To be a ‘wannabe’ progressive parent 

What is a progressive parent? Someone who does not go by the conventional rules of parenting and either introduces more modern outlook to life or help their child carve their own path. Starting from prolonging breast feeding, depending on formula feed, homeschooling, preferring extra-curricular over academics, not imposing their beliefs on the child etc. A progressive parent is someone who is clear on how they wish to bring up their kid; away from the traditional norms.

And then there are ‘wannabe’ progressive parents like me, who are wedged in between trying to give the child a more contemporary approach to life but stuck in ways because of societal expectations. I am often left wondering if I am doing the right thing trying to be different. 

To start with, I breastfed my child for 2 years and 2 months. Most parents known to me stopped at the one-year mark, but I felt that one more year of breastfeed could greatly help him despite being constantly told by many people to slowly wean him off. But I took my time. 

With the online classes today, I have got a better and more tiresome glimpse into my son’s academics, needless to say my 8-year-old clearly finds it a bore and instead prefers sports. Of course, he is too young to know what he needs to do with life, but at this moment, this is what works for him best. We have never been strict about it and given him a rather long rope to figure it out. While we say it doesn’t bother us, truth is the peer pressure gets to us more than him and evidently, and we find ourselves drawing comparisons. As a ‘wannabe’ progressive parent we take great self-restrain from pushing our thought process on him. 

Even when it comes to religious preferences, we have never imposed it on our son to follow most of the practices. Matter of fact, he doesn’t even know which religion he belongs to. Frankly, it was not intentional. But our focus was on more important things. 

Another aspect that is unconventional in our parenting is us not restricting our language in front of him. We try our best to not use cuss words in front of him, but we cannot expect the same from everyone else and of course, we also have serious Netflix addiction! In a social get-together once he blurt out the f word to everyone’s horror and immediately, we knew boundaries have to be drawn. We have told him that cuss words are not bad. It is just a way adults, who are above the age of 18, sometimes express themselves. He can use them too but only after 18. This has made it extremely easy for us and we are not bothered about him hearing those words because I am fairly confident (so far) that he won’t repeat. 

He doesn’t shy away from showing physical affection. As a matter of fact, he does not see anything wrong in expressing his fondness through hugging and kissing, ‘everyone’ he loves. But being a boy, I know he needs to be more aware of how he behaves around his peers. Although I clearly handled it poorly initially, I have come to a better understanding of this over time. It was an uncomfortable conversation, but is an important one. When I spoke to him about ‘touch’ and respecting another person’s boundaries, he took it to his heart. I even had an earnest conversation about feminism. Too small for it? I don’t think so. If we start young, he will have a more open and broader idea of life. And maybe, just maybe, understand the world a little better.

What did I learn so far? Just let the child adapt to new things at their own pace. Instead of pushing my ideologies, I think teaching about kindness, respect and generosity will go a long way. When it comes to religion or understanding the nuances of genders, I hope he learns on his own.

A child should accept what the world has to offers with open arms, not because he was asked to follow something but because he decided what is good for him to be a responsible citizen of the world. While I continue my journey on being the ‘wannabe’ blend of tradition and modern, I hope that my ways help my son and also teach me a few lessons along the way. 

Photo credit: jcomp 

Dealing with anxiety as a parent

Being a parent is to face challenges that you do not remotely anticipate. You make mistakes, ignore signs and just hope that things will get better. Add to it your own anxiety issues, and you have the perfect Molotov Cocktail. 

A child is bound to make mistakes, everyday; both Big and Small. Some easy to handle, some needs serious intervention. But either ways it is part of growing up. When we are handling their mistakes, it greatly depends on our rational thinking as well. Needless to say we have our thing going on and many a times take it out on the kids, making every issue of the child even bigger than what it is. Their actions can annoy or embarrass us and we end up being social pariahs. It can be something as simple as the child breaking an object in someone else’s house, being inappropriate with other kids or saying things that are much too big for their age. But they are kids, and in that moment of uncertainty we forget that they need guidance and not our anguish. 

Anxiety attacks are almost always temporary really, but those bursts of emotions are almost life threatening when you even question your very existence. I had earlier spoken about postpartum depression and how questioning your motherhood is a major part of it, but those thoughts stay with you forever. We work on it, take help, do everything humanly possible but it is tougher than it looks. It is not easy to talk about it and definitely much harder when you go through it. So when the child is going through something and at the same time you have an anxiety attack, what do you do? Do you have the strength to handle it calmly? Or just lose it? 

