Balancing Act?

It’s only been about ten weeks since I joined the ranks of the unemployed, and about two months since I became full-time mom. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been this way for ever – not necessarily in a bad way, just that my former life seems very distant.

And yet… I have to say that I’m not completely used to being house-bound. With two small kids, I’m under house arrest in a way that I would not have been if I’d merely been unemployed. I’m not used to not being able to walk out whenever I want; not being able to hop out for a long lunch with friends; not being able to go to the nearby Sagar when homemade food is making me sick, or to one of our favourite posh restaurants when we have reason to celebrate; and I’m really, really not used to eating sambhar-chawal (twins’ food) twice a day seven days a week.

I’m working on salvaging bits of my former life. I have one afternoon a week off, when I get out of the house and leave Amit to change diapers and hand out milk bottles. I have tennis three times a week. I have late evenings, after the kids have gone to sleep, to watch TV. And of late, I have started completely ignoring the kids during the 12-4 gap between lunch and “tea” – I use this time to study, to talk on the phone, and to be on the Net. I would not say that this long afternoon session is insufficient time for me to do all that I want or have to do. But what bothers me is something different. What bothers me is, by largely leaving the kids to their own devices during this time, am I being a negligent or selfish parent?

I think a mother need not spend every waking moment with her kids to be a good parent – surely kids also need to be left alone to discover their own worlds at times? But when I come into the study, or take my books and sit down on the new sofa, still out of reach of the kids, I do so with a slightly guilty feeling – am I providing these kids tall he attention, the stimulation, and the love they need to grow up well?

I read somewhere that if, as a parent, you completely set aside all your own emotional and intellectual needs, and devote 100% to your children, you’re going to end up frustrated and resentful of your kids. That makes sense – I’ve seen people like that and I wouldn’t want to do that. So I think that I do need to occasionally eat something nice, and occasionally get out and go somewhere without the kids, and occasionally spend some time at home doing my own stuff. But when does “occasional” and “some time” become negligence?

Oh well – these are questions that need to find their own answers. Meanwhile…

Today, after their lunch I put the kids in their room as usual. They both looked sufficiently sleepy that they ought to have been asleep in five minutes. But… appearances can be deceptive. After 15 minutes, when I opened the door to check on them, I found that they were both wide awake and up to mischief. They had dislodged a heavy stack of bedding that sits on a trunk in their room and both of them had clambered on to the trunk. As I watched, Mrini pushed Tara off the trunk, causing her to land on her head – thankfully on the stack of soft bedding – and burst into a protesting wail.

I decided that sleep was a long way off for them and let them out of their room, whereupon they went at once into the kitchen, opened the cupboard and proceeded to pull out every last item of crockery that was within their reach. So far they have only ever accessed the lower shelf; today, they went so far as to grab a bag of garbage bags from the higher shelf and began to pull most of the garbage bags out of the enclosing plastic bag and strew them about the dining room. Then, Mrini took their toy box and dragged it into the kitchen, leaving a long trail of toys behind her. Tara dragged the laundry basket (largely empty) from the bedroom into the living room, leaving a trail of dirty kiddies’ clothes behind her. At last, all this activity tired them out and they fell asleep. Mrini at least had the sense to navigate her way to her bed – Tara collapsed on the dining room floor, surrounded by the debris of what looks like a major hurricane.

Hmmm… I suppose I should go and pick her up and put her in bed and then try to restore this house to some semblance of sanity – after all, only once there is some sort of order here, can they entertain themselves creating chaos again.

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