7 Things I Want My Boy To Know About Girls

The first time that I came across the 'Bois (boys) Locker Room' incident, I was horrified! My second reaction was, "Well, that's not surprising!". In a country (and probably the world) where misogyny is a way of life by way of culture and heritage, it is really not hard to believe that teenage boys from influential schools think so degradingly of women. It is easy to claim that these kids have not been brought up well (despite the fact that they come from wealthy families), it is easier to blame everything on the society, which has also been my usual response as well. But now that I am mother to a son, such incidents have started having deeper impact on me.

It worries me that my son is born into such a society. It worries me if I will be able to enable him to learn the right things about (each of the) genders. It worries me that no matter what he has learnt at home, if he will be able to stand up to the pressure of toxic masculinity that his peers or the society are going to place against him in his school or college or even in adult life. But I so sincerely hope, I am able to help him understand the following things about girls (or all human beings in general):

  1. Girls are not your personal property. In fact, any individual, other than your own self, is not your property - not your parents, not your partner, not your spouse, not even your kids! So you have no right to make choices for them nor do you get to judge how they choose to live their life. You always need to respect them, even if they are different than you.
  2. Girls don't owe you s**t - even if they are in a relationship with you. They do not owe you their bodies, they do not owe you their beliefs, they do not owe you their intellect, neither their past nor their future. Any part of themselves they choose to share with you is entirely up to THEM and they will always be the rightful owner of it - be it their body or any representation of it. Never you! If something bothers you in this respect, you are always free to talk about it to them or choose to end the relation if your understandings do not match. But nothing, I repeat, NOTHING entitles you to any part of her body, mind or soul. And that is why there can be no place in your relationship for any kind of coercion, violence, blackmail, disregard or breach of trust.
  3. How a girl chooses to dress does not define her character. How you choose to perceive her or speak about her definitely defines yours. Choose wisely.
  4. Jokes about sexual assault are JUST NOT DONE! EVER! Neither are threats.
  5. NOTHING can justify violence, ever! Period.
  6. Sexism is not cool. Misogyny is not cool. Patriarchy is not cool. What is cool is that you understand the meaning of these terms and live a life in which these systems are not a part of your personality, beliefs or vocabulary.
  7. It is alright if you don't end up successful in your life, it is alright if you do not end up as brave or wise or kind as I wish for you to be. What I sincerely hope you do not turn out to be, is a spineless jackass with a dick. Be anything in life but THAT.

Peer pressure is ugly. To give into it is easy and uglier. When the pressure you face is opposed to your value system, no matter how difficult it feels, always stand up against it. Your so-called 'friends' will not remain in your life forever but your conscience will. When things get more overwhelming than you can handle, I hope you always come and find me, or anyone else you can trust. If you don't find that person in your circle of trust, always, always seek a therapist to talk it out. No shame in that, ever! 

I love you and I hope you always find the wisdom and the courage to do the right thing in your life.


Conversation With My Friends in the Time of Corona

Apocalypse Escape Plan by my favorite 9 yr old!

Hello friends!

How are you doing? I hope you are able to maintain your sanity in this extended lockdown period. I just pray that these times get over soon and we can be back to our normal self soon.

Daily activities take up a lot of my time and in addition to that, talking every day to family and friends has been helping a lot. You remember my crazy group of old-time girlfriends? A few weeks ago we spoke to each other about the current situation in their respective place of residence. Here is an excerpt of our conversation (published with their consent, of course!). It is eye-opening and heart-warming to see the similarities in experiences and the impact difference in cultures is having on people's lives:

D1 is an events planner in Australia.
V is an IT Project lead in the US.
D2 is a banker in Vadodara, India.
M is a stay-at-home mom in Saudi Arabia.
N is a stay-at-home mom (and an Air Force spouse) in Coimbatore, India.
And yours truly, stay-at-home mom in Jaipur!

D1: It has been very stressful. My husband is working from home, my elder daughter is having school holidays and we have stopped sending the younger one to day care. So there's no break in the household work. My (party planning) business has been affected, I had big plans this year. I am keeping my sanity intact by trying to distract myself from Corona updates. Netflix and Amazon Prime have become my life savers! Also watching motivational videos and killing time on social media.

N: I am feeling okay-ish too. Just that kids related chores have increased. Thankfully, the husband is at home so that has been a great help otherwise managing all this alone would have been very difficult. We are getting a lot of family time, so that's the positive side to it.

D1: I would recommend everyone to watch 'Tidying up with Marie Kondo' on Netflix. It was a big eye opener for my husband and I. It's the need of the hour.

V: As you all are aware the infected cases in the US are more than any other nation. Everyone is scared here. Racial tension has increased. People are abusing anyone who looks like a Chinese (Japanese, Koreans etc.). People are equally scared about losing their jobs. In the history of the United States, never have they seen so many un-employments registered;it has crossed about 10 million. Clearly, the US, the so called advanced country was not prepared for this pandemic.

We had to let go of all the contractors and temporary workers. Some friends have lost their job already. We are feeling very scared to step out of the house. Going to the grocery store is like going to a war zone. We have to be prepared with sanitizers, mask and all. Just before the outbreak, my mother-in-law had come to visit us and thank god for that. Both kids are home and both my husband and I are working from home - One from the basement and one from the office room. We both get up at usually the same time, work out a little, go for a walk, get dressed as we used to and start working. It makes us feel less lazy and trying to feel normal. We even have coffee breaks together and talk about work, bitch about bosses :-P 

On weekends, we have group video call with friends and visual parties. We are also using this time to get in touch with cousins and friends we haven't spoken to in recent times. 

Things we have realized recently is - people here cannot live without toilet paper! I have seen people fighting over the last bundle of toilet paper in the store! And I think I do not want to get old here. It's the worst country for old people. No one is taking care of them.

D1: I feel sorry for the people of the US. Is anyone following the US news and their President? He is more entertaining than any other Netflix series. 

Australia announced shutdown of non-essential business and 1 million people lost jobs overnight. The government announced several relief and stimulus packages to save people who lost their jobs. Not the Australian government has succeeded in controlling the spread of the virus and deaths considerably.

