To Have? To Not Have, As Yet!

Readiness is all.

But when it comes to having a child and becoming a parent, readiness plays peek-a-boo. Try as we might, saying ‘yes’ to 9 months and 90 years of parenthood is something that makes our knees knock, our Adam’s apple swallow itself and the heart zoom out the thoracic cavity and into our mouth, all within seconds of hearing “planning a family” – an act of such bravery it seems that it can put Gladiators to shame.

When I got married to my friend from school, little did I know that the physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, permutation and combination that he excelled in will one day make him pronounce an exact date for father-hood. ‘5 years from our wedding day’ and the bomb dropped – a bomb at least for a Literature type like me who viewed most things subjectively and certainly not in set numbers – even, odd, prime or whichever else. I did not understand the deadline, and after 2 years of our marriage I happily realized neither did he, when he again pronounced-without-prompt – ‘I’m ready!’ So much for Mr. Calculus and miss-calculations!

As we enter our 3rd year of parenthood and look around, attributing to ourselves greater wisdom than we have actually acquired over the last few years, we wonder what makes people ready to have a baby, or rather, what keeps most of them saying abhi nahi! Once upon a time, the first child was conceived in Shimla, Udaipur or Goa – on the honeymoon itself, that is. The second after 3 years of the first, as Doordarshan advised. And if the rest were to follow they just did anyway, in no particular order of merit. Today, the only people talking about childbirth as a logical next step soon enough after the wedding vows are the ones who contributed their 2 cents to the population nearly 3 decades ago. It is their progeny which is the abhi nahi variety in a typical educated urban working professional setting.

Why readiness is not ready to come.

Life is no longer about Mehta & Sons or Kumar & Bros. Life is no longer about a handed down pattern of work and profession, with a swivel chair and a business waiting to be passed down to the daughter or the son, or a letter of recommendation for accommodation into daddy dear’s ex-office. Mostly, life is contained somewhere within cut-off scores, entrances, jobs, designations, apartments, cars, better jobs, better designations, bigger apartments and fancier cars. In short, life is about Ambition, and why not? Not just the feel-good variety, but ambition for reaching points in time where we feel financially stable and materially sound enough to afford anything from Rs. 5 an egg to Rs. 5000 a month play-school fee and eventually Rs. 5 lakh a year higher studies tuition fee for the ones we will call our progeny.

However, in the process of the pursuit of what makes us happy and will hopefully keep ours happy, time is the victim for it refuses to stop ticking. More time at work means lesser time at play, and hence wondering how we will find time out from our work schedules, impending promotions, travel plans and shifting jobs to plant the seed of the first step even, if you know what I mean, let alone bring up a whole new being. Life keeps us very busy. And then we decide to keep our life busy in return.

Even if busy means worshipping football and beer, Saturday nights and rock concerts, cosy coffee shops and cosier corner seats in movie halls. When love knows no bounds, it may prefer to rock the lover to sleep every night, rather than a hiccupping baby. And then every office party has at least one well-wisher who may be a father-of-two himself but who considers it his life’s dharma to warn you – ‘Life changes after a baby. Be prepared!’ With a picture of a mysterious future looming out their voice and a baby crying in their arms, they put a little germ of doubt in your head, making you cling to your partner in complete fear of having to forgo the couple-y activities you so enjoy, together.

Talking of doubts, often times the doubt about becoming a parent is about traits of our own personality. Interestingly, no other age or stage in life brings in a battalion of self-doubts as planning a baby does. Not love-at-first-sight, not the 21st birthday celebrations and not even the permanence of marriage. Am I patient enough? Am I too independence loving to be tied down by maternity gowns and feeding bras? Will I ever be able to think straight without my weekly dose of movies? Are oxytocin, ovulation and ovaries relatives or are they pills? And mostly, will I make a good parent?

But why readiness should come, soon.

That bum with a baby at the party who told you life changes after you have a baby was right. But whoever told you it’s only about pee-poo, burp cloths and sleepless nights was wrong. It may not be a one-way ticket to a luxury spa but neither is it a contract which pronounces you to stay-sane-sober-celibate for the rest of your life. It is simply a step forward into growing up in life. And sometimes, you have to leap to see for yourself what the other side of the fence has to offer. No joke, becoming a parent, but in all seriousness, no one can tell you about it either – neither ones like me who say ‘Go for it!’ nor others who sing paeans of the latest contraceptives. Parenthood is for you to see and experience, and to finally understand.

Money is important, ambition even more – one as insurance for the future, the other as assurance of self-worth and self-love. But neither needs to stop in its flow once a baby enters your life. If anything, you will find greater avenues to spend the former and beautifully reinvent the latter to include your baby and his/her future within its folds.

And before you even learn to spell their name right, you will find that time has itself shown you paths around which it can be better organized. This is not to say time will conspire to increase your day to 25 hours. This is just to assure you that you, as an individual, will learn to manage the 24 given to you, automatically, and in a fashion better suited to everyone’s needs – including your own.

