Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maid in Heaven

When I reached my maid in the play area she was busy on the phone holding onto a child who was pulling to get away from her and to my shock I realised that CHILD WASN'T MINE! You read right... but my son has no memory of this and he is a happy go lucky 5 year old. The only person this comes to haunt time and again is me!

Have you ever felt your life revloves around your maid and them coming on time? Well, you are not alone. How many helps can a nuclear family of 4 need? Since I have moved to Mumbai I have become smarter and have kept help that comes to me at different times of the day and there are 4 of them. Most of my friends living anywhere especially Delhi seem to have more help around than the number of people living in the house... there are days when I am alone with the two kids and haven't slept a wink all night. I need a cup of tea in the morning but get up knowing that breakfast and milk better be on the table and the son ready to go before the daughter gets up and refuses to leave my lap. My morning help invariably comes when everything is done and Arav is already on the way to school though her timing is such that it is supposed to give me some respite with my morning chores.

I have had a host of different shapes and sizes of maids who have driven me up the wall and everytime I thought I had found "the help" who will help me bring up my child they end up doing something amazingly lovely and I have had to chuck them out. I do have a host of relatives and yes, sometimes my own mom things I am being paranoid or have too much expectation from the help but when you are trusting them with the most important part of your life they better be good.

I still can't forget my first help Sashi after Arav was born. She was a lean and mean Nepali girl. Every morning she would dress up in the tightest of tight skirts and wear her hair in a severe bun and come in heels to serve us our morning tea while I would be nursing a headache or aching chest and wearing lounge clothes the whole day with a hungry and ferocious 2 month old. Then everyday I would have to request her to change into something appropriate so that she could help me with baby's bath. it would be January and freezing cold and she would take all of 5mins to bend and hold a naked baby so I could give a 30sec bath - needless to say she refused to change her ways of dressing and we had to call it quits. I thought I had smartened when I interviewed my next one and told her to wear only Indian clothes while helping me in the house but she said she would only help me i.e. hold my son and sing lullabies to him while I toiled away as she couldn't cook and she wanted me to show her how to cut veggies, how to boil water, how to make tea and a week had past and she never seemed inclined to learn.

After that I had a maid Anna, who my son still remembers the name of and I trusted her with doing the "right" thing. There were some nagging habits she had and all had to be ignored for the good she did but 8 months later I was at one of the biggest malls in Gurgaon and she was in the play area on a saturday night (read -really really crowded). While I paid the bill my son then 1.5 insisted on heading to the play area and not having to think twice I nodded my head in consent and they set off. My husband told me he'd get the bill while I should get Arav and meet him at the elevator so we can head home as it was late already. When I reached my maid in the play area she was busy on the phone holding onto a child who was pulling to get away from her and to my shock I realised that CHILD WASN'T MINE! I had followed them within a minute and found my son staring away at a basketball game 15-20steps away.

After this incident it has always been difficult for me to trust the best of helps/nannies with my child as that couple of seconds of not seeing my child with the maid always comes back to haunt me.

Needless to say I am one of those moms who can be seen tagging my daughter to every place with me while my miad relaxes at home due to the trust issue I have developed! Whether it is 12noon to get my son from school or the 4pm Tennis class, baby M and momma are always in the vicinity of Arav.

I know some of you moms have had the best helps and the same helps for the last 4-5years bringing up your children and it's great and I would love to hear about it too but somehow househelp always seem to be the discussion at any party, event or playground we land at. We can't do without them and they are the hot topic of discussion.

I also wanted to share with your some stories from the last few years that I have heard or read - I don't know whether they make me laugh or cry

1. The help ran away with the cook while the child was taking a nap and my friend came home to find her napping child all alone at home.
2. The help would rent the child out for money while the parents would be at work (read in the TOI a couple of years ago)
3. The help would be found eating the childs food while the child would go without a snack most days or would have be given something from the road to eat
4. The help would be on the phone while the child would be watching TV - in view is the actually the safest as long as the child is not harmed!
5.The help was kept for a few hours and found to not to know any work and she refused to leave the house stating she will call the police
6. The help was forced to work by her relatives to earn money and refused to come out of her room, work eat or go back to her relatives and had it bolted from the inside and refused to eat anything for hours at end. The watchman had to climb into her room from the window and she had to be sent away.

