What Are You Reading Currently

Hello, everyone!

How have you been? A couple of weeks ago on Instagram, I asked you all for suggestions because I was in a mood to read a really nice romantic book. I do not really enjoy the writings of popular modern Indian authors so was looking for either a classic book or a heart-warming old-school love story. I got a lot of wonderful recommendations (mostly The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks which I had already read many years ago). So, finally after much search, I decided to buy Paris for One And Other Stories by Jojo Moyes, the queen of modern day romance novels!

We all know Jojo Moyes for her bestselling book Me Before You (also a movie starring GoT Khaleesi Emilia Clark and dreamboat Sam Calfin). I chose Paris for One simply because it was a collection of 11 short stories, so I could basically experience different types of romance stories in just one book which is a win-win situation for a moody reader and a busy mom like me. This is my first Jojo Moyes book and so far I am loving her writing! Her stories are warm, funny, sometimes dreamy (especially Paris for One which is similar to the Bollywood movie Queen but just the kind of Parisian fantasy romance I love) but overall like a cosy fleece blanket in this crisp winter weather. I am already halfway through and tempted to buy more of her work.

I am also intermittently reading the first proper parenting book that I bought last month and would review it as soon as I am done. It is more like a reference book so I am taking my time with it.

That's it from me. 

What have you been reading lately? 

The Simplest Approach To Parenting

parenting tips, best parenting advice

Parenting in 21st century is a complicated affair. Not only do we have access to information and resources like never before, we also are burdened with the contrasting ‘wisdom’ of generations before us burdening us to do things their way. In this scenario, it is more than often that we find ourselves confused and clueless as to how to go about making the right choices for our child that enables their overall physical, mental and emotional growth without impeding their development in any way.

This happens with me all the time – from what food to give, how much to expose the baby to the ongoing weather, how much playtime, what toys to buy or tools to use to enhance his skills etc. Does this happen to you too?

On one of my similar days of confusion, I chanced upon a life-changing thought. I asked myself, “If I were a tiger mom, what would I do?” Or simply put, you need to ask yourself in these situations – 
“What would an animal mom/dad do?”

Would she worry about how long to breastfeed or if her cub was getting enough? Would she stress over the quantity of vitamins and minerals going into her baby on a daily basis? Would she obsess over the number of pees or the colour of poop or that her baby would contract deadly infections just because they rolled on the floor? Would a tiger cub’s mom stress over introducing tools or toys to her cub to develop any fancy skill?

The answer is no, No and a BIG NO!

The mom of a tiger, or any animal for that matter, syncs her parenting with the nature. A majority of the animal species give birth to their babies in isolation and do not have her mother/grandmother or neighbouring aunty constantly guiding her on how to handle her own child. They breastfeed as long as required not following a set time (no WHO guidelines for them you see). They provide the best available food to their babies. The animal babies play amidst the nature with whatever objects available (mostly plants, soil and stones) and develop skills more remarkable than a human baby every could.

The animals, mother on instincts. They do what they gotta do with the best that they have. And the most important skill they teach their babies is of independent survival in accordance with the nature.

So why do we make parenting so complicated for ourselves? Why do we want to micro-manage every aspect of bringing up our kids? They are children, not robots with a set programming!

So the next time you are in doubt, just ask yourself – “What would a tiger mom/tiger dad do?”

Navigating Motherhood In The Modern World : An Interview With Shubhreet Kaur

Shubhreet Kaur is a journalist, TV anchor, SMM consultant and one of the top Mom Bloggers in India. I am an ardent follower of her blog 'Raising Karma' where she talks about modern day parenting and experiences of her life raising daughter Karma (hence, the blog name!). She is one of the few social media personalities out there who I find to be authentic and is not afraid to talk about her honest, challenging and uncomfortable experiences of life and parenting as it is. I am so excited to share with you today an interview with Shubhreet where she shares interesting insights into motherhood in the modern world, equality in parenting and what makes her bare her soul on the internet.

Could you please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m an Army kid and grew up across the country. I went to around 10 different schools and frankly loved moving around growing up. My college, first job, MBA and second job however were all in Delhi but my hometown otherwise is Chandigarh. I wanted to be a journalist since I was very young so I worked towards that since school and college days. My first job was with The Economic Times. Since then, I have had multiple career breaks due to shifting but have worked with NDTV Profit and Reuters as a business news anchor, managed online and print publications in Singapore and also worked a lot in Media and PR in addition to freelance writing.

