By Tanvi Saraf
I woke up today thinking that I would finally complete that work project, and strengthen that special bond with my toddler, and nurse my infant, while simultaneously coordinating the affairs of my household (which by now has been vanquished by the egos of its trapped residents in this Coronavirus world).
Today is like most days, when I wake up with a long list of things to do. You see – just after I delivered my firstborn, a serious chemical imbalance occurred in my brain, due to which I started believing that there are 48 hours in a day instead of 24. There’s nothing to panic about – this seems to be a rather common affliction which most mothers of our times suffer from.
Beep Beep. I receive a message on my “New Mums” WhatsApp chat group. Actually, this group was formed 3 years ago (when I first became a mum), but we continue to name it as such because each day, we discover newer ways of parenting. Today, a mum on the group has messaged – “Have you all tried Pediasure?” Another mum replies, “No, but I’ve tried Nuzest.” I immediately panic when I read this because I have not heard of either. I am gripped by insecurity because I think that I am denying my child the most fundamental right to a respectable upbringing by not providing her Pediasure (like the other mums seem to be providing to their children).
I spend the next one hour investigating the complex world of nutritional drink supplements and my plans of achieving what I intended to today are de-railed by social media (as they often are). I am getting increasingly anxious as we approach noon because it’s time for my toddler to return from school, and this reminds me that I have sent her to school in the first place. But, sending her to school is a decision I have taken under peer pressure, because all the other New Mums have decided to send their kids to school, and if we are wrong, then it is important that we should all be wrong at the same time, and that no one shall be left behind. I open the Coronavirus statistics page (which I have bookmarked) and concentrate hard, trying to divide the number of diagnosed children by diagnosed adults. 0.08% something…. This math is a welcome diversion because it is even more unpleasant than thinking about the Coronavirus pandemic.
My toddler finally arrives from school and she is crying at the doorstep. I think it’s because she hates to wear a mask all day in school. My infant is wailing in the other room because of hunger. My fight or flight response is automatically activated as I find myself stuck in the midst of two extreme survival issues – ward off hunger for Child No. 1 or decontaminate Child No. 2. I choose the latter and drag my howling toddler into the bathroom against her will.
The ghost of my missing maid is floating above me, bobbing up and down against the bathroom ceiling, side by side with my deceased sense of worth. She bolted right before I was due to deliver my second-born. I don’t blame her – practical career planning is but a natural human tendency. I miss her most dearly though and think fondly of her day and night, but I can’t replace her because Singapore’s borders have been shut down and smuggling in help is now strictly prohibited (like drugs). I emigrated to Singapore in search for a better life, but that was before I knew that one day, I would be maid-less.
My maid is watching me from atop and judging my inadequate parenting skills. She is wondering why her own 3 children (combined) never gave her as much trouble as my one toddler gives me. I don’t know the answer to that question. Frankly, I don’t know how all the mummies before us managed to get us to 7 billion in population and counting (especially without the “New Mums” chat group). As we evolve, our parenting skills certainly seem to devolve. I speak for myself, please don’t take offence!
Bath toys. The answer is bath toys. How cruel of me to expect my toddler to have her bath without being entertained. I log onto to Amazon and zero in on 3 squeaky ducks which will probably survive for 3 entire days until my child gets bored of them. Post that, I will need to rethink my bath-time strategy. After her bath, my daughter chooses to wear a pink tulle dress with lots of frills. This dress was bought at a time when we thought we would be attending parties forever. But sadly, the party is over.
I think my toddler has chosen this dress because I have raised her like a princess. She will probably grow up believing this as long as she lives with me, but I sincerely hope that she snaps back to reality once she moves out of the house and has to fend for herself. The world will have a rather huge problem on its hands if the next batch of millennials think they are all princesses and princes.
My parents, on the other hand, have raised me up to believe that I am equal. And so, as long as I continue to believe that, I will continue to work, try my best, while also bringing up two children. Sadly, nothing can be further than the truth, I think, as I hold my infant in one arm and frantically type out an email with the other. I am not equal. Some would say I am less than equal, whilst some (like myself) would say I am more than equal. Let’s just say I can’t afford to be equal, especially in this post-pandemic world.
On the plus side, I have discovered a whole variety of new breastfeeding positions. Necessity Mother is the mother necessity of all inventions. Laid-back when I am snoozing through a webinar. Rugby ball hold when I’m holding the baby in one hand and typing out an email with the other. Upright when I am attending a zoom call. Don’t be alarmed! They haven’t figured out my position yet. The zoom attendees spend 97% of their time looking at themselves during the zoom call anyway.
My toddler is still riled up from the anti-bathing protest, and so I turn to the one who co-parents with me, my oldest buddy, my partner in times of turmoil and uprisings. My iPad.
My toddler is now bathed, fed and asleep. I think it is finally time to pop that bottle of wine I’ve been meaning to for so long. Oh, but wait, I almost forgot. There’s another one waiting for me in the bedroom.
IF, and ONLY IF this ever gets over, I will down that bottle of wine in a few gulps, and thereafter slink steeply into that post-partum depression which I deserve, but cannot afford at this time (much like wine, or maids).
Tanvi‘s short stories have been published in Out of Print Magazine, and her satires published in Faking News. She lives in Singapore, where she works as a banker. She is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and post graduate of the Indian Institute of Management. She is currently working on a debut novel which she hopes to publish in 2021. Email: saraf.tn@gmail
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.