Parenting in a Pandemic (I never thought I’d write about this…)

Could we all just stop what we’re doing for a split second to acknowledge how tremendous of a job us parents are doing with parenting during a pandemic?! Nothing could have prepared us for what we’re going through at this moment. No parenting book. No parenting podcast. No parenting resource. At least for myself, I can proudly say that my husband and I are simply winging it. For those who don’t know me, my name is Meenakshi Sharma — I’m a mom to two little girls, whom I call my little warriors: 3.5 year old, Amia and 8 month old, Aliza. Life is beyond hectic. Under normal circumstances, my 3.5 year old would be on her merry way to daycare 5 days a week, my husband joyfully (insert sarcasm) at work, leaving just me and the littlest at home to enjoy our time together.

I have to admit, my first maternity leave was a blur – a lot of adjustments, many unknowns, serious fears, and overall trying to always make the most of it. I had big plans for my maternity leave this time around. I knew that the time would go by fast. And just as I was starting to venture out places (because let’s be real, having a baby in the middle of flu season was also VERY scary), lockdown hit the world. So naturally, just like many of you, our life has pivoted. We weren’t big on setting a schedule — a schedule just naturally unfolded. So, I’d like to share a bit about what our day looks like.

  • Our alarm clock is our 8 month old who is clock-work up at 6 AM every morning (thanks, kid). But our toddler casually strolls out of bed whenever she’s ready. And to think pre-covid, we were getting her up at 5:30 AM to be out the door at 7 AM for daycare…that sounds cruel.
  • Breakfast consists of whatever we want. My husband and I have been trying intermittent fasting, so we get away with breakfast — but we let our toddler decide: oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, or on occasion eggos (normally on Friday’s).
  • After breakfast comes the tricky part, where our toddler usually asks us the most infamous question of all, “What can I do now?” During which time, my husband or I will very kindly ask our toddler to independently play for some time. Meanwhile, the 8 month old has had a bottle, eaten her oatmeal and ready for a nap at 9:45 AM. I think Aliza is the one who keeps us on somewhat of a schedule. 
  • We do get a bit of a breather (I mean this in the nicest way possible) when the littlest goes down for her first nap of the day, but that’s when I’m usually in charge of doing an activity with the toddler while my husband is working.
  • And then I don’t know how this happens, but magically our day fast tracks with lunch and quiet time for the toddler, awake and bottle feedings for the littlest one. The next thing we know it’s 5 PM and the husband and I have yet to figure out dinner plans. That’s one thing that we could probably be better at — MEAL PLANNING! I hate cooking. Much of the meal preparation (I’m good at sending him Pinterest ideas) is left to my husband (bless his soul). 

Of course this is a quick rundown of what our day’s look like. We try and head out for an afternoon walk because during the day we’re surrounded by construction trucks and workers. We have lots of dance parties and I wouldn’t be true to myself if I said there isn’t excessive screen time for the toddler. We are doing the best that we can. Having two little ones at home 24/7 is no joke. The demands. The noise. The crying. The tantrums. It’s HARD! Some days I’m hiding in my closet for a breather. Other days I’m on the floor fully engaged in playtime. And that’s okay. As I type this, I have an 8 month old yelling at me (it’s a phase) to pick her up. This time has been an ultimate test of resilience, perseverance, and commitment. I give myself grace for the days where I don’t feel like parenting and I encourage other parents to do the same as well. We do the best that we can. Otherwise, there’s always tomorrow. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself because I’m worried about the consequences of my toddler not having social interaction, not being outside all of the time, not engaged in a proper routine. But I very quickly remind myself that she is surrounded with love and comfort at home. She’s safe. We’re all safe. And my infant, who has literally been in isolation her entire life, is fortunate to have her older sister to look up to and play with. The two of them interacting is my calmness in this storm of chaos.

Although the school situation is uncertain at the moment, I’m mentally preparing that we might be at home for a little bit longer. If that’s the case, come September, I’ve decided that I will implement more of a schedule for my toddler that might mimic a school like environment. I say this now, but who knows. That’s the intention. And with Aliza, I’ve just accepted that she will not be attending daycare this year. And we’re okay with that. 

On that note I want to stress one last thing. I’ve said this before in a vlog but I want to mention it here…whatever choice you make or decision you take, be comfortable with it. Don’t feel pushed or swayed in a certain direction. Always look out for your family first. Avoid and ignore the judgements and eyebrows raised — you don’t owe it to anyone. We all are trying to figure this out but we all have to do so in a way that protects our physical and mental well-being. Parents, I like to say, take it one hour at a time. Recharge, reset, and reboot…do whatever it is that you need to. But always know, our kids are watching us and we need to set that tone for them. So as a takeaway (by all means this is just me trying to pretend I have it figured out), I want to suggest a few things that might help parents who are feeling the burnout:

