Diary of a “Stay-at-home” dad : Freaky Fridays – weekly blog

6 months ago, I decided to take a bold and impulsive decision of quitting my job without another job in hand. Initially, I thought I would apply to other jobs but as my wife’s delivery date drew closer and closer, I decided to take a “break” from corporate. I had resigned from my current job and applied to a few jobs but secretly, I hoped that I would not get through any of them so that I did not have to join soon. My wife was supportive of this decision. Her only concern was finances and having saved enough for 6 months, I took the decision to be a temporary “stay-at-home” dad.

Now-a-days, sabbaticals and breaks have become common. Different people take it at different points in time. My friends, who were not in recent touch with me, thought I had taken a “sabbatical”. For those who are not aware, a sabbatical ensures you have not lost your job and can rejoin the same organization after the specified duration, in any available role. Most organizations have a sabbatical policy for people who have completed a minimum tenure. When I told a few of them that this was not the case, quite a few of them told me that I was taking a big risk by quitting without a back-up job and a back-up plan. What would I give as a reason for the break for potential employers? What if the gap becomes a problem in me finding another job?

Nonetheless, I moved on as what mattered to me the most was what I was thinking. I was venturing into “unknown” territory. There was no reference point for me – no one in my close circle had taken a paternity break. Maternity breaks have been the norm since ages. In my head, I was clear that I wanted to give all possible support to my wife and help her through a transition. I was not so much worried about the future.

I resigned in January and my wife’s due date was 6th of March originally. But the doctor had told us to be prepared from Feb 20th onwards. Having worked for 9 years, the month of February was a pleasant surprise for me. I felt I was like one of those “retired” Public Sector employees who seem very contented with life and who walk the race of life at their own pace, unlike the younger generation which just keeps running without any idea. The running race starts from school, where we are told class 10 is a big hurdle, then IIT/medicine, then post-graduation, job, marriage and keeps going on and on. The comparisons about how others are doing keep happening and make us run harder and faster. All this stopped for me in February and life was different.

I would get up early, hit the gym for almost two hours, do some house chores , read the newspaper and wrote chapters of my book. For the first time, I had no serious goal to target. I just wanted to enjoy the time till it lasted. The baby had not yet arrived. I would go for walks daily with my wife and just try to not discuss the fact that we would soon be parents. To distract her , I would discuss the chapters of my book , the people in my gym etc. I also did a few online certifications. I started using Instagram more often. Life was good even without a purpose. I started blogging regularly. This was month 1.

On the 27th of February, our little bundle of joy arrived. It finally hit me that I had become a parent. My wife had started preparing herself to be a mom since the time she discovered she was pregnant. For me, the realization dawned only when I held the little one in my arms for the first time. Post that, life started zipping. Quite a few of my friends told me that life would no longer be the same and I would not get time to sleep, would have to let go of a lot of hobbies etc etc. I was a bit apprehensive at hearing all this. But what happened with me was completely different. As I was not working, I had enough time to do a lot of things. I would burp the baby, do a few household chores, watch sitcoms and in my free time, would start writing chapters of my book. The first two months were very hectic, especially for my wife, as the baby would feed every two hours and she would get very tired. But gradually, things improved and she was able to get better sleep.

As far as I was concerned, the break made me try a lot of creative things. I made my first DIY wall clock from  a used iPad cover, wrote the manuscript of my first book, tried working on a couple of whacky ideas ( a Youtube finance video series and an education start-up). The last two ideas didn’t go through as I had to depend on other partners and it didn’t work out. But I became fitter, stronger and much more creative as a person.

As a dad, my primary KRA was to put the baby to sleep every night and play with her during the day. It was fun and I was in a utopian world. I had all the time in the world – to take care of my body, my mind and family. I secretly hoped that I could extend the break for another year or two. Why would I want to let go of the new found freedom of not running a race against time?

