Monday, December 15, 2014

Zo – the shy child

It is not easy to believe now, but Zo used to be a very shy child. Her parents did not push her to talk but they used to tell her that, “It is good to wish people whom you meet on the way to kindergarten.” Zo never said good morning to her kindergarten teacher until she was almost 4 years old. This doesn’t mean that she did not like her teacher. It was just that she could not say anything to her. She would not talk in the children circles or during rhyme time. Her teachers, tried to encourage her all the time, but still Zo was not able to let go of her shyness. She was very interested in art and craft and she loved story times and playing with others. But whenever there was occasions where she had to speak it out in front of others she was unable to do that. She could not sing in the Christmas function where every one else participated.  Zo’s mum and dad used to feel sad sometimes, as Zo’s shyness was not letting her enjoy all the fun of the kindergarten. Zo used to be a clingy child when they visited their friends. Zo also missed not being part of any performance going on in the kindergarten and after going home she used to perform them in front of the mirror. Her mother used to watch her secretly!
Zo’s mother remembered that she herself was same as a child. Zo’s mother also remembered that there were so many occasions she herself missed chance for a performance just being shy. She did not want the same for Zo. She wanted to help Zo to get rid of her excessive shyness. She talked with Zo’s teacher. Zo’s teacher an experienced lady, very good in child pedagogy, listened to all the concerns of Zo’s mother and reassured her that it was fine for a child to be shy. There are all kinds of children just like there are all kinds of adults. She told Zo’s mother that Zo would find out her way from shyness in her own pace. May be she would never be a star performer at stage but she would find her own place in a stage called world. The teacher told Zo’s mum to be understanding and patient. To watch for her other strengths like her affinity towards scissor, paper and glue. She added, “Talk with Zo about several situations at school and how she reacted to them.”  Zo’s mother started doing that and she started telling Zo about her childhood and how she was almost same as Zo. Talking with mum helped Zo and specially on knowing that mum was also a shy person helped her to be happy with the way she was. Slowly she started smiling at the neighbour and her teachers every morning. Zo’s mother used to find books in the library telling stories about shy children and about different situations, like making a friend, participating in a school drama, playing a game of football etc.  Zo loved reading those stories. Her mother gave her a tip that in order to talk with others (other than mum and dad) Zo did not need to look at them, she could look to their nose or lips or somewhere else and say hello to them. With this tip in her mind, Zo found it very easy to say good morning to all the people she met on her way to kindergarten and then she also said a warm good morning to her teacher.

Zo’s mother and her teacher were very happy on seeing this development in Zo. Little did they know that this was just the birth of a chatterbox!

Disclaimer: Published before in the "mom and me" blog 

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the age of digital and democratic parenting

For a long time no blog is churned out from this space. Recently a call to write on topic of digital parenting in Women’s Web – eKavach ‘This Digi-Parenting Life!’ campaign caught my eyes and I wanted to write my experiences about being a digital and democratic parent.
During my pregnancy, internet provided me all the support in a distant country that a mother, aunt or sister provides to an Indian women in India. All the recipes for tasty but nutritious food, different strokes of messages and how to keep that mood swing at bay when your body is playing drum-rolls with hormones.
No wonder after I got my bundle (of joy) in my hand, websites like became my go to places to know all about a new subject of parenting. As a new mom who was also studying for her final degree, I needed support to calm down my daughters from crying, return to home tantrums in the evenings, and dinner time showdowns. Slowly creeped in the world of you tube   and came the little boy called Caillou, the brother and sister's team lola and charlie, a friendly pig called Peppa pig and several other characters. They entered into the daily screen watching ritual of my daughter and my daughter could connect with them almost as if they were her cousins. Also came the nursery rhymes and rhymes in our mother tongue again from you tube. Slowly my daughter started controlling the keyboard and mouse and started selecting her favourites. For being a democratic mom (and sometimes a tired one too) allowed her to have a dedicated screen time which was mostly computers and television. Smart phones were still a future product then. Games from popular website cebeebies became popular in our house too. We started learning numbers, colours, manners from the computer games. Being in academic field my husband and I were using computer all the time and our daughter never got any negative vibe about using computers for her leisure. Till then I had no issue with safe surfing as I used to be there with her or she would spend time surfing through the website only. My only concern was about time she should spend on net.
Now 10 years down the line, she is strongly aware of Google. New gadgets like smartphones and tablets have added to her list of screens. The time denoted to screen views could not be that strictly controlled anymore. Her interests are growing from doodling to rock and pop music to reading harry potter or looking at pottermore. She knows most information are available through proper searches in Google or in youtube. I am not always there with her to supervise her moves online as my work loads have increased too. She gets assignments at school with instruction to do secondary research on internet. There are times when we plan to bake a cake and she quickly run to check a recipe online. Being a digital savvy and democratic mom I am happy that she has learned to utilise a resource that makes her tasks easier. I feel proud when her grandparents ask her to solve their queries related to smartphones and computers. But there is a creepy voice inside me which keep bothering me about her online safety specially when I am not around to check what she is upto on screen. It is important that we discuss with her on regular basis and understand her interests on regular basis. She is still not into social media but pottermore is very close to that. We have given her instructions about not being too open in the internet world, and that it is important to handle internet in secure way but we are still not sure how much she understands the seriousness of it. It is difficult to block unwanted advertisements and visuals from youtube and that concerns me a lot.
I understand as a parent I would need to understand more about the world of secure online presence along with finding ways to teach hindi to my daughter. It is nice to know that there are others who are thinking alike and have come up with the concept of ekavach - to let our children go out their in the world of internet but in a guarded manner.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Not so easy things of life...