D2: I can tell the story from a different perspective. I have to go to work each day and we come int contact with lots of people from all classes, communities and age groups. The first few days, it felt good - calm and quiet roads, not many people )post demonetization I seem to have developed a phobia for large groups) and less work. It started feeling weird and even eerie after a while and now I can't wait for the lock-down to get over. 

It is like going through a ghost town, where everyone is scared, people who come in are viewed with suspicion and emotions are running high. W have specific time slots when people can come out and buy staples and it is being pretty well-managed by the enforcement authorities.

The home front has been a little tough with the maid not coming and the kids who are otherwise used to a lot of physical activity are being restricted. My biggest challenge is keeping them occupied. Thry are very confused and even have a meltdown on why does this stupid virus exist! Fortunately, my mother had come just in time for Ugadi and is like a blessing in disguise, though she is stuck here during the lockdown, it is a help for me with the kids. My dad is at Hyderabad and has rediscovered his enthusiasm for sketching and painting. 

I honestly thought this whole thing was not a big deal and a form of flu that is just being blown out of proportion [ the poor immune systems of the west unable to handle it and a bad case of fear mongering, fueled by social media. I wish there was a solid conspiracy theory to describe everything going on but I really want things to go back to normal. I feel privileged in a way but for lots of poeple wjo confuse boredom-loneliness and being alone, there is only so much isolation that one can handle.I have friens who want to talk on whatsapp teh whole day even if it is meaningless and mundane, because they feel 'stuck'. Some even said that they are feeling an inexplicable feeling of 'losing', not sure what.

M: Oh God, even I'm sick of cooking 4 to 5 meals in a day. On top of that, the schools have started online classes and day to day course is being uploaded on the website. We are supposed to make the kids study as per schedule. 

V2: I'm trying all kinds of quick snacks using the air fryer, insta-pot and what not! Thank God, my mother-in-law is here so she makes the main meals. I cook the breakfast and snacks.

Dalgona Coffee experiments in Australia

D1: My version of Dalgona coffee.

D2: What's Dalgona coffee?

S: Gaur se dekhiye iss aurat ko! This shows you've been working too hard and you need to take leave from work and waste time on social media like rest of us.

N: Same here girls..Please tell me also what's Dalgona and why is everyone going ga ga over it?

V: Which world are you living in girl? My dad lives in a village and even he asked me have you tried Dalgona coffee? With so much peer pressure, I had to try it at home. It came out pretty god though ;)

P: Yeah, even I didn't know it man! But my mom knew!

S: Parents are more advanced these days..lol.

D2: Yes, may be they're using Tiktok :P 

D1: Haha..saree challenges have become old fashion now so I was checking what's trending. Someone who has nothing to do uploaded this video of Dalgona coffee in Tiktok and it has become viral. In the end I found out, it's just a normal cold coffee. It's called Dalgona coffee in South Korea.

S: Haha..I am staying in a guest room now, so I do not even get to make my own tea.

D1: Shilpa, you must write a blog on this - 10 ways to kill time on Social Media :P 

....and so I did!


Motherhood in Norway

Hello folks!

How have you all been? I'm so excited to bring to you the second interview on motherhood around the world series. Today's interview features Priya Balasubramanian, a young and vivacious mother living with her husband and three-yrs old daughter in Norway. Priya was my college classmate during graduation and then we proceeded to study in the UK at the same time which is when I got to know her better. I have always found her and her husband to be once of the nicest, most grounded couples I've ever met (total couple goals!) and their daughter seems equally delightful! I'm so happy to be speaking to Priya today:

 Could you please tell us a little about yourself
My name is Priya! I was born in Chennai and raised in Hyderabad. If you would ask me what is home for you in India, my answer will always be Hyderabad and I carry its memories and spirit with me wherever I go! I moved out of India 13 years ago when I chose to do a Masters in the UK where I lived for a few years before I moved to Norway and settled here for good.
I work in the software industry in Oslo and have a background in sales and customer success. The man I am married to is the guy I befriended in Edinburgh while I studied my Masters. We have been together for just over 12 years now. We have a daughter together who was born on a cold winter day in Norway. 
Norway has been considered one of the best countries in the world to be a mother, how true is that? 
Yes, I will agree with that. I can also add that it is one of the best countries in the world for women.
What was being pregnant in Norway like?
What I learnt very soon after being pregnant was that pregnancy is natural and absolutely normal and the Norwegians treat it the same way. This is a society where personal matters aren’t discussed openly and personal questions are almost never asked in day to day life unless you know the people really well. So no awkward questions will ever come your way from a local when you are pregnant. Most people are polite here and will most likely offer you their seat when you look pregnant and are travelling in public transport. Breastfeeding is considered absolutely natural and normal - one can breastfeed in any public space without feeling uncomfortable.
On becoming pregnant in Norway you get assigned a midwife (close to home) who monitors your pregnancy and gives you all the information and guidance you need based on where you are in your pregnancy and supports you until you get into labour.
In Norway you do all of the work yourself - cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. Having family support locally would definitely make a huge difference in these circumstances as you have somewhere to go to when you need a break once in a while and don’t feel too lonely or overworked. On a positive side you tend to stay much more in control of your pregnancy and your child and end up really fit as you don’t get to laze around during and after your pregnancy and naturally stay active.