  1. Ditch the routine from time-to-time. I know every professional will tell you that children thrive off of routines, but don’t we all love a little stir in our schedules. To switch things up, every Friday is movie night. Amia picks a movie, stays up late, and sleeps in our bed. And weekends…hah, we might have had pizza for breakfast one day Saturday morning.
  2. Communicate. As much as we’re sharing our parenting journey’s through this pandemic, a huge element to all of this fun stuff is communicating with your partner. In the beginning (and on occasion it still happens), my husband and I were butting heads about EVERYTHING. We’ve quickly realized, we need to do a better job with speaking up when something isn’t working. Whether it be with the kids or work. We have to talk to each other.
  3. Let the tantrums happen. I’ve observed my toddler having more meltdowns, and that’s okay. If us adults are feeling the daunting wave of isolation, so are our little ones. I let her have the tantrums. I give her space. I walk away. And after a few minutes we reconnect and we talk about it. This happens multiple times during the day. I’ve moved away from the “time-outs” to more so this approach. I find it more effective and it helps not just my toddler let out her feelings of frustrations but I get a better sense of where she’s coming from.
  4. Keep up with the laundry. If there’s one thing you can schedule, schedule your laundry. I still do most of my laundry on Friday’s to get it out of the way for the weekend. I’ve been slacking in the folding department but at least we have clean clothes. Even though we may not be venturing out daily, we make it a point to change out of our pj’s (at least the kids do) and yes after a week, the dirty clothes pile up.
  5. Have fun. I don’t want to make this some long-winded laundry list (but remember to keep up with laundry!). Honestly, have fun. The silver-lining in this entire ordeal is that we get to watch our children grow every minute of every day. It used to irk me that I would miss out on precious moments when sending them off to daycare and school. I get these moments now and that’s the best feeling ever.

Love to all, always. In the words of Dory (a favourite movie around here), “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

A Dad’s Story

My next vlog chat features Bobby Gulati, a well known individual in the #Ottawa South Asian community. He’s a husband and a dad to two beautiful little girls. I can’t stress enough how much I’ve appreciated this conversation. I’m so humbled that Bobby openly chatted about his story and his take on fatherhood all while navigating the many challenges of life. Trigger warning: during our conversation there is discussion about infant loss.

The Path We Continue, Pt.2

All throughout my pregnancy with Amia, Matt and I had one big question on our mind: what was this kid going to look like? Of course nothing mattered more than a healthy baby, but we couldn’t help but ponder at times. But I feel the reason why we would spend countless hours wondering is because we were continuously reminded of the obvious – we were going to have a mixed baby. The more that I think about it and as the years have gone by, and especially since having Aliza, appearance is such a prominent topic of discussion. I’m going to save this topic about looks for another post because let’s be real, it’s a thing, a real thing. Somewhere in society, we all created this theory that mixed babies are the most beautiful. Reality check: all babies are beautiful. So, let’s park that thought for now.

For this post, I decided to highlight 5 considerations/compromises/realizations (whatever you want to call them) that would nicely and concisely iterate some of the parenting challenges we’ve encountered so far all while being an interracial couple.

  1. Naming our babies

The days leading up to Amia’s due date, Matt and I were struggling to decide on a name. We were trying to find one that would best incorporate both the Indian and French cultures. Matt was adamant about the pronunciation of the name, mainly because he wanted it to be pronounced the same, whether you are speaking French or English. We also wanted to keep the spelling of the names as simple as possible. It wasn’t until a few days before Amia’s arrival that we decided this name was a top contender. Sure, you could argue choosing a name for a child, irrespective of ethnic background, is difficult – but we felt compelled that the name should have some flare to our respective roots. And the same discussion was had when we were deciding on Aliza’s name. Choosing names for our babies was very important to us. In my opinion, a name holds a lot of power; it’s sacred. It’s unique to oneself. It’s your identity. It’s how you introduce yourself to the world. I want my little warriors to carry their names with pride and joy – all while recognizing the significance and valuing their roots.

2. Religious beliefs

I am not a religious person. I grew up exposed to Hinduism and Sikhism. As a family, we celebrated many of the major religious festivities. My parents set-up a small “mandir” (place of worship) in our house. This is where we gathered as a family during prayers. If you were to ask me to recite “aarthi” (songs sung in praise of the deity) at the end of a “pooja” (a prayer), I very well could. What changed? I educated myself. I don’t believe in some of the principles. I don’t believe in the practices that are imposed. I do believe in a God. I’ve turned to the more spiritual way of belief. My parents don’t necessarily appreciate or agree, but they’ve learned to respect it.

When Amia was born, the question came up if we were going to baptize her. Matt is baptized. We didn’t feel obligated or pressured to baptize Amia, but we had an extensive conversation about it. Our conclusion was to hold off. If this was something she wanted to do later in life then it would be her choice. The same applies to Aliza. We don’t go to Church; although we have all the right intentions to bring the girls. We do go to the Mandir and Gurdwara. I’ll explain why. It comes back to my parents being religious, hence the blurb above. They still host prayers and as family, we have to attend. I acknowledge that Amia and Aliza will be exposed a bit more to these institutions out of…convenience? It’s hard to justify this – I’m not saying it’s right, but on the other hand, we’re keeping my parents happy. If we had more opportunities to attend Church services, we would. Matt and I are really trying to find that right balance to make sure not one religion is taking precedence. At the end of it all, our goal as parents is to make sure we’re raising genuine human beings. We hope to instill enough knoweldge that they will decide and know what’s best for them. We have vowed that we will never force our decisions; we will never impose our wishes or desires onto them. Should they choose to follow a religion that fits their beliefs, we will support and respect that decision.