It happens to all of us but we always think that it is happening only to us. All of us go through certain stages of life where confusion takes over and we feel entangled. Most of the time we feel overwhelmed as we see others not in the same stage but then if we observe a little more we can see each one of us are dealing with Not so easy things of life... Each in their own way... Each in their own terms...

Crossroad symptom- Once my father told me not to cross a road on the crossroads where 4 roads meet. He showed me how vehicles were coming from four sides and how difficult it was to judge the correct time to cross it. He showed how some people were trying to do that and were getting frustrated and angry.  We walked little further  on the road and we could easily cross the road.
I experienced the same when I became a mother as a phd student. I guess any woman or man goes through this  when they become parents and try to balance their lives along with a new bundle (of joy!) and the regular demands of life. Many times without much help from extended families like me in a foreign land and lots of self expectations of having a picture perfect life like those shown in the postcards. This is also the time when I learnt that my career and my child are equal in priority for me and that as much I want to do good in my career I wouldn't be able to do that without proper support ( emotional, physical and economical) for my child. It took some years for me to find ways around this situation, now 5-7 years away from preliminary years of parenting I could see how fragile and nervous I was at that time. I did not have a friend who could inspire or listen to my worries at that time. I had only male researchers around me married or not, parent or not, and I could not confide to them. They could not see any problem and they were publishing like anything. That was my limitation of not being able to reach out and to try to cross the road where 4 roads were meeting. That state of mind impacted my career and future choices/decisions to a large extent.

Today upon finding a way for myself I see so many other new mothers passing through same phase.

Two boat situation- It took me some years to accept that as much I like reading, thinking and presenting about science, I don't look forward towards technical processing of science. I did not like the repetitiveness of experiments to be performed and the dependence on one boss for greater part of the scientific career. I took strong decision of spending a big money to learn something related but outside of bench science. I started learning about that new field. This time I was more careful about my choices and started to look for jobs in both fields. My ongoing research field and newly learned scientific writing field. This process enhanced my confidence and enabled me to talk with senior people from 2 different domains in the name of interviews.

There are times when we can't pick just one path and need to keep walking on parallel roads. This can be exhausting but for me this helped.

Guilt free mode- I cannot tell you the date but it is around the time when my daughter was turning 5. She was getting relocated from one country to another with me and was mostly accepting things positively with some mild aberrations, seeing her handling things with a smile I could see those long lived guilt clouds leaving me. I could feel for the first time that my daughter would survive and succeed in this world and that she could take so much change easily more so because she was a day care goer from very early age.
Also, one day while talking with her she told me that she did not remember that she used to cry in the mornings before leaving me for day care as a toddler ( my major trigger for guilt- I realised this later) but she remembered her friends in day cares and the doll houses. From that day onward started my guilt free mode of life.

2nd chance is rare and should be nourished- I received an opportunity for further research, and I took the chance to try once more and  I am glad I did that. Research after Phd is very different and enables us to work in independent environment. Sharpens our transferable skills like teaching, communication, and problem solving. Help us earn good money to lay path for next chapter of life. After availing the second chance I was sure that I really don't want to 'do' science, but facilitate, write about it or nurture science in other ways.

Calculated risks and diluted ego- I learned to take calculated risks and say yes to
opportunities which were opening new frontiers to me. I still did not learn to negotiate though. Higher education come with a baggage of ego and pride, having taken calculated risk and stepping into a new domain, I could not afford to keep my ego boosted. It was required to bust my ego and quickly find a niche for myself in the new domain. I started using the skills learned in previous jobs, like attention to details and a knack to teach and train others. Sincere involvement  and a mind to take new challenges came easily upon taming my ego. Ego never helps in anything. The less we have the better we die.

