Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Working Mother

As I mentioned in my last update, in May I was thrilled to start a new job. Since then, I have been getting acclimatized to my "new normal" of being a mom and working outside the home. Even though I have worked before since becoming a mother, it was always either back to our shop and/or on my creative projects, so it was a bit different. First, it was so flexible that I could always switch with husband-ji or work while Maya was in school. And such flexible work did not really bring in enough cash to benefit our family. Nor did it give me enough work hours to really accomplish much. Now it's a bit different because my work hours are longer and not really negotiable. It's definitely a different pace, but I'm really liking it.

First let me mention that me working would not even be possible without the support of my mother-in-law (and of course husband-ji - but mostly my mother-in-law!). She has wanted me to go out and work on my own for a long time but I was focused on the kids and I was mentally tied up with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant and trying to keep the pregnancy, breastfeeding Veda, and trying to stop breastfeeding Veda. So there went two years of my life! We women really do have to sacrifice a lot of our time when we birth these babies! After my mother-in-law returned from India, I finally felt ready to start working again and focusing on my career, for once!

I tried to work at the shop, but then I got an idea that maybe I should try to work elsewhere. Why? Well, there were a lot of reasons. I wanted to try to work for a company that I loved and I wanted to gain some more experience for my resume. And now it turns out that I really like my job and I'm going to try to stay there longer term. It's a much larger company so I have learned a lot of new skills since joining.

Without my mother-in-law here, this wouldn't even be possible. Babysitters and nannies cost $15-20 per hour, and daycare costs $1700-$2500 per month. So, uh, no. It is so wonderful that she is here and she takes such good care of the kids. It is a privilege to get the chance to think about my career, and essentially myself, and the life goals that I want to accomplish. Husband-ji has also been great at helping to pick up Maya from school when I have to work and accommodating my schedule which effects all of us, especially since I was the go-to person to drop everything of my own to make sure that the family/home life runs properly. It's a bit of a new dynamic in our relationship and it feels like he respects me just a little bit more since I started working again.

I am working part-time at the moment, which can range anywhere between 15-40 hours per week depending on how much they need me. I find that I'm enjoying my kids more since working and having a life outside the home. When I come home, I make sure to spend quality time with the kids and take them on fun outings. For literally the first time in the past 7 years, it feels like I've got a good balance.

Maya seems the most happy about my new job. I was so scared that she would be upset and think my work was taking me away from her, but she didn't. She was, after all, the one who asked me to get a job in the first place! So I guess I can thank her for the idea! She seems to be very proud of me and she has told her whole class. She especially likes it when I have to get dressed up for work with the whole production of makeup, earrings and nice clothes. Although it feels like such a chore to dress up, it's a nice change from my uniform for the past 2 years of sweatpants!

If you had asked me 6 months ago about my life goals or what I want to accomplish, I would probably say something very vague because anything outside of being a mother seemed unattainable and felt like it would never get done. It is so refreshing to have a new set of goals now, and the time and space to really get to work!


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Year in Motherhood

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers and soon-to-be mothers! Every year on Mother's Day, I always like to reflect on my blog about my year in motherhood. This past year was pretty hard for me because I struggled with my new demands of being a mom of two little ones, and also suffering with Postpartum Depression in the Fall. I really wanted both of my little ones to feel loved and equal and I definitely put too much pressure on myself. The PPD really shook my world because it caught me off guard. It was mainly brought on by the extreme sleep deprivation that I experienced from 6-12 months postpartum. Between the breastfeeding and the lack of sleep, there was not much time left for me. As the year comes to a close, I recall a lot of difficult and weepy times, but I'm so glad that I pushed through and have made it to the other side, thanks to the unconditional support of husband-ji and my in-law's. As Mother's Day arrived this year, I again felt so happy and proud to be a mom!

Here are some pictures from my past year in motherhood (in chronological order!):

Last year's Mother's Day photoshoot
Cutting the cake at Maya's 5th Birthday Party
Napping with Veda

My new short "mom" hair-cut!
Snuggling with Veda
We woke up like this!

