Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What to expect (from your preschooler) when you're expecting (the second baby)!: Part 2

Random conversations around the house...

The Mommy Woman and Nikki are enjoying a leisurely alfresco brunch while The Daddy Man determinedly pounds away on the treadmill to the tune of Linkin Park. In the pre second pregnancy days, I'd usually oblige Nikki post my treadmill workout with her very own 'workout' which comprised setting the treadmill to the slowest speed and holding her hand as she gingerly took a few steps with a look of intense concentration on her face, before collapsing in a heap and demanding an 'energy drink'.

Nikki: Mama, why don't you work out on the treadmill anymore?

TMW: The doctor has asked me not to for some time because I have a baby in my tummy now.

Nikki (lost in thought): Ohhhh....Mama?

TMW: Yes?

Nikki: I have a baby in my tummy too! So I also won't work out on the treadmill from now on.

TMW: Erm...OK!

Nikki: Let Dada work out. He only has Poha in his tummy!

*Sound of The Daddy Man crashing off the treadmill to the tune of Linkin Park in the background*


Nikki: When I have a baby sister we will both play with my Barbie dolls.... When I have a baby sister we will both dress up like princesses....When I have a baby sister we will....

TMW: What if its a boy?

Nikki: YOU are having the baby, make sure its a girl!

TMW: It can be either a boy or a girl so you have to be okay with the fact that you may get a baby brother as well.

Nikki: I know! If its a baby brother, just go back to the mall and exchange it for a baby sister!


The husband and I are having one of our usual  intense and meaningful discussions about what to name the new baby:

Me: If its a girl, do you like the names Ria/ Aditi/ Riddhima/ Amyra/ Tara?

The Husband, nose buried in Blackberry, in a firm and convinced tone: NO. Okay, maybe... Ria is okay...

Me: You like Ria?

The Husband: Come to think of it, not. NO.

Me: If its a boy, what do you think of Aryan, Neel, Abeer, Arnav....

The Husband (cutting me off midway, or maybe it was right at the outset):  No, no, NO!

Me: Bhalachandra, then?

TH: It does have a nice sound to it...

Nikki: Mama! I have already decided the baby's name!

Me: Eh?

Nikki: If its a girl, we'll call her Anika Dubey (name of current BFF) and if its a boy we'll call him Arnav Priyadarshi (name of current BMF)

Me: Ermm, Anika and Arnav are nice names but we may want to drop the surnames seeing as in their fathers and your father may have a slight problem with that.


TH, nose firmly ensconced in Blackberry again: See? This is a pointless conversation. The names are already decided!


It is the third trimester and The Mommy Woman is waddling around the house.

Nikki, with a look of faint alarm on her face: Mama, your tummy is really big now...

TMW: Yes darling, the baby will be ready to come out soon!

Nikki: Is your tummy going to grow any more?

TMW: Um, yes, there are three months more to go so it will grow a little more.

Nikki, look of faint alarm now replaced with undisguised horror: Will your tummy grow so big that it touches the roof??

TMW: Hahaha! No don't worry, its not going to grow that big!

Nikki: Don't worry Mama, if your tummy grows too big and you start flying away like a hot air baloon, I will tie a string around your ankle so that you don't fly away!

Look of undisguised horror passes from Nikki's face to The Mommy Woman's.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What to expect (from your preschooler) when you're expecting (the second baby)!: Part 1

Breaking the news...

The Mommy Woman to herself: Should we or should we not? Maybe we should wait...she's still so little after all, not even four yet! I read in my parenting book that children this age have a different concept of time, nine months is like an eternity to them! Yes, we really should wait till a little later before we tell her, maybe when the bump starts showing. *Walks around feeling smug about smart parenting decision*

Nikki: Mama?

TMW: Yes, buttercup?

Nikki: Are you pregnant?

TMW: Choke, splutter, gasp, faint!!!

Nikki, with an air of easy nonchalance: Because I heard you talking to your friend S Massi the other day, when you were whispering and trying to talk softly so I wouldn't hear (faint disdain in voice now)

TMW: Heh heh heh Oh, ah, er....

Nikki: So are you?

TMW: Heh heh heh Er, ah, oh...Ummm Nikki?