How was your experience of childbirth in a Norwegian hospital?
Norway has state-run medical care. All expenditure pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth is covered by the government. You can also say that as residents/citizens we indirectly contribute towards this by paying extremely high taxes to the Government.
Once it is ascertained that you are pregnant, the closest hospital to your residence is automatically assigned to you. The emphasis is always on having a natural birth and to be honest these are not options that are even discussed. C-section is taken up when there are strong reasons for it, otherwise it is the natural way. 
I arrived at the hospital after my contractions were more frequent (my husband was timing it) and the nurse over the phone had confirmed that I could come over to the hospital. I was in a pre-ward initially where my contractions were measured and once I was ‘labour ready’ I was moved into a labour room. Soon after labour came in a new nurse who taught me how to feed and extract milk out of my chest. It was almost like a task - she gave me work to do and came back later and monitored how I was getting along. 
The best thing about the Norwegian system was that I was kept thoroughly engaged in the entire process. The nurses/doctors were constantly talking to me and telling me what they were up to and in certain critical instances sought my approval before they did anything. 
One of my strong memories from this day includes the moment when the nurse asked me if the father could cut the umbilical cord and if I approved of it. Only after I said “yes” did my husband also get to carry his child for the very first time. My consent was critical and I was the ‘mother’ in the room, felt powerful and I loved it! 
What kind of post-partum support is available for new mothers?
Upon child birth you are quickly assigned the nearest health centre (Helsestasjon) for your child. Health centre is for children between 0-5 years and their parents. The ground staff consists of midwife, health nurse, physician and physiotherapist.
Here is where the growth and development of the child is monitored, vaccination/immunization happens and you can seek help anytime you need during working hours as you can drop in. You can talk to the nurses about all matters pertaining to parenthood including questions on bathing a child/how often to feed/introducing solids/baby stool challenges/your mood swings as a mother/getting the child acclimatized to sleeping in their own room and co, etc.
Baselgrupper (mom groups) I would say is one of the best systems here in Norway. Once you give birth you are paired with all the fellow mothers that have had babies at the same time as you in your neighbourhood. The local health centre brings us women together and creates a group and sets the introductions. This group becomes an integral part of one's maternity leave where the mothers and babies meet once every week for a 10 month period and do an activity together such as meeting for lunches, going on long walks, treks together etc. Some of these friendships last a lifetime!

How long was your maternity leave for? And what support or benefits do new parents get from the government/community/employers?
Norwegian society encourages people to work and does its best to make sure people don’t find reasons to sit at home as that can be a source of most problems.
Maternity leave is offered for up to a year to only those that have been employed and need a break from work. There is close to 80% to 100% salary coverage if your salary is an average Norwegian salary. The father gets his own share of 10 weeks of paid paternity leave too which he can take up until the child turns 3. In addition, working and breastfeeding moms are also entitled to paid breaks to feed their babies. 
The nursery is heavily discounted as the Govt takes a big chunk of the fee and education/schooling for children is free as well.
Most places in Norway have baby changing facilities that are extremely clean with disposable changing liners, diaper bins and are free of charge. In some of the malls you have what is known as an ‘Ammerom’ (feeding rooms) where you have seating to sit and feed your hungry ones in a quiet space.
A typical Norwegian meal - baked trout/salmon with steamed veggies

What is your and your partner’s parenting philosophy?
I don't know if we have any specific philosophy pertaining to parenting. We go by our instincts and try to not do things our parents did to us that we didn’t like. The goal for us is to create good memories for the child for her to look back to when she grows big, create a space that she will always call home and mould her in a way she is able to make good decisions for herself.
We give a lot of importance to ‘communication’. We treat our daughter as a young individual and ask her opinion and thoughts on everything that involves her and us as a family. When we say ‘NO’ to anything we tell her why this is not OK and the reasoning behind it. This is also an influence from the Norwegian culture even though not all locals practice it.
Do both parents have an ‘equal’ role to play in the Norwegian society?
This is one of the best things about the Norwegian society! Parents are equal and they have equal responsibilities when it comes to managing and bringing up their children. Most Norwegian fathers cook well, do grocery shopping, drop kids to the school and do the home chores as a part of their daily lives - there is no gender differentiation here as to who does what. The idea is to share the workload equally between the parents.

We’ve all heard about how Norwegians (and other Scandinavian countries) emphasize outdoorness among their kids ever since they’re born. What is it all about? E.g. In India, I wouldn’t take my newborn son out or even now would not send him out if the temperature drops even by 5 degrees).
Norwegians are very outdoor people that love nature and are usually out walking/running or doing some form of sport. The nursery has a policy where the children should play outside for a few hours everyday throughout the year. It is also common practice for babies to sleep outside in their prams during the day in the nursery unless it is less than -5 C. 
It is perfectly OK to leave the babies sleeping on prams outside coffee shops while the parents go inside to get a meal/coffee for themselves - the pram is usually in their view from inside. This, I would say, was the most difficult aspect of the Norwegian society for me to come to terms with. I had to do this several times to get used to the practice before I could do this with ease.

Do you have any message for all the moms out there?
All I have to say is, enjoy motherhood and treat yourself well!

Thank you so much, Priya!


How Are You Doing?

Hi! How have you been?

I have been MIA here on the blog because the soldier finally received his family posting and we were busy spending time in his leave and packing up whatever little of our world we had unpacked. I wanted to give you all a surprise with the new destination but here we are!

As it was time for us to leave with bags and baggage, Corona had started becoming a matter of concern in Maharashtra. We had been mulling over whether to make the move or stay back but in the end decided it was better of us to travel at the earliest as things might only be getting worse. So we took all the possible precautions we could and left by road (ruling out train and flight). We only stopped at smaller towns with no known cases staying with relatives where we could. After several days of getting stuck in between, we managed to reach our destination a week ago where we are under quarantine for 14 days (because of our travel).

These times are weird. The world showed drastic changes last year (like all India floods, Australia bushfires etc.) but 2020 has defied all assumptions. I believe it is the Earth's ways to slow us down or may be a tiny little pause in our mad race towards advancement. All I know is that the world would not be the same after the pandemic ends. 

Here are a few things I have been feeling lately:

The pandemic: OK, it really has me worried (like everybody else). Life has just changed overnight and the uncertainity of it all is just so frightening. But like all of you have pointed out, we need to look at the positivity of it all - getting quality time to spend together. It is also a time to express gratitude because I have a family I don't mind being quarantined with, roof over my head and food on my plate without having to worry about it. My heart goes out to all those people for whom family has been toxic and work was an escape, workers and business whose income has come to a halt, a lot of our population who cannot afford to buy bulk food. I just hope things get better soon and if I can be of any help to anyone reading this, please let me know. May be you just need someone to talk to? Write to me! DM me on Instagram. Anything! If you are staying in a locality where you can help someone with some food, or may be you are around an elderly couple or a new mom with a baby, please do try to help in whatever way you can!