Congratulations on your second pregnancy! Firstly, I really loved that you talked on the topic of not being happy about being pregnant. In our society (and the world over I presume), we are expected to be in an eternal state of bliss as soon as the two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test or even after we have a baby. What made you share such an intimate (and taboo) aspect of your story?

Frankly, when it happened and I started feeling upset about it, I did what I always do – I researched online. And I found tons and tons of articles and blog posts by other moms who went through exactly the same thing, even in cases of planned pregnancies. I even found articles on various pregnancy, health and baby websites that addressed this issue too. While it still took me around 6 months to start feeling emotionally better, reading all these real life stories shared by others helped immensely. I felt less guilty and alone.

But most of these articles were published by moms from other countries. I couldn’t find any written by an Indian mom. And I do know for a fact that in our country, we have really high expectations from mothers and mothers-to-be. I also wanted to be brutally honest about my pregnancy when I finally announced it online instead of just posting happy pics because I wanted to share the reality of it. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to have my child. I obviously did but at the same time, so many different things about being pregnant were making me depressed and I wasn’t entirely happy and this can be very confusing and emotionally draining for a pregnant woman.

So I wanted to be honest about it and share that just in case there were or are more moms who felt or feel the same way. I know how guilty, frustrated and alone I felt till I started reading up and if even few moms who’re going through the same thing read my blog post on it and felt less alone, then I feel the purpose of sharing those thoughts has been achieved. There is a need for open communication where we are free to share what we are going through without judgement because it is perfectly normal and one shouldn’t have to deal with it on their own. Just knowing there are more moms out there who felt the same can be a huge relief in itself.

The response on that post validated that fact for me. So many women commented and Dm-ed. Some even requested for their name not to be shared and that’s perfectly alright but it did hit home the reality that this is real, it happens to many of us and we need to talk more about it. Those chats online itself made me feel much better and I hope it made everyone who connected with me on it also feel better. There is strength in #MomTribe and the more we talk about things that affect us, the more we can help each other.

For your first pregnancy, you and your husband chose to welcome the baby on your own without any family to support you in the initial days. Why did you decide so and what was your biggest learning from this experience?

We just felt its very important for both the mother and father to be involved in initial babycare. Usually when grandparents come, fathers don’t get to do much but we wanted to manage her on our own. Yes, it was physically exhausting. But mentally, it was easier. We learned to rely on our instincts, trust each other and had less interference. We did it together and enjoyed the ups and downs of Karma’s first few months to the max.

Too many people is also too much stimulation for a new born and its easier to make a baby fall into a routine with just a primary and secondary caretaker. Plus we really do believe in equal parenting and Karan has been able to manage Karma end-to-end from the start. There were also a lot of things that are done traditionally which we didn’t want to do based on our research and information from our doctors. So we felt that would be easier too.

It wasn’t to exclude anyone. In fact, Karma is very close to both sets of grandparents but we wanted the initial time to bond with our baby and manage her as a family. I feel it was the best decision we took and we are planning the same this time around as well.

Could you please tell us a little more about why did you decide upon gender-neutral parenting for your daughter? Has it been challenging? 

In a lot of ways, it wasn’t an intentional step. We both, as individual people, believe in gender equality. So that reflected in our parenting too. Then our friends told us that we should write about this because many people would want to do it but not know how or might not realize that they're not actively practicing gender-neutral or equal parenting. So that’s when I started posting about it.

But for us, it came rather naturally, simply because I think that’s just an inherent part of our personalities and who we are as individuals.

It does take some conscious steps and explaining to your ecosystem – grandparents, family, school, daycare etc. Many might engage in gender stereotype language and behaviour not because they have any bad intentions but simply because that’s the norm and it's more of a habit. So constant communication on the same really helps.

gender neutral parenting india

What have been the biggest challenge about motherhood/parenting for you?

Dealing with judgements on our decisions. That I feel is the only thing that impacts any mother the most. Moms/Parents are more than capable of handling things no matter how difficult and tackling it head on if society would just encourage instead of discouraging. But there are just so many comments and opinions that create doubts or then indirectly criticize what parents are doing instead of letting them find their own way of parenting. It starts from pregnancy and really doesn’t stop after that… are you feeding or not? If you are then why aren’t you supplementing? Why are you feeding for so long? Your weight gain is too less or too much! Child’s weight and eating habits… parenting style etc etc… It seriously is non-stop and that does get to me even though I feel I’m very thick skinned. But sometimes, you just wonder why remark at all? Let parents enjoy being parents.

