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A List Mom

Our first post at Parentous is a special letter from a Mom. Read and Comment.

A List Mom by Smita Prakash

Dear S,

It is a letter I promised I wouldn’t write to you. It would embarrass you because we never write letters to each other. We were always around each other so we left notes for each other. Or text messages. And lately BBMs. “Mom, wake me up at 5. Football.” Unwritten in that note were other instructions. “Wake me up and then let me snooze for five minutes more. Go make my hot chocolate. Come back and wake me up again. Go let the dog out to do his thing. Come back and wake me up again. This time pull off my duvet and hand me my glass of milk. Go out and return with a banana, water bottle, sandwiches and instructions which I would not listen to.”

Yeah, I know dear S I left instructions for you too. But mine were always detailed because I knew as a Mom, I couldn’t leave any loophole for you to sneak out of. Mine went like this: “will be late, press conference at 5pm, shoot at 7. See you at 8. Tomorrow is off. Will be home for dinner. Eat a snack, finish homework. Got the chart paper and shabdkosh. Can make chart tonight. Grab a nap, we will work late tonight. Mom”

A mother’s life is one of making lists and almost never completing what is on those lists. We make these lists in our heads, on post-its, in diaries, on iPads and on our mobile phones. They are littered all over: Shopping lists, travel lists, medicine lists, laundry lists, grocery lists, to-do lists. And more often than not, we lose these lists. Still, it is extremely important to make these lists because we would otherwise go mad organising our crazy lives. Making a list is the first step towards taking the decision of finishing chores at hand – an announcement to self that one is now going to take charge of one’s life. Of course thereafter it becomes a mad rush, because the whole universe seems to be conspiring against the mother and her lists.
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Imagine if a new mom was to go to a baby shop without a list! How would she even know what she could leave out? And imagine coming back without diaper pins. Catastrophe! And if you had a six-year old and you had to prepare a chart on freedom fighters as his homework project, you first negotiate your way to the bazaar, find a parking spot, go from one shop to another, till you find the blessed book on freedom fighters under Rs 200, which has enough pictures that you can cut and paste. You buy chart paper, return to your car, get back home to a sulky kid who would rather play on his Playstation than make the chart and horror! You have run out of glue. Your mistake. You didn’t make a list.

You need lists to have some control over your life and suddenly you realise that your lists now control your life. Just like that little tyrant in the baby cot who with her one shriek can get you scurrying across the room with a feeding bottle, you hit the panic button if you are unable to cross half of your chores on the list by mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, making a list by itself doesn’t get the job done. What you have done on the list is soon forgotten while what you have to still do continues to overwhelm you.

But that is how I survived being a working mother to two hyperactive kids. I made lists. And then, like a headless chicken I scurried all day and most nights, a slave to those lists.

The tasks never end, the list does. My lists ended when you went to college. My tasks haven’t ended. I have to clear your room, books and notes, school uniforms, pencil boxes of years gone by. School report cards, yearbooks, medals, photographs, they all have to be labelled and boxed. Some given away in charity and some kept for memory. 13 years of schooling is a long time to box away in a hurry. It has to be done methodically. Maybe I will now go and make a list for that.


Smita Prakash is Editor (News) at Asian News International. You can follow Smita Prakash and her lists on Twitter at @SmitaPrakash and at