How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood*

madmum

Impossible is nothing.

That one line got me into advertising. I didn’t own a single Adidas product until last month (Dem Superstars got me), but that tagline blew my mind (as did the whole speech by Ali).

And advertising is everything it promised to be! The ideas and the mental blocks, the little wins and the epic crashes, the stress and the drinking, the stress drinking, the exhaustion and the exaltation, the imagination, the lies and the promises, the celebrations.

No segue needed.

How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood* 

Mr. O, the Art Director.

“I can’t wait to start working with you on the awesome puzzle that we’ve both been dying to start all week.”

Open the box. Too much excitement.

“Wow, that’s a great idea! How about this? No, let’s try my way. That doesn’t make sense.

Hate the colours, hate the design, hate the puzzle. Your opinion is shit. It’s all shit anyway.”

Done.

“Wow, I’m a fucking genius.”

Mr. O, the Creative Director.

“Yay! You have a story for me. I cannot wait for you to blow my mind.

Aha aha. Hmm. Ok I see what you’re trying to say. I love it. But maybe a dragon comes and drives an ambulance over the seahorse. I want fire-breathing dragons. And dying seahorses. Unexpected, but believable.”

Mr. O, the Account Manager.

“I love you so much. You’re my favourite person in the whole world. I would trust you with my eyes closed, but my hands are tied. I simply cannot eat this meal you’ve painstakingly prepared for me. I want to. Oh how I believe in it, but I just can’t. My hands. Damn these shackles. Love you, though. The best.”

Mr. O, the Producer.

To mum: “Dude. I’d pick you over him (dad) any day. You’re so much more fun. He just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

To dad: “Dude. I’d pick you over her (mum) any day. You’re so much more fun. She just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

Mr. O, the HR guy.

Casually strolling down the hallway after bedtime.

My brain: HOLYFUCKINGSHIT WTF IS THIS GUY DOING HERE OUT OF THE BLUE? I should just go clear my desk.

Mr. O, the Supplier.

“Ohhh you wanted to me shower today?? Oohhh see I thought you said next Tuesday. Oh no. I can’t do it today. Trucksninjasbikes. Maybe be more clear next time? I’ll still have that bribe cookie though, thanks.”

Mr. O, the Copywriter.

“Yes, that’s e before i, 2 comes after 1, and B is for butterfly.”

To himself: “Geez. They wouldn’t survive a day without me.”

Impossible is a toddler.

*Nothing trains you for parenthood. Not even parenthood trains you for parenthood. Also, Title Case Because Advertising. 

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School-mumming it.

 

schoolmum

We’ve been on the move for 16 months. And after 16 months of stay-at-parent’s-home-mumming it, I was ready for school. I was looking forward to school. Then they go and ruin it all by saying something stupid like uniforms and packed lunches.

I’ll be right here when you’re done singing, thank you.

I’d gladly jump on the emotional roller coaster again, over packing a healthy lunch EVERY DAY (turns out that doesn’t include peanut butter sandwiches. Wtf?), and trying to remember when PT day is. And ironing uniforms. No way, man.

I seriously considered leaving him at home with my mum till he’s old enough to pack his own lunch. I’m sure she loves it. I mean, she’s bloody good at it. And isn’t that how the female psyche works?

But alas, it’s their way or the highway to jail for not educating your child.

So off I went, lost and confused, into the world of adulting: level 4000.

The night before.
I’m armed with my to-do list and there’s nothing I haven’t thought of. I triple check my extensive list with military precision to make sure my almost 3-year-old brings his A-game to his first day at pre-kinder.

The complete list:

  1. Breakfast at home.
  2. PT uniform.
  3. Pack lunch and fruit.
  4. Carry water bottle.

Uniform has been laid out, his jam sandwich has been sandwich-artisted out within an inch of its life.

Day 1.
I’ve taken the day off to celebrate my son’s coming-of-kinder-age. We walk into the school and are instantly part of the single entity that is a giant finger-crossing, wide-grinning and knee-wobbling parent. He loves it. We run out.

5 hours later, I wait for our regular cab to take me to pick him up. Except his car has unexpectedly broken down at the last micro second. I go from Snoop Dog chill to Tasmanian Devil chill.

I arrive 10 mins late, but luckily telling time wasn’t part of his lessons today. He’s happy. We run out.