And no, that certainly does not mean you will not spend those hours drinking, partying, socializing, dancing, shopping, gossiping, reading, eating, etc. You will do all of that still, but with an added array of items and activities, like baby food, baby shopping, baby gyan sessions, baby parties and baby book reading, on your platter. Who said you’ll miss out on fun? I promise you, that you will only end up adding to your kitty so many more joyous reasons to celebrate!

Oh! About that patience! Well, no better way to learn it than to test it, perhaps. And the self-doubts, forget them all, and go make a baby. I cross my heart and tell you this that they are born so blinded with love for you that everything from your cracked voice to your funny nose is soul food for them. Because those belong to whom they call their parents. (Of course, the flying pink hearts last only till they grow up enough to realize you are no Lata Mangeshkar or Richard Gere. After that, you can burn this post away!)

Just one more thing – Happy Baby Making. And may the best swimmer win!

Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in

  • Hey Sakshi,, this is such a lovely post and so beautifully written.
    One thing I must say is that anyone thinking of having a baby though, should be READY whatever that means. Because you can only enjoy it if you are completely there in life.
    My husband and I took our time and did our bit of travelling and generally had a blast (5 years of a good time) before we went for it!
    Like you said I really don’t think anyone from the outside (that is not a parent ) can really see how it is on the inside. From the outside it looks like a lot of work, diapers and burp cloths and all, from the inside its is a lot more work than it looks from the outside, but the pay off is unbelievably amazing and not to be traded with anything else in the world.

    • Thanks Aloka.
      In fact, I would even go so far as to say that NO ONE, not even a parent, can make you make-up your mind about becoming one. Like you rightly point out, that point of being READY ‘whatever that means’ is a destination reached at a very personal level, and perhaps only with your partner in crime. 😉

  • Woah! So well-written.. I loved reading it 🙂 And yes the big decision.. never easy to decide!

    • Sure, never easy to decide! Thank you for reading Sirisha (I love your name!). 🙂

  • Lovely post Sakshi. And I feel that one is never ready until “it” happens, i.e. after the customary 1/2/3 years of marriage have passed. And when it just happens, you just know it is the right time 🙂

  • Nischala

    Dear Sakshi – Well articulated, and took me over to your blog as well.. Loved your posts.. Coming to this one, yes! i don’t think anyone will ever be fully ready, you just got to take the plunge and sail along.. I’d written a post on “Are you ready to be a mother?” @ http://nipmu.blogspot.in/2012/09/are-you-ready-to-be-mother.html … But I also think if you know for sure that you’re NOT READY or DON’T WANT IT – You’re better off not getting into the parenting zone! Seen so many women live miserable lives when they had kids & were just not ready / did not want it! Look forward to more of your posts here.. nischala

    • Dear Nischala, thank you for loving this, and my blog.
      I totally agree with you that the voice of ‘not being ready’ for a baby needs to be heeded more immediately than ‘being ready’ even. Oh I see women (and men) struggling after expanding their families and not knowing what to do with the baggage it entails :). But, and this I say from experience of family and friends around, I also see an equal number regretting having delayed their child’s birth or others sitting on the fence hoping for courage to strike once they turn a certain age, or stage, etc, not really realising that most reasons will stand as “excuses” even later. And then they reach a point where biology more than anything starts converting ‘not ready’ to ‘ready’.
      I only say – examine what keeps you from leaping today, before you are left with no choice but to leap. 🙂 I am going to love reading your article thoroughly. Thank you for pointing it out to me! Hope to see you around, again!

  • Extremely well-written Sakshi. We were also the ones who took our time before jumping onto parenthood. We wanted to be ‘ready’. But in retrospect I never truly understood what ‘being ready’ meant before being a mother. People keep telling you ‘life will change’ but it is only now I realize, how! If you try to explain what it is to be a parent to someone who is not or planning to be, they wouldn’t even find it appealing because you cannot really explain in mere words what living a life with an adorable little one truly means. I experience a gush of emotions every time I look at my baby sleeping peacefully or blabbering nineteen to dozen.
    Besides, trust me, I know several couples who have had a baby before their first anniversary 🙂

    • “you cannot really explain in mere words what living a life with an adorable little one truly means” – YES Reema, exactly. 🙂 And really? You know honeymoon-conceived kids? Hm. I thought I was the last one on the planet “planned” like that. 😛
      Thank you for reading, and liking! 😀

    • “If you try to explain what it is to be a parent to someone who is not or planning to be, they wouldn’t even find it appealing because you cannot really explain in mere words what living a life with an adorable little one truly means.”
      So true

  • Impressive post Sakshi … Took me back to the time when we were postponing the readiness and the excuses we would find … I think no one is really “ready” for a kid until they have one. And parenting can be truly enjoyed only if one has “arrived” at the decision.. It can be quite stressful otherwise!

    • Absolutely Divya! And stress doesn’t help – neither when making one, not when rearing one. 🙂 Thank you for reading!