Recently a soon-to-be mother asked me-
” my mother and mom-in-law have both offered to stay with me for 3
months after my baby is borne. Who should I choose?” For a woman
who gets along well with her mom-in-law ( and her own mother as
well), it is a very tricky situation. To top it, the baby was going
to be the first grandchild on either side so both gradmothers were
very eager.


In a flash I remembered Sunita and
Rajiv ( as usual, names changed). Both successful careerists,
arranged marriage, very much in tune with each other and went for a
baby 4 yr. after marriage. Life couldn’t be better. Sunita took a 6
month break for baby and was promised support from in-laws.


Within a week of delivery, Sunita was
in a tight spot. Baby was hard to look after. He would cry every 2
hours, day and night. She had not slept well for that whole week and
soon naming ceremony was announced. The night before the ceremony
baby had colicks and stayed up most night. Sunita was like a zombie
in the ceremony, but saw it thru’ with dignity.


Her colleagues visited her often and
she missed the buzz of workplace. In- laws loved their grandson and
played with him when he was awake and smiling. Rajiv was trying to be
a good dad and changed occasinal nappy and did occasional baby feeds.
His company was going thru a lean patch and work was stressful so he
would came home late and crashed in front of TV to ” cool down”.


Sunita was getting edgy now. Her sleep
was still in bits and pieces, her body felt strange, smelled even
more foreign, her emotions were all over the place, tears and anger
were just below the surface all the time. She felt ALONE. Rajiv
seemed faraway, he was giving her space! Lots of it! In-laws were
being nice but they still had clear expectations from Sunita.


One day after she put the baby to
sleep, Sunita loked at the baby, herself and Rajiv sleeping next to
her and just burst into tears. She cried for the love she could not
feel for the baby, she cried for the anger she felt for her family,
she cried for herself who she could no longer identify. Strangely
crying did not make her feel good just more miserable and even more
tired. She wondered whether life was worth living.


I saw her a month after that episode.
She was thin, tired, angry and sad. But worst of all she felt lonely
and out of life’s race. Post-partum depression was not difficult to
diagnose but convincing her family that she needs support was ! They
could not understand ” support”, they offered to hire more maids,
Rajiv offered to come home early. Was that not enough?


What Sunita needed was someone looking
after her needs of rest, pampering, listening, sharing and just
having fun. She did not need people advising her on how to look after
baby she needed a person to look after her !


We know for a fact that husband’s role
after childbirth is to support the mother. Appriciate her efforts,
make sure that she gets enough rest, hold her emotionally and give
her positive feedback about her efforts to be a good mother. She
needs someone stable and confident while she is riding the hormonal
roller coaster.


Sunita was in a tight spot. I have seen
quite a few mothers with even more on their plate – difficult
in-laws, insensitive husbands, money problems, cranky babies and
worst of all babies with birth defects ! It is surprising, so few
actually become suicidal!


Eventually with lot of counseling and
family work and of course antidepressants, situation got a bit more
tolerable. I see Sunita now and then. Now baby is 4 years old. Sunita
works full time and Rajiv’s company has survived recession.


If you knew Sunita before, you would
not recognise her now. She aged 10 years in last four. She knows that
her world view has changed and so has her personality. She is not the
chirpy, competitive, fun loving, hard worker any more. She works well
and efficiently but can not watch violent movies and lovey-dovey ones
as well. She no more cooks non-vegetarian food and does not argue her
points that sharply. She has a happy family and is even planning a
second baby ! I know this time Sunita will do better and I hope Rajiv
will too.



All this flashed thru my mind when this
glowing, heavily pregnant, smiling mother to-be asked me about her

The answer is simple. Use following
criteria. The person to help you thru next 3 months should-

  1. Be willing to look after you and
    not your baby.
  2. Be willing to make sure that you
    get atleast two spells of uninterrupted 3-4 hour sleep in a day no
    matter what time that is.
  3. Be strong enough to tell off
    guests, noisy people if you are resting or feeding the baby.
  4. Not be offended if you are tired,
    irritable or just having a bad day.
  5. Be ready to tolerate mess,
    untidyness and smells in the house especially in living room.
  6. Be ready to ignore baby’s father !
  7. Will let you play with the baby
    when baby is playful and not hand over the baby to you the moment it
  8. Do all this with love, affection
    and sense of humor.


This is a tall order, very tall indeed.
But I know some women ( mothers and mother-in-laws) who did it !!

Children and Divorce

This has been a strange month. No less
than three times I was asked advice about protecting children from
effects of divorce. Once it was grandparents seeking help with the
issue because they were given custody by the court !


As divorce and seperations become more
frequent reality of a changing society, we need to have a clear
knowledge of protecting children from the emotional holocaust.


Many times I see couples who have
decided to go their own ways for their own reasons and want a stable
future for their children. Fact is – no matter how well you do it,
children will have trouble. Afterall they NEED both parents.


