The father that I thought I was

Let’s start by stating the obvious – having a child is a big, big responsibility. In today’s day and age if you didn’t plan it then you are in for a pretty rude shock. Making serious sacrifices is just the beginning. Though most importantly you have to be mentally prepared for welcoming another human being into your home, into your bedroom, into your kitchen, into your personal space… into your lives. On that note, here is wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the new dads (including me).

Today’s father has moved beyond the glorified baby-sitter who keeps the child occupied till he gets bored before handing the baby over to the mother to continue the drudgery of feeding, cleaning, changing and putting them to bed. All my friends who are fathers are purposefully involved in their child(ren)’s upbringing, ensuring that not only do they balance their work and life but also share responsibilities.

I’d like to believe that I have been an equal partner so far in this journey (I can hear my wife scoff in the background while I read this aloud). My wife gave up her job to raise our child I had no intentions to let her do this alone. I partook in all the responsibilities right from changing soiled diapers to waking up in the middle of the night to pat my daughter back to sleep, ensuring that I try and take away as much of the load as possible.

Yet I kept hearing, consistently from my wife, that I am not doing enough, I am not proactive, I am selfish (I don’t know where that came from) and that I will never know what she is going through.

Not only did that feed to my already growing annoyance but we ended up in quite a few verbal battles, which I was trying very hard to win but in the end there was always something left wanting. I argued back that “I work so hard for this family blah blah blah” but after a point I come to realize that I sound like a quintessential asshole, yet I don’t relent…typical.

So a couple of days ago my wife sent me an interesting link, published in The Guardian to give me a perspective (click here). The comic has a central theme “you should have asked”. And that’s when I started thinking, am I always waiting for instructions from my wife to do certain things.  Am I that guy who has to be told everything, perhaps not, but when I do recall, there are a number of things that my wife (and mum) has to remind me constantly. And when I do it, I feel elated almost like I came up with the idea myself. I feel I achieved something momentous, I feel as if I am my wife’s equal – what a travesty!

This article made me realize that my wife is perpetually pre-occupied with various aspects of the household and child rearing. Constantly organizing and re-organizing and getting things done. Her mind is like the navigation on google maps, if for whatever reason she takes a different road the navigation will re-route automatically, and will still reach her destination. On the flip side I’ll just end up like the deer caught between headlights, wondering “now what do I do?”

The more I think about it the more I am convinced about my lack of pro-activeness at home. All those things that I think I was doing of my own accord was already retro-fitted by my wife, giving the illusion that I came up with it… devious! It’s true, maybe I can’t be left alone with my child without pointed instructions – What time to feed her, What to feed her,  Where the feed is, What onesie to make her wear before she goes to bed, wind her down, read a book, don’t just dump her in the crib, etc. Not to say that I am bad father but maybe I should be a lot more proactive than I convince myself to be.

This just goes to show that I am programmed to be proactive at something that I get a reward for, my job for example. I will do anything and everything to get a task done, why? Because I get paid for it. But at home things are slightly different, especially about what you want to do and what you are told to do.

Marriage gives you a good perspective on how it is to share your life, adapt and make compromises. But when a child comes along, you go to another level, and acceptance is the key. Women do it brilliantly, I have seen it at home and outside. Men though, are under the fallacy that they have accepted it, but they can be way off.

Are we, the new age dads really doing something meaningful to contribute or is it just one of those check boxes that we tick? There might be a lot of fathers out there who won’t agree with me on this, which is fine because there is always another story to tell. But introspect, observe your wife the next time around and think of how she quit her job, stalled her career, stopped dreaming and put her body on the line… just to fuel this family.


Happy Father’s Day

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Young parents, an infant and an Indian wedding

This year, in March, my only sister got married. The timing was a bit unusual considering the annual human mating (ceremonial) season is between November to February. It was a joyous moment for all of us in the house, especially for my wife and I. We have been eyeing her room for a really, really (I mean really) long time, now that we have a kid of our own. Don’t get me wrong, she is loved by all of us, but by the end of it we are Indians and getting a household member married off is our undeniable right.

