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.

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 www.smitaprakash.com

  • Smita, Hi! That was indeed a heartfelt and touching post, something we all mothers, working or not can identify with.
    My son is still young yet, as I watch him shoot up slowly, I wonder how it will be when he is busy with his life away….
    I shall still worry for him. For something else.
    A mother’s list never ends as you said…..

    • Smita Prakash

      tks, agree worry is a mom’s constant companion

  • Lovely post. Yes, a mom does lot of other activities apart from the main one for the kids. Hope the children are listening!

  • Every mom is a list mom, the moment we woke up, we wear it like our glasses from the bed stand.

  • Smita, U should have titled it “A” List Mom… Beautiful! Can relate to every word U have written. Without these lists, we would be lost….Not that we are not lost anyway… 🙂 Cloud technology has helped my family to have these lists and calendar events available to all in real time and that is a boon!

    Best of luck packing up the memorabilia!!! PRICELESS!


    • Smita Prakash

      tks. Honest confession: haven’t mustered guts to even begin

  • Beautiful post….I almost wrote, beautiful list!! I can so relate…lists are the only reason I am still sane and my house hasn’t gone up in flames!!

  • I think the reason we make lists is because it keeps us sane. There is also a thrill of striking things out, even if it is two out of ten!

    • Smita Prakash

      agree. 20% is a good strike rate 🙂

  • I am not even a mother (yet) and I already work my day with to-do lists. 🙂

    Lovely post!

  • From one Smita to another, lovely post. All lists should have notes to our kids as one of the’ to do’ items. Maybe they should even have a way to prompt them to write notes or chats to us, moms. So that we can save those and go through them on and off, whenever they are not around and we feel like talking to them. When they are young, you are going crazy trying to keep them safe, healthy and happy and most of your conversation revolves around the ‘dos and don’ts’ that you hope will make them the best they can be. When they grow up they have to find their wings and soar the skies. We can read the notes and watch them.

    • Smita Prakash

      great idea, I am sure parents who think ahead do it. I have just begun 🙂

  • Deepa Jayaram

    With all these lists and wish-lists, we just hope (and desparately hope) that we are good moms to our kids. That we are at least able to do some % of what our moms did for us. That our kids adore and appreciate the efforts we put it…well, thats asking for too much, now! 🙂 🙂

    • Smita Prakash

      thanks. To be as good as one’s own parents or grand parents is just too heavy a burden. It makes us become very boring stodgy and outdated. I am sure you are a fun parent the way you are.

  • What a terrific post Smita! As a former TV producer I can totally relate to your life. And a kudos to you for having stuck to the grind of TV and been such a terrific mom. So a big round of thunderous applause just for that. I am a now a struggling WAHM, struggling to remember things. Oh! How I think of my days of abandon (read: recklessly spent years being a workaholic) when I let my life, home and relationships suffer for the sake of career! I shudder to think what kind of a parent would I have been if I continued to live like that. But yes, being a WAHM has its own challenges and I am left making endless lists – notes to the nanny and maid, errands to run, groceries to be bought, finish that assignment, run for a meeting, never miss a call, finish that book because another one is waiting on the shelf, exercise, play with baby and amuse husband, call in-laws and parents from time to time! *Phew* I am struggling with this new life.

  • Smita Prakash

    thank you @Rituparna Ghosh umm… I don’t know about this whole thing of letting home suffer because of career bit. Stay of home moms can also be high strung and stressed out just as we go out to work moms. One has to find one’s own groove.

  • what a beautiful, heart tugging post. I agree with you totally; I make lists and make another 1 to remind me of the previous one/s (gee). Best wishes for packing the 13 years of schooldom !

  • I am a through and through list gal and after becoming a parent the lists have become my best buddy. So, they don’t clean up their room even in college huh! There goes my hope of being able to get one thing off my list once the daughter grows up. 🙂

    • smita

      haha. Nope. They will pick up after their kids…and the cycle goes on 🙂

  • Beautiful post and I can so much relate to the entire letter and the LIST’s are the most important part of me now to such an extent that I have lists all over…stuck to fridge magnets, livingroom some corner and my bedroom too… truely your lists now control your life is what I also feel now!

  • And the mom in me knows this IS in store. Why only the kid, theres a bigger kid in your better half! My day ends before I even realise and plannings for the next day start while I am half awake dreaming of a nice little vacation in Europe, only to realise theres goes the alarm, and dare you snooze it, coz you are a mom, and a wife, and more importantly a working mom! Love totally love your writeup Smita!

  • Wonderful post. Thought provoking. Made me recall my childhood days where my mom helped me do all the school project work

  • Gita

    Loved the way you have mentioned yourself…’A list Mom’….so many such adjectives could go with the word ‘Mom’, isn’t it?? Loved your article!! Nice read! 🙂