And the list goes on...

Inspite of this I have 4 helps around the house to help me currently and I always seem to be around the kids BUT the only lesson I have learned is have as much family around as possible to monitor your help and try not to leave the children alone with help unless absolutely necessary.

Ofcourse this article is very India centric and I have friends and family managing successful careers in the US and UK with the help of their house helps and nannies and a lucky few in India too... 

Friday, October 4, 2013

What am I eating today, MAMA?

*thefamilypracticeblog.com - image
First time mom's are paranoid about starting solids for kids - between opinions from doctors, friends, their moms and MIL's - women have to sort and analyse all the information overload and thereon starts one of the most important journey's of your BABY.

Recipes, what kind of foods to start with has been done to death. In India doctors advise rice kanji (rice cooked in lots of water) or mung dal paani as early as 4-5 months (mung bean, a lentil popular all over Asia). In the US my friends and relatives didn't introduce lentils in the diet till 8months and it is the exact opposite with pasta as it gets introduced there much earlier.

I want to tell you the story of my kids and then you determine what is best for your child - my son now 5, is a typical boy, happy with potatoes in any form, south Indian cuisine(IDLI everyday and he is the happiest), pasta, chicken, paranthas (stuffed Indian flatbread) and any kind of chocolaty treat. He never had a calcium, zinc or iron deficiency growing up, I was irregular with my vitamins and breastfed him for a year. He was very careful about what he put into his mouth and even sweet fruits didn't lure him to eating them. Instead of following the myth of not introducing sweet veggies and fruits first I introduced him to everything but he will have any fruit dipped in chocolate otherwise pomegranate, apple and bananas are his only go to fruit. Now that he is 5 he may have introduced himself to an occasional pizza or some broccoli and carrot once in a fortnight but doesn't budge from his routine and can have the same food day in and day out.

My daughter is all of 11months and has an opinion on what she wants to eat. Her breakfast comprises of a few bites of porridge, a few bites of cheese or some gerber or rice puffs and a fruit - either of which being missing and her breakfast is incomplete and she looks at me quizzically. Her new thing is not to eat anything with a spoon and eat only things that she can self feed or be given with my hand so cut fleshy fruits, dice veggies, roti soaked in dal/lentil or milk are the only options left. She also gives anything a try once and is not a fussy eater.

While beetroot, dry fruits, green anything make my son run - my daughter will at least taste it once. I've tried not to do things differently this time around and though I tried making my daughters diet healthier than my sons, my son was in the 97th percentile  for his weight and never needed supplements. My daughter eats well and is healthy but is on the lower side on weight and was recommended iron and calcium since she was 9months.

I remember when my son was 2 and we were vacationing in Goa, I allowed my son to eat Chocos with milk for breakfast for the first time and a mother looked at me very judgementally, pulled her child away from the cereal table and said, "Alia, no eating sugary cereals for breakfast beta", and I actually felt awful and downright horrid inside while my son looked so content and in a blissful world of his own.

Don't get me wrong, DIET is really important for babies and good eating habits can be inculcated in childhood but don't beat yourself up or blame yourself for not doing a good job if your child has a couple of days of eating nothing but potatoes and cheese or bananas and apples. Think of them as the days that all you want to eat is chocolate cookies and milk or chips and burgers. As long as your child is upto the mark on the growth chart, reaching his milestones and not eating sugary treats as a baby and toddler you're doing a good job.

Also, if a child has eaten whatever you set out for him to eat the whole day and asks you for a treat once in a while then it's ok to give him what he wants... if my daughter has had a whole bowl of porridge, isn't it ok to offer her a couple of the puffs she likes v/s trying to make another bowl of porridge thinking she maybe hungry for more?

Eventually all grown ups have evolved tastebuds and we are not born with a liking for caviar, champagne or steak. We start liking or having dislikes for certain food as time goes by. Food not only effects us as a child but throughout our life and we as MOMS, have enough opportunity to introduce fruits, veggies and various healthy grains into our children's diet as they grow older and WE don't have to do everything before their BIG ONE.

Thanks for reading and if you have an opinion or disagree with anything I say please email me at rbhatnag@gmail.com or comment below. I would love to hear from you.



Monday, September 30, 2013

What's with babies and NOT letting their mom's SLEEP?


