All Our Indian Aunties Were Also Stay-At-Home Moms

I always imagined that I would be a working mom when I grew up. My mom was a working mom. I knew that a lot of the stay-at-home moms I knew weren’t necessarily college educated. I assumed that all of these aunties were stay-at-home moms by default. I thought that they had no choice and this is what they did. I thought it was definitely an easier life than to work and raise a child.

I don’t know if staying at home was a choice or a default lifestyle but that didn’t make it any easier to be a stay-at-home in the previous generation. I think about the things I face now on a daily basis with my children. I think about how many times I burn out and need time to myself before I send myself into a nervous breakdown. I have a supportive husband with the flexibility to allow me to take time for myself.

But what about those aunties I grew up with? Were they able to get time to themselves? In the Indian culture, there is definitely a “put everyone else first” attitude for the women. Your husband and your kids come first. If you have in-laws or your parents, they also come first. You are definitely last in line when it comes to being taken care of. So is that what happened to the women I saw raising my friends?

Our culture here in America has evolved enough to recognize that everyone needs some time for themselves. It’s encouraged and recommended. I’m not sure if the Indian culture has evolved as much yet but I can see the trend leaning towards it. I know if I ask my husband for some time to myself, he will do his best to give it to me.

I really wonder what the generation before went through when they were raising kids. Was it easier or harder? Did they expect anything more of themselves than being a parent or was that enough for them? How did they deal with the day in, day out of being a stay-at-home mom? Were they happy? Did they care if they were happy? Or was it enough if everyone else in their household was happy?

Someday, maybe I’ll try to have this conversation with some of the aunties I know.

 

What Indian People Think

Sometimes, I read what other people write about being an Indian raised in another country. It’s scary to see what they think. I read a couple of articles written by these Indian people about how we are losing our culture if we are born and raised in America. We defy our parents, we ignore our traditions, we don’t want to participate in anything even remotely Indian.

I’ve written a few articles about this in various forms already. Just because I’m American does not mean I’m not Indian. Yes, there are things that have changed since the good old days where the daughter or daughter-in-law would just blindly do what her elders asked but that’s called progress. It’s called knowledge.

In exchange for me not being the world’s best cook or the Indian woman that cleans all day long, I am independent. I know how to financially support myself. I never needed to get married to someone in order to survive. Instead I chose to marry someone who supports my passions and interests and we have a relationship based on friendship and love. We are here because we want to be not because we have to be.

On that note, I chose my own life partner. I really got to know myself myself and having gone through previous relationships only helped me understand who the right person was for me to take this journey with. In exchange for that, I won’t resent having missed out any part of life. I won’t feel stuck in a relationship because it was my duty to be there. I will love myself and my partner because I have gotten the chance to chase my dreams.

Yes, I don’t agree with or listen to everything my elders say. In this day and age, with all of the information out there, the ideas that we had grown up with might not be the same or even accurate anymore. I also believe in making my own mistakes. But guess what? Neither of us, my elders or I, know everything. We all have to learn. It doesn’t matter if they had done something before us and we are in the process of doing it now. Times have changed! Things have changed!

It’s frustrating that those of us who were raised in a different country still get judged for it. The truth is that our parents left India to make a better life for us. Our parents wanted better opportunities for us. So then why do we get judged when we take advantage of these opportunities? You can’t expect us to move forward in one thing and still be behind in something else. I can’t be an educated woman and then be expected to sit at home, cooking and cleaning all day (unless it’s truly what I love to do). With knowledge comes change. With knowledge comes progress.

I think it’s time that the Indian people who keep thinking we are losing our culture and traditions realize that it’s not that we’re losing them. It’s that our culture and traditions are evolving. Things will change. They always have. Even if you believe that everything has been the same for thousands of years, I can promise you that it hasn’t. Even in India, things have changed over time.

So please stop judging us. Accept change. It’s the only way that you’ll really ensure that the things that are important to you stay around (unless you expect me to wait on you hand and foot because that’s not happening).