Nikki: Hmm?

TMW: Umm...let me tell you what being pregnant means....

Nikki (impatiently): I know that! There's a baby in your tummy and I'm going to get a brother or a sister. Oh by the way, make sure its a girl. I was going to tell you to have a baby anyway. I want a sister.

TMW: Collapses in dead faint on floor on nearest available non hazardous surface.

Last words from The Daddy Man: What was it your parenting book said again? Hahahahaha!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hello Mommyhood: The Sequel

Its been almost a year since I clean fell off the blogging radar- and what a year it has been! It wasn't just my poor neglected blog that hasn't seen an update in months, I haven't caught up on reading some of my favourite blogs either. Unlike the Bollywood sequels of yore though which come forth with cheesy titles and cheesier content, Hello Mommyhood redux will hopefully be a better, brighter avatar of its former self! After all we have newer stuff to blog about and a brand new baby on the block! :) Yup that's right, when I said 'The Sequel' I wasn't talking just about reviving the blog alone (although that is definitely on the agenda!) but I was also referring to being mommified for the second time round! Our second little bundle of joy and Nikki's brand new baby brother arrived in our lives four and a half months ago and is currently giving his mommy sleepless nights and nap-less days ( So much for fervently hoping I would get one of those peaceful, nap three hours a day at a stretch babies I seemed to be surrounded with last time round. Hah!).

On that supremely sleep deprived note let me introduce you to Cube, the new and most adorable man in my life (heh, heh, hello P!). Here's to more Nikki and Cube tales in this space and to- hopefully- more frequent updates. Its good to be back!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Unleash your Inner Diva: A general how-to guide

Dear Aspiring Divas,

Being a diva can be tough. It requires patience, dedication and hours of practice, but it is not impossible to achieve. Ask me! Four years of practice (and running) later, I’ve managed to hone the art of diva-dom to a finely tuned skill, so much so that being a true diva is now second nature to me. I thought I would share some tips with those of you out there who are divas in the making too and could do with some friendly advice! 