What has been the biggest surprise about motherhood?

I never wanted kids. I wasn’t even very maternal during my first pregnancy. I had read articles where people said they cried when they heard the baby’s heart beat at the first scan and were emotional when baby was taking shape inside. I felt none of that! I did what I was supposed to do but I wasn’t feeling motherly.

But when I delivered Karma, the ferocity of love that hit me was crazy. One minute I was screaming in labour and the other minute, I was laughing hysterically when I saw her. It was nuts! I have just never felt that much love for anyone before and the sheer volume of it was a surprise. I never thought I would be a parent but this kid is just so amazing! Blows my mind everyday! ;)

You have lived in Singapore and your daughter was born there. What major differences do you seen when it comes to motherhood in Singapore and here in India?

Huge difference! Starting from pregnancy, there's just a lot more info given to new parents (not just the mom). The entire focus there was not just providing medical care to a pregnant woman and new baby but also to enable the couple to manage pregnancy and baby care. I remember my first check up and my doctor told Karan, “Keep her stress free. I can manage all the medical stuff but you gotta keep her happy. Happy mom, happy healthy child.”

And at every step of pregnancy to delivery, we were explained stuff. At the hospital, a class was conducted for expecting and new parents (both moms and dads) on how to bathe, massage and swaddle baby etc. They told us some babies get baby acne so don’t freak out. Its totally fine and normal. And Karma did get it! They talked about breastfeeding, colic, moms diet, dad’s role etc. A lactation consultant came and told me how to massage my breasts in case I feel milk is not coming. During pregnancy check ups, pros and cons of everything were nicely explained to both of us without any pressure.

They cared so much about my mental health and my post delivery recovery as well so they ensured weight gain is apt/recommended and not excessive or less. My doc would even tell me to dress up. She joked that, “You don’t realize it but it will help you emotionally to get ready and flaunt your pregnancy body because as you start feeling more uncomfortable due to physical changes and puking and chest burn, you start feeling low.” These small things made that care very personal!

I remember at the hospital after delivery, Karma had pooped but hadn’t peed in 16 hours. So the nurse came and said, “She hasn’t peed yet. Should we wait till 24 hours or do you want me to give formula?” I said should we wait and she replied, it’s perfectly safe to wait. At 22 hours, she came and said “Your baby peed a lot. I’ll bring her for the next feed soon.” So a parent’s view was taken into account at every step.

Based on stories from moms who delivered here, I don’t think that’s the norm here but it should be. Yes, some people have had amazing doctors and experiences but its not as widespread in terms of emotional and mental aspect of a mom-to-be plus a dad’s role also being a big focus unless there is a problem.

How do you feel parenting in today’s times differ from those of our parents or grandparents’? {You know, because every mother (new or otherwise) gets to hear this a lot when questioning her choice of parenting, "Humne bhi apne zamaane mein bahut bachche paale hain" and such.}

Every generation will have their differences. I get to hear that a lot too and my answer always is, “That while I agree you have, but we want to do things differently.” We have access to more information. Plus there might be some traditions that we don’t believe in. We might want to go a more research-based way than what’s just been always done.

Small examples like honey – in many Indian cultures, newborns are given honey. We know now that babies under one year of age aren’t to be given any honey at all.

So it’s just a matter of finding your own parenting style and wanting to raise your kids your way. It’s not an easy decision to have kids nor is it easy to raise them. As parents, we need to have faith in the steps we are taking so one should have the flexibility and freedom to take those steps.

Have you relied on any specific resources to expand your horizons on parenting?

The physical aspects of parenting – hospital training session and Singapore parenting book that all new parents are given was a big help. We even watched a lot of Youtube videos for colic massage. My own doctor, Karma’s paediatrician, Babycentre and What to Expect app helped me during pregnancy as well since I had some very weird side affects.

The subjective side of parenting – I think our own personal views plus our travels and seeing how kids are raised in different places has impacted our parenting style a lot. A lot of what we have seen and observed in various countries and some of it clicked with what we inherently believe in and hence incorporated in every day parenting too.