Let’s focus on the real issue here – my daughter had just turned 6 months and against all our hopes, prayers and wishes the little critter still refused to sleep the night at a stretch without waking up at least four times. This was a big concern for us, because as we all know, Indian weddings will never end with just ONE function! We had 7 functions. At one end, we were so happy for my sister, but at the other end, we were scared shitless for our child. But we got through it (I think), here’s how:

  1. Learn to let go. With Z turning 6 months, this was our best chance to observe how she would do with so many guests; strangers, in her eyes. Surprisingly, she did remarkably well. Don’t get too stuck up with not handing your child over to people, whether you like it or not they are going to grab the kid, so learn to stay calm.
  2. Kids are unpredictable and so are their routines. Never, ever expect that a child will follow routines. When you least expect it, she is going to change her routine. In our case, the daughter dropped her third nap of the day and stayed up like “I… AM… SPARRTAAAAA…”. This can have adverse effects on both the child and the mother, especially at nights when they can’t get uninterrupted sleep.
  3. Prepare to make sacrifices. My wife would leave at 10.30pm every night so our daughter can catch up on her sleep and be ready for the next day. It was a tough decision to make but with a child around, you have to make a choice, no matter what people say.
  4. We made sure she was always wearing comfortable clothes. Mumbai is relatively warm in March and humid too, so we made sure that our daughter wore airy, cotton clothes. The last thing you want is a hot, cranky, uncomfortable child surrounded by a few hundred people. We also changed her into her trusted nightie as soon as it neared her bedtime.
  5. The mother needs to get as much rest as possible. Since Z is a completely breast-fed baby, my wife was not getting her daily quota of sleep and during a family wedding, sleep was hard to come by, so it was important for her to get as much of it as humanly possible. That’s where our guests helped us a lot. Because Z wasn’t afraid to go to people, my wife would readily give her away to whoever wanted to babysit her and that’s how she managed to catch up on her sleep

All in all, we had a great time. The wedding was perfect. Z is a very social baby; smiling and playing with everyone and capable of staying by herself too.

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Sleep Regression – A monster in the making

Raising a baby is tough work, everybody knows that, but the rewards are priceless – that unadulterated, bedazzling smile that she beams every morning; the cherubic mirth on her face every time you open her diaper and there is a surprise waiting for you; the sheer joy she experiences when you splash warm water on her while bathing. These beautiful moments become permanent memories, your go-to memories, something that you’ll never forget.

But my baby doesn’t take much time for her transformation to complete from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde and these are moments you are more than willing to forget. It’s experiences like these that test your mettle as a parent. But what are these moments?

We are dealing with two concepts here, the first one is a growth spurt. Growth spurts happen starting from as soon as one week and go on till the first year.

As the name suggests, during a growth spurt the baby grows in weight, height and head circumference. This directly translates to an increase in her food intake. This is far more pronounced in breastfed babies as breast milk digests faster as opposed to formula. In this period the child tends to get fussy, irritable and downright cranky.

The second one is sleep regression – During this period it would seem that your child has magically forgotten how to fall asleep. She will hate naps, sleep for shorter hours and wake up regularly, especially at nights. Basically the baby starts behaving like an adult as far as sleep is concerned. We would fight sleep in our heydays to read a book, or be on the phone or watch TV right? Well that’s what’s happening to the baby.

Just do a basic search of these two words on any search engine and automatically the results will throw up “4-months” attached to the term. So clearly this is something all 4-month olds experience and various parents have described their harrowing experiences.

What’s worse? When growth spurt and sleep regression happen simultaneously.

As a parent this phase will test your patience and tolerance levels. The crying gets really out of hand and all the baby wants to do is cling to you. Feeding will not always help, nor will constant engagement. All the baby the wants is human touch. You’ll do it for a couple of days but after some time your body gives way and frustration sets in.