Day 2.
I’m up at 3am. We have a leaky-nappy-but-we-haven’t-worn-a-nappy-in-months situation. I soothe his bruised ego and we cuddle in my bed. It’s his turn to hate life, not mine. When morning comes, all is forgotten and we’re super excited for school. The uniform looks too large for his tiny frame. A strand of hair is on strike and refuses to calm down. Everything is perfect.

I may have patted my back too hard, because halfway to work I remember that I did not feed my child breakfast. Lunch isn’t till 11:30am. It is 7:30am. Mum of The Goddamn Year.

Day 3.
Breakfast is ready early; he’s smashing his peanut butter sandwich and I’m smashing this school-work balance game. We’re in the car and I notice a blob of peanut butter on his uniform. Spit. Wipe. Keep going.

Day 4.
My mum calls after she’s picked him up from school at noon. I forgot to pack his bunny “Hops”. He is not happy and the cats in the neighbourhood have been spotted fleeing the area with bleeding ears.

Weekend.
Whatthefuck just happened?

Week 2.
Repeat. With more sophisticated crises.

To the parents who “design” their kids’ lunch boxes, polish their shoes, and make it look easy…

clap

 

 

Another month, another move

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It’s 7:15pm and I just want to crawl into my parents’ pull-out sofa bed and pass out.

12 hours earlier we left our spotless new apartment, with stars in our eyes and crumpled clothes on our backs. This was it, our first official workday from our new home.

It’s 7:18pm and we’re taking the familiar elevator up to my parent’s home to pick our son up and say no to my mum’s requests to have dinner with them – just twice, before we say yes.

We’re late because we went to buy groceries for the little guy, who starts school tomorrow. We stood in front of the vegetable aisle for 5 minutes trying to tell spinach apart from every other green leafy leaf. (It’s been 17 months since we last cooked. And last time we shopped, “spinach” was written in English. And we forgot.)

It’s 7:30pm and I’ve shamelessly handed over the freshly bought chicken and pasta to mum, asking her to cook my son’s school lunch.

It’s 7:31pm and I am so ashamed. I’ll chastise myself when I get that half an hour extra of sleep tomorrow night.

The last time I did this, it was so much fun. The novelty of sitting on the floor and eating pizzas, of picking clothes out of boxes and of imagining all the ways to fill up your corner space, is now replaced with a crippling case of nerves and fatigue. And fatigue.

It’s 8:05pm and we’ve been saying bye for about 6 minutes now. I don’t know what we’re expecting: for them to ask us to stay over tonight or to stay forever?

We enter the new place and are instantly glad to have our own space. Except when we see the kid’s lunch bowl and bottles in the sink. Why can he just use paper plates and cups like we do?

It’s 11.38pm and the only stars in my eyes now are the ones swirling around my head.

Kid’s school lunch only took about 2 hours of prep time. That should do – to impress the teachers, that is; he’s going to reject it anyway.

1t’s 12:18 and I’ve been awake for 18 hours and need to be up at I’ll-smash-that-goddamn-alarm o’clock. I’m writing this random piece because I’m overtired and cannot sleep.

Sorry, what were we talking about? I dozed off for a minute there.

Oh yeah, new house. Yay!

Yo’ mama needs a break.

He’s a skinny boy, with nary a growth spurt in sight. He’s crawled into our bed sometime between deep sleep and morning dreams, and has now taken over my space and sleep.

I carefully slip his warm weightless arm off mine and pick up my cold weightless phone. It doesn’t take a new-age embrace-your-child-or-ruin-them-forever mama to point out what was wrong there. So I toss my phone aside and pick up his little arm again.

Why stop there? Look at the little guy lying there, curled up beside me. All trusting and cushy. So I nudge closer and scoop him up in my arms. Oh his little frame so close against mine makes it feel like he is in my womb again. All mine, and mine alone.

He promptly kicks me in the groin and rolls away to a less needy pillow.

Little turd. Doesn’t he know I made him? And that I know several other mummy clichés?

