Parenting is that one unique experience where you are constantly learning, and can never claim to truly know it all. And no one is more nervous (and eager to learn) than a new mother. Afshan Anjum tells us about her initial journey in the ‘School of Parenthood’ and the various teachers (good and not so good) she has met along the way.
No matter how many years you’ve spent as a dedicated parent, there’s always someone more experienced than you. If you’re exhausted running after a toddler, you will have friends with kids going to school. If you’re struggling for school admissions, there will be neighbors whose kids are giving their board exams. And if your big girl is passing out of school, there may be someone you know who’s completing their doctorate around the same time. So in case you’re proudly carrying a cute little infant in your arms, just keep those whiskers down because you’re the junior-most in the school of parenthood.
The day I entered this brigade, I understood that parenting is a long unending journey that comes with a whole lot of free advice. I consider myself a keen listener and I believe that learning from others’ experiences can do us wonders. So I kept not just my ears but also my mind and heart open to everything that my surroundings offered, albeit with a critical perspective.
Random Auntyji advice:
This is a common phenomenon in India especially at a time when you’re dealing with post-partum stress and somehow pulling everything together. Soon after my delivery one such woman at the hospital told me that I should cover my head with a dupatta, without fail, 24 hours and that would save me from getting back aches later. They also say that covering your head saves you from headaches. Although it’s because of lack of sleep around that time. Her tone left me thinking. It was actually a warning. It was the warm month of May though and covering myself with a dupatta all day seemed like a bit of a punishment. But I gave it some thought and my own research led to the conclusion that it had no connection whatsoever to any kind of aches and pains. Covering yourself could save you from catching colds and maybe infections if it was winter. But backaches were purely related to the depleted calcium and muscle weakness that happens with childbirth.
Favourite colleagues and working mothers:
Most of my favourite colleagues’ children were at least ten years old when I started my journey into motherhood. So when I wanted their advice on dealing with sleep deprivation, they were stressed with examination pressure. When I was looking for tricks to feed the child, many were dealing with teenage issues. The good thing was that the chats I had with them showed me a bigger horizon. A world that was challenging yet so exciting. Working mothers could also give special insight into time management, their ways of work-home balance and how to avoid the mistakes they made.
Our own parents:
They are first teachers of everything and that includes parenting as well. ‘Daadi maa ke nuskhe’ (Grandma’s recipes) as we call them, our mothers and grannies know the best traditional home remedies for baby problems. But we need just a little more care here as science and research have added new dynamics to many such things. One clear example of this was the immense use of honey. While granny says it’s good for everything, baby-books tell you it’s bad till they turn one. At the same time Hing (Asafoetida) in warm water when rubbed on baby’s tummy solved most stomach issues. I chose to follow the book mostly but sometimes had to strike a balance between the two.
The ‘just been there’ friends:
This is the best category for parenting advice. Friends whose children are just a few months or a couple of years older than yours. They’ve just been through those rough nights and have the latest ideas to deal with every problem you’re facing. They know what can be bought from the market in this time an era to make your life easy. They also know what could prove to be totally useless. You also have a great emotional bond with them as they know what you’re going through like no one can.
So while your gut feeling may be useful for your own good, caring for another life is a much higher responsibility, and secondary information is always useful, whether or not you choose to use it. There are headstrong parents who throw caution to the wind, do what they feel best, and then there are overcautious ones who would like to please everyone else. I wont say it’s wise to be either. Do your own thing, but with some amount of effort put into finding out what is best.
Mother of a one year old called Zizou. Makes good mutton curry. Afshan is also the News editor & Anchor at NDTV sports.