The process of raising kids has changed drastically over the years—while our parents never worried about buying us expensive gadgets when we were young; 5-year-olds these days know how to use iPads like a pro. When I was their age, my biggest aim in life was to go out and get dirty while wrestling with my friends in the mud without getting a sound thrashing from my mother. So it’s extremely intimidating when I read about pre-teen kids developing and releasing apps on Playstore and App Store and whatnot store!
While in school, I used to think of having 6 kids, yes, you heard me right—SIX! I used to imagine living in this really huge bungalow with a backyard and a pool with 2 dogs and a husband. I used to daydream about a fairytale wedding and barbeque meals with my family on Sunday afternoons. Days passed, I reached college and realised that bungalows like the one I was dreaming of were built on real estate that cost several arms, legs, kidneys and other vital organs! So I adjusted my dreams. The number of future kids was slashed to 3 and the bungalow of my dreams morphed into a 3BHK with 1 dog and a husband.
Now, I am 26, unmarried and childless and life is so expensive in this city of dreams that I can barely afford myself, let alone a kid. The number of future children (or let’s say child) has come down to 1 (and that’s only because you can’t have half a child, can you?) with a husband in a 1BHK converted into 2BHK in Mumbai. I’m guessing getting a dog will no longer be an option. Sigh. I feel cheated. Is it just me or was it always supposed to be this hard?
I remember my grandparents telling me their stories… Of the times when their parents (my great-grandparents) gave birth to and raised a cricket team! It wasn’t the exception, it was the norm. And yet, they seemed to do it with relative ease. Everyone used each other’s clothes, toys (if there were any), books and combs. Today, telling a kid to make do or do without is sure to earn you a spot in parenting hell. I see young parents weighing each decision regarding their child as if it was a political statement that would impact their little one for the rest of their life. Will pink clothes reinforce a stereotype in my daughter’s head? Will guns teach my son that I condone violence? My parents had a pretty linear decision-making process—we wore clothes that had the biggest discounts and played with toys that made the least amount of noise, end of story! When my mom was pregnant with my sister, she went about her life pretty much the same way she did minus the pregnancy. But today’s would-be mamas are expected to read books, download apps, listen to Mozart (also, Rabindrasangeet, since I’m Bengali!)—all this while the baby is still in the womb! It’s like each baby is being groomed to be the most intelligent and intellectual baby in the world even before he/she is even born! And each mother has to provide a pre-natal environment conducive to just such a baby. Talk about the pressure! Phew.
One of my friends recently bought her baby a pram. Great. Except that the thing looks less like a pram and more like a rocket launcher. I kid you not, it has a frightening amount of technology built into it. Someone tell me, does a baby really need to have her butt massaged from time to time while her mother shops? When I see such contraptions, all I can think of is ‘OMG, if this is a baby essential then husband dearest and I will probably have to starve ourselves for a year to afford it!’ Also, I have seen friends using bizarre baby products like rose-scented ass wipes. Excuse me, WHAT? It’s your baby’s poop for god’s sake—no amount of scent can make that sh*t smell good! And don’t even get me started on the prices of baby clothes. When I see 4-figure prices on clothes for kids that are smaller than my forearm… It makes me want to weep.
Today, in order to be a mom, you have to choose between being a helicopter mom or tiger mom or lawnmower mom or some such fancy-named super mom—as if being just mom isn’t ‘cool’ enough anymore. When I was growing up, mom was just mom. And she was more than good enough. If it was good enough for me as a kid, why can’t it be good enough for my future kid? Maybe I’m being an escapist, but I’m not nearly ready enough for the pressure to be some kind of a super mom. I also feel that my 90s India was way safer and far more comforting than the India of today. The daily rapes, molestations, catcalls everywhere you go… Not to mention the buffoons disguised as politicians ruling our country, are enough reason for me to be cold feet about being a mother in India.
I remember getting bored as a child—there were times when I did absolutely nothing but stare out of the window gaping at the open sky, or sit in the balcony and look at our neatly lined beautiful flower pots. I’d want that for my kid too. To just sit and look around him/her and soak in the world. But is that even possible in today’s world? Does a child’s lifestyle in this day and age allow for the luxury of boredom?
Raising my kids in Mumbai would mean no place for them to go out and play. I grew up in our own house in Kolkata—a spacious 3-story bungalow with ample space, multiple balconies and a terrace. Still, we used to religiously go out every evening after school—out in the dirty streets to play with friends till the sun set and our mothers dragged us back in by the ear. Today, the kids have nowhere to go to play. No wonder then that they’re always glued to some gadget or the other. Where is the space for a healthy childhood anymore?
Having said all this, I’d like to end this post on a hopeful note. Despite all the challenges of modern parenting, I see so many parents around me who are raising kids beautifully, inspiring other parents and giving young women like me some much-needed faith that maybe, someday, I can do it too. Raising my glass of Martini to that one!
(Note: This post of mine was originally published in Yowoto on 20th August 2014)