We can take some precautions to limit
the damage –


  • Be aware that children KNOW
    something is wrong. Do not keep telling them ” everything is going
    to be alright”. It will just make them more suspicious of you.Tell
    them clearly that things are not going well and it will take a while
    to get everything sorted out.
  • Don’t forget to let them know
    again and again that it is not their fault that you are seperating.
  • When finally you decide to move
    away into different houses, let kids know who goes where.
  • Do not go overboard with your
    promises about time to be spent with them, vacations, pocketmoney,
    etc. Promise only what is definitely possible for you month after
    boring / stressful month. This is very important as parent living
    away feels pressured to promise heaven just to be in kid’s good
    books and then come up with un- believable excuses.
  • Remember that you two have
    difference of opinion and kids have nothing to do with it. If kids
    make some choices, unfavourable to you, don’t hold it against them
  • Do not outsource your childcare
    responsibilities to grandparents / friends/ neighbours / new spouses


If you are the parent living away there
are some important things-


  • Do not undermine decipline of
    their permanent home.
  • Do not waste your breath to talk
    nasty things about your ex-spouse.
  • Do not spoil kids with material
    things and luxuries in whatever little time you get with them.
    Remember they are YOUR kids and whatever damage you do to them, will
    come home after a while.


Some common points-

  • Don’t expect kids to like your new
    partner / spouse straightaway. Do not force them to call your new
    spouse by – daddy / mummy names. It can just mess things up.
    “Aunty / Uncle” is also a no-no. First name is nice and
  • Be aware that kids can take you
    for a ride by telling horror stories about your ex-spouse. Do not
    believe everything they say !!


Now go ahead and enjoy that hard earned

Moving Continents and Cities too.

Moving Cities / Continents


Last week in a get together,
a friend got talking. He was very worried about his children’s future in India.
He was re-thinking about his move to India from US.


Main concerns were- quality
of education, effect of other children’s behaviour, change in accent, health
and physical environment (in city).


His tone was of worry and I
could empathies with him, having made a move to India more than a year ago.

Many families move a great
deal now. Some move continents and some move within India from state to state.
Moves within India can also be quite stressful due change of language, food and


Let’s look at this issue one
by one –

1.   Quality of education – First of all let me make clear
that in spite of my multiple degrees and excellent academic record, I am not a
great fan of education (at least till secondary school level). What one really
learns from school till age of 15 is- the process of learning, social skills
and self-discipline. These three issues should be bedrock of education till age
of 15.

city schools of present days are far better equipped than the school we went to
as children. Proponents of American, British or any western school will realize
that in such schools, emphasis is on creating good environment for learning. If
you can help your child to stay out of the rat-race mentality, they will face
the world readily no matter which school they go to.

choosing a school some things to remember are – no. Of children in each class (
at the most 35), staff turnover rate of the school, proximity to your home,
availability of playground, attitude of school towards rat-race and of course

Effects of other
children’s behaviour – Children learn a great deal from other children of their
age group. That has its advantages in language development, sports activities
and social skills. Most apartment complexes in modern Indian cities have dozens
of kids and that helps in finding playmates. Children moving in from western
countries often find it difficult to adjust with Indian kids who can be quite aggressive
on play ground and have very loose personal boundaries and ideas of ownership (
they think it’s okay to use other’s toys/ bicycle without permission and not
bother with excuse me/ please and thank you). As a parent we can always model
good behaviour for our kids and that has a longer lasting effect than that of
other kids’ behaviour

Change in accent
/ language – in an increasingly mobile world, being multilingual is a great
advantage. There is some evidence that people using different languages (with
different grammatical structure) have better problem solving abilities. What
better place to learn languages than our melting pot cities?

Health &
Physical environment – With high levels of pollution, overcrowding, limited
open spaces and traffic, Indian city is not an ideal place for a child to grow.
This is one point I cannot argue with and it is really your call. Fortunately
for the affording class, healthcare facilities are good in India. Where else in
the world you can find a doctor at the other end of a mobile phone at all



Real issue is- how
comfortable are YOU with the move? If parents are at peace with them and find
their work and life more satisfying after the move, it will reflect greatly on
their mood, interactions and overall family life. Happy parents bring up happy


Ultimately, it is not about
kids. It is about how you cope with change. In my experience with tens of such
families around me, kids have always coped a lot better than their parents!!

Happy Diwali to all readers

Wish you all a very Happy Diwali and a Great New Year.

Make sure that your kids are safe around fire crackers. My family has decided to do away with noisy fire crackers this year. We plan to use only visually spectacular stuff.

Buying crackers was an exercise in budgeting and maths. Kids did not like it one bit, but you can not please everybody.

I hope to write more regularly this year. Let me know what you want on this blog.

I have tried a new minimalist look. What do you think?

take care and have a great festive season.