Veda only wants boobs...
Napping with Veda, again
With my girls
Watching Veda sleep
Me hugging Veda before going to work with my "makeup face" on!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Now Featured in: the May issue of Little India magazine

I'm so excited to share with you that we've been featured in the May 2018 issue of Little India magazine! It is the largest circulating expat publication in the USA, geared towards NRI's. I am very happy that they chose to feature us in a spotlight on multicultural masala love! I'm working on getting a digital copy, but until then, here's a peek!


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Life Lately!

After a slow start to the year, Spring time has been much more fast paced for us - so much so, that I'm still trying to catch my breath among the chaos! But, it's been a nice relief, especially since it was a terrible stagnant winter.

First, we are so excited that our home construction is FINALLY almost finished. It has been such a long journey and we can't wait to get in to our new home. However, moving comes with it's own set of challenges. We have to sell a lot of things that we don't want or need, we have to pack the things that we want to keep - it's a lot of decisions. But, I enjoy going through everything because husband-ji and I have really been re-evaluating our belongings and favoring a more minimalist approach. As a creative/visual person, I find that clutter really distracts me and causes me stress. It's really hard to say goodbye to things that have sentimental value or that someone has given us. Most of our furniture are hand-me downs and nothing that husband-ji actually picked out ourselves. Now that we are moving to a new home soon, husband-ji and I have been picking out new furniture that better reflect both of our tastes. We feel very adult! We are also saying goodbye to a lot of baby items that Veda has outgrown, now that our family is complete.

I also started a new job last week! I can't believe it. It feels great to be a working parent again, and so good to get the extra paycheck (especially since we are purchasing new furniture!). It was hard to think about working again with round-the-clock breastfeeding, not being able to find proper childcare, and my mother-in-law traveling. We tried to find a nanny for Veda but it didn't work out, so I just accepted my role as a stay-at-home parent although I was getting a bit restless internally. Sometimes stay-at-home parenting is not a choice, it's just what you have to do. 

I think the biggest "aha!" moment came to me when my 5 year old, Maya (who likes to ask me existential questions) asked me, "Mom, when are you going to get a job?" and I was speechless. I really didn't know what to say. And then I started to think that maybe I should get a job outside the home - something other than my creative pursuits - which to be honest, doesn't bring in steady money. Maya asked me, "Mom, what are you going to be when you grow up?" and I didn't really have an answer. I have been so swept up in parenting and motherhood that I haven't had a chance to think about putting myself out there.

When my mother-in-law came back from India and had no upcoming travel plans for the rest of the year, I touched base with her if it would be okay for me to start working again. She said absolutely, and was very encouraging about it. At the same time, almost to an uncanny coincidence, I noticed that a lot of places were hiring. Like, nearly every storefront I walked by! So, I hurriedly got my resume together and started applying. Within a week, I heard back from all 4 places I applied and started booking interviews. They hired me immediately at my top choice - a place that I had always wanted to work. They have hired me part-time for 2-3 days per week; and I am also helping out husband-ji at the shop for 1 day a week. I feel like this is a great balance for me because on the days that I'm off I can still take the kids to their activities. And the hours work out really well too - they have 3 different shifts per day. Working outside the home has also helped me wean Veda off of breastfeeding during the day, which I have been trying to do forever! I am still breastfeeding her at night though, mostly because we co-sleep and I'm too lazy to be bothered with sleep training.

We have been under heavy financial pressure during our whole construction and it dawned on me that I can actually help contribute financially too. Although husband-ji won't say it out loud, I think it comforts him a lot knowing that wifey is bringing home some funds too. It makes me feel good too.

Of course, I was a bit nervous about working again. But it turns out, being a mom has made me extremely efficient at work. I can multitask like a CEO, I have eyes everywhere, I have A LOT of patience, and constantly being on my feet is pretty similar to running around after an active toddler. Truth: moms get shit done!

(Veda: 15 months old)


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tamil New Year

Last weekend it was Tamil New Year and we performed a small pooja at home in the morning. We also got a chance to dress up the kids in some new Indian attire that was brought from India. I can't get over how grown up they look! Compared to last year, the change is huge!