FOMO

FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

All my life, I’ve felt (and still continue to feel) like if I don’t attend every social event out there that I’m going to be missing out on something. It’s gotten worse with Facebook because then you know what you’ve been invited to or what events you’re missing out on. You see pictures of these events and it looks like everyone had such a great time and you are nowhere to be found anywhere. I’ve run myself into the ground to make sure that I’m able to be at every event there is. There was a time in my life that I would volunteer for every dance performance, go to every party, be at school, be at work. Needless to say, the only way I realize that I had to stop overextending myself is when my body shut down on me. That’s when I realized that my health was more important than being everywhere and took more time in taking care of myself.

Why do we do this to ourselves? The world isn’t going to stop if we don’t attend everything. I think part of it is (at least for myself) that I feel like people will forget I exist. That comes from a fear of not being important enough that people will remember me. If I always put myself in front of others, then they can’t forget me, right?

It’s an insecurity about who I am. This fear can extend not just my friends, but my family and my husband. It shows the lack of confidence I have in myself to know that I am important to someone. I have to say yes to everything so that these people always see me. And the only way to change it is to really start finding some confidence in who I am as a person. It’s knowing that no one is truly that easily forgettable. It’s knowing that if someone loves you, that no matter what you miss out on, you will get another chance.

I think this fear of missing out also applies to the fact that if I don’t attend something, will I regret it forever? Will it change something in my life that I can never get back again? The truth is probably not. I have missed events before and yet, my life continues on the path that it does. What didn’t happen can never happen, if that makes sense.

Now, my kid comes first. I will miss out on a lot of things. Events like parties at clubs, bars, movies aren’t things that I can go to at this time. I have to just hope that I matter enough to people that they will still try to spend time with me when we can.

Raising A Child Is Hard. Figuring Yourself Out Is Even Harder.

For some people, being a mom, especially one that doesn’t have to go to work everyday, has got to be the greatest job ever. Even though it’s hard at times, the good parts make everything else worth it. Especially after you pass the first month or two of having a new baby and get used to everything.

The mom part is definitely a challenge but the thing I’ve found even harder is becoming someone new. I’m no longer just a friend, girlfriend, wife. I’m a mom. That means that even though I had to learn compromise as a wife, I’ve had to learn compromise even more so as a mom. I no longer get to put myself first. My whole life is planned around my child. What she needs, when she needs it.

This means that I will never again be who I was. My whole definition of self has changed. And I don’t know about anything else but I’m not very good at changing. I’m struggling to reconcile the person I was before child to the person I am after child. So far, I’m not doing a very good job of it. I am trying to figure out how to evaluate my self-worth in a way that I can believe. It’s like I have to become this new person that I don’t recognize at all. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to become who I was prior to having a child.

A realization I finally came to (even though I’ve had a few friends tell me this several times) is that you don’t return to who you were prior to having a child. You have to become someone new. I don’t know if others have had a different experience but so far, I haven’t found another option.

And maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I am supposed to become this person I don’t know and don’t recognize. And like getting to know any new person, it’s going to take a while. Eventually, I hope I know this person well. I hope I know what her strengths and weaknesses are. I hope I feel comfortable enough with her that I can take her out and show her off proudly.

This new person has to learn to relate with everyone as well. I have a new relationship with my husband, my siblings, my friends, my parents. We all have to figure out what the dynamic is all over again. That has also been a struggle because this new person still has to learn how to communicate when everything has changed. This isn’t even accounting for the changes that those other people have gone through as well.

There have been a few times in my life that have really caused me to reevaluate myself and grow as a result. Here is one more time I have to do this. I just hope I can figure out who I am supposed to be and learn how to really be happy with that new person because that new person is the one who will be having relationships and really raising the child.

That new person is the one who will be teaching her children about life and showing them how to live it.

A Letter To My Child

To my baby,

I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. Your father and I had to go through a lot before you came but you’re here now. Our perfect little baby.

I finally know what it means to watch my heart walking around outside of my body. The first week or so, one of us had to stay awake while you slept because we wanted to make sure you were okay.  I didn’t know then what I know now,  that you are tougher than you look. But I still always worry when you’re not smiling at me. I still wake up at least 3 times a night to make sure you’re doing fine.

It’s been tough.  We are learning each other and teaching each other at the same time. There are days I’m completely frustrated and exhausted but then, you do something new that I’ve never seen before and forget everything and am in awe again.