Read on:
  1. The first rule of being a diva is that you must always select your own clothes. Nobody and I mean NOBODY else gets to chose what you will wear. Take your time when you put together an outfit; clothes are meant to be inspected, evaluated and tossed. And changing your mind inexplicably and often is the prerogative of a diva. So set aside a couple of hours in the day for selecting your clothes and use them well. Oh, and keep in mind that a diva changes her outfits often and colour co-ordinates EVERYTHING. Right down to the innerwear, shoes and accessories, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
  2. The path to diva-dom has ne‘er been smooth so expect plenty of obstacles in your way, especially from those pesky creatures otherwise known as the Mommy Women who will take it upon themselves to object to the smallest of things. Take this afternoon, for example. I had finally put together my carefully selected outfit for the evening trip to the park when a series of shrieks disrupted the afternoon quiet. “Purple tights with a red striped top; green shoes and that long bead necklace?? Noooooo!” It was the Mommy Woman of course, up to her usual tricks. Her latest strategy is to try and object to any outfit I try to select by telling me how the colours clash or the bottoms don’t match the top at all or some such silly reason. Bah! Like she would know! The woman has no idea, which is why her own dress sense is so blah. “Be exciting!” I try and tell her “Live a little! If you feel like wearing a pink tutu over green polka dotted tights and a yellow sparkly tee, do it! Fashion should be fun!” None of it permeates her thick skull of course, she just pretends she’s going into a dead faint and tries to get me into her favourite combo of jeans and a deathly boring tee, so naturally I have to resort to the most powerful weapon in my arsenal, the screechy tantrum, designed to knock out even the most obstinate Mommy Woman. A few minutes later, I have her on her knees, weeping, begging me to wear my underwear over my tutu if I so wish. Smart idea, that. Maybe I’ll try it for my next trip to the mall. Moral of the story: never underestimate the power of tantrums. A good, solid tantrum can get you ‘most everything. Besides, tantrums are the prerogative of divas, everyone knows that. So use them often and use them well. 
  3.  Make sure you have pretty, clean, sweet smelling, well moisturized hands at all times. And I mean all times. This might sound simple but in reality it is no easy feat to achieve. For one you need to spend copious amounts of time in the bathroom washing your hands with the best fruity smelling, pink (but naturally!) soap you can get your pretties on. Here again, except plenty of resistance from the Mommy Women (‘You want to wash your hands again! But you just spent an hour in the bathroom! You washed your hands five seconds ago! You can’t keep messing around in the water! You’ll catch a cold…yada yada yada!) Worry not; such petty objections can be easily overruled. Your best beseeching look and something along the lines of ‘but washing hands kills germs, mommy!’ or ‘I stuck my hand in the flowerpot so my hands are really dirty and need to be washed!’ usually does the trick. Next, we come to the moisturizing. Pink cream is my personal favourite, great big generous blobs of it, massaged lovingly into the hands and the arms- oh, and after a shower make sure you massage it all over. You might face resistance from the Mommy Women here again, like I did. At first she refused outright! Then she’d act all stingy and give me this insanely tiny little drop of cream that wasn’t even enough for my fingernail! A few months down the line, all I have to do is fix the woman with my best beady look and she just groans and gives me as many blobs as I want. Remember, divas have to be persistent. 
  4.  Lip balm. Aaah lip balm! Pink, shiny, smooth; gliding over your lips like melting butter on hot toast…I could go on and on! And to think I discovered its many pleasures only recently and by chance at that! If I hadn’t happened to sneak up on the Mommy Woman when she was cowering in the corner the other day trying to hide behind her handbag I would never have found out she was sneakily putting on some lip balm while pretending to look for something in her bag. That little snitch! I’ve punished her by hiding her lip balm in my bag; one has to be firm about these things. And now that it’s within easy reach, I make sure my lips are glossy and soft at all times, just like a diva’s should be. Whenever I have to step out whether it’s the mall or the park, I make sure I dab on some lip balm. Each time I get into the car, even if it’s just the Mommy Woman doing one of her quick grocery runs. Bedtime and naptimes. Play date times. Just looking at yourself in the bathroom mirror times. Story hour at the library times. I even tried putting some on for school but, you know, there are other women like the Mommy Women out there and one has to pick one’s battles. The other important bit to remember with lip balm is to be generous in its application. I mean, you can never have too much of something like lip balm can you? The Mommy Woman will object to this as well, naturally, screeching and whining about how it’s not just on your lips but all over half of your face and may even try to wipe it off with a tissue, but remember, be firm. 