*picture - theguardian.com
Have you noticed that your babies sleep longer when you cuddle with them or leave them with a blankie or t-shirt that you have used? Have you noticed that as soon as your baby is put in her/his crib and you start doing something meaningful she will let out a wail for a cuddle, attention or diaper change? Is it just Murphy's Law or babies can smell their moms away from them? A baby not sleeping well through the night? Even with baby #2 I am as confused as ever as to when should they sleep through the night, how much should they sleep, should I nurse them in the night? What no BOTTLE, yet for your 11m old?

So, I had almost weaned the 5 year old off my bed but then we happened to have a rat in the house and he refused to sleep alone in his room for a week till the rat was caught and since then we haven't sent him back. The 11m old daughter prefers to cuddle in bed and sleep between mom and dad but she was a great fan of the crib till she was 4months old.

If you're a new mama and like to follow the doctor to the T or read any of the numerous parenting websites and books - you must have a heard a long list of dos and donts by the doctor about breastfeeding, weaning, sleeping through the night etc. But I must tell you, MAMA, you are the best judge about your child. And NO, formula doesn't make your child sleep through the night. If your child needs a nap or is not ready to take one or is getting up in the night because she needs a cuddle or comfort only you can decide how you want to react to the situation.

With my first child, after 1.5 years it was difficult to make him take an afternoon nap and there were nights that I have walked with him for over an hour and yelled at him to go to sleep but he wouldn't budge. I would be in tears because he would be up since 6am and it would be 1230am and he wouldn't want to sleep. I found dealing with my very energetic toddler as tough as taking my toughest Computer Science course in college. They both gave me sleepless nights and I had to have my mind alert at all times. I fell asleep trying to make my toddler nap one time, we were in Vietnam so I was cooking all meals myself and was also my son's only form of entertainment. I woke up with a start to find a very white SUDOCREAM covered toddler staring down at me. If you have used it you know it spread thick and is hard to remove so it was all over him as he had tried to remove it before he came to me.

I would want to tear my hair up sometimes with him I am a bad sleeper - I can't just go to sleep as soon as the baby is asleep or ignore the 100things I have to do in the day and lie in bed in the afternoon while things just lie around in disarray. He could play the night away sometimes and when my husband would come back home after a heard days work he would find a teary eyed, exhausted me trying the hardest to not yell the baby to sleep after trying 100different things and a very wide awake amused baby sitting in his tent playing with his cars.

With my daughter she would barely wake up while she was 4m old and would take her feeds and go back to sleep, then she was napping every 3 hours and now she is not yet 1 and takes just 1 nap. For the last 1.5m she has been throwing her sippy down - refusing water and milk in the sippy and trying to get up as often in the night as she can to nurse. Where does that leave me? 

Sleepless and crazed, I am often seen walking around like a zombie 'coz making sure the older one gets to bed and gets to school on time can be a nightmare with a younger one who has given up sleeping. 

My son is 5today and eventually learned how to sleep through the night. I would just have to read him a book or sing him a lullaby and he would doze of and and sleep even through a date night at TGIF. My daughter is just the opposite. She will get up with a beaming smile even if she hears a slight sound and start waving her hand around hoping to catch someone smiling back at her. There is no right answer to how and when will they start and sleep through the night. I have friends who just can't stop partying or have a need to sleep through the night and have special night nannies who stay up when kids get up, walk with them, give them a bottle and do whatever it is to keep the kid from wailing so their mama's can continue their uninterrupted lifestyle.

What I am trying to say mom's, is that do what works for you to make sure you are not irritable and unhappy. If you think you can nurse your child and cosleep with them and that works for you - do it, 'coz the child cant do it forever. If dropping the feed in the night and letting your child go back to sleep on their own works for you, giving the nanny a bottle works for, go ahead and do it. Being a mom is a tough job and we need to get through it while keeping our sanity and not yelling (a bad day and sleepless nights is me being over critical of my staff or being hard on my son) and that is not great! 

Also, there is no room for regret as you don't get the opportunity to undo your doing - your child is not going to remember whether you nursed him or bottle fed him or slept with him or not - it is your conscience that you are answerable to. And you need to raise a happy, content and secure baby - so follow your instinct and stay true to yourself and try to get some lie ins if you are a stay at home mom 'coz raising kids 1 or 2 or more is a FULL time job! As I always say, if you do anything else besides bringing up the kids then you're juggling multiple jobs :)....