A scary movie: I thought in the given times, it would be fun to watch the movie Contagion and so we did! But boy, it has me s**t scared now. It is so eerily similar to what is happening now and just the scenes where they show how the virus spreads so rapidly has left me not wanting to touch ANYTHING and just lock my family up in a room and also probably give up on eating any kind of animal product ever! Well, we are kind of living that life now, so...

Managing a toddler: Honestly, it is like any other day because even when we were back home, we would still be indoors most of the day and would only go out in the evenings to the park. Of course, other outings like going to to the grocers or to someone’s house is out of question now but thankfully we are in a cantonment now and we have a tiny little garden space right outside our room where I do let the bub play in the evenings. I have my husband with me and it is easier to manage the bub now without feeling overwhelmed. 

Passing the time: We wake up late in the morning (because nothing to do?!) and have a leisurely breakfast. It is such a weird feeling to have breakfast as a family of three as it is the first time we are experiencing it in two years! Breakfast is followed by some play time for the bub in the garden and shower etc routine for us. We are staying in a guest room (and under quarantine) so there is no cooking involved and we receive all our meals at our room. Once we are done with our morning activities, we play indoors while the husband catches up with office work (WFH). We have our lunch between 1-2pm and then its nap time. We are out to play in the garden by evening 6 and come back home by sunset. Its some more play, dinner, play and once the bub goes to sleep is when the soldier and I catch up on movies and shows. I watched Captain Marvel for the first time last week and enjoyed it! We are hearing great reviews about Asur and Special Ops and planning to watch it soon. The husband has also caught up on many movies of his liking which I do not enjoy much (read Vin Diesel and Jason Statham types) which I love catching up on YouTube videos. Some of the Youtubers I really enjoy are Jovita George, Scherezade Shroff and Bake with Shivesh. Basically speaking, I like to watch a lot of makeup tutorials I will never try and food recipes I'll never make :-P I had been carrying only one book with me (as I forgot packing it in the main baggage) and I read a couple of pages from it once in a while. 

Anyway, how have you been? Are you keeping well? Tell me what all have you been upto, what are you cooking and what shows are you watching?

Take care!


Weekend Links

How have you all been? The soldier is home and we are spending all of our days just cooped up in our home catching up and spending time as a family.

Here are some interesting links from around the web for you:

I really enjoyed watching this particular interview of Ayushman Khurrana.

A hilarious (and glamorous ) instagram account !

The most treasured wardrobe staple of Vogue editors!

This classic tip to make your living room brighter.

Are you turning your house into a toystore?

A very helpful video on minimalism.

Have a good weekend!


What Do You Wear to Work ?

My first job was in an international development agency and at 21, I was the youngest employee they ever had. So, I made it my sole ambition to be considered mature and taken seriously and my work outfits were a major means of communicating that - I mostly wore western formals in blacks and greys and on off-days stuck to the combination of jeans-kurti. I later shifted to a government job in rural development and my outifts mostly consisted of handloom cotton salwar-suits in sober colours to enable me to blend in easily in a government setting as well as field visits in villages. I find it fascinating how we choose our outfits at work to convey our personality, aims and agenda; and that is why I have always been curious what do other people wear to work, especially women? How do they interpret their personal style in terms of their professional responsibilities and how do they use their clothing as a form of self-expression.

I asked 6 women I admire for their work and style, what they wear to work. Here they are:

Ocupation : Editor at a publishing house (New Delhi) 

"I am an editor of a publishing house and as such, I have to meet authors. So, my workwear is mostly a cross betwen formal and casual. I like to wear simple kurtis with pants/culottes, bright-coloured dupattas and of course, big earrings. Also, culottes or formal trousers paired with both shirts and t-shirts. I love adding a quirky touch (think elephant brooches/the whole ensemble in the same colour tone etc.). The idea is to just have fun with the things I have."  

Occupation: Banker (Vadodara)

"For me, a saree is perfect work wear because nothing speaks power dressing to me like a saree does. Good days, bad days, the okay days; fat, thin, tall, short; fair, dark, brown, yellow - it never asks, never thinks. The saree wraps itself beautifully around everyone and anyone - making it the most versatile, non-judgemental garment ever! Crisp cottons, ethereal silks or flowy georgettes - when I wear a saree, it makes me feel like I am on top of the world - sophisticated, traditional, modest and humble all at the same time - this timeless garment is my go-to anyday, work or otherwise. Most of my sarees are handlooms from my mom’s own brand."  

Occupation: Sales Manager at a Travel company (Leh) 

"My work requires me to sit long hours on a chair so I always choose things that are flowy and baggy. These allow me to sit on my chair cross-legged (literally). Comfort over style is what I go for. But then if I end up being a little stylish while putting my baggy outfits together  then it’s a win win situation I guess. Here I am wearing a thrifted blazer for that professional look, a floral maxi dress to keep it casual along with a cloth bag and white canvas shoes. White canvas shoes are a must for me as they go with almost everything from jeans to dresses to long skirts etc." 

Occupation: Food Photographer and Food Stylist (Hyderabad) 

"My job requires me to be on my feet for 8-10 hours and on shoot days I pick comfortable and easy going outfits. Honestly, I can spend days working from home in my pyjamas and tshirt but it's nice to put some thought into what you wear at networking events. My style is usually really classic colours and things I can mix and match easily. I put this outfit together for an event where I wanted something comfortable yet chic and sporty. Just a simple black top paired with blue jeans and a grey blazer. I am currently completely into white sneakers. They speak comfort and style to me and jazz up a lot of outfits instantly."  