But six months later, practicality kicked in. My savings had almost been utilized and there was a burden of an EMI. I had no option but to start working again. The break was not pre-planned and it had to end sooner than later. I joined in an organization two weeks ago and things have changed again.

“Time”, which was in abundance with me  during the break, is now a luxury. I barely get to see my little one. By the time I am back home, she’s asleep. I hardly hit the gym now. I rarely am in a frame of mind to write creatively as most days I come back exhausted. I have not read the newspaper. Weekends fly away with my wife and baby as that’s the only time I get to spend with them. Slowly, I am getting back into the race of life. The future on the work front looks scary –travel, resolving issues, late nights, burn outs , appraisals, lay-offs, promotions. It looks as if the juice is going to be sucked out. I have not had the time to plan out my book launch. My biggest fear is I will stop doing the things I love – writing, reading, gymming, cleaning and playing with the kid. I hope it doesn’t come true. Secretly, I pray to God that all my worst fears do not come true and I continue to create time to do the things I love doing.

Time and tide waits for none. I hope the tide turns in favour of me sooner than later. Hopefully, the next break will not take another 9 years and hopefully, I will find the time to keep writing. One of the songs playing in my head right now is…

“ Suhaana safar aur yeh mausam haseen… humey darr na hum kho na jaaye kahin”

-Jai Hind

Guest Blogger : 10 unconventional parenting gifts : Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

Money, real estate, gold are cliched. Here are 10 non-monetary assets that we could will to our children

Folks – starting this week, guest bloggers will be contributing to this blog to share different perspectives on various topics. So if you are someone is passionate about writing on anything under the sun in a simple and non-technical topic, please get in touch with me.

This week’s guest blogger is Preeti Iyer. She is a content specialist in the financial services domain. She has written blogs on topics such as parenting, philanthropy, and spirituality. She also reviews books and occasionally dabbles in poetry.

Today’s blog is on one of my favorite topics- parenting. Here you go

Ten unconventional bequeathals for the coming generations

The first cry! And we are hit by a mixed bag of emotions – tears of joy, overwhelmed by the arrival of a new member, sleepless nights to follow, moments of anxiety, host of responsibilities, and the list is endless. The baby, which has just tiptoed into our lives, needs our full attention and time, and needs to be nourished, educated, and reared, and taught the right ways to lead his/her life.

We open several piggy banks for the most precious jewel in our crown, in the form of fixed deposits, systematic investment plans, children’s education plans, and invest in long-term assets, including gold, property, and equities… all this to ensure that every need that can be envisaged, right from infancy, toddlerhood, basic and higher education, medical insurance, teenage, marriage, and last but not the least, inheritance. 

But hang on!!! If you bequeath a crore of rupees as cash, or a mausoleum of a house for your child, does that mean you have topped the University of Parenting? Maybe you have provided for every potential need of your offspring, but how does this ensure his/her evolution into a knowledgeable, talented, creative, nature-loving personality. 

Here are 10 unconventional bequeathals which can go a long way in shaping the personality of a child, and making him/her a more responsible, sensible, sensitive and mature individual.

1. Discovering the joy of reading: The child who reads today, will be an adult who thinks tomorrow. Introducing your child to the world of books and joys of reading in the growing years, can probably help them find their best friend, philosopher and guide for a lifetime. Reading can nourish their brains, and instill a sense of curiosity and quest for knowledge and information. A gargantuan library, be it in the form of physical books or maybe a kindle, can be one of the best assets that several succeeding generations can also benefit from.

2.  Initiating the love for music: The sapta swaras, when woven together, can produce the most melodious tunes. Inculcating love for music, helping them learn to sing or play an instrument, and more importantly, teaching them the right way to appreciate music and talented musicians, can provide them a calming escapade from their hectic schedules, and offer access to one of the most effective stress busters. It doesn’t really matter which school of music they may want to pursue – Hindustani, Carnatic or Western. End of the day, all forms of music are bound by the same thread of seven notes. If the love for music culminates into a passion for dance, that’s equally or even more rewarding. So, how about extending your CD collection to your children and their families further on?