I love to fact that you do smile at me now. It feels like you know who I am, even though I’m not sure if you do. I can’t wait to share more with you. I want to laugh with you, dance with you, live with you. I want to teach you everything I’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes. I want you to see the world in the best light possible. I want you to always be happy.

I can’t believe I’m writing this letter to you. I hope you get to read it some day. For now, I’ll settle for you being the love of my life. Thank you for coming to us.

Something Not Many Indians Talk About….Breastfeeding

Man, I wish I would have known more about this just so I’d be ready for how difficult it would be, how much it’d affect me as a new mother, and how my emotional self and rational self would battle. 

It’s definitely not something a lot of people talk about, at least in terms of what it would take from me to get to the point where I could do it. Here’s the thing: Breast milk is supposed to be the best thing for your baby. However, there are circumstances that can arise that don’t always allow you to be able to give your baby breast milk or maybe not give it to them in the conventional way.

Let’s start at the beginning. I had done the research to find out if my epilepsy medication would affect my breast milk. After getting cleared from the ob, the neurologist, and the pediatrician, I just assumed that I would breastfeed my baby as soon as she came out the door. Yeah, so much for that.

The first problem that hit us that affects a lot of people is that getting a baby that knows nothing about eating via their mouth to actually latch on and start eating. While it’s supposed to be natural to both of you in some sense, it’s not. The lactation consultants at the hospital try to help but in all honesty, they weren’t that helpful to me. We couldn’t get my baby to latch and she wasn’t eating much. The nurse scared us when we told her the baby would be latched on for maybe 5 minutes. She said that she couldn’t release us from the hospital if that’s all the baby was eating. 

Then came my blood tests. Somehow, without anyone realizing it, I had lost a lot of blood. My blood count dropped the two days following the day I gave birth. The funny thing was I showed no signs of it. My doctor wouldn’t discharge me. The nurse told us that if I had to stay one more day past the 4th day, my baby would have to go home and I would have to stay. So, in order to prepare for that, we started giving the baby formula just in case I wasn’t able to go home and feed her. Luckily, I was discharged at the same time but we had lost a whole day of trying to breastfeed since I was getting a blood transfusion in order to raise my blood count. 

The first week with a new baby is hard enough. I tried to breastfeed but giving her formula was the only way we knew she was getting fed enough. I must have cried 100 times in this first week. It was so hard. I felt like a horrible mother. Rationally, I knew that as long as my baby was getting fed, that’s all that mattered. But I wanted to do it on my terms and I hadn’t gotten a choice in the matter. 

Next came pumping. I tried that the first day I was home. Nothing much came out. Which meant we stayed on formula for a bit. I knew I had to see a lactation consultant. I tried one recommended but she just made me feel guilty for not breastfeeding right away and for not starving my baby until she learned how to latch hon correctly. I don’t care what anyone says. Starving my baby was NEVER an option. We found another lactation consultant who really was much more compassionate and understanding and knew that it took work to get there. She is the one who finally showed us what we were doing wrong so I could get my baby to latch. I also started pumping regularly after I saw her. 

So I learned how to breastfeed but another thing no one tells you is that it hurts like hell. Who is used to that kind of pain? I tried and tried but it hurt so I kept pumping because that didn’t hurt as much. Another 9 weeks went by. I was pumping every 3 hours. I was planning my life around pumping. I knew at least my baby was getting breast milk. But it’s hard. Pumping is a serious commitment. You have to keep doing it every 3 hours because otherwise your body will think you don’t need the milk and will reduce the amount you produce. It got to a point where my baby was sleeping at least 6 hours through the night and I was still waking up every 3 hours. 

This lack of sleep is one of the factors that convinced me to try breastfeeding again. I needed to sleep. I got tired of waking up all the time. So I decided to give it another go. And I’m happy to say that we have finally got it down. Somehow, all of a sudden, at 10 weeks, my baby and I both seem to have figured it out. 

It’s been a rough road. And I’ve learned that the end goal is that your baby is healthy and well-fed. I did know this but I had to really learn it, if you know what I mean. Not any one of those feeding options is the only right one. You have to do what’s best for you and your child. Do whichever makes you the best mother possible for your child. If it’s formula or pumping or breastfeeding, be proud and know you’re doing the best you can.