Occupation: Counselling Psychologist and Founder of Begin Again Counselling Services (Bengaluru)  

Being a counselling psychologist, my everyday work involves working with people who may be in a lot of pain.  It sometimes becomes hard to leave that pain behind in the therapy room and that's why there is a huge emphasis on self care for therapist.  One aspect of self care for me is being able to dress in a way that makes me happy.   I tend to gravitate towards pinks and bright colours. I also need to strike a balance between outfits that bring me joy and what is a distraction so clothes that are bright and comfortable are a happy compromise. In this picture I'm wearing a dress which I love because of the colour and that its really easy  to  wear. 


Occupation : Social Studies Teacher at a school into transformational teaching (Pune)  

"Well normally, I would've been comfortable in a jeans and a Tee but since my work involves being at a school for more than 8 hours, we stick to cotton leggings and kurtis. The children we teach are from underprivileged communities and are not used to flashy clothes or really bold styles. Also, we are more credible in front of them and their parents during PTMs when we are decked up in traditional Indian wear. I do wish sometimes formal western clothes could be worn, but for that, the Indian mentality needs to progress with the idea of a 'Teacher' and so I guess that's a long way off for now. I normally stick to neutral and soft colours like green, blue, off-white and grey. It makes us more relatable to the children. Also, jewelry is very minimum and make-up, almost zero. In this picture I am wearing a soft mul-mul cotton breathable saree from Hastavem. Nothing is more comfortable than a saree which stays put :D !"  

Thank you, girls!  

What do you wear to work? Do share in the comments below. 


Weekend Links

Hello! How have you been this week? We have been good, exhausted, happy and tired. I have been trying my best to keep the bub off the gadgets and having partial success. If you have any tips on how to do it better, please let me know. Meanwhile, here are some interesting links from the world wide web:

I'm hearing such great reviews about this Oscar-nominated film!

How to raise boys in 2020.

What a breath-taking blue wall!

The myth of sustainable fashion.

Thank you, bhau! So heartwarming.

Can't wait to bake these cookies.

The best 50 ice-cream parlours in the world...yummy!

Robert Pattinson in Paris is two of my fantasies combined..lol!

Vegan gluten-free naan. Interesting and yummyilicious.

What a pretty dress for the coming spring!

(Image source)

Thoughts On Solo Parenting

My husband, a soldier, left for field duty when I was about eight months pregnant. Though I was one of the lucky few Army wives whose husband could make it home on time for our delivery, he left again after a week. So technically, ever since our son was born, I have been a solo parent to him. Or more aptly, the only physically present parent.

Though I had never expected and hoped it wouldn’t be the case, a life in the Army prepares you for any such eventualities. OK, you are never really prepared, but you always just know (no matter how much you try to deny or escape it) that sooner or later, you are going to be parenting on your own with your husband away serving his nation.

So yes, even though I thought I was mentally prepared, when motherhood actually hit me, I just didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be on my own. On several occasions the early days of parenting have been compared to a train-wreck, just no one tells you how terribly horrible it is when you are the only one in-charge of the whole show. Along with recovering from a painful C-Sec surgery I had to be the only one to be responsible for this tiny little child that I was trying so hard to keep alive. If marathon breastfeeding sessions were not enough, burping him was also my responsibility. So was changing his nappies every single time required, even in the middle of the night, being the recipient of all of his reflux-mess in all its newborn glory, unable to even pee or poop in peace because he just wouldn’t stay with anyone else.

Sometimes when I see pictures and videos of fathers along with their newborn babies, I feel a longing I do not realize exists in our daily grind. Or when I see dads playing or dancing with their kids, taking over baby duties from mommy, I cannot but feel a tad bit of jealousy laced with a deep sadness for my son. You see, he doesn’t really know what living with his father is like. For us, I am the one who wakes him up, feeds him, dances with him and plays with him, takes him to the park, shops for him, puts him to bed and stay awake if need be. I am the one who travels with him multiple times a year to see all of the family scattered all over the country. I do not have the luxury of just nudging my partner awake to look after the needs of whatever my baby might require in the middle of the night. I do not have the luxury of sleeping even a single minute extra once the baby is up and about because even an extra second of sleep might have disastrous consequences considering babies like to indulge in adventurous activities right when the parent is asleep. I do not have the luxury of someone taking care of my baggage when I am travelling or holding the bub for a while to give me some rest or even when I need to go pee.

I do not have the luxury of having someone to shout at when I am frustrated or cry to when I am sad.

So, despite the fact that I live with my family and my food/housing needs are well taken care of, I am so so deeply mentally exhausted!

I watch with an inexplainable heaviness when the bub prances around any male adult he meets, trying to garner his attention or trying to gain his approval with his antics, something that should have been reserved for his father. Turns out, he does understands and desires the presence of a male adult in his life. The only blessing in disguise has been that the bub has been too young to ‘remember’ his father or understand the meaning of it. Until now!

Also, when the husband is indeed on leave, two issues arise - you suddenly feel that this nice, little daily routine that you have set with your child is suddenly thwarted with the arrival of his charming parent because now the father wants to make up for the lost time by playing beyond sleeping hours or taking him out on drives one too many times or feeding him yummylicious outside food (throwing away all the efforts you’ve been making to feed your child ‘healthy’ diet out of the window).

Also, more often than not we end up fighting because I resent that he has never been around while I got to bear all of the parenting shitload while he had it easy and he feels a heavy pang of guilt for not being able to be around and then trying to prove how good a father he is (which closely overlaps being in a competitive sphere with myself as the mother) - so whenever the husband does get something right about what the bub might be communicating and he exclaims, “See, I know him better!”, all hell breaks loose in my head, like don’t you dare tell me because I have been the one cleaning his shit everyday for the last two years, sometimes several times a day when he is teething!

But if I may excuse my whiny self, here’s the utter truth - solo parenting is any day better than single parenting. I will forever be in awe of and hold in high regards all those moms and dads who have been raising their children on their own. I at least get to speak to my husband over phone on most days, take major parenting decisions together and share every update I get chance to. I really cannot even imagine how parents who are on their own do it! So, hats off to you and bless you!

And if you are a solo parent like me, just hang in there! Life is going to get better. Stay strong and stick to it. You are already doing a great job! 