To stay calm during an altercation with your child is an achievement in itself. We try to stay as patient as possible, but there are those moments when you can see your sanity slipping away. What follows is truckloads of guilt and regret. 

Every moment of difficulty I have found myself questioning my way of parenting. But I have come to realise that there is no good parent or bad parent, there is only a struggling parent, who everyday hopes for the best and believes that the child will do better the next day. Mistakes happen and we deal with it, but sometimes taking time out for ourselves before we go maniac on the child is important – for our mental health as well as for the child’s well-being. So as I struggle to handle being a parent and dealing with things that I have no clue about, I hope that others elsewhere understand that sometimes it just takes a few hours of self-motivation to deal with the fragile world of parenting. When in question, take a deep breath. Everything else can wait.  

Handling grief with your toddler

We live in uncertain times. While most of our parents may have raised us in a different world where uncomfortable questions were dodged, today as parents we do not have that luxury. I say ‘luxury’ because being complicit in your opinions and awareness may give you the peace of mind temporarily but in the long run it can have wavering effects on the child’s understanding of the world.

About a-year-and-half ago I lost my mother-in-law suddenly, my son who was 6-year-old then seemed upset but didn’t grasp the extent of the situation. Truth be told, I felt he didn’t grieve his relationship with her. When he asked me questions such as ‘will she come back’, ‘are we sure she is gone’, ‘where is she now’, I gave the typical Indian parent answers ‘she is with the gods’, ‘she is a star now’, ‘she is always with you’. He accepted my answers. Or so I thought.

When the second wave of Covid hit India, and he heard me talking to someone about my worries, he would get deeply distressed. So I used to be candid with him and speak about what was going on. He would point out about the senseless of it all and reminded me how even his patti’s (grandmother) death was ‘unfair’.

Recently he saw the movie June and Kopi on Netflix and started crying about the dog. He was unexpectedly reminded of his paati again. And then it occurred to me that it has become a pattern. Every time he heard a tragic news, he remembered his grandmother. Evidently he did not process her passing, despite it being a long time ago. I was uncertain how to handle it really because my parents have never had such conversations with me and nor do I know how to comfort him.

For that reason, I put myself in his shoes and said things I would want to hear – death is definite and every living being on this beautiful planet Earth will find an end someday and they do not come back once they pass on. It is hard to accept the reality but nonetheless it is the fact. He hugged me and cried, and said he wished his patti would come back. I did not hold him back as he mourned. I am still not sure if he has dealt with it thoroughly, but at least it is a start.

There may be thousands of books out there about grief and how to handle it, videos to guide, articles to give you better perspective – but the truth is, it all comes down to one thing, your child’s maturity and experiences. Not every child thinks same, not every child reacts the same. We as parents have to adapt and evolve every day with them. As their personalities grow, ours grow too. 

Let’s Talk Abortion

Does the word make you uncomfortable and cringy? You are not alone. Abortion is a controversial topic worldwide, after all it concerns a women taking lead on what to do with her body. The dissection of why a woman ‘needs it’ becomes the sole focus. But that said, times are changing. People are getting more practical and understand that a decision like this is arduous on a women’s body and soul. Recently the Lok Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, which has made many welcome changes from the existing law. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go before a woman gets full authority on her body and decisions related to it. 

The new bill allows women abortion up to 20 weeks on the advice of a certified doctor. It also gives women upper gestation limit of up to 24 weeks on the advice of two doctors, under special categories that would include survivors of rape, victims of incest, other vulnerable women and substantial foetal abnormalities.

Historically in India, the first time the need for a discussion for an abortion law began in 1960s. Until then abortion was strictly illegal under section 312 of the Indian Penal Code (1860). As a matter of fact, there was a section in the law, which explicitly said that ‘causing miscarriage’ was a punishable offense. For legal and medical reasons, in 1966 the Indian government felt the need to liberalise the law; thus Medical Termination of Pregnancy or MTP Act was born. It is widely believed that the use of word abortion was purposely avoided so it would make it easy to get the law approved by the parliament. 