3. Cultural norms

So, typically in the South Asian culture, women are regarded as the one to cook, clean, attend to their husbands, care for the children, and the list goes on. I never conformed to being this “typical” South Asian woman. I’m quite the opposite and in our household, things are different. I would say that Matt does 90% of the cooking around here. No one attends to anyone. And when it comes to taking care of the children, it’s split equally. Our family does not fit into any sort of cultural norm; we’re making our own. My girls will never be raised to believe that they are the sole caretakers of a household. They are currently being raised to understand they are equals in this world. Matt of course respects this otherwise we wouldn’t be together; and I feel he recognizes it more so now since having two girls. I hear it from time-to-time that I should be a better wife given my roots, but I just look the other way and proceed, very well knowing Matt has my back.

Another area where Matt and I tend to find ourselves in a bit of a dilemma is holidays. Matt’s side of the family is big around Christmas traditions. My side, not so much. Yes, growing up my parents would do their best to celebrate the mainstream holidays, such as Christmas by purchasing a few gifts and putting up a Christmas tree. But that was the extent. Since having kids, Matt and I have had to juggle expectations around holidays. I have adapted to how Matt’s family celebrates certain holidays and I understand that our children will take part in those ways. For example, it’s a family tradition of his to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas eve, to open gifts after Church, and to stay up and play games with the family. It’s cute. I enjoy it. I have no reservations. I guess where I’m getting at is that we do our best to make sure we’re conforming to what we’re comfortable with, as well as create our own traditions. We always reason and work something out with the families to make sure both sides are pleased. And again, at the end of it, we make sure it fits with our family.

4. Lifestyle

Matt grew up in a very lenient household. His parents were never overly strict. Their rule was that you could be out, but just make sure you’re safe. Me on the other hand, I had a curfew. I wasn’t allowed to just step out my door without informing my parents on my whereabouts. So, if we compare how we both grew up, it’s very different. Matt’s approach to parenting is the hands-off style, because he’s influenced by how he was raised. Let the kids roam free and explore – they’ll figure it out. The more they are exposed to testing waters, the more rounded they will become. To a certain extent, I agree. But it has to be within reason. I’m not comfortable with my 3 year old wandering in a park play structure by herself while we watch from the benches. I like to know where Amia is at all times. I’m the parent who calls the daycare about the slightest little concern. That’s just me. And I believe I am this way because this is how I was raised. I know as the girls get older we’ll have to evaluate how to handle certain situations so that Matt and I are both in agreement. For now, we do run into our daily disagreements about how to go about certain parenting decisions. But that’s parenting, right? Irrespective of backgrounds. And this brings me to my last item.

5. Who are we kidding? This is a never ending list…

We know that this is just the beginning. We never show our girls that we’re different than other families. We have our own qualities that are special to us. We feel fortunate that we can celebrate so many festivities and that our girls are exposed to different cultures. Matt and I are continuously striving to find the right balance and we know we have a long way to go. The key is that we have to remain open with each other and that means communicating our feelings and emotions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as parents our priority is to raise our girls as kindhearted human beings. We know questions will come up as they get older and we will be transparent and open with them. Matt and I are both proud individuals; we love our roots and share little pieces of it with our girls everyday. I never used to buy real maple syrup – Matt was insulted when I told him we grew up eating Aunt Gemima syrup (fact: French Canadian’s are big on their maple syrup!). And truth be told, I enjoy the real stuff. I’m guilty of playing non-stop Bollywood tunes around the house during our family dance parties. I live for Bollywood, so sometimes Amia watches a movie with me. Matt and I have elements and experiences that we have brought into this marriage that I feel will only make our children well rounded. We’ve adjusted to each other’s norms, the cultural and traditional ones. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re managing with a few bumps along the way. We know this is the path we continue and we’re fortunate to do it together.

The Path to Meet You Pt.1

I want to preface this blog post with a few disclaimers:

  1. I love my South Asian culture roots. I grew up surrounded in a culture enriched with love and beauty. I might not agree with some of its attitudes or perceptions, but that’s okay.
  2. I’m stating the obvious. I love my parents. We might not agree on everything, but that’s okay.
  3. This turned out to be quite the lengthy post. I felt it was important to provide context on me. I decided to split this into two posts.
  4. These are my opinions and observations.
  5. Every relationship is beautiful, irrespective of colour, race, or gender. If there is one thing I want my readers to takeaway from this post, it is to spread love and be kind to the human race.