Same problems but different approach- In the new job I soon started pouring in long hours and though there was no experiments to be planned this time but there were telecons and meetings with different team members living in different time zones. I could relate to these situations from past experiences. I started taking different approach than handling them in previous manner and waiting for different results. This time,  I was more confident and mindful, with less expectation. I simplified things wherever possible by expressing and demanding help at home, making my daughter independent in doing simple chores. I learned to walk further up the road and avoid crossing it on the crossroads.

Circle of friends-  From previous experiences I learned that it is necessary to continue to make friends from all facets of life, from different genre of living. A childhood friend might not understand my present state of mind and a college friend might find me a bore altogether. So I learned to make friends from neighbourhood and internet. I have many blogger friends with whom I share thoughts that my sister might also find difficult to engage with.

Inspire and get inspired- I don't shy anymore to discuss about the lessons learnt through my journey.  I share them with my colleagues who are in similar phase as I was few years ago. I observe and learn from others who are little ahead of me in career. I have a good network of like minded friends to talk, argue, debate and agree to disagree. I am learning about a new domain, new roles and designations, and new models of work in each day.

The dotty connect- My daughter keep asking me about what will I be when I grow up. She believes that just like her I will also keep growing. And isn't that true! I understand that designations change from one year to another and from one company to another but I have no answer to my daughter's query. In 5 years I might have more dots in my career chart and I hope to connect them together in a solid line.

Three years theory- This year I proved again my theory of childhood that it takes 3 years or less for a us to accept a new city or a place. This is my third year in this city and now I have started feeling comfortable about it, I have learned to understand its strengths and weaknesses.  I have started debating with new comers in the city, who don't find any reason to like this city. I was in the same page last year, today I feel home here. Having lived and left many places, I have found that only after travelling the path of newness, irritations, loneliness, reaching out, making friends, and then my brain accepts a place.

Let it go- Most of our problems arise because we are unable to let the moment go. We sometimes become so attached and grow comfort with a thing of life that we try not to change that like Not, let the child grow, let the career flow, let the relationship mature or let the life pass by.

Change is the only constant and we need to learn to let life go slowly but surely...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tantrum busters for toddlers

Rena had a long and tiring day at office, traffic was horrible on her way back to home and then at last when she reached home she found that her two year old little son is in his worst mood and the baby sitter is completely bewildered about what to do.
Sweta is a homemaker; she gets completely frustrated sometimes to control all the tantrums of her one and half year old daughter.
Toddlers, they are like sunshine in the family with their innocent smiles, small walking steps and broken sentences but these tiny tots can also sometimes behave like thunder storm crying, yelling and shouting at everyone around.
In the children of age between twelve months and three years almost can feel just like us but the only difference is that they does not know how to control those feeling. Instead of shouting or giving punishment or getting depressed on a yelling child just take completely opposite approach to cool them down and see how you are also feeling much better. Here are some tips to calm down your angry little one.

Hide and seek
When your child is demanding for a third chocolate bar and you cannot divert his mind then just be quiet for few seconds and hide yourself behind the curtains/ doors and ask him to search you and you will see how he will wipe his eyes and will start searching you.

Pillow war
You had a very bad day at office, you left office quite frustrated. You came home and you found that your tiny one is really tired after whole day of separation and is shouting out of frustration. This is the best moment to play pillow war. Before starting the war be sure that both of you eat something together and then go to the bed and start! Throw pillows at each other, roll on the bed, laugh loudly, cuddle your child tightly and soon you will see the vapors of both of your frustrations near the ceiling.

Comedy of errors
Sometimes just bend down to the level of your crying child and point at her hand and say “Oh my god what happened to your legs” and see how she gets confused and then starts laughing! Repeat this with all other body parts until all her tears dries.

Indigenous bowling
It is a Sunday morning. You have invited some guest in the evening and for this reason both of you are busy. Your child on the other hand is moving behind you demanding some attention from you. Come on take a break from the continuous house chores and have some real fun with your child. Arrange some empty plastic bottles of cold drinks/ water in a row and then bring the big ball of your child and start. Throw the ball to the arranged bottles just like in bowling places. See how your junior gets busy with this game.

Published in

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Fine Art Of Balancing Your Personal And Professional Goals

At different stages of their personal lives – seeking a life partner, marriage, having children, relocation due to partner’s transfer, divorce, providing care to the elderly/sick family members, working women in India find their personal goals in conflict with their professional goals.
Just as we feel we are ‘achievers’ on our first job and start planning for the  next role of our
 interest, we begin getting suggestions from people around us (sometimes, including our bosses!) 
to settle down in life i.e. get married or get kids.
This is the first juncture in most urban Indian working women’s lives where we need to 
simultaneously think about personal and professional goals, and it continues. It is still mostly 
women who take on the challenge of relocation, career transition, short breaks, or quitting their 
career due to changes in their personal state. This impacts our lives deeply and can result in 
depression, and the guilt of non-performance in many of us, given that we start with high 
expectations for ourselves.