3. Fostering art and craft: Be it a traditional form of art like embroidery or crochet work, Warli or Madhubani paintings, or making murals, or more modern pursuits such as quilling, paper craft, candy stick art, or beadwork, any form of art and craft fosters creativity and imagination and offers immense satisfaction. And definitely, every family will have certain hidden arts and artists, who need to pass on the talent to their younger family members, so that the legacy can continue.

 4. Encouraging philanthropy: The joy of giving can only multiply if we ensure our children understand the need to care for the needy, and provide for them in as many ways possible. Though companies and hence, employers, these days are becoming more socially responsible, what could be lacking is the personal touch.

So, take your child to a local orphanage or home for elderly, and initiate the practice of offering food, clothes, books, and other items of utility to the inmates. We need to ingrain the fact that these are individuals who are not less-privileged in any way, but are those with immense potential and dreams, who only need the means to fulfill their aspirations, may be in the form of money or valuable guidance and moral support.

5. Building a connoisseur’s paradise:  Old is gold and will always remain so. Few decades ago, many of us and our parents or grandparents loved collecting rare stamps, coins, photographs or paintings. Whenever someone would pay a visit, maybe an old acquaintance or a distant relative, we would find great pride in showcasing our repertoire. However, the current generation of kids rarely display such inclination or enthusiasm. Perhaps the advent of internet or technology consumes their mind and mental pace to an extent, that there is less physical room for accumulating and storing such assets.

 6. Preserving antiques and family heirlooms: Can you ever find in the local bazaar or the virtual e-marketplace, the vessel in which your grandmother made her signature kheer, or the ancient bell that hung in the courtyard of your father’s home in his native place? In most of the cases, the answer would probably be no. Certain things, like wine, become worthier with age. And our family heirlooms and antique pieces are no exception. The gap however, arises when our progeny fails to perceive value in such objects because they perhaps do not know how precious these collectibles are, both in terms of monetary value, and as a souvenir.

7.   Instilling the need for spirituality and meditation: One of the saddest ironies in today’s fast-paced, mechanical life is that we try to discover everything around us, except our own selves. What does it take to take a moment, sit down and pause, and dwell on our thoughts? Most individuals, especially children and teenagers, are trapped within walls of peer pressure, advices (some irrelevant or unsought) and an overload of information on the Internet. If they fail to wake up to their inner voice and calling, they may end up in the wrong professions and living someone else’s dream.

Let us introduce our scions to the universal force that binds all of us, to the ways by which we can reach out to the Almighty, share our concerns with Him/Her, and find a pathway to peace and equanimity.  This could help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, choose careers that are aligned to their talents and aptitude, be unruffled by constant challenges or any negative feedback, and remain grounded to their roots, so as to achieve their goals and reach for the skies.

8. Handing down cherished memories and the Family Tree: Not sure how many of you would agree with me, but black-and-white pictures of our parents and grandparents, the ancestral home, the well and cow shed in the backyard, the paddy fields and plantations, have an unmistakable charm. Why lose it to hi-tech scans and personal drives of laptops? Why not print them (if negatives are available), paste them in albums, write down catchy and meaningful captions, and pass it over to the youth of tomorrow? This could help them recall and relive those occasions, appreciate and preserve some of the practices, and maintain tradition and culture.

9. Sharing traditional lip-smacking recipes and culinary secrets: The secret ingredients that go into the chhole prepared by your favourite aunt, the recipe for making perfect modaks for Lord Ganesha, or the tried-and-tested method for making melt-in-the-mouth Mysore Paks… does anyone know these culinary secrets? This is possibly the only way families can ensure that the taste of the quintessential Dadimaa ka Khaana lingers forever, not only in the minds of kith and kin, but also on their tongues. This may also ensure that the nutritive value of food is well-preserved, and the body gets the required nourishment, in a world that is increasingly dominated by fast foods and crash diets.