Let’s hit the rewind button and take this story back in time. I am the first generation of immigrant children in my family privileged to grow up in a diverse and progressive society, the Canadian dream. Like many immigrants, my parents wanted to establish a life filled with opportunities for themselves and their families. My parents worked tirelessly to provide the best of everything for my brother and I. This meant working in jobs they were over qualified for. Or working odd shifts that did not give our family the quality time we deserved to spend together. Through the darkness, they never gave up. This was the epitome of survival. We might not have had the most lavishing clothes, but we had clothes to wear. We did not have the biggest house on the block, but we had a roof over our heads. We had birthday parties for many years at the local Pizza Hut because it was affordable and allowed for us to celebrate with family and close friends. And because my parents were dedicated to providing a better life for us, their children, the expectation was high that we achieve success in our lives so that we wouldn’t have to go through what they did. Education was key. My brother and I never had the easy way out.

Our first elementary school was located right behind our house. The school was predominately Caucasian. I have so many precious memories of this school. From participating in choir to attending the field trips to the amazing teachers who I still remember so dearly. I met my first best friend (fun fact: we are still the bestest of friends) at this school. Another coloured human like me! With her, I didn’t have to teach her about Bollywood movies or explain why I had henna (mendhi) on my hands. We had this mutual understanding of each other’s cultures that none of our other friends understood. In grade 7 I moved to another school and made new friends. Again, the population at this school was very Caucasian. But, I met another coloured friend like me again! We were in the same friends circle and often talked about our Bollywood movie actor crushes (another fun fact: her and I are still friends, even though she’s moved to another city). At this age, kids were starting to explore the innocent boyfriend/girlfriend relationship – you know, holding hands at recess, picking up the phone to talk to one another after school (something our future generation will never understand), sometimes entertaining the first kiss. It was all new territory. For me. And for my parents. I remember one of my first ever crushes. A Caucasian boy. He happened to show up at my front door one afternoon after school. My dad answered the door. He had advised this boy that he is to never ring our door bell in the future. And this is where the fun began.

In our household, dating was something you considered much later in life. Usually when you had completed post-secondary education and started your professional career. It was taboo to fantasize the thought of having a boyfriend/girlfriend. When asked why by my peers, the best answer I could give was “this is how our culture is.” It was frowned upon for a boy and a girl to even hang out. It wasn’t until mid high school that I could mention to my parents that boys who were apart of my friends circle. It was like walking on glass because I would get drilled about how my studies were more important than boys. This was my normal. But during my years in high school, my friends circle slowly morphed from Caucasian folks to more the South Asian crowd, or what we used to call ourselves, “the brown crew”. My high school was very multicultural. I finally found people who got me. It was here where I could be open about my culture and showcase my passion for dancing and music to tunes from my ethnicity. I did not feel isolated or marginalized because of my skin colour. I did not have to explain myself anymore. The high school years were the most critical for me; I discovered a lot about myself. My first real friend in grade 9 is still one of my good friends today (you know who you are) – we for sure thought we were going to make it to Bollywood.

I guess where I’m getting at with all of this context is that I thought my path would take me in a different direction than where I am today. And I mean that in the most positive way. Our experiences are what drive us to be where we are today, and I truly believe after everything, this was my destiny. I had previous relationships, some serious ones, all with South Asian men. I never eyed any other race. Why? It wasn’t something we talked about within my family, and I kind of wonder why we didn’t openly chat about this more. After all, we were/are living in a multicultural society – did our parents accept the idea that their children could potentially mix with other races?

It was the fall of 2012 – I was on a high with life. I had started a new position at work. Purchased my first car. I was in my mid-20’s and completely unbothered by societal pressures. My parents on the other-hand were all of sudden concerned about my marital well-being. This topic become a prominent one in our household. According to my parents, I had hit every check box on this fictitious list of becoming a fully accomplished woman, except the obvious one: I was still single at the age of 24. Because what does the culture tell us? That by a certain age, you should be married. That magic number is undetermined, – but realistically you shouldn’t be younger than early 20’s and you most definitely should not be older than your late 20’s.

I had no intentions to settle down in the foreseeable future. My goals at the time were to focus on the activist work I had started and pursue endeavors that I was passionate about. I resisted the thought of settling down because I had conceptualized that I would ultimately “get stuck”. And this brings me to another fault of my culture. Within the South Asian diaspora, the concept of marriage from a very young age has been portrayed as a form of worship. The wife must be present, both mentally and physically, at all times for her husband. She must support him in all his ambitions. She must cook, clean, and keep the household in order. She must wait for her husband to return from work before eating her meal. Get the drift? In my eyes, this felt suffocating. Would this mean I would have to sacrifice my life for the well-being of my husbands. Naturally, I was turned off. I’m a feminist and this ideology was completely against my beliefs.

But then life showed me once again how unexpected it can be. Matt and I stumbled upon one another at work. What started off as an innocent conversation led its way to something more serious. Matt was not my “typical” type. He of course wasn’t South Asian. I had my guard up. I was reluctant. But I decided to ride the wave. Matt and I started to hang out and quickly realized we had a lot to talk about. We also quickly realized how different we both are; I’m the extrovert and he’s the introvert. I admired his maturity. He admired my drive and optimism. We knew we would make a good pair. Now came the part that gave me all the nerves – introducing Matt to my parents. Matt and I still didn’t have a plan. We knew we wanted to be together but what did this mean for us in the future was still up in the air. I had to explain to Matt that moving in together before marriage was never going to happen. He simply replied with a puzzled “really?” – it was a foreign concept to Matt. As the months went on, my parents were warming up to the concept of me dating a Caucasian man. And then the questions of marriage started. And this is where the true realization hit that we were about to venture into becoming an official interracial couple.

