Being a mom is not easy – you know that, for sure. Being a mom away from your home country in a land that is still alien to you in very many ways, without any immediate support structure in terms of family and familiarity – is even more difficult. However, with the right attitude, positive energy, and an understanding and cooperative spouse, one can make the new chapter that motherhood brings joyful and rewarding under any circumstance.
I am an Indian mom, currently based out of the USA. Our feisty debutante was born about 13 months ago on a cold wintry morning in the East Coast. I cannot imagine surviving the first few weeks without my parents’ presence. I had handled the ebb and tide of pregnancy on my own – we had attended a fair share of prenatal classes – but nothing can prepare you for a brand new human being. As my husband and I tried to make sense of our upside down world, mom was there to ensure we got the best of meals and reassuring smiles; dad took over the day nap schedule of the baby bringing a lot of sanity to our lives. After that, my in laws stayed with us till my daughter was about 5 months old and after that we have been running solo, so as to say.
How has my experience been? Great! No, I don’t mean to underestimate the help of family in bringing up your child. They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. The more hands the merrier. Sure. The pros are countless. There’s the reassurance of elder members who can help you with desi nuskhas for your baby, experiences are shared and grandma’s potions are always available. You can go out for work or leisure without having to worry about leaving your baby in day care or with a nanny – grandparents are the second best caretakers after parents that a child can get. If you are in India, the help of maids, drivers, etc. are easily available at reasonable rates (compared to what you would pay in the US for similar services). I often, still, get jealous when fellow mommies discuss on forums about massage ladies and cooks, when I am busy doing dishes and laundry all by myself! What luxury!
However, every coin has two sides to it. Believe it or not, there are pros to the other life sans immediate family support too. For starters, I don’t have to really follow a schedule to accommodate other members. The baby dictates the days and the nights. I have a free hand on what I want to do when. Based on how the baby’s been, I decide when to cook, clean and bathe! No waiting for the maid at the doorway and no anxiety attacks if the cook doesn’t show up.
The best part, I don’t have to deal with pesky and interfering questions or suggestions. Between the doctor, hubby and me, we decide what’s best for the baby and follow it – no constant badgering about introducing formula, starting solids, giving sugar or not, adding ghee or not, fattening the baby or not over feeding the baby. I have heard from many mommy friends back in India that how this daily bickering is a huge demotivating factor. Not just family, in India, everyone – distant relatives, neighbors, passersby – most people tend to think they are resident experts on child rearing and who wouldn’t want free advice, right?
Another great benefit of managing your baby on your own – you get to train your husband hands on! My hubby changes our daughter’s diapers, can bathe her, knows her feeding and, nap and sleep schedule and can take over whenever required. He even helps with cooking (or ordering in food) and dishes and laundry. There is lot of mutual respect for the household chores too and that maybe difficult to inculcate in a house where there are parents, grandparents and a whole lot of domestic help at your beck and call.
So, my verdict? It is never going to be a perfect world – this way or that. Don’t shy away from work opportunities overseas for you or for your spouse just because you have a baby or are expecting one. You can always have family visit you when you need them but it is not a Herculean task managing things on your own. Especially in countries like the US where the medical facilities and infrastructure (at home and outside) is top of the class – you don’t have to worry about emergencies or anything else. Such experiences mould you as an individual and make you more independent, confident, and strong.