In India, till date there are unsafe abortion being carried out in the rural areas, these largely lead to maternal mortality with many ending up with poor health for life. A survey said that about 56% of abortions in India are considered unsafe owing to logistical and economic barriers, along with no access to good health care. 

Many critics regard the new revised bill to be more progressive compared to its previous counterpart especially because of the use of the word ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’. But it still does not give the women full leave as after 24 weeks, she is required to legally get a writ petition with the Medical Board to carry out abortion. 

Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi during the parliament session also pointed out the loopholes. “To terminate her pregnancy, for a woman to make that decision is mentally, emotionally and a very physically impacting decision that she takes in her life… For her to run across to various medical boards that we are talking about constituting, which has three doctors and some state representatives, I think is extremely demeaning to her, is invasion of her privacy, invasion of her choice and also creating more bureaucratic hurdles than needed at a time when she takes that decision… This bill is not a rights based approach, it’s a need based approach. That is where we are faltering and we are not allowing the woman to make that choice…”

Abortion law is one of the more debated laws from around the world, and why not? It defies the ethos set by the patriarchal society that existed for centuries. It was meant to control a women’s body and give the so-called definition of a family. American journalist and activist, Gloria Steinem once famously spoke about the abortion law, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.’

Several other countries are also making strides with more liberal abortion laws. In UK one can terminate pregnancy at any time to protect the life of the women, risk of permanent injury both mentally and physically or of the child being seriously handicapped. In South Africa, a women can terminate her pregnancy up to 12 weeks, and further up to 20 weeks if the women’s health is at risk or the risk of foetal abnormalities. In US, the abortion law varies from state-to-state with some up to 24 weeks and some completely illegal. 

Quite a few of my family and friends have gone through the process, and they remember them with regret, doubt and relief. At the end, no woman takes a call like that without spending a substantial amount of time anatomizing every aspect of it. It is as difficult and heavy as it sounds. So if you know someone who got an abortion or about to get one, do not pass judgement hastily – know that there is a high possibility that your view is blinded by your belief system built over generations. There is no right or wrong here. A woman knows what is best for her body and it is her instinct that will always outweigh everything else.

Start with self-love

It has been a year since the lockdown and the feel is surreal. The fact that masked faces and the word ‘social distancing’ is now part of our day-to-day vocabulary is not easy to comprehend. But here we are, still amidst the pandemic that has turned the whole world into a panic room. The year has been extra hard for especially those dealing with mental health. During the peak of the pandemic last year, I had sleepless nights. I was not sad, happy or angry – just anxious and had frequent panic attacks. 

So this year, I took the resolution of ‘self-love’. I wrote down everything that gives me anxiety and realised many of it stems from my insecurities. Thankfully, I can work on them. My hit list stands for the world to ‘judge’. 

Ignore judgemental people

Pay no attention to that aunt who asks you why you are not married, why you have not had a child, why you have not had a second child…ignore that uncle who cannot stop himself from reminding you about your weight gain. Just nod and move on. 

Be body positive

I have gone through so many round of weight loss and weight gain in my life that I feel my life is full of ‘before and after’ pictures. You are fat, you are thin, you are tall, you are short. We are meant to look different, feel different, be different. It takes a lot, but once you reach a stage of acceptance, you will feel liberated. Take care of your body for health reasons and not focus on superficial societal standards. 

Go easy on yourselves

We are often the biggest critics of ourself. We may not be aware of it, but we tend to punish ourselves more than anyone. Of late, I have been trying to eat healthy and every now and then when I sneak in a piece of cake or a scoop of ice cream, I find myself spending the next two days frustrated. We are allowed to give in. We are allowed to make mistakes. We are allowed to keep trying. 

Be your authentic self

Don’t do things to please others. Your self-worth is more important. In my twenties, many a times I did things to fit in a crowd or in order to please. Most of those relationships never lasted because I was never my authentic self. I always cared about their opinion and supressed my own, only to go ‘boom’ one fine day. It is okay to be politically incorrect at times.

Surround yourself with love

Unlike before, today I make it a point to surround myself with only people who have a positive influence on me. I hold them real close, even when I may be in disagreement with them. It is worth fighting for relationships that matter and discard those who bring you self-doubt. 

Self-love is easier said than done. Somedays I find myself struggling, but it is alright, tomorrow is after all a new day. Today I may not have loved myself enough, but tomorrow I will.