10.Creating the urge to protect nature and the environment: If we closely examine our surroundings, environment and nature, we could comprehend the pressing need to maintain the ecological balance, use natural resources sparingly, and conserve every drop and aspect of Mother Nature. Depleting forest areas, climate change and global warming, receding water levels, and increasing pollution in air and water, may suffocate those stepping into adulthood few decades later.

So, the answer lies in acting now, before the situation bommerangs into a global crisis. Let us bequeath the strong urge to protect our natural resources, and prevent further damage to the environment, to our children, so that they grow into socially responsible and sensitive human beings.

And after a long blogpost, here is a short disclaimer. The purpose of penning down this blog was to share some of the ways by which we can help our successive generation, learn from and preserve the past, sustain their present and succeed in their future. Feel free to add on to your own list of bestowments. The list is inexhaustive and options are raised to infinity, if only we look at the world after taking off the glasses tainted with materialism, possessiveness, and constant comparison and competition.

Good luck and God bless!!!

Preeti Iyer

http://preetypoint.blogspot.com/

Maa Tujhe Salaam: Mother’s Day Special

While I am not a big fan of having a “Day” to celebrate occasions as they are nothing but a windfall for greeting card companies and restaurants, on the occasion of Mother’s Day, I felt it was apt to write a blog to pay tribute to all mothers.

Firstly, the person who is credited with creating Mother’s Day- writer/activist Julia Ward Howe. She first suggested this idea in 1872 and held Mother’s Day meetings annually in Boston to unite women and rally for peace. Then, the inspirational West Virginia activist Anna Jarvis, who campaigned for observance of a national holiday in honor of her mother. Jarvis’ mom was a community health advocate, who had organized several Mother’s Day work clubs that addressed child rearing and public health issues. Jarvis wanted to pay tribute to her mom and all mothers. Without these three inspirational ladies, the world would not be celebrating Mother’s Day every year on the second Sunday of May.

My wife recently became a mother two months ago and I was fortunate to see her evolution from a happy-go-lucky carefree girl to a responsible mother in a short span of time. The sacrifice a mother puts in for the well-being of the child starts well before the delivery, in fact right from the moment the happiest news in the world is broken to her. The mother’s world starts to revolve around the little one in the womb and things would otherwise have been normal become a luxury (read these as eating out, parties, movies , going to the parlor etc. in today’s times). All for the greater good of seeing a happy and healthy child. Then starts the endurance process. A male like me had no idea about what labour pain feels like until I experienced it through the eyes of my wife. For me, a pin prick is good enough to shout loudly. Multiply the intensity of this by a billion and people who have not given child-birth will understand what sacrifice a mother undergoes in terms of the physical pain. But there is never a complaint as she always knows it is for the greater good of the world, “her” world, which is her child. A woman undergoes a big change when she becomes a wife, an even bigger change when she becomes a mom. Imagine this. As a recent dad, I hardly get time to write during the day. Most of my writing happens in the late evenings after the world has slept, or rather my world right now. Having taken a break , I try to do my bit by trying to burp, singing her to sleep, occasionally giving her bath, holding fort when my wife goes to the loo or has lunch. And I don’t have to breastfeed every hour. A new mom struggles to find time to squeeze in a bath. She doesn’t want to make the child wait in case she cries.   All this sacrifice despite having some amazing support from her parents.