  1. I wake up with bumps along my brow and cheekbones, because for a puny 2 year old, he head-butts like a pro-wrestler.
  1. Every muscle in my body aches from changing his clothes. It’s like trying to slip 4 pairs of wet tights on a wriggling octopus – blindfolded – with one hand tied behind my back.
  1. These days, when I gather him up after a fall to “take the pain away” with the age-old remedy of mama’s kisses, suddenly it’s: “Yucky. Too much kisses, mama. Don’t dooo that.” (While I thank M for passing on his ability to crack everyone up, I very proudly take credit for his witty comebacks. And oh how it has come back.)
  1. My body is a bean bag (put that in your song, John Mayer), and not just in reference to the shapelessness. When it comes to my lap, my son has called shotgun for eternity. Once seated on me, he proceeds to squish and squirm and jump and curl and stretch and wildly trash about as if possessed by the devil. His elbows, head and knees have a way of giving me a deep tissue massage from hell.
  1. When I try to reflect on my life and where I’m headed, the thoughts come unbidden to me. What’s for dinner, what’s in the pantry, what’s in the laundry, what should we do tomorrow to keep his mind active, all the ways I could be stifling him, all the ways I’m not nurturing him, everything I’ve not done for my husband that I used to and vice versa, all the free time I have that I don’t use…was that the baby crying?? I should go. I shouldn’t. Maybe just this once. One time can set a habit. Aaarrrgghhhhhhh.

Hence, this post.

Hence. This. Post.

There comes a time in every parent’s week. When you’ve been smacked, kicked and yelled at. When the naughty corner gives them enough time to come back with an apology, but doesn’t give you enough time to calm down. When all the cuteness in the world becomes a blur. And then, you lose it when they accidentally drop a pen.

You know you can’t be angry with anyone in particular, but you want to be. You know you’re not a victim, but every bit of you hurts. You’ve got a mostly calm and independent child, so saying you haven’t had any me-time just doesn’t feel right. Even when the most well-intentioned partner, parent or friend offers to help out, your brain cannot detach.

Which is why, even when the baby has been an angel, you still need an out. Except, you’re guilty to even say the words.

Come on mamas say it with me: I need time away from my child and that’s okay.

Even when my child has done nothing but sleep all day, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve had a relaxing weekend and an easy week at work/ home, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve spent all day at work, and come back to a whiney little sook. I momentarily wish I was still at work, and I hate myself for thinking that. That’s okay, too. On both counts.

They’re cute as hell and bottomless pits of love and adoration. The joy they give us is pure and overwhelming. And we still need time away and that’s okay.

In 2 days when it’s Mother’s Day and they make cutesy hand-drawn cards, but we secretly wish they gave us some solid baby-free, chore-free time – that’s okay, too.

Because if I’m not okay, they’re not okay.

mama

Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

(Mostly to my mum, who’s had to endure us, and now our kids, without a minute’s break.)

The (un)fairer sex.

HeForShe

 

I am a feminist.

Because I am a feminist.

Recently there was a douchebag espousing some douchbaggery against feminism, homosexuality and fireflies, I think. In general, I’d ignore these living-in-my-mum’s-basement idiots who call themselves kings. But I reckon we need to hear this one out.

Not because everyone has a right to their opinion (which include terms like legal rape, fat girls and anti-gay), but because this thing has followers. Men who feel vindicated and emasculated by “feminazis”.

And women who agree with them. Women who think that we’ve “taken this too far” are mocking every woman who has been verbally and physically abused by men because she’s just a girl. They’re mocking every woman who was beaten and jailed for standing up for our right to vote.

I respect that women shouldn’t pull other women down. But if we can call men out on sexism, then feminism says that we should call everyone out equally.

In these past few months of travelling and living in different parts of the world, I’ve been exposed to a comfortable bias that makes me very uncomfortable.

It started with the stares I got when I asked M to help with taking the baby to the loo, washing his bottles or with the laundry. The stares are mostly puzzled, but a few stares also reek of disdain.

At first, I was enraged with the attitude. As if it’s below the “man” to do such menial tasks. But with time – it’s pretty clear that it isn’t male superiority that’s being honoured. It’s male ineptitude.

It’s the inside joke that men can’t do a good enough job.

If I was at the receiving end of the stares, M was nothing short of a spectacle either. He did, after all, get onto what he needed to do. What I asked him to do

Because what wasn’t obvious to me through my equality-tinted glasses was that men weren’t wired to do certain things. Like care for a baby, or step into the kitchen without making a giant mess for us poor – but efficient – women to clean up, or god-forbid boyishly forget to separate the colours from the whites. We, women, should just do those chores and save ourselves the trouble of explaining it to the men or waste time picking up after them.

Would you want to be the butt of that inside joke?