Husband-ji and I didn't get a chance to dress up. He was running out the door to work and I was behind the camera in my nightgown, as usual!

But here is a photo of Veda and I from later that week:


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Our Spring Break Vacation to Mount Baker

Recently Maya was off school for Spring Break and my father-in-law was also off work for the Easter long weekend, so we decided to visit our Tamil family across the border in Washington state. We hadn't had a chance to go to the mountains yet this Winter and with warmer weather right around the corner, it was out last chance to experience a Winter Wonderland with the kids.

We rented this super cute little ski chalet cabin on Air BnB and we all stayed together. During the day, we drove up to the mountain and the kids played in the snow.

The trip was a bit stressful for me as Veda was just recovering from a double ear infection and was generally pretty fussy, and she hates the car. The wait at the border was absolutely insane with a 5 hour wait time for the long weekend. Next time, we might just take the train down! And then, we discovered that our boss baby Veda didn't like the snow! Oh, toddlers! So, I was definitely a bit preoccupied with my little devilish munchkin. It kind of reminded me of that trip we did to Hawaii when Maya was 18 months old and she got scared of sand. Go figure!

However, it was great to get together with family and enjoy some quality time together. Maya got to play with her little girl cousin, whom she adores, and is the same age as her. The mountain was so picturesque and despite the snow, it wasn't too cold up there.

Here are some highlights from our trip:


Dear readers, how was your Spring Break? 
Did you travel anywhere new?


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Visiting the Healthy Family Expo

I was so excited to receive an invitation to attend the Healthy Family Expo, which was held downtown at the Vancouver Convention Center. One of the perks of being a blogger is that I get invited to attend a lot of events and this one was right up my alley! We were encouraged to bring the whole family and spend the day exploring all the vendors and checking out the entertainment. My father-in-law also came along with us because he works in the natural health industry.

This year was it's 5th anniversary and I was so impressed at the wide range of exhibits that were there. There were over 200 vendors! They have everything that you would need, from teething biscuits to soccer lessons, from organic juices to wooden toys. They even had family doctors, dentists and chiropractors. It's a must-attend for any local family. We received so many samples of products and snacks (some were even full size!) and everyone there was so knowledgeable and great to chat with.

The event was very kid-friendly - featuring children's concerts, a toddler play area, and bouncy castles and trampolines. All of the vendors interacted so well with children.

Here are some pictures of our day:

We loved these Montessori-style wooden toys by Tender Leaf Toys!

So addictive!


Friday, March 9, 2018

Helping Children deal with the death of a family pet

Last year, only a few weeks before Veda was born, our beloved dog Ziggy passed away of a sudden heart attack at the young age of 6 years old. We were all absolutely heartbroken and devastated - but the worst part was telling Maya, who was 4 years old at the time.

We adopted Ziggy in 2010, right in the midst of our wedding planning. We had always wanted to have a dog together and we thought it would be good preparation for us for growing our family. Maya was born in 2012 and Ziggy was very much a protective older brother. They grew up together. When she was a baby, he used to lick her feet, cuddle with her, and watch over her while she was sleeping. Maya and Ziggy were very close. The last great memory that we have of him was spending Christmas together.

He died on our anniversary last year. We were planning to go out for dinner that night. Husband-ji called me hysterically from an animal hospital saying that he had died. I jumped in the car and drove as fast as possible. When I arrived, he was in one of the rooms, holding his body and crying. It was so terrible. We sobbed and sobbed. We asked the vet why it happened - how could it happen? He was only 6 years old! Apparently he had an underlying heart condition that developed quickly.

I can handle any amount of pain and hurt, but when you see your child experiencing it...well, it's hard to handle. We had no idea how we were going to tell Maya. Luckily it happened when she was at school, so we had some time. We waited 3 days to tell her and went back and forth on which way would be best. My mother-in-law thought it would be best to just tell her quickly and distract her. Husband-ji thought about telling her and then saying we could get a new dog. I thought it would be best for her to just grieve and let out her emotions, even though it would be hard to watch. We also went back and forth as to what time to tell her. Should we tell her in the morning? The evening? We didn't have the right answer.

