Friday, February 20, 2015

When mothering can be either - an instinctive skill or a learnt art

I have never been one of those girls who can say that all I ever wanted to be was a mother. Or that motherhood defines me. Or that motherhood is my calling. I wish I could, but I’d be lying if I did.

Parenting/mothering has never come naturally or very easily to me.

During those early months and till much later, I fumbled and fretted when I had to snap on a diaper or tie on a nappy on my newborn son. I got grouchy every time I was woken up by a screaming/hungry/uncomfortable baby (which would be a 100 times) during the night. I yearned for the comfort of my blanket and the serenity of sleep, when I had to sit through the fuzzy hours nursing my son. I ached for my pre-pregnancy self…that responsibility-free self minus the mummy tummy, the dark circles, the sleep-deprived brain, the achy bones and the bag full of self-doubts.

I didn’t like cleaning my baby’s yellow poop (and still don’t)! I felt shaky every time my baby would want to be a kangaroo-kid-in-mamas-pouch (which was all the time), doubting my capability and ability to provide him comfort (I wasn’t sure who needed more comforting at that time, him or me). I trundled through the endless routines that define a baby’s life…the same monotonous cycle of feeding, diapering, rocking him to sleep. The ones that were on automatic rinse & repeat cycles all through the day, repeated meticulously every two hours till I felt that my brain was ready to drop off.

I plodded through each day, praying for more confidence and patience, wondering if I’d ever be totally comfortable in this new skin, in this new avatar as a mom. If I’d ever really get over the overwhelm that came with the responsibility and this role packed within the span of 6 short letters and 3 shorter ones i.e. m-o-t-h-e-r & m-o-m.

My husband on the other hand, has been an instinctive parent from Day 1. When it comes to parenting (and maybe even flying), he flies by the seat of his pants. He has always known just what to do when our son howled/complained/pooped/fidgeted. It’s he who taught me how to snap on a diaper, hold/talk/comfort/clean/bathe/play with our baby.

19 months later, he still plays and works with my son with a sureness that makes parenting seem like a cake walk (now that could partly be because he just has to spend 2 hours per day and not 24 braving the various moods of a charming but challenging toddler, eh?! ;-)). My husband makes parenting look like a Kodak moment, like one of those breezy TV jingles, like a photoshopped image.

But for me, all of this…this taking care of and looking after the million-and-one needs of a small human is a learnt art and a skill that I have to work at every day. Even now and I suspect for many more years. I have to read, research, fumble, fume and practice before I get some of the basics right. From fixing on a diaper to dealing with a toddler’s tantrums to dressing a 1 foot high human being who hates the unnecessary layers called clothes to playing with that little dynamo, I have to study my techniques, learn new ones, plan and take every little step with a prayer on my lips and a tight rein on my patience. That’s the kind of mom I am. A ‘student mom’.

How I’d love to be a cool, confident mom with an in-born talent for mothering and an endless supply of patience. But after a little over 1.5 years, I know mothering is not one of my God-gifted talents. It’s an acquired skill, one that comes to me with a lot of hard work and head banging, research and reading, prayer and perseverance. If there’s one thing I did instinctively and without fretting, then it was reading to my son ever since he was a month old (now he loves books, asks for stories through the day, looks at picture books by himself). But the rest of it…it’s all been a labor of love. And I’ve made peace with it.

I’ve learnt to be grateful for the other skills I have, the ones that I’m weaving into my life as a mother. I’ve accepted that I can’t be a super mom - one who paints/writes/cooks/launches businesses with the same élan as changing a diaper/dressing up a mini dictator/handling the millionth meltdown. I’ve learnt that not all skills and talents come easily or naturally and that many of them can be acquired on-the-job.

My light bulb moment says that a learnt art need not be inferior to in-born, God-gifted talents. It’s just how you view it, how much you’re ready to learn, how you shape your own journey…as a mother and as a person.

#motherhood #mothering #lifeasmom #parenting

photographs by chandana & sandeep banerjee 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Back to being the girl on the kite – My shiny new blog design!

Hey you, guys!

As we land on a brand new week and take a deep breath to see us through till Saturday, I have something exciting to share with all of you.

After 13 months of blogging, I am finally ready with a blog makeover. This one’s a cosmetic makeover, complete with a bright and colorful new banner, shiny new social media buttons and painterly category tabs. Just what I wanted, my little space in the virtual world that’s full of color and the freedom to dream.

My original illustration

The little girl riding on the tail of a kite, excited about the possibilities of new lands and new dreams is so much of what I am about. Always tailing a new dream…mining the gold in the daily…exploring the possibility of joy.

So this is how it all happened…

After almost a year of using a homemade banner for the blog, I decided to add some sparkle and spunk into the visual part of my blog. I sent an illustration I had done to Pinaz Patel, my friend + whimsical graphic designer (she is the one who designed my writing website and you can check out her portfolio here) and asked her to whip up a yummy design based on that. The result? What you see right now. A fresh, fun and filled-with-freedom design.

But while we got the design ready, we still didn’t know of a programmer to help us with the coding…the very thing that gets the design off the computer to the blog. A blog reader and online friend introduced us to Arpit Soni, an entrepreneur and coder, who worked his magic behind the scenes and helped us execute what you see right now.