Weekend Links

Hello everyone!

How has your week been? Do you have any special plans for the weekend? The bub is not keeping well with a stomach infection so we are just going to lie low the next couple of days. Here are some interesting links from around the world for you to read:

This caption has my heart..

India has changed its abortion law allowing abortion till 24th week of pregnancy. Bravo!

My life story, in every party! Haha!

Do you remember VIVA!, India's first girl band?

Are we over-exposing our kids on social media?

Engagement rings are a scam?

One of my most favourite moviemakers, this video is a delight to watch!

Mark Ruffalo is the funniest celebrity ever!

My sister says this movie  is a must-watch for all women!

A planner that is radically changing my life.

Have a good weekend!


My Favourite Baby Travel Hack

Travelling with babies (and toddlers) is a battle in managing space, especially if you happen to be travelling alone like I have several times and by flight - meaning restricted luggage. And when you have to pack multiple clothes (for the child of course), their toileteries, bag full of medicines for all kind of emergencies imaginable, it hardly leaves any space for your own necessities. With barely able to pack my clothes in the limited remaining space, here's my favourite baby travel hack:

While travelling, I use toiletry products that I have packed for my baby i.e. I share his hair & body shampoo, dusting powder, body cream, oilssunscreen. Wet wipes make for great makeup removers btw. The products are really mild and non-reacting, work for me and no-brainer - I smell good!

It saves me a lot of space and efforts not to carry separate toileteries items for myself. If adult skincare products are available wherever I'm travelling to, I might use those.

What's your favourite baby travel hack?

Motherhood in New Zealand

Hello lovely folks! 

In 2020, it is going to be my endeavour to bring interesting, insightful and helpful content for you and I have many exciting ideas planned for the same. First among them is the Motherhood Around The World series wherein I would seek to interview moms living around the world on their parenting experiences in the country of their residence. It is always so intriguing to know how motherhood and parenting happens around the world and the things we can learn from women in other countries. First in this series is Nishu, the wonderful woman behind the blog LipsnBerries. Nishu is a young mom living with her husband and toddler daughter in Auckland, NZ. I first came across Nishu's page through mutual friends and her posts have had me hooked ever since! She's one of the warmest woman you would find on social media and I am so excited to interview her! Honestly, speaking to her on motherhood makes me want to move to New Zealand right away and have babies there! Hope you would enjoy reading it too:

Could you please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Nishu. I’m an Indian (Punjabi) living in NZ for more than a decade. I’m a fairly new mum. My daughter Aiza is now 16 months old, born in September 2018. I’ve been with my husband Sunny for about 15 years now, married for 6. We have a place to call our own in Auckland. I am a Forensic Biology Technician by profession. DNA is my jam! I was on maternity leave for 13 months and have joined back the rat race not so long ago. I blog about my life, lifestyle, parenting, travel and beauty finds over on lipsnberries. Blogging is my passion. I take immense pride in my honesty. I’ve been typing my thoughts and reviews since 2012. 

Aiza is a beautiful name! What made you choose this name?

My husband picked this name and I liked it. It means noble/respected in Spanish. We wanted something different but also short and easy. We did not know the gender of the baby we were having so we picked a boy’s name and a girl’s name before the birth. 

Side note: Unlike India, couples in NZ tend to know the gender of their baby as early as 18 weeks. You actually have to make a special effort and let the medical professionals know each time you go for a scan that you don’t want to know the gender. These days people plan gender reveal and color themed baby showers on a grand scale so not knowing what we were having was a bit hard to digest for some who like to plan and control everything in life. We were all good with this. My husband hoped it was a boy (Naruto!). I secretly hoped it would be a girl. I won! 

What was being pregnant in New Zealand like? 

I felt that NZ is probably one of the best countries to be pregnant in! The support was immense. As someone who has grown up a bit isolated and having no clue of the what and how of pregnancy and baby-rearing, I appreciated every bit of care and support from the system. I think if I can feel adequately equipped and ready to take on the job, anyone can. I’ve never felt motherly so I had no interest in baby-rearing before my own. Hence, all the information and support that came my way was godsend. 

The public healthcare system funds entire pregnancy bill. There’s a small fee to pay for scans but that’s about it.  I am free to choose my own midwife. The midwife saw me every few weeks to monitor progress. I even changed my midwife in week 36 because I started reading and researching about hypnobirthing and waterbirth in particular. My chosen midwife hadn’t done a waterbirth and she recommended me to a colleague, who was absolutely brilliant. She was so calm and so gentle. Never pushed a thing on me and honoured my birth plan even though she wasn’t 100% on board with HypnoBirthing. She was all about natural births and we connected instantly. I made sure I dropped off a Christmas present to her doorstep as a Thank You! 

On the work front, my employer was very supportive as well. As I work in a lab environment, they gave me instructions on tasks and chemicals I should avoid. I was at my workplace till the day of my due date. Even though some colleagues were freaking out at me being there till the last minute, the managers were supportive. The paid maternity leave is 22 weeks in NZ currently. I wanted to work for as long as I can so I could utilize this leave to be with my new baby. I ended up extending my maternity leave to 13 months from 5 months I had initially planned. I loved being home with Aiza. The employers were very supportive of my decisions. I still do reduced hours at work as Aiza is breastfeeding. 

Side Note: we don’t get full pay while on maternity leave in NZ. It’s less than half of my pay paid for 22 weeks (about 5 months). This will increase to 26 weeks in near future. 

I had no family support while pregnant and during birthing. It was by choice. 

How was your experience of childbirth in a New Zealand hospital? 

The maternity care is public in New Zealand and it’s free. We have local maternity centres for each geographical area (like 15 km-ish). When a woman is pregnant, she can choose her midwife from the list of midwives, preferably one that is closer to home so the visits are easier when nearing due date. As the due date approaches, our midwife encouraged us to pick a local maternity centre. We visited a couple and I was confused between two - one that was a bit far from home (about 20km) and was very open and clean (posh). Another option was my local maternity clinic which was a bit old, tired, small but cozy. We eventually went with the one closer to home (old one). It was still amazing. I managed to get a private room in there. Husband could go home multiple times a day and fetch stuff. The plan was to have a waterbirth at the local clinic. However, due to certain complication at last minute, I was rushed to hospital from that clinic while in labour. Hospital care is free too. I delivered my baby-girl drug-free and via natural vaginal birth. I came back to local clinic within 4 hours after the baby was out. 

