I get a call mid-morning from my sister-in-law, new mom of a 3 month- old, sounding terribly frightened: “I was out doing some errands when someone called to inform me that I should rush because Fancy-Shmancy Playschool is giving out admission forms”.
Till now, she had lived oblivious to the Mad Mad World of Mommyhood but standing at the epicenter of all maternal earthquakes (the premises of a highly desirable school during admission time), there was no way she was able to stay grounded.
My only answer to her was “Welcome to the Madness!” And the mommy world is definitely a mad one. But it never used to be this crazy. When we were little, I remember my mom complaining about the occasional wonky mom whose daughter scored 99% every time, but the mom would spend hours with the teacher, at Reports Day, analysing and reanalysing how Swati* lost out by one mark (despite barely sleeping during the exams, having water-soaked badaams & Chyawanprash every morning and wearing religious lockets of 3 faiths around her neck).
And then there’d be all the other moms, like mine (moms of the mediocre 60-70 percenters) who wouldn’t spend more than a minute with the teacher:
Mom: “She’s a good girl?”
Teacher: “Yes. She’s a good girl in class”.
Mom smiles uncomfortably, picks up report and darts.
That was Mommy World when I was growing up. When I came home, I changed out of my uniform and went downstairs to the garden or watched my brothers wrestle like Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, doing pile drivers and leg drops on each other. I didn’t have Singing class on Mondays, Ballet class on Tuesdays, Swimming Class on Wednesdays, Zumba for Kids on Thursdays, Yoga Class on Fridays (where you are taught how to rest: ‘shav-aasana’) and Nani House Day on Saturday. My social calendar was pretty free.
Forget how scandalized I felt when someone showed me snippets of “Girls Gone Wild” in college, I’m definitely more shocked watching “Moms Gone Wild” unfold in front of me. I remember when BabyA was 6 months, I told a mom (with an infant of the same age) that I had started BollyAerobics and she thought that I had started BabyA on BollyAerobics. She went ballistic trying to find out the number of A’s instructor: God forbid, her kid may lose out! And I still wonder how she expected her son to dance when he was 6 months away from walking then. But then Mommyhood has no connection to logic any more.
From hearing moms bitch out their kids’ schools for giving them chocolate ice-cream (I have been witness to a half an hour conversation about how evil the school is because they decided to treat the students to chocolate ice cream during the Diwali Party: “Don’t they know that my child can develop a cough?”) to moms who would probably sanitize the toilet paper that they use on their babies’ asses if they could: I feel like I have seen it all! Whatever happened to moms like our moms, who were happy when we got chocolate ice cream at school because they were happy that we were happy!
I think a big chunk of the problem stems from the fact that school admissions are so stressful these days, so moms feel sucked into the frenzied, over-competitive mommy world as soon as their kid is born. Right from choosing the right Pre-Natal Class (to provide your unborn child with the most enriching environment in the womb) to selecting a Mother Toddler Programme (so that infants can learn sociability), the stress only goes on intensifying.
Also the break-up of joint families has resulted in less interaction with extended family and thus, a loss of in-house entertainment. In the age of outsourcing, we must also outsource people to entertain our kids: through organized play dates and various classes.
Another factor is that many people are deciding to have one child, and more than two are almost unheard of (and given the “couldn’t keep your pants on, huh?” looks, if they exist). Thus, parents’ entire focus is on trying to create that one prodigy because that’s the only shot they got!
So I can’t say I’m not a Mad Mommy: BabyA’s social calendar is more packed than a Mumbai local at peak hours, I feel shattered if her nap has gone off-schedule and I have to admit that I squirm every time my Old Neighbourhood Uncle offers her cashewnuts from his pocket (no box, just floating around in his pocket- how gross!), whenever he bumps into her. I guess, I have to learn to let go- and let BabyA just live… and be! I have to learn to take the bad with the good; or in this case, to take the wooly pocket lint with the equally grubby cashewnuts- all with a smile. I must do so just so I can truly earn the right to be an outsider, who looks in, to point and laugh, at all the unrecovered patients of The Mental Hospital of Mommies.
*Fictitious names used.