Here are a few tips on how women can cope in such situations and handle them effectively.

Clarity of thought and authority

This is most difficult part of the whole balance for working women in India. Generally, men are in
a better position here, as they are mostly not given any choice but to earn for the family. 
As working women, we need to learn to do a strength, weaknesses, opportunities and
 threats (SWOT) analysis and take authority of our work choices, aspirations, and the return on 
interest (ROI) for at least 3-5 years. This will help us to make informed choices.

Parallel moves

It is not necessary to stop asking for more responsibilities at work, looking for a challenging project,
 new job or plan for higher education in anticipation of marriage or a child. As Sheryl Sandberg 
posits in Lean In, many of us stop pushing ourselves at work long before the day we really get 
married or have a child. This attitude of self doubt causes more voids in our career than there 
should be. It is viable to think about career goals and personal goals on parallel paths rather 
than in a chronological manner.

Break big tasks into chunks

For a new mother, a new project at work can be overwhelming and even unfulfilling. It can be 
managed instead by cutting the big task into smaller chunks and working on it in like 
working on a jigsaw puzzle. Think about completing the next step, not the entire project. Taking 
breaks and rewarding yourself at regular intervals are some simple steps for a motivation refill. 
The same approach of adopting short term goals as a parent will also help us not to get burnt 

Lists and mind maps

We are very good at making lists, but now it is time to upgrade ourselves to mind maps, charts 
and visuals with attached timelines for required tasks. While working on the timeline of a project, 
resourcing, budgeting and future scope can be tracked simultaneously.

Express it and not just expect

As little girls, we were told to be good mannered and keep doing the good work without waiting 
for the results. In real life, everyone is busy around us and it is wrong to expect that our 
colleagues or partners will take the cues from our frowns and do what we want them to do. 
We need to express our thoughts loud and clear. We should talk more about our good 
performances, career aspirations, and future plans at work and at home as well.  
To achieve at life and work, we need a support team behind us. We cannot go far without using
 our voice.

Assessing opportunities

Dual career families, managing career after childbirth or relocations are common in most places 
across the world. Women are trying to cope with these situations using different work models.
 Understand your core skill sets and their range of applicability, if your situation doesn’t allow 
you to work in the same way you did earlier. For example, a teacher can think of online tutoring 
or creating contents for educational courses where her core competence will be utilised.

Practising mindfulness

Women are known for their multitasking skills. Planning the dinner menu while helping kids
with their homework is something we all do! But most of us become so involved with our
personal quest that it reflects in the workspace too and keeps us from the joy of fulfilment.
It is also true that work overpowers our personal space and we lose mindfulness at home.
Mindfulness and concentration on the work in hand is vital. It is difficult especially for mothers
 of newborn babies but this can be practiced through working in smaller chunks.

Reach out

In this virtual world, Google can bring answers to almost all the queries we have. As a young 
mother I was benefitted from websites like babycenter. Now, I closely follow communities like 
lean Infleximoms and Women’s Web to gain perspectives from other women and learn about
 matters important to me. I often talk with my line manager and colleagues to learn more about a
 new component of work. We should reach out to others to share our thoughts, delegate duties,
 prioritise tasks, and for constant communication.

Take out ‘Me/Us time’

Most Indian women forget to hang out with their old friends after marriage and after having kids. 
Taking out time as couples or with friends is equally important to get a break from our rigorous 
daily routines. Use ‘me time’ to exercise, attend conferences, read, think, analyse, solve 
problems, fulfil hobbies, rejuvenate and  plan. Working mothers go through extreme guilt on 
this but taking a little ‘me time’ out can do wonders to the quality of your life.

Say no and negotiate

Indians are known for saying yes all the time. In the global environment that we live in, we 
should know our limitations and capabilities. Before saying yes to any task (whether it is analysis of a 
new data set or inviting friends home at short notice) ask yourself whether you have time and 
energy for that. Always say no to the work and not the person. Negotiate with objectivity and 
openness towards the situation.

Upgrade and update

It is essential to keep upgrading and updating ourselves on new technological and behavioural
 skills considering the fast changing landscapes both at work and home. Both 
democratic parenting and working in a global company requires lots of learning. Our laptops 
and mobile telephones are becoming smarter and so are our kitchen tops. We should not be 
afraid or closed about using new technology and their applications both at home and work. 
A person who can learn fast is respected and adored by others (even kids).

Imperfection and impromptu

Everything cannot be done perfectly or in a planned manner. Spontaneity helps us during 
emergencies and crisis. So lets keep a scope for impromptu dinners and some imperfect, 
nervous moments in our otherwise balanced life!

The art of balancing between professional and personal goals is to learn to work like an ant and 
enjoy like a grasshopper.

Published in