Natural births are encouraged and preferred in NZ. Unless, there is a complication. C Sec is done rarely. 

I stayed in maternity clinic for 3 days. Only women are allowed overnight so I was alone with Aiza at night time . As a first time clueless mom it was nerve-wrecking. However, the midwives and nurses were available on buzzer at all times. Sunny (my husband) was there with me all day. We learned how to take care of baby while at the clinic. We learned how to breastfeed, change nappy, give her a bath and all the small baby things. My in-laws arrived 10 days later. 

My midwife visited us at the clinic. She also visited us regularly for 6 weeks. My episiotomy stitches got a bit inflamed so she attended me quite regularly. She made me feel comfortable the entire time. She even lent me her Haaka breast pump when my milk came and the breasts were engorged (& painful!). I used her pump for 2 weeks and then bought my own. I’m still using that pump everyday. Best investment ever!

Before delivery, I attended a one day antenatal class/seminar with my husband at a community centre. In those few hours, they taught us all we needed to know about birth, contractions, timing them, nutrition, etc. They had a form there for to-be mums asking what kind of support they desire in future. I didn’t know what that support would look like but I filled out the form and typed in breastfeeding. I had no clue about breastfeeding but I was quite sure I wanted to feed my baby naturally. A few weeks later, a lactation consultant contacted me. She enrolled me under her care. 2 weeks before birth, she came home with a doll and some breastfeeding instruction videos. She answered all my questions and demonstrated the process on the doll. I obviously didn’t know what the real deal would look like. She then came for a visit as soon as we got home with the baby. We were struggling with breastfeeding quite bad. Aiza just wouldn’t latch. There was a lot of crying (both parties) and sore nipples. The consultant supported me like a mum. She taught the basics again. Got Aiza to latch. She visited every few days initially till our supply & demand was established and then every few months, until we hit the 6 month mark, when she came home to congratulate me for exclusively breastfeeding the baby (with a cute certificate even!). We didn’t have to consider formula once. She was quite adamant that I (and my body) are more than enough for feeding my baby. I’d forever be indebted to her. This level of community care in NZ has my faith restored in humanity. 

I think for the New Zelanders and people the world over, you have a fine example in modern motherhood and parenting in your Prime Minister, Ms Jacinda Ardern herself. I mean, the lady attended the UN General Assembly with her baby!

Yes! Indeed. NZ is also the first country in the world that let women have voting rights in 1893. Jacinda Ardern represents our country and its values really well. Her partner cares for the baby full-time while she leads the country. Women do have equal rights in everything here. As per recent stats that I shared on Instagram stories the other day , NZ is also the second best country in the world for women entrepreneurs! 

What is a day in your life like now?

I work from 9 am to 3 pm. I started from 2 hours a day and have gradually increased my hours to 6 hours they are currently. The goal is to work full-time 8 hours but I’m not willing to leave Aiza sleeping, without our morning hugs and feed, so looks like I will be doing these reduced hours for the next few months. 

I get up, pump milk, clean & change the baby. We have fresh cooked breakfast together (which I assemble the night before). I then leave her home with in-laws to go to work. I write all of Aiza’s daily meals on a post-it note on fridge. All her meals are prepped the night before. My mother-in-law has to just heat and serve. 

I come back home in the evening. Aiza greets me in the garage and stays on my hip from that moment to the time I feed her to sleep. All she wants is mumma if I’m home! It’s very special but it’s also very draining. We did a hike today and she refused to be in the baby carrier on her dad. I had to carry her on my hip the entire way and back. It was back breaking for sure! I’m hoping this separation anxiety will pass with time. For now, I honour her wish and be present with her. 

We co-sleep and at 16 months, she gets up twice for her feed these days. 

We then have an hour to workout/play ball/go outside to the park/read books, before it’s family dinner together. 

After she sleeps, I turn the baby monitor on (watching her with an eagle eye) and do household chores, like making our breakfast, our work lunches and Aiza’s meals. I also work on my blog and my side biz which is content creation for other small businesses (Lipsnberries_media). I edit photos, videos, update Instagram, make to-do lists for the next day and do everything under the sun that I couldn’t when Aiza was up. 

Some nights I read a few pages of some finance book. 

On weekends, we go to the pool, do grocery shopping, meal prep for the week, go out for walk/hike, library-run, work on my side biz creating & editing content, chill with Aiza and sometimes go to the Gurudwara with in-laws. 

What is the your (and husband’s) parenting philosphy?

We are not following any philosophy as such. My mantra with parenting is the same as it was during pregnancy - I don’t want to google or ask other people. I don’t want their experiences to shape mine. I want our parenting to be authentic and natural. Currently. it’s mostly Indian as we are both very proud of our culture. We talk in Punjabi at home and hence Aiza can speak a lot of Punjabi words now. 

Ultimately she is a born kiwi so she will slowly transition into one. Our role now is to strengthen her bond with her roots. 

How is bringing up a child in New Zealand different from bringing them up in India?

To be honest, I’d have no clue as I’ve not raised one in India. Ultimately, every parent has best intentions for the children at their heart. I can only talk about how we are trying to raise our child. I am a big believer of staying in my lane and not pointing fingers at others. We all do what we know best. 

My general philosophy is to respect Aiza. I see another human in her. I don’t see her as a silly child. I treat her as I would treat a fellow adult. I respect her feelings, I read her signs. Our parenting is child-centric. We are attuned to her feelings. We trust her to be the best judge of what she wants to do, how much she wants to eat or how she talks or behaves. We set boundaries and it’s her free will within those boundaries. 