  5. When it comes to your stuff, be protective of your turf. If your Mommy Woman is like mine, she may develop an intense dislike to something you yourself particularly like and she may even try to- sit down when you read this- get rid of it! Yes, she is capable of that too! Mine actually tried it, can you imagine? Hard to believe I know, but one day when I got back from the park with Daddy a little earlier than usual, guess what I found stashed away in the bin? My favourite purple hair band, a particularly darling one with black and purple feathers that swept right down to my brow, one that I had been wearing in the park every single day for a few months before I kind of forgot about it and moved on to something else. Still it didn’t mean I didn’t want it anymore! There was absolutely no excuse for the Mommy Woman to claim that it was just languishing in my room and it looked all raggedy anyway and to try and trash it on one of her ghastly spring cleaning sprees. Anyway, prevention is better than cure I say and in order to avoid any such future incidents I’ve taken to stashing my stuff away- specially stuff that the Mommy Woman tends to look at with that ‘far away, she’s definitely off her rocker’ look in her eyes- in safe places where she doesn’t look or better yet, where she can’t reach. Like that nice hole in the home theatre woofer that only my hand fits into. Or in one of my many bags at the bottom of all my shopping lists and notes that the Mommy Woman has given up on clearing because it makes her feel faint. Or glued to some of the lumpy bits in the playdough jar, hidden under the other playdough. You get my drift. Remember it’s your stuff and only you are responsible for it. 
  6. I touched upon this briefly in point one but it really deserves a separate point for itself. I’m talking about accessories, the stuff that can make or break an outfit. I have my own favourites like that purple feathery hairband I just told you about; or my beaded necklaces; or the many bracelets that used to belong to the Mommy Woman but which I have now appropriated. What I like doing best is mixing and matching. The floor length beaded necklace (come to think of it, that one used to be the Mommy Woman’s too) with the pink crown headband. The jingly bracelets with the bangles Dadi got me for Diwali, all of them together on one hand of course, all the way up to my shoulder. Ooh and dupattas, I lurrve dupattas! My favourite teacher at school always carries her dupattas so well! I’ve taken to draping my own dupatta over my shoulders when I step out sometimes; I find it goes just as well with shorts or a skirt as it does with ethnic stuff. It’s a pity I don’t own too many of my own dupattas but I can always borrow the Mommy Woman’s, so it’s no biggie. 
  7. Seeing as to how accessories can make or break your look, it makes sense to carry plenty of them with you so you can change your look in a jiffy if you so desire. Now that I have my own handbag, I make it a point to carry my hand cream, sunglasses and the Mommy Woman’s lip balm in addition to an assortment of hairbands and bracelets. If there’s any extra stuff that doesn’t fit in my bag I just stuff it in the Mommy Woman’s; remember divas have to be resourceful! Besides the Mommy Woman doesn’t even notice most times. Apart from that one time where she had to pay someone and began fishing around in her handbag for her wallet. It was quite amusing to watch her eyes grow wide and her mouth grow wider as she drew out first my electric blue feather purse (I was carrying an extra purse, you know, just in case) and then my Dora bracelet and then a series of jangly necklaces. I don’t mean to boast but even the man at the cash counter seemed quite impressed at my collection! There was absolutely no need for the Mommy Woman to get all flushed and embarrassed and start apologizing for holding up the queue, but that’s her, always overreacting! 
  8.  Last but not the least, remember to throw your shoulders back, chin up and dazzle ‘em with that smile when you step out! Now this is easier said than done, especially if you have a wet blanket Mommy Woman tagging along with you, but if you want to be a true diva you gotta be tough! Last week, after spending over an hour selecting my outfit for a birthday party I finally got dressed and then, because the Mommy Woman, that obstinate mule, just outright refused to let me use any of her perfumes, I massaged some Vicks over my hands and throat. It was quite nice smelling I thought, rather exotic. Unfortunately it was also a little strong because the Mommy Woman sniffed it out like a bloodhound and went at me with her arsenal of wipes. She was so flipped out after that she came to the birthday party dressed in jeans and a tee (grey, that most miserable of colours at that) and a long face, totally overlooking my suggestions of that nice black skirt she has instead with a shimmery gold dupatta. But did I let her get me down? No sir! I was the life and soul of the party and in spite of the Mommy Woman’s efforts with those wipes I still managed to smell faintly of Vicks. Hah!
 With that I’ll leave you to channel and unleash your own inner diva! I’m not entirely done yet, in fact I just thought of a few other things I could share, but one of the tricks to being a good diva is to develop your own style which you can only do with trial and error so I’ll leave you to it. Besides, I need to sort out my wardrobe. I decided to rearrange my clothes today and its turning out to be quite a tedious exercise. At first I was quite excited about it; the Mommy Woman had left my wardrobe doors ajar and forgotten about it and I used the opportunity to get all the clothes out and spread them all over my room. The plan was to sort them out and club them together in some fun way, not the boring ‘day wear- night wear’ or ‘party clothes-park clothes’ like the Mommy Woman does. I was thinking something along the lines of a ‘Caribbean theme’ with all my shorts and strappy tops clubbed together and an ‘Egyptian line’ with the shimmery stuff and the necklaces, but that’s stuff for another day. My good friend S is coming over in sometime for a play date and I need to get dressed. I’ll just lump these clothes together and shove them back in. Hey, there’s that red and black glittery outfit someone had gifted me last month; I thought the Mommy Woman said it had got lost! It looks so retro and cool, I heard the Mommy Woman saying it looked like something Govinda would wear! No idea who Govinda is of course but I’m sure it’s someone cool; must remember to check with the MW later. In the meantime, I think it would be perfect for the playdate with S…yes it would! Oooh, so exciting! Laters then...and keep that diva within you glowing bright!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Barfi...a fail-proof recipe for a sweet indulgence that can only be good for you