Thanks Pinaz and Arpit for helping create this! And thanks again for having faith in the project even when I disappeared for long weeks from the online world to take care of my toddler.

As I upload this post, as I write this blog, this change feels good. It urges me on to share my words and my life reminding me every day that I can’t let go of this dream no matter how chaotic life becomes. That even when the days are long and all I seem to do is what a mother with a young child does (follow routines, care for another, play, deal with tantrums), I still am a writer, an explorer of dreams, an artist and an adventurer on this journey called life. And even if I show up at the blog to type out my words every now and then, this little space that I share with you is worthwhile. It’s one small but significant notch in the canvas of my dreams. It’s a wonderful way to connect with all of you, one post at a time. It’s a lovely way to stay inspired and share inspiration one sentence at a time.

So thanks Team and thank you readers for staying on the page for 13 months. 

Let me know what you like about the design J.

#blogdesign #illustration #personalblog

Friday, February 6, 2015

My Winter Style Staples

I’m not a fashionista. In fact, I’m hardly interested in fashion, if that means copying the latest styles, feeling inadequate if not wearing what everyone’s wearing and trying to stay ahead of the fashion game. However, I do like style, when that means getting creative with what’s in your wardrobe, creating a look with what’s true to me and choosing a few pieces of clothing to buy that mirror my personal style.

I’m all about personal style. If that means wearing a pair of old jeans and a simple cotton T-shirt and sneakers for someone, then so be it. A person’s style should tell a story about them. It should be all about what they’re comfortable wearing and not about what the fashion magazines are flaunting. It should be about wearing what you own with pride and not about feeling deprived just because your friend turned up in an uber chic dress/coat/trousers/shoes.

So, this winter, I decided to discover my personal style for this cold, gray season. Psst…most of the time you’ll find me in a pair of warm track pants and 3 layers of woolens. 
I added a pinch of smart to the my otherwise comfy-but-boring winter attire by mixing and matching these wardrobe staples:

A few pairs of fleece-lined patterned leggings
A pair or two of treggings (I love the comfort these offer!)
Stoles to throw across my shoulder or loop around my neck
A few pairs of formal sweaters in neutral colors
Boots – a pair or three ;-)

I’ve used a combination of these to smarten up my act when my track-pants-and-three-sweater look became unbearable even for me.

Photos by Sandeep Banerjee

Surprisingly, it turned out that leggings, coats and boots happened to be very much in vogue in this part of the country, a fact that I wasn’t too happy about (remember, I like to do just the opposite of what everyone’s doing or wearing?).

But the bright side of this was that, after many years of wading through the cold, gray winters of Punjab feeling frumpy in tatty sweaters and thick pants, I finally got the hang of staying smart even in this unforgiving season.

What have been your winter togs like?

#winterstyle #personalstyle #outfitoftheday

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Another simple eco-friendly lifestyle option – DIY Hand-painted Wrapping Paper

Lately, I’ve been looking for simple solutions for our lives and home. Solutions that are natural, sustainable, and DIY. I want us to experience hands-on living. Life in a way where we get our hands in the mud; where we do more than just delegate; where we experience fulfillment in crafting the dailyness of our lives by being more present, more engaged in the simple rituals that make up the fabric of life.

So this would mean cooking more simple yet nourishing meals ourselves rather than getting a cook to do it. Gardening ourselves to grow a percentage of our own food. Painting and crafting to make our home warm and pretty. Creating home-cleaners at home with a few basic non-toxic ingredients. Having a good time as a family within our home (now that does not mean that we don’t go out at all!).

DIY and eco-friendly living also spills over to our gifting options and gift-wrapping options. Instead of packing our gifts with tinsely plastic foil, I’m trying to paint my own wrapping paper or craft my own painted paper bags to hold the gifts. It’s a simple yet practical way to fit some creativity into my days as a mom with a toddler at home (those of you who have little humans around the house, know how much of free time that leaves you with!). The final product looks pretty, it takes less than 30 minutes and pops out amongst a crowd of shimmery packages.

If you’d like to paint your own wrapping paper, here are two simple techniques.

Floral Watercolor Wrapping Paper

1. Spread out a large sheet of white paper on your work table.

2. Dip a broad, flat brush in water and cover the entire sheet in a thin layer of water.

3. Working quickly, dip another brush in your favorite color and paint freestyle (and freehand) flowers.

4. Cover the sheet like this. If you feel that the paint or water has pooled, ball up a paper napkin and dab it over those areas. Now let the paint dry.

Eccentric Streaks Wrapping Paper

1. I use little pots of tempera paints for this. I spread a large sheet of white paper out on the table and dab a dry, flat brush into a pot of paint.

2. Then, I paint strokes and circles and figure of eights around the paper, letting my brush be a whimsical ice skater making her way around the skating rink. Let a pattern emerge this way.

3. Once the paint is dry, paint some quick motifs like small flowers or ladybirds or big polka dots among the streaks to add an element of interest to the pattern.

Use these pretty papers for gift wrapping or scrapbooking!

P.S If you can lay your hands on sheets of plain white recycled paper for this project – then even better.

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