I try not to tell her ‘No’ at everything she does. No is reserved for things that are non negotiable. No means no. I encourage curiosity in her. I answer her million questions each day. As she hasn’t watched TV yet, books are her world. Even though I’m married to a Virgo (perfectionist!), I am all about being imperfect and embracing the flaws. I wish for the same in my Virgo kid ;)

Both me and Sunny are passionate about gender-neutral parenting and equality, hence we are actively working to not expose Aiza to Indian stereotypes. We avoid pink and blue on her too (unless it’s gifted). Our parenting ideals are very fluid. I am learning each day from various resources so we keep improvising and keep getting better at it. There is no right or wrong way. We all do it differently. 

In general, do you see any differences in Kiwi and Indian children?

Like I said, I don’t like to point fingers. As an introvert, I’ve never really hung out with people with kids before I had my own. Even now, our focus is on travelling and spending time outdoors. So to answer the question, we’ve not spent enough time with Kiwi or Indian kids to form any opinion yet. 

What has been the biggest surprise about parenting in New Zealand?

Lots of things are different. Children aren’t entitled to parents wealth. They start distributing flyers when little and have part-time jobs in their teens. They earn their money. Another surprise is adults paying for their own education by taking student loans (interest- free from government). Similarly with weddings. Children pay for their expenses and there’s little monetary help from parents. As an Indian kid whose entire education bill and wedding (and even some of house purchase deposit) was funded by parents, it’s an eye-opener. We are truly lucky. 

On the flip side, I also feel our Indian parents are forever working to provide the best for their children. They lose their identity raising them. They cease to live their own life. And of corse when they are old and sick, there is an expectation to pay back in time and care (and rightly so). So there is a huge pressure and responsibility on both parents and children. Kiwis care for their kids till they are 16-18 years and they are done. They enjoy their retirement travelling and living it up, not cribbing about how other relatives are doing. 

This is has also meant that kiwi kids feel less supported by their parents and thus sometimes have mental health issues. 

Does anyone from your family live with you? 

Yes, currently my mother-in-law and father-in-law are in the country. They go back to India in a couple of months. As per their visa conditions, they can only stay in the country for max of 6 months at a stretch. I will enrol Aiza in a daycare near my work when in-laws aren’t here anymore. Having them is a huge plus. I like that Aiza doesn’t have to leave home. She is comfortable, safe and supported in her own home. 

We did not have anyone around during pregnancy, labour and child birth. As I was aiming for a natural, drug-free waterbirth, I did not want anyone around me. I wanted to be 100% comfortable and in my zone. When Aiza arrived we managed her alone for 2 weeks. Two clueless beings and a little crying baby. It was amazing. We got to bond with her. Know her well. We shared caring responsibilities. There was no unsolicited advice. I kept my pregnancy hidden from social media and only posted two days after the baby was here. This prevented any anxiety or social pressure. 

If you have a supportive partner and you both are willing to give it a go, taking care of a child alone is very empowering and also a great opportunity to bond. Lots of skin to skin in those weeks. 

When it comes to motherhood or parenting, what do you miss most about India?

I regret Aiza not having access to her maternal grandmother. I miss having my own family around. Other than that, I’m quite happy with the life we’ve made for ourselves in Auckland. 

Aiza has already travelled to 10 countries in the first year of her life! What is your motivation behind making travel such a core aspect of your parenting? Or is it just a family tradition as a couple which you continued after the baby?  

Both. It is a family tradition to travel atleast once a year. It is also a core aspect of our parenting. Both me and sunny love travelling. We love to hike, explore, be outdoors. We want to instil this wanderlust in Aiza. I hope she gets to see the entire world. There’s so much joy and learning in travelling. It gives you a new, much wider perspective. It opens up your mind to new ways of thinking. It builds empathy. We want to continue traveling with Aiza for as long as she lets us. 

Recently on Instagram, we had a discussion on body-shaming of babies. Have you had any experience of the same with respect to Aiza in NZ or in India? Do the Kiwis comment at all on any aspect of the children or is it just an Indian National hobby?

Like I mentioned before, we are a bit aloof and don’t hang out with many people. However, even with minimal interactions, I’ve noticed our countrymen to be quite blunt with their remarks. I get quite triggered by remarks/comments on physical features. I don’t want anyone to call my child fair or dark or tall or short. If someone calls her skinny, I call them out on the spot. In my books, it’s not ok to comment on someone’s physical features. It does seem to be quite common place in our culture to say things that cut deep, casually. I’ve had a few people comment on Aiza’s weight when she went to India the first time. I made sure I reminded them that every child is different and I have no say in her body type. I’ve had an odd comment on Instagram as well but nothing major. I make sure I get my point across. These days, i get comments on my own weight and health.

Kiwis have a very laid back attitude. They don’t meddle in other peoples life. Most don’t care how you look, what you wear or what you do. They stay in their lane. 

Lastly, would you like to say anything to moms all around the world?

Ahh, I’m just a first time mom learning the ropes. I don’t know if I’m qualified enough to give any advice. 

However, I’d like to say we moms are badass! We nurtured the kid, we gave them birth, we nourished them from our body, we are attuned to their every thought and mood of theirs. We are their world. So please don’t let anyone tell you how to raise your child. You’ve come this far, you’ll figure out the rest. As a primary carer, you are your child’s best teacher. They are learning from you each day. They don’t learn from your words. They watch our action. So model your best behaviour. Don’t fake it, kids will know. Be the best version of yourself. Model what you want your child to learn. I believe having Aiza has made me a better person. She has nudged me to better myself each day. I don’t stress about how I’m going to raise her because I know I have to work on myself first. She learns from me. 

She will be what I am. Like I am what my mom is. 

Another wise nugget would be to respect your child like you’ll respect an adult. Empathize with them. Understand how hard it must be for them to communicate big feelings without words. Treat them with respect. Respect their boundaries. Don’t force them to hug someone if they don’t want to. Don’t force food down their throat. If you won’t do something to an adult, don’t do it to a child!

Thank you so much, Nishu!

For more updates from Nishu, please follow her amazing blog LipsnBerries or her Instagram account.