  • Fine, perfectly nuanced performances by the two leading ladies; Ileana D’Cruz in her Bollywood debut leaves a lasting impression and Priyanka Chopra in a subtly delivered, unconventional role

  • A liberal mix of able performances by the supporting cast, notably Saurabh Shukla as the hapless cop who unsuccessfully pursues Barfi as the two create several slapstick Chaplinesque cinematic moments; Rupa Ganguly as Ileana’s mother, wary of letting her daughter make an unwise choice at a crossroads she herself encountered in the past; Haradhan Bandopadhyay as the ‘other man’ who values and loves Priyanka for who she is

  • Superlative direction by Anurag Basu, who makes this one of the finest films to have emerged from Bollywood in recent times, with brilliant camera work, evocative use of expressions and emotions to convey meaning without the aid of dialogues and drawing out of fine performances from his cast

  • Fabulous cinematography by Ravi Varman; bringing alive Darjeeling and Kolkata in each frame

  • Last but not the least, a stellar performance by Ranbir Kapoor who brings alive the character of Barfi in a knock-your-socks-off performance


Take a beautifully woven bitter-sweet story of the relationship between a deaf-mute guy Murphy aka Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), who although lacking the senses of speech and hearing, is vibrantly blessed with the ability to live life with a free spirit and a, as he puts it more eloquently than words can in the film, ‘first class’ heart, and two girls who touch his life in different ways. One is the delicately pretty Shruti (Ileana D’Souza) whom he falls in love with at first sight and woos relentlessly till she eventually gives in to his charms, and the other is his autistic childhood friend Jhilmil(Priyanka Chopra) whom he initially pursues when driven to the edge by fate and circumstances.   

Add a liberal dose of the sweetly innocent romance between the poor but resourceful Barfi; usually on the run from the long arm of the law for his petty misdemeanors, and Shruti, which sadly caves in to Shruti’s inability to follow her heart, as she gives in to the ‘safe’ option instead and opts for a more ‘eligible’ suitor. Stir in gently the unfolding of the complex relationship between Jhilmil who sees the world with a unique sensitivity and recognizes Barfi’s spirit and soul in the way other, ‘normal’ people are unable to, and Barfi’s ability to connect with Jhilmil and win her trust and affection.

Roast a non linear narrative in some suspense, creating a plot that keeps you guessing till the very end and throw in an unexpected twist that adds a mysterious, whodunit element as the paths of Barfi, Jhilmil and Shruti dramatically converge.
Prepare a multi-string syrup of accompanying, sometimes quirky; sometimes heart stirring music right from the ‘picture shuru’ ditty that gets you in the mood from the word go, to the title track ‘Ala Barfi’ and add to the mix. Garnish liberally with breathtaking cinematography that lovingly brings alive the lush landscapes of Darjeeling and the vibrant chaos of Kolkata.

Savour fresh and warm, this lovely Barfi that offers a tribute to the uncomplicated nature of true, lasting love if only we would let it take its own path instead of cluttering it with logic and reason. Toss in the fact that the disabilities of the characters in the film are portrayed in an almost matter of fact way, never once attempting to elicit pity or sympathy; on the contrary Barfi’s uniqueness lies in his ability to deal with the trials life throws up with a cheery doff of the hat and a ready smile.

You will especially enjoy some slices of this dish such as when Barfi expresses his deep hurt at being rejected by Shruti through a soundless, wordless, and power packed expression of his anguish. Or the gradual building up of the relationship between Barfi and Jhilmil against the changing backdrops of Barfi’s rickety Darjeeling home, a tumultuous journey laced with green fields and rushing rivers to finally culminate in the noisy, bustling Kolkata which embraces them in its midst. Not to mention the subtle interplay of emotions when Shruti and Jhilmil meet each other, their perceptions of the other’s role in Barfi’s life and Shruti’s eventual realization of what could have been hers. Then there are other little nuggets like the test Barfi puts all his friends through; to lay his insecurity of being abandoned at rest, and the way he rushes to Jhilmil’s defense when a leery lout is giving her the once over, which will leave you with a sweet taste.