Matt was not opposed to getting married but he also didn’t care for it. We knew that moving in together without officiating our union was out of scope. I want to be very clear here – there was absolutely no pressure to get married. We knew what we wanted and felt that this was eventually going to happen so we took the next step and got hitched. Admittedly, we took the fast lane. Matt proposed to me on his 30th birthday in September of 2014. We were married in March of 2015. The most exhilarating feeling was planning a wedding within 6 months. However, I sometimes still wish we eloped. It came as a surprise when I expressed to my parents that I didn’t want the typical “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. Again, I was this person who idealized Bollywood and all the glitz and glamour. But I had plans to spend my money elsewhere. Instead, we decided to make it fun and do a destination wedding. As much as this was our plan, we had certain obligations to meet. Needless to say, there were some obvious bumps along the way of wedding planning.

Because we knew not everyone would be able to attend the wedding down south, we felt compelled to organize a few events in Ottawa for extended family and friends. This was pretty much my side of the family wanting some sort of a “Average Sized Indian Wedding Celebration”. We decided to host a Sangeet, a pre-wedding celebration. We decided to have a Hindu wedding ceremony at the Temple. I would wear the white dress in Punta Cana. Sounds easy enough. It was quite the opposite. There were discussions around the type of ceremony, the length, the commitment from Matt’s side, why was there no ceremony in a Church? Weddings already are a stressful time. Add in two cultures to the mix and it’s a whole slew of managing expectations and realities. Personally, the only people who I wanted to please during this process (and that too within reason ) were my parents and Matt’s parents. I did not want the immediate family to feel uncomfortable or pressured into doing something they didn’t want to. I was as transparent as I could be. It’s a known fact that weddings in the South Asian culture are not just about the bride and groom getting married, it’s about the two families uniting as well. Don’t get me wrong, as much as it was stressful, it was fun. I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds: wearing the typical red attire for the Hindu ceremony and having the opportunity to go white dress shopping (yay to countless hours of watching Say Yes to The Dress!), dancing away at the pre-wedding celebrations, organizing surprises for our families, and the best part, marrying my love.

I had decided to keep the South Asian traditions minimal. I did do a haldi ceremony: cleansing your body with tumeric and yogurt to make sure there’s a nice glow on the skin for the wedding day. I wore the choodha set: the bangles to signify you are a new bride – usually to be worn for an extended period of time post nuptials, but I took mine off instantly. Oops! My mom insisted I get a manglasutra, a necklace that identify’s a woman as being married. I thought a ring was more than enough. Ultimately, I picked my battles. My parents were adamant in certain areas to be sure that this wedding would be organized in its proper manner. I get it. I was the first to get married. I had many emotions during the planning of our wedding. I had moments of doubt and uncertainty. There were so many complications with the mere planning of an interracial wedding; was this a glimpse of our reality going forward? Do you understand why I wanted to elope now?

I think through the planning of our wedding, Matt and I came out stronger as a couple. We learned the importance of standing united and not letting the little things weigh us down. We’ve stuck with this mantra for the past 5 years. Our path to meet was an interesting one. If someone had told me back in high school or my university years that I would be married to a man outside of my culture, I would have laughed. For someone who loves the Indian food, the dancing, the traditions within reason (I will never practice karva chauth – the day wives fast for their husbands longevity and prosperity), it was out of character. I am a huge believer in destiny and I truly believe Matt and I were destined to be a couple. Our paths met for a reason. We each have brought our experiences into this relationship. We have learned so much for one another and we continue to do so as the days go by. We respect each other’s boundaries and value that being forced into a situation is not healthy. There are always options when it comes to situations. All my doubts of settling down were overpowered by the love I felt for Matt. Our marriage is not based on worship. It’s based on respect, commitment, and understanding. It’s based on loyalty. I am supported in what I desire to do as is Matt. So, it’s safe to say, within reason, maneuvering the interracial gig has definitely been manageable when it involved just the two of us. But since adding two little humans to the mix, let’s just say it’s a different mix. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Impromptu Conversations That Fill The Soul

Being placed under self-isolation has allowed me to connect with so many people (virtually, of course). I am reconnecting with people who’s conversations fill my soul. Conversations that add value and help me grow. Conversations that spark more thoughts and ideas. This is what I thrive for.

I had an opportunity to have an impromptu chat with Sarina Jain. Sarina is a powerhouse. She is the boss lady behind Masala Bhangra, an Indian dance based fitness program. Sarina is also a mom to two beautiful little girls. She has established an empire all while balancing a household, raising kids, and much more.

As one of the organizers for the TD South Asian Festival, I was in contact with Sarina to bring her to Ottawa. And since then, we’ve kept in touch! During one of our recent chats over text, I asked Sarina if she would be open to a recording for my vlog. And, here we are!