At one point you’ll probably start crying louder than the baby. There will be moments you wished you never had a child. You’ll start questioning your skills as a parent or why you became a parent in the first place. You will find yourself screaming at the baby or nobody in particular. You think you might have lost your mind. But please let me tell you that you are not alone. All parents go through this. This particular experience doesn’t make you an incompetent parent.

We are going through this phase ourselves. It’s been a week where we (mostly my wife) haven’t slept at night uninterrupted. Our daughter wakes up every two hours for a feed and then refuses to go back to sleep. After a lot of effort we got her used to sleeping all by ourselves we aren’t planning to throw that away.

We carry her for comfort, but we don’t walk with her. We kiss her head, but we don’t engage her. We pat her back, but we don’t play with her. After a while we put her back in the crib, she cries, she howls but eventually she does fall asleep. We make sure that the room is dark and we don’t give her any attention.

Initially this will be painful but it is just a matter of getting used to. From what I have read online, this is a temporary phase and it dies out. As parents we need to be strong and patient.

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CONFIRMED – 6 months up

Most of you must be aware that at a new job you are on a six-month probation before the company decides to confirm you, if you haven’t performed, well you go back on probation. What if we could do this with babies too, six month probation, if you don’t ‘human up’ then I’m calling the stork. I can only imagine what that conversation would be like:

The following story is inspired by true events… which involves my daughter. Really.

Dad is holding the baby’s resume as the little tot is nervously twiddling her thumbs:

DAD – Hi. Good Morning. Please take a seat. No don’t roll over. Sit. Baby you need to… careful or you’ll fall over. No that’s my phone, stop taking it in your mouth. STOP IT!

BABY – Sorry, force of habit…OOOOH hair clip! (nom nom nom)

DAD – Can you… NOT! Congratulations on your six month journey in this house and… life. You are one of the millions that have made it this far. You should feel privileged.

BABY – Firstly, thank you for this opportunity. I really wasn’t planning on getting into this field but then… POOF… here I am. Are you going to eat that rattle?

DAD – You mean “PUSH!… here I am”. And no, rattles are not meant to be eaten… In your case nothing is meant to be eaten… yet!

BABY – Right, of course. (Baby starts drooling)

DAD – Can you not drool here please, this is a strictly no-drooling zone. So how was your experience here so far?

BABY – Well, this place is rather big, I mean considering where I come from. Commuting is a bit of a problem but I am yet to find my feet.

DAD – Yes… quite literally. So… I’d like to give you some feedback about your work and performance.

BABY – Sure, yeah… shoot

DAD – For starters, your sleep performance has been quite below par. Your three month target was 18 hours and you have been struggling to say the least. I mean there have been a lot of complaints from the Co-Founder: MOM

BABY – I don’t know, the environment is too noisy for me to concentrate and the mattress is a bit hard plus I just don’t feel like sleeping, you know (Baby gets on her hands and feet and lifts her butt)

DAD – Why are you lifting your butt? Just settle down, no no, just sit still. You’ll fall off the bed! Just listen to me. No those are my glasses! Ok relax! This is something else I want to talk about. You are very hyper, sometimes I feel you take on more than you can chew

BABY – I am on breastmilk, I don’t know what you are talking about (biting down on a remote control and her fingers at the same time)

DAD – How are you getting along with the other departments?

BABY – The chairperson of GRANDDAD needs to carry me around a bit more, If I need to climb the ladder then that’s the fastest way. Also the VP of GRANDMOM should spend a little more time. I also believe the founders MOM and DAD need to really pull up their socks and be a little more decisive and take me out a bit more. And don’t even get me started on the Head of AUNT; we’ve had a bit of shaky start but I believe she is quitting so I guess…

DAD – She is getting married; she’s not quitting… What are you doing? can you stop putting your toes in your mouth! So just a couple of things from my side which you need to work on. You take too many drool breaks that needs to stop; I’d much rather you put that time and effort into research. Also not everything goes in your mouth, including toes. Need to work on your communication, sometimes you are a bit incoherent and we don’t know what you want.