Dig into this delectable Barfi while it is still being served fresh; it will leave you with a happy rush like no other, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve polished off this unforgettable treat!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creativity in a bento box

Peach coloured skies with purple clouds. Crimson grass. Orange elephants and magenta seals. Nikki goes through a sheaf of A4 size sheets of paper, filling them up with a plethora of vibrant colours. We are at an art workshop for kids and I’m accompanying Nikki as she experiments with finger paint (so squishy!) and painting on different mediums (can I start painting your bed after we go home?). There’s another little boy seated next to us who seems concerned about Nikki’s artwork.

“The sky is not that colour” he whispers to his mother in obvious anguish. “The grass is not red.”

The mother hisses something back at him and he subsides temporarily.
The workshop facilitator hands out fresh sheets of paper; this time with line drawings on them, and jars filled with fat crayons which Nikki grabs with glee. It’s a picture of a house with a fence and a garden. Nikki deliberates between the finger paint and the crayons, makes up her paint and smears paint liberally across the picture. Strokes of paint fill up the house and the garden; an indigo roof, green walls, yellow grass. The little boy cannot contain himself anymore. He abandons his own drawing and is at our side in a trice.

“No, not like that!" he chides Nikki “You have to draw inside the lines! You will get a red mark. Sky is blue, grass is green!”

His mother pulls him away before I can reply and rebukes him thoroughly for not concentrating on his work.

She turns to me with a tight smile “She cannot colour inside the lines?” pointing at Nikki.

“I’ve never asked her to” I smile back.

I did give Nikki a colouring book once; she had been gifted a Winnie the Pooh one for her birthday and given that Pooh threatened to overtake our theme for home d├ęcor during those days I thought she might like it. She didn’t. She never actually took to colouring within the lines, preferring instead to fill up reams of blank paper with her artwork instead. And fill them up she did, astonishing me sometimes with the creativity and imagination only children possess.
She draws the rain and butterflies, families of fish and music. One side of our fridge is filled with renditions of tea parties in the clouds and the moon taking care of her baby. We don’t really miss colouring within the lines much.
I know that Nikki is asked to colour within the lines sometimes at the preschool she goes to, and from the activity sheets I am taken through at PTMs I know she can do it perfectly well if she wants to. But I also know that she does not enjoy it, preferring the freedom a blank sheet of paper offers instead.

We are lucky to have found a preschool that encourages creativity among its children. There are no red marks for drawing. Purple skies are encouraged, as are pink elephants and geese with polka dots. But I know there are a lot of parents who don’t like this approach, preferring instead the more traditional one of teaching kids that the grass can only be green and colour is best used within boundaries and not splayed all over the paper. Just last week I overheard a mother complaining about how sand play needs to be structured with kids being given specific instructions on what to do with their spades and buckets rather than just being left loose in the sand pit; and another parent of a boy in the nursery class lamenting how his child is not being taught how to write yet. I listened to them talk and felt a little worried. And then I read the morning papers, all about artist Aseem Trivedi being arrested for displaying ‘too much creativity’ and felt positively scared. Aside from the misuse of a colonial era law or the growing intolerance in the political and social environment, what is equally alarming is the judgement that is so carelessly thrown on an individual’s creative expression. Who decides what is too creative? Or too little? Are there measures defined to judge how much is 'too creative' or lines and boxes that it can be fitted into? Are we looking at a future where our preschoolers go for sandpit class, learning precise co-ordination of spade with bucket and move on to postgraduate in fine arts which clearly specifies what is too creative and what is not? The curbs on our creativity grow deep roots. Our educational system has traditionally been one based on rote and memorization rather than independent thought or creativity. There are firm boundaries that are drawn when we are very young and we grow up learning to live within them. And when some of us think or speak differently, it can create a lot of discomfort.

Nikki in the meantime has moved on to caricatures and is busy sketching portraits. A gargoyle-ish figure with pointy hair is me, I am told. One vaguely resembling Suppandi is our cook. Her father is a dignified looking turnip.

“We will put these up on the fridge” I tell her.

“Okay but not this one. This one is too nice and this one is horrible. Put this, it is just right.”

Creativity really is that simple, and it doesn’t take a three year to show us that. Let the artists define their own boundaries.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Travails of a work-from-home mom

The art of conducting an involved conversation with a toddler from behind a closed door. Work related phone calls to the tune of background screeching and whining. Super quick bathroom breaks, before your toddler who’s convinced that mommy has vanished into dark oblivion, breaks the door down. Even quicker showers that leave you feeling that emerging from a whirlwind might be more relaxing. Protecting your laptop as you try and work, from pint sized elements who think tapping away at laptop keys is an exciting form of recreation. Coffee breaks with the Teletubbies.