After 3 long days, we decided to tell her in the evening one day after she got home from school. I told her that something happened to Ziggy and he died. She cried and cried and cried. It was terrible. She said she wanted him to come back, and I had to tell her that he wasn't coming back. I cried with her. My mother-in-law and husband-ji were very uncomfortable. My mother-in-law started trying to distract her, which didn't work. Husband-ji said "we can get a new dog!" to which Maya shouted, "I don't want a new dog, I ONLY want Ziggy!".

Then came the questions. Inconsolable, she wanted to know why he died. And where did he go? And why can't he come back? I explained that his heart stopped, and that he died at an animal hospital. And that they would bury him in the ground, under leaves. And that he has gone to Heaven now and is always looking down on her like an angel from the clouds. I explained that he has gone to join great grandma and great grandpa and they are taking care of him now. I told her that I had a dog growing up and Ziggy went to join him in Heaven and they play together. I said if she misses him, to just look up at the clouds. I told her that she was the best sister to Ziggy and he loved her so very much.

I am not a devout Catholic by any means, but I was at a loss of words at how to explain the concept of death and the angels that watch over us. Why is it that someone dies, all of a sudden? Those things even I don't have the answer to. Naturally, I thought of what my Catholic grandmother would have explained to me at that age. When it comes to parenting, she is my internal compass. The concept of Heaven seemed to comfort Maya a bit. We also found this really amazing book called Dog Heaven which I highly recommend.

I also said that it's okay to be sad about Ziggy, but it's our job now to take care of baby Veda who was coming soon. She thought about that for a while and tried to be brave.

Grieving was a long process for Maya. The first few weeks were really hard and she cried on and off, constantly. Despite Veda's exciting arrival, she was upset for months over Ziggy and still had a few cries about it towards the end of the year. I think she would have cried a lot more if it wasn't for Veda. Still, every once and a while, she remembers that he's gone and she gets sad. She has recently started again remembering Ziggy and missing him so she will draw him a picture. 

Towards the end of last year, we started talking about the idea of getting another dog in the future which Maya seemed open to. I told her she can help pick it out, name the dog, and help take care of it. We decided all together that we'd look into getting another dog after we move to our new place, and after Veda turns 2. Maya seemed to warm up to the idea since she had some space and time to grieve Ziggy.

One thing that I think I really did right about all of this was just to acknowledge her sadness and tell her that I missed him too. It's always been really hard for me to see Maya upset, so it was a struggle for me to fully allow her to be upset but I'm glad I did. In this situation, I think - there was no other way. Grief is really hard and there's no way around it.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Now Featured On: Masalamommas (8 Things I've Learned from Raising Mixed Kids)

I'm back with my monthly intercultural/interracial column on one of my favorite websites, Masalamommas! This time, my article is all about raising mixed kids and a few things I've learned along the way.

Click HERE to read it!

And do let me know what you think!


Monday, February 26, 2018

Why Do People Live in a Joint Family?

Back in the day in my in-laws' generation, when a woman got married she was expected to live with her husband's parents. It was a cultural norm, and a couple living on their own away from elders was seen as something unusual. It was also a societal pressure - if you opted to live on your own, people would turn their noses up at you. Young women getting married were prepared in advance on how to navigate moving in to her husband's natal home and how to deal with in-law's. My mother-in-law says that this is because the old families in India usually had a large multi-level ancestral property and the whole family would live there. Elders, aunts and uncles, and cousins would grow up on one property, and the property would just be handed down the generations.

But, India has changed. A lot of young couples in India are making the choice to live on their own, away from their families - even if they reside in the same city. Most people view living with your husband's parents as more trouble than it's worth. Nowadays, young couples and elders both think that living apart peacefully is better than living together and being unhappy - this is becoming a societal norm, especially in urban metropolises. Elderly people are living on their own longer than ever before, and only moving in to their kids' homes only when one of them is widowed. However, the elders do wistfully value everyone living under one roof like most people did in their own generation.