Which brings me to pay tribute to the real stalwarts – the parents of all of us. In today’s time, parenting for us as a couple feels really tough to transition despite having both sets of parents in the same city – despite us not having to cook meals, wash dishes, clean the house etc. All our parents have made the biggest ever sacrifice by making our childhood a joyride. In those days when we were kids, I don’t think there were maids, day-care centres, cooks and washing machines. The parents of our generation have gone through all this without a complaint. There were two kinds of super-moms– some like mine who decided to quit their job to focus on their single biggest priority – their children. The second kind deserves an equal salute – moms like my mother-in-law who continued working so that they could make more money for us to enjoy the benefits and still took care of their children without batting an eye-lid. In today’s times, we give standing ovations to artistic performances and speeches we see live. If these things deserve a standing ovation, then I think our parent’s sacrifices deserve much more than just Whatsapp forwards and FB Insta “happy Mother’s Day” status messages. Till today, their single biggest priority remains their children and their well-being. Even to this date, those of us who are fortunate to have our parents alive, see the concern in their eyes when we have a small fever. They still consider us a little child even though many of us have ourselves become parents or have grown out of our college clothes. Many of us, me included, have reciprocated their love by taking them for granted. It is a sad truth of today that we will realize the true value of everything only when that thing is no longer available.

Let’s talk our motherland. While we cringe about jobs, higher taxes, intolerance ( all of which are real issues), what we forget is the financial state of our motherland. Many of us find the Budget to be boring or not of use to us. A shocking fact to many is that to spend every 100 Rs on various schemes, subsidies, the Govt borrows 19 Rs. Which means 100 Rs of expenses is only financed by 81 rs of taxes and other receipts. We are still repaying our old international loans and we continue to take more loans to fund our expenditure as a nation. 7.04 lac crore , yes you read it right, is the amount budgeted for borrowings and other liabilities by the Government of India. China, on the other hand, has become a trade surplus nation. Which is my Startup India is very important and creating jobs through entrepreneurship is a very satisfying thing as it provides more revenue to the motherland. Our parents did not have access to the kind of venture capitalist’s money or the FDIs in their era and so they sacrificed their lives so that we could fulfil their unrealized dreams. Instead, we still continue to play the safe game and work for others when in today’s age, there is no stopping a great idea when it comes to resources or funds. Even I am guilty of this but if this continues, the figures mentioned will only worsen. The likes of China and Korea realized this in the 60s and today, we have global powerhouses originating from there. Sadly, for many of us, our only concern in the budget is whether the Govt has reduced income tax slabs rate or not.

After our motherland comes the mother of all mothers – Mother nature. Our greed to inhabit , build concrete jungles and litter every God damn place in this planet has ensured that we face mother Natures’s fury through the likes of Cyclone Fani, tsunamis and earthquakes. Where there is no direct correlation between these disasters and manly greed of cutting forests, Natural does follow Netwon’s law to giving an equal and opposite reaction to our every greedy action.

So, what can we do to make all these mothers proud? Small actions when multiplied can create a significant impact. We can start with saying thank you to our moms, cooking for them, taking time off for a day and just hearing them out. To our motherland, we can do things like sponsoring a few kid’s basic education every year to help those less fortunate mothers get their children out of poverty, pay our taxes without cribbing and try to create jobs with the resources we have so that India is a debt free and a trade surplus nation. For mother nature, we can start with small things by not spitting on roads, carrying cloth bags to malls and minimizing plastic. We all have enough Google-able info around us to know what we need to do and pay tribute to all the mothers around us. This need not happen only on Mother’s day, we can do these small things daily at different scale in varied contexts.

If we do the small things right every day which make our mother proud and in turn our mother land and Mother Nature Proud, our future generations will thank us by singing in genuine praise….

Maa Tujhe Salaam

Happy Mother’s Day to all these lovely angels. Every day is special because of them – every mom is special

