Little Dyujoy Chaudhuri attended his first dinner party at the ripe old age of 18 days, and slept through the event in his little rocker. He often spends an hour or two at local coffee bars with his parents and has taken a liking to smoothies. And, this nine-month-old has already been to 25 restaurants in his short existence—all places of fine dining, not the McMeal variety. While it is foolish to imagine that you can add a new member—any new member—to your family and live the same life, life after a baby does not have to be lived out in a deep freezer. So, while things change, experts say couples need to find ways to work around their child rather than cut out their pre-baby existence completely.
“It’s all in the mind,” says 28-year-old Trishna Chaudhuri, Dyujoy’s mother, “Life is no longer the same, but it’s not come to a crashing halt. We’ve learned to accommodate Joy, just as we would any other family member. We are still meeting our friends, going on weekend trips and even eating out as we did earlier, but perhaps the spontaneity is less.”
Consultant psychologist Arpita Anand, who has her own practice in Panchsheel Park, New Delhi, insists that young parents must continue to have a social life. “Of course, your child should be your first priority, and going out should not be at the cost of the child’s health, but if you have a safe caretaker at hand, do not hesitate to take a few hours off parenting to do your own thing.” So, don’t be hasty and turn down dinner party invitations; all babies learn to happily go to sleep in the guest room or even under a dining table if you don’t fuss over them. In Chaudhuri’s case, if a fine-dining restaurant doesn’t welcome little people, Joy is bathed, fed and put to bed under the watchful eye of the maid, with his parents’ mobile numbers on speed dial.
“While it is safe to take a newborn out for a drive or to dinner at a friend’s place, crowded places such as markets and cinema halls are best avoided until the baby turns six months and all the basic vaccinations have been given. The key is to avoid places where a child is likely to be exposed to infections,” says Dr Vidya Gupta, senior consultant and neonatologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. “Leaving a child with a caretaker for a few hours while you are out does not harm the child in any way. Parents of newborn babies do need a life and should not put everything on hold.”
Surabhi Sharma, mother of 21-month-old Sanah, cannot give crowded spots a total miss. She likes taking her daughter out for art exhibitions and museum visits and often has to travel by Mumbai’s local trains. “Sure it’s tough, because one has to carry the child all the time, but I know Sanah enjoys the outings and observes the works of art as keenly as I do,” says the film-maker mum. “So, I take her along. Even in crowded trains, I find that people are helpful to a mother with a young child, and it all works out eventually. Sanah has adjusted to train travel and is quite happy to interact with strangers.”
Travelling with a baby can be as light or as heavy as you choose. An extremely low maintenance person, Cheshta, 27, says her eight-month-old-daughter, Vidipta, takes after her. Her baby bag has been discarded in favour of a little handbag that neatly and economically carries extra diapers, a sippy cup, a change of clothing and even a sheet. “Outings can still be spontaneous,” muses Cheshta, “but I do prefer a half-hour warning. I just need to ensure that there is water in her bottle and a spare diaper, and we can take off to any place.” She doesn’t carry any toys, and a ringing cellphone or the car keys keep Vidipta occupied.
If it is a weekend getaway you are planning, remember, most hotels supply an electric kettle and you can boil water either for consumption or to sterilize baby bottles. Chaudhuri says holidays with Joy require minimal planning. “I usually call up the hotel in advance and check if they can make plain boiled eggs, rice or mashed potatoes. For an emergency, some mineral water and a carton of Cerelac are all I need.” On her train travels, Sharma carries food that is ready-to-eat and does not need to be warmed up. “A couple of apples, cheese cubes and some books, and the journey is a lark,” she says.
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