The concept of the joint family has also changed it's definition. A joint family used to mean that it was a home shared by elders, husband and wife, and the husband's siblings and their families - with cousins growing up as brothers and sisters. Now when people refer to a joint family they refer to living with only the in-law's.

There are also many different ways to reside in a joint family. For example, you could have an in-law suite/wing on the side of your home or a lane way apartment. You could build a suite on top of your garage, or have a basement suite. You could live on the same property but have separate apartments, having a sense of spacial privacy. Or you could live separately, but in the same neighborhood - a short walk or drive away.

One of the many Laneway Houses that have popped up around Vancouver: a seperate detached smaller home on the same lot as the main house

Making the decision to live in a joint family is a choice but in some cases it's also not a choice. There are a lot of external factors that come into play that are more complicated, such as:

a) Your husband is the eldest son OR only son.
If your husband is one of these, then there is no doubt that your in-law's will eventually move in with you. It's going to happen, he just hasn't told you about it yet! It may only happen after one parent is widowed, but it's still going to happen eventually. Parents are still seen as the eldest son's responsibility and this mentality is an unwritten rule even in this generation.

b) Valuing grandparents being heavily involved in children's lives.
Some people are fine with grandparents seeing the grandkids a few times a year and would prefer to parent the kids on their own. Others really value the grandparents' involvement in the kids' lives and could not do without it. You might be more swayed by this if you were very close with your own grandparents growing up.

c) You live in an expensive urban city and you can't afford to live separately.
Many times there is also a financial factor in living in a joint family. If your in-law's are retired and don't have much money, it just makes sense to live together as a big group rather than rent a separate apartment. Some of the cities with the most expensive housing markets are: Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver (our city), Auckland, Bay Area, Melbourne, London, NYC, etc. All of these cities have large Indian populations, small urban properties and extraordinarily high rents (like $2000 for a 1 bedroom apartment - not including utilities!). What young couple has $2000 extra to waste on rent? Financially, it makes more sense to stay together...even if it is cramped.

For us, living in a joint family was important because both husband-ji and I were extremely close to our grandparents growing up and we wanted our kids to have the same experience. I also value their input in regards to parenting the kids - it's helpful to have an elder's perspective. At the end of the day, no matter how tough it is on me as an individual to live in a joint family at times, seeing my kids close to their grandparents makes it all worth it.


What about you? Do you or would you ever live in a joint family? What are the factors that made you decide to live or not live in one?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

You don't have to enjoy every single second of being a mom

Maya: 13 months old

Recently I had a conversation with a first-time mom whose baby was a few weeks old. She was deep in the trenches of adjusting to life with a newborn and she was finding breastfeeding to be extremely difficult, and she was driving herself nuts pumping every few hours because she wasn't producing enough milk. She had that crazed/teary look that a mom gets when she's freaked out about her milk supply. (Been there!!!) She was incredibly sleep deprived and was on the brink of tears several times while speaking with her. First, she was confiding in me about how hard it was. Then, she told me she read this article online which said something along the lines of "you must enjoy it because it goes by so fast and you will never get this time back again..."

AS IF the first-time mom needed the added pressure of thinking she should be "enjoying" every single minute of it, especially when she's having a hard time getting through the day.

We moms do this a lot. First, you're not allowed to ever openly complain about how hard motherhood is. Or else people will look at you like you're crazy. And if you do, the complaint has to be followed with: "But of course, I love my kids so much". (Duh.) Do we really need to say that we love our kids? OF COURSE we love our kids. The result is that so many moms suffer in silence and they have absolutely nowhere to vent any frustrations because nobody wants to be honest. Whatever happened to just having a good vent??? Without being judged for it. Or without being questioned for it.

As a mom of two children (who are 4 years apart), I can attest to the fact that yes, children do grow up so incredibly fast. And lately, I'm all about trying to enjoy the present moment. But I don't like this shitty societal standard that moms "should" be enjoying every single second of it, and the implication that if you don't that you're a bad mom and/or you regret being a parent.

