So, where’s the village?

11

This is one of those few posts where I feel the need to add a disclaimer BEFORE I begin.

Fellow Brethren of the Blogosphere, I am not judging you or your decision to hire some help to assist with the raising of your child. I just have a slightly different opinion and practice AT THE MOMENT. My mind is more oscillating than a godforsaken pendulum, I am sure in the future I will rue this blog post and penning down these thoughts. I may even cringe and it will be too late to delete it. But here goes:

My husband and I made a conscious decision to not hire help. I left my corporate job to raise our monkey and I wanted to do it all myself. Also, I find it incredibly painful to delegate. I am a firm believer in ‘you want something done right, do it yourself’. Hmm, as I typed that last sentence I realized that is the major reason I cannot become an entrepreneur. Ho hum. In our part of the world, you will have family/friends/well-wishers spout references for ‘a really fantastic ayah’ for your soon to be born offspring as soon as they spot your baby bump. (Thank you all those who did). You feel awful turning them down cuz firstly, you don’t know how tough it’s going to be and the anticipation of Things-To-Come is killing you anyway. So declining them is hard. Secondly, you are second-guessing yourself thinking, what if you just said no to Mary-freakin-Poppins. EEEEYIKESSS.

Now in creeps the very tricky issue of child labor. The stats in Pakistan are harrowing. And me making an addition to that? Hey sister, oh sister, no sister, go sistah…. Some may say ‘hire a teenage one then OR if you treat them right, it’ll be better than the life they will lead otherwise’. I’m not falling for that argument. There is a something they call the ‘Principle of the thing.’ I’m sorry my conscience is in no way eased. Hire an older woman? My reply to that is –have you ever heard of that pretty little thing called PROVACY? Say Bubbye. Honestly guys, yes you get your sleep and your freedom, but do you really want a lazy old fart of a woman lounging around in your personal space taking care of your precious little one. And no matter how many generations of yours have known this person and how many years of experience and references she has, can you trust someone enough to hand over the most precious thing to you on the planet. Plus I have read too many gutka snorting stories that have left my spine with a few perennial shudders. What is that you say? Filipino maid? How about I take a salary in dollars for doing the job I do? So I would like to curtsy here and take a bow.

My life without hired help is very difficult. I can’t find my bearings most days. I am perpetually in state of dismay over the many things pertaining to the Baby – I dislike nursing most days as I miss my freedom, I don’t like when I have to coax and cajole the baby for that one last bite or when he flatly refuses to eat the meal I have painstakingly prepared. How I would love to be able to grab my handbag (devoid of diapers, wipes and rattles) and just make a beeline for the door spouting a few instructions. Or maybe step out late at night with the husband for a much-delayed quiet meal for two to a restaurant where babies are not allowed (yes, I just said that and I am not an evil person, just a harassed mom and yes I do love my child to bits). I would just like to be able to travel with a perfunctorily put-together carryon instead of six pieces of luggage packed with military precision. But all this comes at a cost I am not willing to pay. This is because I have firm conviction in the thought that ‘the days are long but the years are short’. It’s a tough job but it’s one that I have signed on for with full heart and mind. Most days I am at my wits end, because I’m human and I’m not used to being completely utterly responsible for another human being. It will take some more getting used to. And there are some days when I am completely into it, when my little one doesn’t whine at mealtimes and plays quietly while I type away at the laptop (these are very few). There are days where he learns new tricks and I can’t stop beaming, can’t stop being proud. Those are the moments that make all the sucky bits worth it. Yes, this is all trite but so very true.

Being a mom is hard work. Unless you don’t make an effort to take pleasure in doing small things like taking your baby to the park, to carnival’s over the weekend, to the local Farmer’s  Market. If you are constantly fretting over the minor details, you are making the journey more difficult for yourself. In Karachi, if you don’t have an ayah for your baby you are put in the ‘hands on mom’ category by those who are polite. And the others just look on with pitying eyes and nodding heads feeling sorry for you not being able to afford a nanny-type appendage.

On this note I would just like to relate an episode I witnessed in the park one day (at a private club in our locality). It was an early afternoon in November when I was busy hanging out with my baby, showing him birdies, making him feel grass and other parksy stuff. I saw a group of three teenage girls (hired help) huddled together busy gossiping. It wasn’t apparent which children they were accompanying as there were numerous kids there on different swings. The point I’m trying to make here is that they were there for supervision which clearly wasn’t being practiced, as the kids were not within reasonable distance. Suddenly I heard a thud behind me and turned to see a cute little boy (he must be about three years old) who had landed face-first at the bottom of a slide and cut his lip. One of the girls (his nanny) ran up to him and tried to console him and the little kid, who was bleeding a bit by now, said, ‘Ammiiiii….. Ammi ke paas jaana hai….’ The girl, obviously flustered, starting whispering stuff to him I couldn’t hear, at which he instantly stifled his sobs and they started walking away from the swings area (hopefully to get some ice or wash the lip with water). Call it instinct or whatever, but I won’t give her the benefit of the doubt. I am certain she was blackmailing or bribing the boy into not telling his mother. This episode left me a bit shaken and I am not here to discuss the merits or demerits of hiring help. I made my decision based on what I have witnessed over the years. Some may say I ‘coddle’ my child and am ‘an over-protective mother’ or what have you. I am not judging the mother or even the maid in this instance. We are all victims of our circumstances. There can be any number of reasons for the mother’s absence and very valid ones. I am only relating my perception and explaining my personal decision to go it alone.

There are days I get the feeling that I want to run away from it all. But that feeling passes. And I do feel pride at doing this myself. Whatever your choice in life, I hope that it is in the best interest of your baby. Before popping a kid the phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ puzzled me. Now it makes perfect sense, it sooooo does. So, where’s my village? 😉

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