Sounds familiar? If it doesn’t, welcome to the world of a ‘Work from Home Mom’.

When I first became a mother, along with the joys of endless nappy changes and sleepless nights, I was also introduced to the complex terminology used to classify different types of mothers. There were SAHMs or stay-at- home moms and WOHMs or working-out-of-the- home moms. And somewhere in between were the WFHMs, or the work-from- home moms, whose category I soon joined.

Initially, I was smugly satisfied about the whole work-from-home concept. After several years of killer commutes, long hours peering at a computer screen in fluorescent light and suffering the tasteless dishwater most office vending machines serve up in the name of coffee, working from home felt a little like having your cake and eating it too. With an extra cherry and frosted icing thrown in for good measure. I would get to spend time with my daughter without giving up on work I loved doing. Plus, with office being a hop and a skip away (quite literally), there would be no commuting woes; I could work in my pajamas if I so wanted from the comforts of my home and have easy access to freshly brewed coffee.

Working from home would be a breeze, I thought.

I was in for a rude shock.

While working from home has its unparalleled benefits especially when you’re a mother, it is certainly no cakewalk.For one, there is the small matter of getting afore mentioned pint sized elements to behave while you try and get some work done. Given that the PSE’s are prone to unreasonable tantrums and sudden urges to go potty, especially when you’re in the middle of an important call, the whole work from home jig can become quite challenging. Of course you can hire help to look after your kids, but that often throws up a whole new set of challenges in uncharted territory. Finding good help, for one. And then training said help to care for your kids while you work.

I remember emerging from a seven second shower (the norm, when you’re any kind of mom, unless you’re really lucky) once, eager to get some work done, only to nearly step on my daughter and her nanny who were both camping on the bathmat outside.
“We were waiting for you to come out and tell us what to do” said the nanny matter-of-factly when I demanded to know why my daughter was getting intimate with the bathmat instead of doing something constructive with her time.  “After all you are at home only, no?”

Being ‘at home only, no’ can be far more difficult than getting away to an office where you can neatly compartmentalize your home and work life. Not so much at home, where even if you are lucky to have a somewhat secluded space to do your work in, people always manage to find you. I made the mistake of having a dining table office in the first couple of weeks when I started working from home. Apart from having to share work space with the breakfast dishes, this also put me in the precarious position of being within easy reach of my open plan kitchen from where my rather chatty cook would feel free to strike up a conversation about the latest skirmish in the neighbor’s house or her son’s school report, whenever the fancy struck her.
Besides, when you are at home, you have increased visibility of the things that you could have happily ignored had you been away at an office. Like the dust bunnies lurking in the corners or the pile of growing laundry. Even if, like me, you are adept at ignoring these little housekeeping niggles, it can be tough to ignore the attitude of assorted people who will drop in announced just because ‘you are at home’ or call you whenever the fancy strikes them to give you elaborate updates on their dog’s gastric condition, completely ignoring the fact that you may be trying to get some work done.

Or people who give you the ‘yeah, right’ look when you tell them you work from home. As in “yeah, right, and I’m Santa’s little helper.”
“Its okay didi, I know” my cook whispered to me conspiratorially last week, when I reminded her for the umpteenth time to get on with her work and let me get on with mine, instead of giving me the latest scoop on building gossip.
“You know what?” I asked, slightly confused.
“I know what you really do. The lady on the 9th floor in whose house I work said that there is no such thing as ‘work from home’. She said you must be just doing some time pass on the internet.”

Yes, so being a work-from-home mom is not for the faint-hearted. And I’m not even getting started on the bad days when schools are shut, or the children fall ill or the help mysteriously disappear to their gaons for vague, unexplained reasons. So the next time, someone you know tells you she’s a work-from-home mom, give her an encouraging pat on the back. Even better, take her out for coffee or offer to watch her kids while she takes a luxurious ten minute shower. Trust me, she deserves it.

Originally written for 'The Punekar'