I am the types to read up a lot as well. So I do read view points, articles, research etc on various aspects. Sometimes if I feel we want to do something for Karma, then I try to find articles on both sides of the argument and then take my decision.

This is such a challenging time to be a mother – we are independent working women before the baby and hence, scared to leave that life behind. When we are at home with the baby, there is so much pressure and guilt to join back work but for moms who work at jobs, there is always this criticism (from the society) and guilt to spend more time with their children. What has been your experience regarding this and how did you deal with it?

Again, it boils down to too much pressure being put on moms to be a certain way instead of letting them be and make their own choices. Different things will work for different people and one shouldn’t force or coerce any mother into making a choice she is not comfortable with.

I took a long break as well and in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t taken such a long break from work and started daycare even earlier. For us, daycare worked since Karma was such an active toddler and wanted to go out 3 times a day. We started her at 16 months and people would say, ‘Poor kid, why are you sending her? You work from home!’… not realizing that kids need company of other kids as well and there she plays and engages etc.

Karan was always on board. In fact, he would tell me that, ‘Baby you’re so ambitious and talented. If nothing else, go volunteer but do something because you will not be happy down the line. Would you want Karma to give up her dreams if and when she became a mom? So why delay everything you have worked towards.” And then he left the final choice up to me. So I always had his support in whatever decisions I took.

So be it a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom, we should just enable and support those choices. Neither is easy! I find it easier to pull a 12 hour work day than take care of Karma for 8-10 hours at home. I have a lot of respect for SAHMs (Stay at Home Moms) because even a simple thing like not being able to have an adult conversation for most of your day can be tasking with everything else going on. With working moms, balancing is tough and sometimes you have to compromise. I’m a work from home mom and sometimes I have to go to an office or travel for work and other times, its all from home where I struggle to balance between home time and work time. So no matter what category one comes in, there’s always a lot of balancing and various kinds of compromise needed and that should be respected.

Sometimes I feel that this is a scary time to bring up children, what with all the crimes, conflicts, climate change, inequality etc. How do you try to maintain positivity in the upbringing of your child? Or do you prefer to  keep her shielded from the ‘big bad world’ around her?

That’s a fear for all parents. I grew up in military cantts which were very safe so had a lot of freedom moving around as a kid. But honestly, I don’t think I can be as carefree with karma now. We in general try to work towards having a positive outlook in life. Karan and I always do try to focus on the bigger picture that we have each other and we have our kid and as long we are there for each other, we will be fine. Things might not always be okay but we will together be okay!

I don’t think we can shield our kids for too long either. Most of us have to start with ‘good touch, bad touch’ training by the time they are 2 years old. That’s the sad reality of it. We never force her to hug or kiss anyone and if that means some people at family get-togethers not understanding that, then so be it. Many do understand that we are trying to teach her to trust her instincts and teaching her that we always trust her instincts too - the few who don’t understand, I’m fine with it!

So I think every parent in their own starts trying to ready their child for what the world entails. For us, equal and neutral parenting is also a part of the same process too.

Are you able to take time out for self-care? What do you like to do in your me-time?

Like I said, Karan has been a hands-on dad from day one so I have always been able to take some time out for myself. In the initial few months, feeds were super frequent. But even then, once she was 4 weeks old, every weekend Karan would take care of Karma while I went out for shopping or lunch with friends to just get that break. I would leave expressed milk in the fridge. Now it’s even easier – I travel with my friends for a few days and she easily stays with him. We don’t leave her alone with maids so once a week he heads out with his friends while I’m on duty and once a week I go out with my friends while he’s on duty. So we have our system in place! LOL!

Sometimes, its as simple as heading out for a pedicure or lunch or have him take Karma out so I have the house to myself and order some junk food and watch some shows on my laptop.

If you could give just one advice to all the mothers out there, what would it be?

You are the mother! You make the world! It is your baby and your instinct matters most. Don’t worry about taking a stand.

If people resist, let them know why and how you are planning to do things. Keep them involved but maintain your independence. Everyone will not just get over it, they will eventually be proud of you.

But trust yourself and don’t forget yourself! A happy mom will raise a happy child so your happiness and life matters as much as your child's.

Thank you so much Shubhreet for sharing your thoughts with us!

To read more of Shubhreet's insights on life and parenting, please follow her blog Raising Karma and Instagram account.