On the day I had to write this piece, I got lucky, in a lopsided way. We have three children, and in the last week of summer vacation, they really have us. Besides holiday homework, our three children are also battling four infections right now. Kanta mausi, who cooks for and feeds us, has called in sick. As we get through this day, I feel uniquely qualified to dispense practical tips for hassle-free parenting. So listen to me.
Be inefficient. Parenting is not a spectator sport. It’s more like a party game. Don’t try to do everything yourself. No one helps the super efficient.
I realize that if you are a regular reader of Mint, you may not know how to be inefficient. Let me help. Leave jigsaw puzzles on the floor, grubby hand impressions on the wall, paintboxes in the lawn and shoes in the car. Carry on with life, things will stay exactly where you left them last. They’ll be easier to find. I know your home was like an art gallery before. Now think of it as a toy museum.
Take a break: Just let the mess pile up. Photo: Thinkstock
Be beautiful, because there is no time for make-up any more. Children love beautiful parents, don’t ask me why. Just be.
If you snap at someone unexpectedly, go to the loo. You definitely need to pee. Don’t deny it, all parents forget. Keep some books in the bathroom.
Make friends. Your true friends usually vanish and the strangest people turn out to be rather useful around children. Put everyone to good use.
Being inefficient also helps in making more friends.
Go for hurried baths, and then forget all about hurrying. Take midnight showers. Turn off the light and stand in the water.
Be forgetful. I know it makes you feel foolish, but while you were away, short attention spans became fashionable.
While we are on the topic, forget about sales, discounts, flea markets. Be Zen about it. Spend more money in less time. It’s your promotion.
Make mistakes. Mistakes are useful. They don’t have to be fresh or unusual, just your own. Those are the only ones with good lessons in them.
Have an affair. Does that sweet, sexy person you once married now seem like a stranger? When you feel up to it again, that stranger may be just the person to have an affair with. Again. And this time there will be toddling hurdles between you. More adventure than before. Go on, take a break and fantasize about the possibility.
Be an agreeable sort. Agree with the children. In the end we have to agree with them any way. Agree with your mom, mother-in-law, maid, with everyone who gives you free advice. You don’t have to do anything, just nod agreeably. Practise now.
Cry freely. Old toys, colourful sandals, the pyjamas she wore when she first started walking—give them all away. Cry freely. Crying is highly underrated in this area of work.
Be powerful. All parents are required to change and challenge their world. Their stakes are so high and personal. All of us have experienced the sense of utter powerlessness that accompanies new parenthood. There is only one way out of that pit, and that is towards the light.
Being a parent is hard work. We make rules, draw boundaries and lead by example (my most un-favourite part). We stuff antibiotics down screaming throats and wipe their spittle off our sad faces. We go to the corner and wipe our tears as we hand over our babies to nurses and teachers. It’s confusing and it takes a lifetime to figure out.
Every now and then, we sit back and wonder at the purpose of it all. Three little girls are playing in the room as I type. Why do we have children? I ask five-year-old Aliza gently. She seems to ignore me as she rearranges all the chairs in the living room for her game. Suddenly she bolts towards me and whispers in my ear, “To learn funny things”. A warm, fuzzy feeling runs through me. Nainu? I ask her friend. “People have children so that they can love them,” says Nainu.
“Some of us have kids so that we can learn to love ourselves,” I say in my mind, looking back at them.
In the end, another secret tip from me. Your friends will often say, “Wow, I don’t know how you do it.” Smile and say thank you. Stay quiet, be mysterious.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She will write a fortnightly parenting column.
Write to Natasha at firstname.lastname@example.org