And to keep the positivity flowing – Sarina has graciously offered free Masala Bhangra to all my supporters! She is celebrating 20 years of Masala Bhangra and is going strong! Give her a follow @sarinajain on IG and Facebook.

Link to the free workouts: https://www.masalabhangraworkout.com/email/freedanceworkouts!.html

Because Dad’s Have Thoughts Too…

After publishing my first vlog and hearing first-hand from friends, family, and supporters that I need to do more, I decided to do just that. I talk a lot about motherhood on this platform – and not to undermine our efforts, I think it was time to hear from a dad. I reached out my good friend Anuj one day and asked if he would be open to sharing his thoughts and without any sort of hesitation he agreed to do this. Anuj and I have known each other for many years and we have worked on a variety of initiatives within the South Asian community. Our conversations are always open and we don’t hold back, all while respecting each other’s opinions.

In this addition, I chat with Anuj on his experience as a South Asian dad – we probably could have chatted for hours, but we kept it short and sweet. Grab a beverage (warm or cold), sit back, and enjoy this episode!

Vlog pt.1

After a lot of technology setbacks, I did it! Turns out all I needed was my iPhone and a lot of storage. So, here are a couple of disclaimers before you begin watching:

  1. My child is crying in the background for 90% of the video, but I assure you Matt was with her. She’s a baby, she’s allowed to be fussy some nights.
  2. I had no idea how long my vlog was until I stopped recording. I’ve realized I can do a pretty damn good job with rambling on.
  3. It’s very candid. I spoke with a lot on my mind.

Here we go:

Mama Untold Thoughts Vlog Pt.1

Show some love and leave a comment!

And we are back!

Tardiness at it’s best – my last blog post was November 17, 2017. But here we are, starting fresh (it’s a new decade after all) and I’m so thrilled to be re-launching my blog. I have big dreams and goals set for this platform. And if there is one thing that I have learned since my last post, it is realizing that life is not a race – everything happens for a reason and we must trust the process that ensues.

I wanted my first post to focus on filling everyone in on what’s been going on in our life since my last published post. I wrote a couple of drafts but nothing felt like it encompassed the true emotions and feels, especially of the last year. One hope for this blog is to connect and be real about feelings without any fear – and I felt the best way to do that was to publish a vlog. This will be released in the next couple of days. Until then, I should probably share why I have decided to re-launch, and who is behind the added inspiration to keep writing.

On November 6, 2019, Ma and Pa were blessed with a beautiful little girl, our second little warrior, Aliza. Oh my, has this little one completely swept us off our feet and stolen our hearts. I call her my little buddhini baby (the female version of buddha; yes, I made that up) because she has the most contagious giggles and smiles.

Let me take you back to the day we found out we were pregnant. I took the pregnancy test and it confirmed I was 2-3 weeks pregnant. I was beyond happy. A completely different feeling. I didn’t feel scared or anxious – I was just happy. But also, busy. Because shortly after taking the test, I had to attend to my toddler -prep her a snack, play, change a diaper, the usual parenting paradigm. And that’s how the entire pregnancy felt; continuously on the go, running around, and never truly getting a moment to breathe. Before we knew it, it was the night before my scheduled c-section and the next morning we were bringing a second baby into this world. WHAT?

If you remember, Amia was born via an emergency c-section, and the recovery was far from easy, both mentally and physically. I decided to have a scheduled c-section for Aliza because I was skeptical to labour to only result in a second emergency c-section. I know many women have successfully delivered their second babies naturally, but I didn’t want to take my chances. Working in risk management, I did my fair share of analyzing and decided this was the best course of action. I had many conversations with my OB who reassured me that I was not taking the easy way out and also reminded me that even with a scheduled c-section I was still at risk of developing an infection. Basically, there was no easy or fearless way of getting Aliza out. So, it was decided: a scheduled c-section on November 6th at 39 weeks pregnant.

The months leading up to baby’s eviction date went fairly smoothly. Aside from being exhausted all of the time, I can’t complain. I enjoyed my pregnancy as I did when I was pregnant with Amia. I took exercising seriously this time around; I basically trained my body to keep working all necessary muscles so that I would not feel defeated post pregnancy. I wanted to feel strong after my c-section this time around – because this mama would have two little humans who would need her. Ah, that emotion was the hardest to fathom – that at the end of my pregnancy journey, I would be a mother of two. How would I be there for both? How could I love another? How? It’s unexplainable, but the moment Amia walked into the hospital room to meet Aliza for the first time, that natural flow of love just happened. I had my two beating hearts in front of me, in my arms, and I felt full – full of joy, full of pride, and full of love.

