There comes a time in your life, when you are down to the rocks and need all the inspiration you can find to hoist you upward. Last year, when I was struggling to be a parent of two children under two, I found comfort and inspiration on the internet. Not through books or written guidelines, but through mothers who were balancing the fine art of parenting more than one child and their lives with realistic ease.
Mom of Multiples is a series of such feature stories and the first to feature on it is Shweta Ganesh Kumer a.k.a. Times of Amma. An expat mom with the Sridevi like charm and travel stories that make you want immediately pack your bags, Shweta is an author, fitness enthusiast and a Malayali who loves finding her roots even on foreign sands. Her style of parenting her two children and the ease with which she connects to mothers across the world makes her the perfect start for this series. Find out more about here in the interview below:
1.Rewind to the day your second child was born. Were you prepared mentally for the shift in scenario? How did you prepare your daughter for the newborn’s arrival?
As an only child and an absolute bookworm, one of the first things I did to prepare for my second child was to arm myself with any and all available literature on the subject. I read up on coping with two and mothering two and handling two and so on and so forth. I adopted the same strategy with my daughter as well, by sourcing story books about welcoming a new baby and becoming an elder sibling. I also included her in the process from early on by taking her to the ultrasounds and letting her talk to the baby bump and make the “baby” talk back to her. For her, the baby was a real part of our lives even before he actually arrived. That being said, no matter how mentally prepared you are, welcoming a child home is always an emotional experience and it is hard to be completely ready in all aspects apart from being ready for whatever it is that life will throw at you.
2. As a mother who has been moving from country to country, what is your biggest challenge of parenting away from home?
I feel that my biggest challenges are cultural as I’ve lived in countries that do not have a sizable Indian or rather Malayali diaspora. As an expat kid who grew up in Muscat, I was brought up speaking Malayalam and watching Malayalam movies alongside Hindi. But I struggle to get that balance with my kids as it is mostly just me trying to give them a taste of their roots.
3. Nuclear parenting or parenting with elders around? Which do you enjoy the most?
Whilst I love it when my parents and in-laws are around so that my husband and I get time to ourselves and it is also wonderful for them to get that bonding time with my children, I prefer nuclear parenting. My husband and I have our own sensibilities about religion, LGBT and gender rights and politics and we feel that nuclear parenting works best for us as we try and bring up our children our way without having to fight for our right to parent in the way we choose.
4. Managing work, home and children without help (maid/nanny). What is your breaking point and how do you regain composure after it?
My breaking point usually comes when my husband is away. He has to travel quite frequently for work and that is when I have to take on the kids, my work and the house alone. Being in a foreign land, where we don’t have as much support as we used to, I also find myself stressing about imaginary “what ifs” – For example : What if I slip in the bathroom and break my leg and who will take care of the kids till my husband comes back?
I know that worrying is pointless and I do try and push unnecessary anxiety away by burying myself in work, but it always plays on in an endless loop in the back of my mind. When my husband comes back, I blow off steam by either having a nice long self-pitying cry or a hot bath and some chocolates.
Mundane solutions that do the trick.
5. What is the one trick that you would like to share with moms of multiple children who manage household and children on their own?
One of the things that I learnt the hard way was to reduce the number of things on your to-do list. Pare it down to the absolutely essential.
There was a time when I used to impose unrealistic expectations on myself and try and keep every ball in the air. I failed miserably and spent a while beating myself up about it. I realized later that it is ok to give myself a break and that not everything needs to be done right away.
In my case, housework comes last – so I just do maybe one household related thing a day – like cleaning the kitchen on Mondays, vacuuming the corridor on Thursdays and so on instead of trying to do it all everyday and collapsing.
6. Parenting is also the father’s game. How much does your husband contribute in raising the two kids and what do you like the most about his parenting style (presuming that both of you have different approach towards parenting)
My husband is a very hands-on father and a feminist one at that, which I love. I like how he lets the kids take the lead with activities unlike me, who prefers having a list or at least mental note of activities that I would be doing with them that day. He also inculcates in them the art of slowing down by making time to just sit and observe or loll about in a park or laze around. This is diametrically opposite to my own nature of wanting to maximize the day and keep at it. I also love how he is so very serious about their vegetable intake. Left to my devices, my children would grow up on dairy and carbs. But my husband makes it a point to get them to taste new foods and have a certain amount of vegetables per week.
7. What’s your ‘me time’ like? Do you take time off from kids and the home to recharge yourself? Workout/spa/dinner with friends? 🙂
Much as I would love to make me-time a priority as I advice other parents to, it is hard for me to translate that into big ticket items like spa time or dinner with friends. I feel like my son is still a tad too young and I am also the kind of person who genuinely enjoys hanging out at home rather than heading out to restaurants and parties.
I take my me-time in small doses throughout the day in the form of two fifteen minute low-impact work-outs and quiet cups of coffee. I’m not afraid to admit that I use the big guns of Netflix and YouTube to attain these me-time oases, but I feel it’s a worthy price to pay for my well-being.