Does it always work? Of course it doesn’t.

I wrote this article for Express Eye, the Indian Express sunday supplement published on 2nd Jan 2011.

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I spent a good part of the last decade getting into the role of a parent. 8 years on I can confidently label myself as an earnest novice.
I had imagined I would raise my kids on the side, like an intense hobby that I’d be really good at and really involved in.  When I found out that this was a hobby that clung to my knees on the days that I wanted off, I became confused. The camel had entered the tent, woken me up and demanded to be patted to sleep.
Delusions have their uses too. Today we have 3 kids. We could say, 3 kids have us.
We are a generation of very self-conscious parents. We read, we research, we buy, we collect. Later we stand amidst the clutter and realize that it is just that: Clutter.
Finding one’s balance as parents is a unique journey for each person. I look around at my friends’ lives and see very contrasting choices.
Pooja’s job as a cameraperson requires her to travel frequently without her child. Geet is single, has a fulltime career and has adopted two daughters. Between Geetika and Haider, he was the one who took a year off from work when their kids were younger. Rajnish and Harnit had crossed 40 by the time they adopted their first child. Sushmita and Shilpa quit work when their babies came. My husband and I work in relay, juggling our assignments so that his work starts when mine finishes. I miss him, but we chug along.
At a fundamental level almost everyone is trying to work out a system that allows them to preserve their own sense of self, nurture their family and forge their relationship with the wider world.
Does it always work? Of course it doesn’t. It needs constant hammering and negotiating. Partners turn adversaries, friends wander off and beloved jobs become oppressive. Or vice versa.
Yet, historically, we have never been better placed to confront the cultural baggage and aggressive consumerism that surrounds us.
Somehow, we still seem to fritter away our advantages. In casual analysis, we often treat choices as something that can only be traded. If you have a demanding career, you must be a neglectful parent. Not having kids is selfish. Single parents can never get it right. A non-earning parent is alternately noble or lazy or enslaved. Mommy blogger is the new self-obsessed gossiping housewife.
What a waste of energy directing our anger towards our own! In my journey, after a few initial crashes, I figured that the onus to create a cohesive identity for myself had to be my own project.
When I refuse to accept judgements, I defuse them. When I hold on to my power, it grows. It influences and it creates change.
The global consumerist culture is relentlessly marching into family spaces seeking to diminish the power of the parent, to define our desires and needs. Yet, as adults, it is for us to define boundaries. To defy standardization with our own imagination.
Just like that, the earnest novice gains confidence. And she spells out a few mantras for the next decade.
Let’s not be passive consumers, let us be disruptive. Feel the dissonance, ask questions.
Let’s climb out of the pressure cooker and be medium-range parents. It is OK. Remember how resourceful we were as kids; we can give our kids a chance too. 
Let us light up our relationships with renewed energy to love, care, protect and nurture. Be overenthusiastic, inappropriate and foolish. Laugh too much. Be a happy kid. That will be the spring of our wellness.

About Natasha Badhwar

"Because I'm a Tinker. That's who I am. Tinkers fix things. But I can't do it alone." (Pause for lots of action. Group Action......) "You did it, Tinker, you saved Spring!" I also have three children, one marriage, a million friends and one life.
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3 Responses to Does it always work? Of course it doesn’t.

  1. litterateuse says:

    >"When I refuse to accept judgements, I defuse them. When I hold on to my power, it grows. It influences and it creates change."Amen! Wonderful piece 🙂 -g

  2. >Fantastic piece of literature Natasha. Voices our sentiments precisely. The pressure is really killing and to have to constantly prove ourselves is such a disheartening exercise. Nothing is good enough – read :being a stay-at-home- mom or a working mother.Like you said, "Let's climb out of the pressure cooker and be medium-range parents. It is OK. Remember how resourceful we were as kids; we can give our kids a chance too."I am going to give this a try!

  3. >It's such a joy to read you. Your thoughts are eternally universal. I now have two great grandchildren and I find myself still wondering if I got it right. Not that it matters so long as I can confidently say that I tried my best to make as few mistakes as possible. I tried my best to "love, care protect and nurture." Sometimes I was good at it occasionally I wasn't.

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