I want to discuss sleep schedules for babies of different ages in my next post and would love to know what some of your 1year old's nap times schedules are like :)!




Sunday, September 22, 2013

Can television effect the diet of kids?

Breakfast is also a very questionable affair in my house now days. Ever since the telly and school got together against poor mummy i.e. me. I find putting the maid incharge of it a bit exasperating as she is a bit slow. Earlier I would keep it simple, like a boiled egg, banana and glass of milk. But ever since my son's exposure to the so called "KIDS" channel v/s Cbeebies is on the rise, he has started talking funny to me.

*shared from surfexcel.in

He suddenly told me one day, "Jhansi ki raani se nahi hua toh mein yeh plain doodh kab tak pi sakta hoon" - he picked up from an ad on TV, translated it means, "How can I drink plain milk if even the Queen of Jhaansi was not able to do it?". I don't see how the Horlicks, Bournvita, Boost and other people can rest in peace when they give wrong advice to the kids - do they just sit in their offices and go - "Oooooh, yeah, we upped the sales in Pune by 30%. more and more kids want our drink." Chocos has apparently become healthy because it gives us the same health benefits as having roti (Indian flat bread) - is that even possible? And there is some chocolate that compares itself to giving us the same health benefits as milk. At some point of the day my brain literally blanks out about why should I give him a banana and not banana chips or why should he drink his milk and not just eat a slice of cheese that will give him the energy of 2 glasses of milk instead of one. My son and I am sure most of his peers can quote most advertisments verbatim if they need to use them to their advantage! But owing to my reliable friend the television that rescues me from cranky kids or helps me nap for 15 minutes when I desperately need it, I've had to rethink my breakfast and snack menu.

I always knew the adverse effects of television that is can stunt a child's imagination and growth, effects their eyesite, can give them bad dreams if they watch it just before sleeping, makes their lifestyle sedentary, is addictive but I never imagined that advertising would so adversely effect my childs eating habits - the child who I didn't even show tv till the age of 2.

The tv usually brings a glazed look into my childs eyes and he becomes snappy after 30mins. It has taken me a while to wean my kids off eating in front of the television which is something I inculcated when my hubby was travelling  or I didn't want to constantly talk to them and needed peace or just wanted to get dinner time over with and who cares about munching down broccoli when Chota Bheem is showing his powers or munching on his ladoos. But realising how bad it is for children to keep eating while watching tv we are back at the table whether they finish their full food or not - tv is banned from dinner time. I have also realised if we put our foot down and lay the rules out clearly with an explanation right from the beginning then the children do end up following them eventually. Limiting tv time is the only option to bringing up the child in a healthy environment but that still doesn't solve our food issues.

So, in the morning rush hour when everyone wants to reach school or work on time what are the healthy options that we can give our kids today without spending the whole day in the kitchen. I don't want to sound patronizing but I try and avoid food with preservatives like peanut butter, jams and sauces at least first thing in the morning.

Moong dal cheela, Idli and Dosa, Rava Dosa, Sheera, Semiyan in Milk, Dailya, Upma, Baked Oats with apple or bananas in milk, french toast, cheese toast, vegetable sandwich, egg sandwich, oat pancakes, aloo paranthi, thepla, poha and eggs (omelet, scrambled, fried) make a quick and healthy breakfast and most of them can be prepared in minutes if some work has been done in advance. Also, most of these foods mentioned with a little advance prepration and varying of accompaniments can be used as the next days snack. For example I can give the child cheese dosa for breakfast and the next day dosa with sambhar and chutney for lunch. Nowadays presenting food with a smiley face or decorating it with their favorite food as accompaniment can win you brownie points and leave the child happy (i.e. tummy being full) But how can we compete with chocolate for breakfast, even I feel like having it sometimes.

The class teacher of my child has thankfully explained to them about good and bad eating habits and how vegetables are really healthy. She also told them that chocolate should be eaten once a week and that seems to solve my chocos problem right there :)! I had given up on my child eating any greens till he entered Sr. Kg and now he at least gives everything a try. We can also try a rewarding system and give them a star for each day they eat their healthy breakfast or offer them some other oat or wheat based cereal combined with chocos.