EW.png

When organisations promote the hiring of women, I see how desperately we need this, but I wonder if it is working against equality? Yes, we need to see it in writing because the norm has become to look at a woman as a flight-risk, and a mother as a liability. But no, we’re not getting promotions because we wear skirts. We sometimes wear pants, too.

Women before me have spent years trying to crack that glass ceiling for the rest of us, yet, unfortunately, we still get asked: “how do you think you can do this job, given you have a 2 year old and all?”

Better. The answer is: She can do the job better (than you).

Her patience is reserved for the said toddler, so don’t push it. Her skill levels just went up 1000 points the minute she learnt how to negotiate meal times and bedtimes (even if it worked just that one time). She won’t crack under pressure; she’s seen her soft-headed baby roll off the bed, she’s calmly cleaned dinner off the floor that only took her all afternoon to make, and she’s brought down 40 degree fevers with her own bare hands.

So yes, I think she can do your silly little job.

Men don’t get asked this question at interviews. Don’t dads want to run home on time to feed their kids? Or stay home when the little person is ill? Aren’t they just as distracted when they know their baby is in someone else’s care? Between my dad, M and friends who are dads, I know they would cringe at the thought of being the inconsequential parent.

Sexism discriminates. And it doesn’t give a flying fuck as to what gender you are.

If you’re still struggling to see the need for feminism, then look at this way: The minute women and men are considered equal, it’ll be a world where “will he be able to watch the kids?” is just as absurd as “will she be able to get the job done?”

A world where boys are free to feel and girls feel free to be. Where asking for help isn’t “girly” and being immature isn’t “boyish”. Where both boys and girls feel safe to walk home alone at night. Where both men and women know they’re getting paid for their hard work and not their gender.

Where you can choose if you want to be a girl or a boy or both or neither. Or if you want to be with a boy or a girl or both or neither. Because not one of them is less than the other. Because we’re all unique, and we’re all equal.

I am a feminist. Because I am a feminist.

Drawing a blank

Among all the voices in my head, I tend to be partial to my most reasonable one (she’s making me write this, what I really mean is judgmental and self-conscious asswipe). And this wise voice thinks that the three posts I’ve been writing over the last few days are just not cutting it. Maybe I should remind her that I don’t have very high standards.

Seven days since my last post. The last time I was this uninspired, my husband and I decided to pack our bags and leave town. Where do you go when you’re uninspired on the road? Back home?

I’m thinking I should suck it up and use my imagination.

Update: My imagination just flipped me off and went back to staring at the wall.

blank

 

Maybe one of the reasons I can’t seem to focus is that I’ve been writing while my mum watches her Hindi TV shows in the background. And oh my good merciful god, that is some seriously insane TV. I mean, I’ve been a TV snob since Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones happened to me, but I also have some incredibly low standards when it comes to soaps and day time shows, and this stuff smashes those standards!

I can either blame the shows for my brain freeze or own up to the fact that I’ve got nothing here. So I’ll blame the shows.

May I please take a moment to talk about one of them?

I’ll take that as a yes.

(If completely bullshit posts are just not your thing, may I recommend this, this or this.)

So one show is about a divorced dad and love-spurned woman, who were neighbours until they were forced to marry because his child considered her to be the mother (good thing the kid didn’t think they were all mer-people and had to move back into the ocean). Anyway, they have a cutesy, sleeping-in-separate-beds kind of relationship that seems more realistic than the art-directed home they live in. At the start of the show (hey, I’ve been jobless okay), our male protagonist is still in love with his ex-wife who left him for his business partner. As the show crawls on, we see that the business partner, being the evil douche that he is, ditches her for a younger model. As you do. Anyway, the ex-wife comes back to the ex-husband, who is now in love with his new wife but still covers up for his ex’s mistakes. What ensues is a series of absurdities bordering on awesome set to the soundtrack from tone-deaf hell: suspicions, fights, love, slapstick-unfunny-ness, ultimatums, tears, smiles, awkward flirting – and soon, all’s well in the badly art-directed home.

Except that would mean the end of the show, and that must not be. So I caught up a few days ago to find out that the ex-wife is now dead.

Multiple exclamation marks.

Everyone is shocked. We know this is true because the camera swings furiously in epilepsy-inducing close-ups of every single member of the cast, as they give us their best aghast expression without creasing the 27 layers of makeup.

