is finally a united voice but in some ways, the leading ladies didn’t lead by example in the protests.

The other part is wearing black as protest almost feels like a themed party- it isn’t like a protest T-shirt where everyone is wearing the same slogan. If we are protesting the focus on dresses, maybe the solution is a boycott to “what are you wearing” questions, and if we are focusing on the sex abuse prevalent, then maybe discussing that would be a start. Instead the attention is focused on the black dress and the message is lost.

One amazing idea I saw online was if the women wore suits instead with the message they are taking the power in Hollywood. That would have been a powerful message, and one that was echoed through the evening.

It’s a step in the right direction to bring this issue to light, but let’s move past the token gesture of wearing black and have a meaningful dialogue. Let’s move the discussion forward, but real steps not fashionable twirls!