We all know her. She is the woman we try to avoid at parties, the school gate and at the supermarket. The baby bore. She will insist on telling you every last detail of what her child ate and drank, from the prune juice for breakfast (for Choti’s constipation) to the khichdi for lunch (so healthy, no?). And she only gets worse as the child gets older. Her child is always the brightest at playschool, the best at playing the piano, the first to walk. Her every conversation begins with the dreaded “I must tell you the cute thing little Ishaan (or little Ria or little Aryan) did today” and ends with, “The teacher says she is very advanced for her age.” And woe betide you if you meet her on the day her little darling is sick. She will babble on about symptoms, discharges and treatments, both allopathic and Ayurvedic.
The worst thing about baby bores is that they ruin things for the rest of us mothers. I have two children who are indisputably the most beautiful, talented and intelligent children on earth. Still, I know that people are as eager to hear about their little pearls of wisdom as they are to discuss the railway budget. Besides, after a day of full-on parenting, I want to let my brain out for a walk. Yet, people, both men and women, insist on assuming that I can’t or won’t talk about anything other than my children. If I am at a party and mention my children in passing, I can guarantee that there will be an embarrassed silence, as my guests desperately search for topics of conversation. Then someone will resignedly ask me their names, ages, what school they go to. I realize they are trying to be kind; the long-suffering expression on their faces leaves me in no doubt.
If I try to turn the conversation to Vikram Chandra’s latest book or the war in Iraq, they look confused, befuddled even, as if they had suddenly come upon Manmohan Singh discussing cellulite cures. You are a mother, they seem to say, surely you have no life apart from looking after your children. It is your job to bore us senseless with tales of toilet-training, incurable illnesses and choosing the right schools. You may occasionally talk about the Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding, but nothing more cerebral than that. I once tried to escape my maternal burden by confessing frankly that I loved my children, but hated talking about them. The assorted guests looked at me aghast, as if I had confessed to abandoning my offspring in cradles on church steps. I spent the rest of the evening listening to the other women discussing how to get into the right schools, while the men watched benignly. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to talk about their jobs, their interests, their finances and the sorry state of the nation. Or, if they do brag about their children, they get applause for it. “So sweet.” “He is such a hands-on father.”
Then, there are all those otherwise smart women who insist on playing dumb once they have had children and blame the much-maligned “mummy brain”. “Oh god,” they moan, “since I had my kids, I can’t remember anything.” Or they whine about not knowing where Darfur is or who Barack Obama is. “You see, these days I don’t even have the time to read a newspaper. I just can’t concentrate.” “It’s only natural,” everyone nods understandingly. Meanwhile, I have yet to meet the man who can find his socks without the help of a woman or remember more than two items on a grocery list. But you would never catch a man blaming his “daddy brain” for his inept ways. No, he’s just “too busy” to worry about the mundane details of everyday life.
Science is on my side. A recent survey showed that the size of a woman’s brain actually increases during pregnancy. Mothers may be exhausted, but they are apparently smarter. It’s time we had equality in this as in everything else. Let the fathers turn into baby bores. And stop blaming your mummy brain for everything. It’s about time.
GET A LIFE
1) Read the paper everyday. If your child won’t leave you alone, then give him/her one section to doodle on or cut up with scissors.
2) Join a book club; the deadline will get you reading. Or join an online book discussion forum. If your kids are older, you can even start a book club for them. There are many authors who can be enjoyed by both adults and children, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman.
3) Join an evening class in salsa, photography, cooking or creative writing. Or see a play, visit an art gallery or go on a heritage walk. Can’t find the time? Eliminate one dancing/ piano class from your children’s schedules and use the time.
4) Make new friends, ones who are not yet parents. Try joining a social networking site such as Orkut or Facebook (though be careful of giving out details) to expand your circle.
5) If finding babysitters is a problem, start a babysitting circle with close friends. Take turns to babysit one another’s kids.
6) Take your kids everywhere if you absolutely can’t leave them behind. You live in a country where people are excessively tolerant of children. Use this to your advantage. It’s a myth that children are only happy in the park. Take them to art galleries, theatres or on heritage walks.
7) Rediscover the lost art of conversation. Take a vow not to talk about your kids, except with the doting grandparents.
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