And you’ll never believe this – Shonda Rhimes should be taking notes right about now – the ex’s ghost takes over the new wife’s body, giving the actress who could only write ‘Sweet wife with maternal qualities’ in her folio, a sparkling new bullet point: ‘Calculative and possessed meanie’.

How am I supposed to fight that?

Up next: A manipulative woman manipulates people.

They had me at manipu-

Mama Bare

Working mum. Daddy daycare. Hot mama. Dad bod. Mummy blogger. Dad jokes. Soccer mom.

The reason so many parents internally fight our status quo is that apart from convincing ourselves that we don’t have to lose who we used to be, we need to duck from all these labels being flung at us. Sometimes we wear them with pride, but other times we have an insatiable itch to drop the parental word. In the process, we make our kids look like monsters and ourselves like sleep-deprived maniacs. One moment we’re sucking in air through our clenched teeth and shaking our heads like we’re completely over it. The very next moment, we’re (over) sharing every poop story and our suspicion that we’re raising a genius.

To my non-parent friends (fur babies don’t count), if we’re confusing you it’s only because we’re constantly confused.

I’m writing this today because I’m one more incident* away from putting my child up on eBay.

Yesterday, however, I would’ve exhaled fire on anyone who tried to take my beautiful baby away from my adoring (borderline psycho) gaze.

This split personality is born as we try to strike the right balance. Saying ‘No shouting’ in a dangerously low shouting voice. Wildly jumping and laughing around the house with them and hoping they don’t misbehave elsewhere. Fetching a bottle of milk at 3am while pining for a bottle of red. Pulling faces to make them laugh and telling them that if they pull faces it’ll stay like that. Trying not to give in to their ginormous, heart-achingly beautiful eyes while maintaining eye contact.

Most parents have their shit together, but every word of advice and every book convinces us that it cannot be. That we HAVE to be breast-feeding, formula-feeding, water-feeding, juice-feeding, co-sleeping, cot-sleeping, chest-sleeping, car-sleeping, where-ever-the-fuck-the-screaming-banshee-slept-sleeping, sleep-training, molly-coddling, military-training, purée-feeding, baby-led-weaning-feeding, organic-feeding, burger-feeding, childcare-sending, grandma-daycare-sending, staying-at-home, working-from-home, try-anything, full-time, part-time, life-term parents and nothing less.

Fuck that shit! (Notice how every parenting blog/article is the most profanity-ridden?)

My logic is that much like marriage, parenting cannot be defined. I made the baby, now I get to make the rules! Except, I know nothing about it. I call it Jon Snow Parenting (I had to go there or his Ghost (strike two) would’ve hunted me down).

I shovel my way out of the endless shitstorm that is parenting advice, and come away with few nuggets of wisdom. But just as nuggets do no good for me except for instant gratification, these well-meaning, unsolicited nuggets may pull me through for the moment but mean sweet fuckall. Let me elaborate.

Pick your battles.
Am I raising a child or strategically taking over a small country? If at the end of this I was going to be crowned Queen of my own country, maybe I’d see some sense in all the fighting (I wouldn’t, I’m a pacifist); Instead, at the end of each battle I find myself on the floor, cleaning food from under the table or begging a confused 2-year old to forgive me. Not very regal, no.

This too shall pass.
Should I just close my eyes and count to ten thousand? Or cover my ears and shout LA LA LA LA LA till it ends?

Women have always done this.
How small-minded of me to think that I, a unique human being, created another unique human being in our unique lives.

But you chose to have the baby.
Not advice.

Pass the baby to someone else.
If I could’ve got the little critter off me for one second, I would’ve been sitting by a pool bar with a cocktail jug in hand. With mum’s best friend, guilt.

I’m sure no one’s coming to me for Jon Snow parenting advice, but hear this: Happy parents means happy babies. So pick your joys, because this too, shall pass.

Mum

Now that I’ve finished writing this, I’ve decided not to sell the kid on eBay just yet. I need the inspiration.

(If you’re still wondering who Jon Snow is and why he knows nothing, we haven’t talked in a while. Let’s chat soon, or you know, google it.)

*Incidents include and are not limited to: Refusing breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, eating only cereal for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, regressing on potty training, incessant screaming, breaking out into hysterical tantrums just ‘cause, smacking, kicking, not being able to think logically, not seeing the bigger picture, not understanding that I need a break, refusal to play cutesy games with me, rejecting me, chocolate, back-arching crying, teething, not falling asleep when I snap my fingers.