Ok great, that was a good chat. You are hereby confirmed, of course there are perks and benefits, for starters we can start solids with you

BABY – Great, that’s fantastic, really looking forward to insipid, boiled and mashed food vegetables and fruits. Now change my diaper!

She is 5 months old

It’s been five months since…

…Our daughter Z chose us as her parents

…She was pieced together from a single cell into life bag of skin, bones and a beautiful soul

…I graduated from a doting husband to a doting father

…Our world turned upside-down, but so did our frown

…Happiness transcended all other forms of emotions

…Sleep became a distant dream, ever wanting, ever incomplete

…You are responsible for driving up the sales of diapers

…We realized that crying is the new talking

…We craved time and again for a little sliver of her smile

…She declared the ceiling fan and the photo frames as her best friends, sometimes they fought bitterly

…A vaccination injection is more painful to you than to her

…Her hair started defying gravity

…My wife and I have barely spent time together alone, and when we do, all we talk about is her

…All greetings to friends and relatives end with yours, wife’s AND daughter’s name

…A two-hour window going out seems like a mission

…Two’s company but three is a joy

…You’ve been shining in this world full of darkness


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10 things to carry when out with baby

As parents, we always wondered what would be the ideal age to take your newborn out. We were always troubled with this thought and being new parents you would take extra caution and follow everything the doctor says. Well over the months we grew more confident and started taking our daughter out from the age of 2-months.

The doctor’s advice was not to take the baby out for almost 6 months and though it seemed to us as logical, we went against it. It was difficult for both my wife and I to go out anywhere and it really tested our sanity. We were paranoid just by the thought of it but eventually we relented and took her out and we felt so much at ease. Unless and until you don’t try it you will never know whether it was hard or easy.

We know a lot of couples who had started taking their kids out from a very young age, either through intent or compulsion. There were some who had to travel with their kids when they were only 15 days old and some around a month. These are situations that you cannot avoid, like when the family is shifting bases or the mother wants to travel back to her mother’s.

Some brave parents decided to travel with their new born on holidays and they felt at ease. Though we started with a simple car ride to an eatery and back. Thankfully our child slept… well like a baby so no trouble whatsoever. But here is a list of things that you should definitely have when traveling with a child for a couple of hours:

  1. Diapers and pair of extra clothes – Never forget these. Accidents are waiting to happen you can never be too prepared
  2. Wipes and hand sanitizer – for obvious reasons. I urge all parents to either wash their hands before a diaper change or use a sanitizer.
  3. Quick dry sheet – When changing the baby you’ll need something to lay her down on
  4.  Mosquito patches – They work wonderfully well. In fact sometimes I use it.
  5. Blanket – it’s always a safe option especially if you are travelling by car and the air conditioner is on
  6. Car Seat – Very important. In India nobody really care for this but it is absolutely necessary that you install one. We have one which doubles up as a rocker as well so we just pull it out and carry it along with us so our daughter not always on us and our hands are always free to do other things. Similar logical while in the car, it is not advisable to carry the child in your arms. The baby should be buckled in safely, accidents to announce their arrival. They just happen.
  7. Feed – This depends on several factors. Since our baby is exclusively breastfed we had a window of two hours, either we come back home or we find a place where my wife can breastfeed. If your child is older then bottle feed is always advisable
  8. Toys – Kids are unpredictable, there were times when we have just reched the venue and Z has misbehaved and we had to carry her. Toys, especially rattles helps to distract the child and give you those precious few minutes to eat/drink/chat or come up with a contingent plan, provided you don’t want to take the child in your arms.
  9. Socks/cap – depending on what the temperature is like
  10. Wash cloth – babies from their third month drool a lot so it’s always better to carry a soft napkin to wipe her mouth

There are no restrictions on taking your baby out, either for a few hours or few days as long as you are mentally and physically prepared to do this. More than the child it is important the mother goes out regularly because it is difficult to be trapped inside the house with a little child.

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