I felt mentally prepared to deliver Aliza. With Amia, I was heavily sedated and I vaguely remembered the procedure but this time, I took it all in. Matt and I woke up as we normally did on the morning of November 6th. We got Amia ready for daycare and my parents had spent the night so that they could drop her off. Matt and I arrived at the hospital at 8 AM as the c-section was scheduled for 10 AM. Upon arrival, I was asked to change into a hospital gown and wait for the nurses to come and get me hooked up. The hours leading up to the procedure felt so long. I was worried about Amia, about the procedure, about the baby, just about everything. I was given some medication to help with my uneasiness, but I was still scared. I joked with Matt that I wanted to go back home – I didn’t feel like delivering today anymore. But the time had come and the porter arrived with a wheelchair to transport me to the operating room. Once I was outside the operating room, I was told I could just walk right in (um, pardon?). I walked up to the operating table, where I could see all the tools, masked nurses, and my OB – who again reassured me that everything was going to be okay. As I was being prepped, Matt was outside the room getting prepared himself. The worst part about getting me ready for the surgery was that damn spinal anesthetic. I swear I can still feel that sting to this day. But once the spinal was done, it was showtime. As much as I was afraid, I also knew what to expect. I knew what the steps were. I knew that Matt would be coming in shortly. I knew. During my first emergency c-section, I didn’t know a thing. All I remember was a cloud of panic to get Amia out because her heart rate was dropping. I wouldn’t say it was a calm state of mind the second time, but it definitely felt less dramatic. There was no panic from anyone.

Matt was sitting by my side and I felt safe holding his hand throughout the entire procedure. I also couldn’t stop crying. And shaking. Oh the shakes! That’s the second worst part – having absolutely no control of the shaking. It took a bit longer for my OB to get to Aliza because there was more scar tissue to navigate through. And finally, one of the nurses asked me, “do you know what you’re having?”, and I quickly responded as tears of joy were flowing out the corner of my eyes, “it’s a girl?!” And at that moment, they brought Aliza to the warmer, checked her, and brought her over to me for skin-to-skin. The moment she was on my chest I just felt a wave of confidence. I remembered how to old a newborn. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Aliza was in my arms and nothing else mattered, she was out.

Aliza was born at 11:12 AM on November 6th weighing 6lbs 11oz and 19.5 inches long. Aliza didn’t leave my side – we were together in the recovery room and we tried breastfeeding and oh my did this little lady come out hungry. The only problem, my milk did not come in right away. And because my milk wasn’t in right away, Aliza wasn’t getting much. My recovery was going well while in the hospital, but Aliza was dropping in her weight and that made the doctor’s concerned. Of course, if it isn’t one thing, it’s something else that eats away at a mama’s worry. The best thing I could’ve done was continuously put Aliza on my breast – even if she was just sleeping, it was telling my body that I needed to produce. Plus, I was soaking in all of the newborn snuggles as much as I could, because this time, I knew how quickly this time goes by. And finally 4 days later, we were discharged. And then the real fun began, when we got home, as a family of 4.

Recovery was hard but I knew what to look out for. I took it easy. Aliza and I camped out in the bedroom. We didn’t see civilization for a while, but I was okay with that. Aside from doctor appointments, we didn’t leave the house. I was very paranoid and would ask Matt to routinely check my incision. I also always held Aliza. I never wanted to put her down. With Amia, I felt as though I had missed out on some of the most critical moments when she was first born because of the post surgery complications. I was re-admitted to the hospital during Amia’s time. I was away from her. And I sometimes still hold that in my heart. I understand that I needed to get better for her. But my mama heart feels as though I missed out on some key bonding time. So, I wouldn’t say I hoarded Aliza, but I definitely kept her close. I admired every little wrinkle, every little noise she would make (even those grunts), and smelled her freshness as much as I could. I still do. I often get told to not hold your baby too much because they’ll get used to it. Seriously? I can’t hold her enough.

So, welcome baby Aliza. You have just naturally made your place into our world. There hasn’t been many adjustments – sure, we sleep a little less. But who cares? I feel like people are always so concerned with sleep and feeding and questioning why our babies cry so much. Just a gentle reminder that for 9 months this baby was sheltered and comforted in my womb. She was warm and fed. The outside world is naturally a scary environment, with so many different things to see and smells to take in. There’s nothing wrong with a little rocking, a little extra soothing, or warmth and cuddles from mama and dada. That’s their natural instinct – and it should be our natural instinct as parents to always comfort our babies.

That got a little heavy, so to end on a lighter note, I’m going to get cracking on some editing and getting that vlog out. If you made it this far, thanks for reading away at my random mama thoughts – there’s so much more thinking and overthinking to come.

 

 

Just Pause

Finally checking back in. Finally found a moment to sit down and write. It only took me a few months this time. I’m proud I made it back to the blog before Christmas sneaked up on us. As expected, things have become quite chaotic around here. Best way to describe our busy: it’s a next level of busy. But I can proudly say that Amia has adjusted to the new routine and to daycare extremely well. I had no doubts. Her social and lovable personality just shines at daycare. She’s a natural.

Ma and Pa on the other hand are feeling the almost burn out point. That sounds scarier than it is. We’re not going to burn out anytime soon, but we’re feeling pretty run down juggling everything. From getting ready to head out the door in the morning (on time) to throwing some food together to make a quick dinner in the evenings, it’s a spectacle every single day. Amia is our priority right from the moment she’s up in the morning to the moment she’s in bed at night. We try as much as we can to get out of bed before her in the morning to get ready and organized. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When she is up for the day, it’s a rush to get things going. We change her (for the record, the toddler tantrums have begun), feed her, pack her bag, and out we go. Side note, I have no idea how this is all going to get done in the winter months, I’m already dreading it. We’re out the house between 7-7:15 AM. Roughly 95% of the time, we’re late. Usually because our almost 14 month old already refuses to cooperate and put her jacket on (like I said, I’m already dreading winter).