I have decided I am going to try and come up with 30 breakfast options so that I have a steady snack or breakfast list handy and will have a link mentioned here with the recipes. Also, menu planning is such a chore especially when you have kids who have to carry two meals a day to school. I am going to come up with some dabba (lunchbox) friendly menus soon too - just follow this space. And if your kids are unfussy and eat whatever is cooked for the whole family YOU need me to train me too and share some tips on how you managed it!

This reminds me The Lunchbox is out and has won many many accolades - so a night out seems due just as soon as I sort out the breakfast problem and get my 11m old trained to sleep through the night again...

Till next time.... enjoy your Sunday as today it's CHOCOs day!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So, what did YOU do today honey?

My husband has absent mindedly asked me this question on a couple of occassions after coming back from work and if I have had a long day with no break to even rest my behind - he has pretty much had it from me. Ask anyone living in a nuclear family - even with a maids and nannies - babies seem to want their mom's more and more as they grow up! And if I ask him for a hand after a full day of work he seems to give me what I call,"The Incredulous Eye Roll" , as if, you have been lucky to be home with kids and I have just gotten back... so, how can you?






The Indian man has always been told he is the bread earner and he seems to demand certain kind of attention when he gets home, especially in joint families. And though the times have changed and the women are really out there, it seems that even working women still have to figure out the daily running of their house, figuring out groceries, managing house help, budgeting for the house AND managing their kids, scheduling their kids classes, doctor appointments, keeping the kids immunisation schedule in mind, planning birthday parties etc which seems unfair 'coz then they are basically doing TWO jobs and getting paid for one. If the house help is off on the weekend then I don't even seem to get a decent hour to unwind where I can just tune off from my daily duties of making sure both my kids are bathed, fed and entertained.

Nowadays, with a 10 month old my nights are long 'coz her sleep pattern seems to bersek every few weeks and my 5 year old has to get to the car by 8:40am so to get him to school on time so I have to be an early riser to make sure things are organised in the morning. But most days sees me getting up at 4am and rocking my daughter till 5am... then enjoying a cuppa of coffee in the only alone time of the day I get without hearing a "mama", "Ruchiiii" or "Bhabiiii".  Most day I want to cheat in a nap from 6-730am but something or the other comes up.

My house looks like a Tom and Jerry cartoon being played in fast forward mode in the morning if I have slept in beyond 730am on any day. I have to just rush my kid through everything to get him ready on time. So my morning usually looks like, 10m old on hip and 5year old being shaken awake by me. Then 5year old in bathroom and helping him through routine with one hand and running back to the high chair to feed the 10m old with the other hand. In the middle of helping the 5year old change my 10m old(potty trained) wants to poop and shoot we're running late to school and he hasn't even started the breakfast while the didi is rolling her eyes and wondering whether she should feed him, fill his bottle or make him wear his shoes or just clean up while I am in the bathroom with my 10m old. When I come out nothing has moved forward so we end up packing his breakfast and feeding him on the way... so if this is just my morning and I am sure at least some of you are sailing in the same boat as me. Then the rest of the day can look chaotic too unless both kids are at school for the full day and when I have been running around like a mad hatter the last thing I like to be asked is how my day was or if I am asked that, then please be patient enough to hear me rant and rave.

The problem with  nuclear families is that YOU are your only back up and probably don't even have the time to fall ill! The hubby could be travelling, the maid could be ill but you have to be charged like an EVERREADY battrey and be a substitute for the cook, driver and everything to get the child ready on time. And ofcourse there are good days too when everything seems to run smoothly and you can squeeze in some alone time with the hubby before you go to bed or watch your favorite serial on the telly.

I can be super organised but somehow I have realised that MAYHEM suits me and so be it. We usually have to come back up in the lift once in a while because my son has forgetten to carry his bottle or bag or both and getting angry doesn't seem to be the solution.

So, nowadays when I leave the house at anytime of the day instead of glancing at the mirror one last time, I have lowered my expectations. I just try to make sure I am carrying both my kids, wipes and water and the house keys out with me and the rest I seem to leave to HIM... because how much ever I have trained the house help there are days when I land up somewhere and the maid has forgotten the diaper and the baby has pooped or we are at piano class without the correct books and there is only SO much I can do to ensure everything is PERFECT so I'd rather live in my inperfect world.


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