I can just imagine my mom friend deliriously pumping at 4am (next to her snoring husband) and feeling bad about herself because she's not enjoying EVERY minute like the article said.

That day, I told her: "You don't have to enjoy every minute of it. Sometimes it's just really hard." Her expression to what I said is something that I can't put into words. It was a reaction of relief. Of an honest understanding and acknowledgement. Somewhat of a secret code among moms. I basically told her it's okay to feel like that.

I, for one, do not miss those newborn days. Of course I think back to how cuddly Veda was and the total bliss of her falling asleep on my shoulder...but I certainly do not miss: waking up every 45 minutes, colicky crying, postpartum bleeding, being insanely preoccupied with my milk production, and having zero energy recovering from birth while simultaneously taking care of and breastfeeding a newborn.

Rather than preaching to mothers that they should be enjoying every single millisecond of parenthood (particularly when they're going through a rough time), I think it is more helpful to see the positives and negatives in each phase. And acknowledge the fact that some phases of child-rearing are harder than others.

That is all.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Best Children's Books about Kindness

Books are always a great conversation starter with kids and one of the values that I think are essential to encouraging a good citizen is teaching children about the importance of kindness. The world does not need more successful people - the world needs more kind people. We should not praise children for their accomplishments - we should instead praise them for being kind to others because it really makes a difference it others' lives. Kindness goes hand in hand with empathy, compassion, and also inclusion.

Here are some of our favorite children's books about kindness:

You Hold Me Up
(ages 0-6)
Monique Gray Smith is a new favorite author of mine - I love her beautiful prose and the simple, colorful illustrations in this book which depicted many persons of color. This book teaches children to support and encourage each other, and also empathy and compassion. 

(ages 4-8)
This book is a good metaphor for showing children how our behaviour effects other people and it touches on accountability for one's actions and also empathy. "Bucket filling" is when you do something kind for someone else and it makes you feel good. "Bucket dipping" is when you do something unkind to others and subsequently feel worse. It was a perfect read for my 5 year old, who understood the analogy immediately.

(ages 4-8)
This book has lots of great ideas for kids on how to show kindness in their daily life. It gives useful ideas that are both big and small - and the lesson is that every act of kindness makes a difference. It touches on kindness to people, animals, and the earth.

(ages 2-6)
This is a really cute book that is lovely for younger children. If you don't know what words to say, or what to do, giving someone a hug can always help lift someone up. It is a charming and playful story that has warm illustrations.

(ages 3-8)
This one is one of our favorites. A little boy is walking and he almost steps on an ant. The ant starts talking to him and the boy starts seeing things from his perspective. A good lesson for kids to embrace to concepts of non-violence to other living creatures like animals/insects/plants; and also for kids to think about walking in others' shoes.

(ages 3-6)
This book depicts three polar bears who are geographically displaced and searching for a new home. They sail around to different lands and are turned away by other groups of animals who are more fortunate than they are. They finally find an uninhabited island and welcome other animals who are displaced. This book was inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, and it is a good starter conversation to have about welcoming people who are in need.

(ages 0-6)
One of our favorites from the Elephant & Piggie series, this one depicts sharing treats with friends. Kids have a hard time sharing their treats, so it's an excellent way to show them how to be kind and generous to others.

(ages 4-8)
Brunhilda is a funny old witch who enjoys making trouble. One day, she wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and starts doing good deeds and starts to realize that it makes you feel better if you're kind to others. This book would be good for kids who are acting out towards other kids at school.

(ages 3-8)
This book is my favorite from the Knuffle Bunny series, by Mo Willems. Trixie is a bit older now and she is going on a big trip to Holland to visit her grandparents. She forgets her beloved Knuffle Bunny on the airplane, but continues on with her travels determined to have a good time. She finds the stuffed animal again on the flight back and decides to give it to a fussy baby, showing kindness, generosity and maturity.

(ages 2-6)
A friend of ours recommended this book and we loved it, especially the fun illustrations. This book is all about showing kindness through cooking for others and being creative making them something. This book is quite humorous and it takes lots of funny twists and turns.


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