Matt and I carpool, so we’re usually at work by 8 AM and leave by 4 PM. Most times, actually almost every day, our evenings seem like a blur. So, since having a baby, I have become a huge germ freak (not a germaphobe just yet). I think I’m still in denial. But ever since Amia has started at daycare, I just want to wash her up every night so that she goes to bed nice and clean. So, that’s exactly what we do. Every night when we get home, around 5 PM, the very first thing we do is give Amia a bath. Followed by her carefully thought out dinner, her milk, a bit of play, and then bed by 6:30 PM. Any later than that and we are in trouble. And once she’s in bed, we manage to make a quick dinner and usually by 9 PM we’re out cold.

It has been close to 3 months of getting through this new routine. I’ll admit (and not ashamed to do so), it’s hard. And it’s not like our 7.5 hours of work are a breeze either. Since returning to work from mat leave, I got a promotion (yay, I think), and it has been demanding on so many levels. I came across a really amusing and relatable meme on Facebook that Jillian Harris (I’m a fan, if you aren’t already, follow her!) shared. It was the crazy lady from the Dalmatian’s movie with the following lines: “Me trying to excel in my career, maintain a social life, drink enough water, exercise, text everyone back, stay sane, survive and be happy”. As comical as it appeared, there was so much truth to it. Work has been a rollercoaster of emotions. And with all the adjusting going on, I’m still trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and somewhat make time for social outings. So on many fronts, we’re both still trying to get a handle on work life all while managing to balance our personal lives.

But the other day, something dawned on me. Matt and I took an “us” day. Something that we haven’t done in a really long time. And it was very obvious that it was needed. Ladies and gents, Ma’s and Pa’s, do it. Take a day out of your schedules and forget about the laundry, the dishes, the house cleaning, or whatever it is that consumes all of your time and just take a break. Talk to your significant other. Hold hands. Giggle. Drink beer mid-day. And embrace the moment. For the last few months, Matt and I have been consumed with our day-to-day routine and naturally bickering over the littlest of things, we just needed to step away from the chaos. We dropped Amia off at daycare (which I felt uber guilty about at first) and grabbed two coffees and made our way to Gatineau Park for a nice hike. It was quiet, serene, and no one in sight. It was magical. It brought me back to our dating days. The days of just the two of us. I felt selfish, but at the same time soaked in every minute of the day.

All this to say: I actually really reflected about us and realized how entwined we’ve become with our work life and our day-to-day madness; sometimes late days, sometimes work travels. There was a time where I felt I needed to catch up with my career because I “lost” a year. Such a big misconception on my part. If anything, the skills I learned as a Ma during my year off are being practised in my work life. Time management, setting priorities, dealing with difficult situations. I’m still learning. We’re both still learning. And we’re both still adjusting. And that’s just it; we’ll never have our set routine or confidently say we have things under control. Because the reality is life happens. There will be ups and downs and we’ll continuously learn how to handle situations as time goes on. For now, during this moment of time, I’m focusing on us and noticing how much of an awesome team we make to keep our little family of 3 going.

-Ma

 

You are One, Our Little Warrior

To our little warrior,

Today you are one. It all feels like yesterday: holding you in our arms for the first time, delicately putting on your first set of clothes to take you home in, walking through the front door with you in our arms. The first few days and weeks feel like a blur. Ma and Pa were so sleep deprived and struggling to get me back to being healthy. Everyone would tell us to sleep when you were sleeping. But we couldn’t. We would place you in the middle of our bed and just watch you sleep. Pa would doze off, but I just watched and studied you. How did we create such pure beauty?

I’m not sure where the last year went. At the time, the multiple wake-up calls during the night or the “witching hour” moments felt so unbearable. But those moments passed. As did those precious moments: snuggling you during skin to skin, holding you in our arms and watching you look back at us and coo away, or attempting your first tummy time session (sorry, we had to!). And just like that you were a pro babbler at 2 months, started rolling around everywhere at 4 months, sat up all proud at 6 months, slept like a pro since 7 months, crawled at 9 months, became a pro at standing and pulling up on everything by 10 months, and a daycare attendee at 11 months.

My little warrior, you have accomplished SO much in this past year and we are so proud of you. Sometimes, I sit back and just observe how you play with your toys and I always wonder what you’re so meticulously thinking or deciding. We see more and more of your personality every day. Your signature wave stops strangers in their path to wave back at you. Your joyous smile brightens a room. Your love for music shows the second you start dancing away (more like bouncing around). Amia, never lose that pure beauty that resides within you. Radiate that pureness everywhere you go. You are destined to go places and Ma and Pa will be there to always support and guide you. You are and forever will be our strength and purpose. We love you.

Forever yours,

Ma and Pa