Jai Hind

Baap Baap Hota Hai : Freaky Fridays weekly blog

Yesterday (27th Feb, 2019) was a Red Letter Day in my historic life. Our little bundle of joy , Miss Aaria Iyer , made a grand entry at 1:16 pm into this world. It was truly historic as it came a day after the Balakot air strikes. My friend Yosha asked me if we are keeping the child’s nickname as BALAKOT. While I loved his creativity, we already had a nickname – PEANUT. My creative wife had decided this name as soon as we figured out she got pregnant. Aaria was the size of a peanut in her first scan. Both me and wife are extremely impatient Indians in general and we like to keep things simple. We did not have the patience to think of another nickname and confuse the world. Our 4 year old niece Aiko had already started calling her Peanu. We were scared of her as she would ask a zillion questions and not stop till we gave a logically satisfying explanation as to why we changed Peanu’s name to Balakot. Both of us were too busy in the labor room since the past few days and if she asked any thing about Balakot, we were scared to say #Idon’tknow .Therefore ,we decided to continue with Peanu. This is a very strategically important decision for our family as it has serious implications on the geo-political climate in our family,relatives ,friends and other neighboring nation states. It would impact macro-economic parameters like inflation (of balloons as all future birthday parties may have a customized “peanut” written on it which increases cost) , cost of stationery purchased (a few pictures of a peanut would need to be pasted in diaries, books etc. when the kid asks what is peanut) , but we decided that it would stay this way come what may!!!

To provide some rock solid support, we had our amazing sister in law “Beat Yesterday Preethy” playing the “Dula” role throughout. A Dula is a mentor, counselor, physiotherapist, masseur, coach all rolled into one who will stand with the pregnant mom and ensure she has physical, mental and emotional support . The Western countries have a professional Dula. Due to tight finances, we decided that Beat Yesterday Preethy would be our makeshift Dula (like how Sehwag was made to open the batting in Tests despite never having played cricket before as an opener).

Like Sehwag, Beat Yesterday Preethy killed it in her new role as a Dula. I strongly feel she should stop doing what she does currently and make this her profession. She works as Director of a startup. We made her work from home.. Or rather work from cradle (cradle = Apollo Cradle). I had the privilege of listening to her superb con calls which she keeps having with her team. Yesterday, in a con call where in she had to give a monthly update to her bosses, she started off with an amazing one-liner.. “Starting with the update on our monthly newsletter..which has not been happening since last few months…

” I couldn’t stop laughing . Why give an update on something which doesn’t happen. These corporate updates I tell you…

Beat Yesterday Preethy has got her name because the sticker on her phone says “Beat Yesterday “. It’s an apt name for her as the look on her face always reads “Beat everybody.. Beat yesterday, beat today, beat Hari, beat Ashwin (husband), beat team, beat bosses “. But..Jo bhi Ho.. The delivery wouldn’t have been as smooth if not for my sister-in-law.

After looking at my sister-in-law’s dedicaton, I decided that I will do whatever it takes to be the best dad ever. One of my biggest weaknesses is I sleep like a log. When I sleep, I literally go deep into the deepest layers of the troposphere, stratosphere and ionosphere. And it’s difficult to wake me up easily. I promised my wife I will not allow this once Peanu is born.

So the first night, Peanu decided to sleep, I confidently told my wife – ” Baby, kuch bhi help chahiye toh bas ek baar mera naam Lena.. I will immediately wake up and help up” Saying this, I slept at 10 pm. In my first dream as a dad, I dreamt of me waking up at the first call, helping out and earning qaabil-e-taareef from my wife.

Suddenly , I woke up. I thought I had a bad dream as I could hear my wife shouting ” Hari !!! Hari !!!” When I woke up, I saw my wife staring at me furiously. There was a pillow lying next to me. The nurse was beside her. I was about to explain my dream to my wife but she cut me off “Hari, all this empty talk of waking up on calling your name won’t do any good if you don’t walk the talk. I called your name 10 times as I wanted the feeding pillow. I have thrown my pillow on your face but that also has had no effect. The nurse got scared that I was shrieking hysterically and she came and offered me the feeding pillow. Shame on you!!!”

I looked at the clock. It was 1.30 am. Sheepishly, a song started playing in my mind

” Dula ka role baap ke bas ki baat nahi,

Baap ka role side actor hi Sahi,

Bacche ki real lifeline maa hi hai,

Kyunki….

baap baap hota hai… baap baap hota hai ”

Jai Hind