Life · Work life balance

Learning from mom- part 2

My mom just left for the airport this afternoon. And although I did not cry this time, I am overcome with emotion as per usual. 

I didn’t always feel this close to my mom growing up. When I was a kid, I was closer to my friends. I remember this specifically because when I was in middle school, my best friend asked me why my dad wasn’t at home as often. I went home that evening and asked my mom where dad was and why he traveled so often for work. My mom then told me that dad had gotten transferred to Yemen (we were living in Muscat at the time). He was living and working there three quarters of the week and would only fly home on the weekends. 

I often think of that time now and feel so foolish. How could I have not known this important aspect of my family life? Was I so consumed by my extra curricular activities, school and friends? Or was it my mom who made it so that I would not feel the absence of my father? I think it was the latter. 

I am lucky that after a long time I got to spend quality time with my mom during my pregnancy. The last time I got to spend quality time with her was during COVID. During the two months that I was not working then, I would call her 2-3 times a day and often be on the phone with her for hours on end. What did we talk about? Everything and nothing. We talked about what we cooked that day, if we went out of the house or not, and shared our worries about COVID. It was an anxiety ridden time for sure, but I remember it fondly because I learned a lot about my mom. I even interviewed her! Here is the interview if you’d like to read it. 

In Indian culture, it is normal, and even expected to have a mom or mother in law care for a woman once she delivers a baby. My mom was here for a few weeks before I gave birth and spent nearly 7 weeks with me after. She helped by cooking meals, caring for the baby when B and I needed a break, and walking with me daily until I regained my strength post delivery. When my blood pressure was higher than usual post delivery, she encouraged me to take my reading daily (as I would forget). She made a rice and fenugreek pudding for me that helped improve my milk supply. She put the baby to sleep after I’d been feeding her for an hour. In the initial 2 weeks post delivery, when sleep and energy was at its lowest, B and I would look forward to some quality rest at 6 AM when we would hand the baby off to mom. Knowing she was in good hands. 

In the last several days I have been thinking about what I can learn from my mom and take back for my own experience as a mother. Here they are: 

  1. Positivity

My mom is easily the most positive person I know. She is the person you want to talk to when you’ve had a bad day. She tends to brighten up the room with her infectious energy. She recently joined Toastmasters and has been invested in her professional growth via the Club. Toastmasters hosts an activity called ‘Table Topics’, where they ask candidates to speak on a topic extempore style. Mom was asked ‘if you could choose a superpower, what would it be and why.’ My mom in true fashion answered, ‘I would choose the power to make everyone happy. Because happy people are always at their best.’ Would that have been your answer too? 

It’s a difficult thing. To be happy. We are so used to complaining all the time. Even when a small thing is amiss. We are all used to seeing the grass greener on the other side. Can we be happy all the time? Of course not. But when you look at your life and ask yourself if the most important needs are met, you can surely be at peace. 

I read in a book recently that while children may spend most of their day in the care of a nanny or a professional daycare, their biggest influencers are still the parents. And the best way in which to communicate good behavior is to model it for your kids. If you are irritable and moody in the evenings, guess what, so will your kids! If you’re happy and present with them, so will they. They learn best through modeled behavior. And my goal is to be as present as possible and remember my blessings before I walk in the door. Just like my mom does!

  1. Belief in her children 

I remember when my mom came to talk to my school principal about a dance in which I was not placed front and center. That memory still makes me giggle. At the time of course I was upset and was made to believe by all the other performers, but the one in the center, that I was the best and it was a ‘tragedy’ to not have the coveted position in the front! Naturally, my mom was irritated by this ‘fact’ and wanted to advocate on my behalf. The school principal listened to my mom and gently told her that he had no control over who gets to perform at which position and to accept his sincere apologies. 

Looking back on this incident more than a decade later, I have to ask myself, did that matter? I don’t even remember which songs we danced to! What mattered was that my mom had the belief that I was the best and advocated for me, no questions asked. She believed in me so much that she saw no reason to stay quiet about it. She never once went on an evidence gathering mission to find out if I was truly the best or not. It was already a fact in her mind. 

My mom always made me feel validated and important. She didn’t raise me to be a narcissist. She raised me to have conviction in my strengths. She also raised me to think I am enough and should always shoot for the best in life. These are values I’d like to pass on to our own daughter. 

  1. Unwavering passion

One of the fundamental things I have learned from mom growing up is to demonstrate passion for whatever you choose to do. She is a lifelong learner and commits to every thing she takes up, work or personal. I was reminded of this when she began attending local Toastmaster Club meetings when she got here, giving one speech a week and running for elections remotely to become an Area Director. She did this while still helping us with the baby, keeping the house in order, caring for me and going on walks daily! How does she manage it all in the same number of hours we have all been given in the day? I do not know. But it is truly remarkable. 

While it is typical for immigrant parents to want their child to be successful and make use of every opportunity available in America, I just want for our kid to be happy. And as mom says, happy people are at their best. If our daughter is happy, it goes without saying that she would be following her passion. That is all that matters. 

  1. Strong relations 

Although my parents left India decades ago, my mom has still managed to maintain relations with her friends and family members living there. Yes, Dubai is close to India so it becomes possible to attend marriages and other big/small events. However, when you get caught up in the routine of the work day, it becomes harder to stay in touch with people, let alone those overseas! I love listening to mom speak to her friends and extended family members, laughing and chatting with them as though she met them only last week. In this world of social media, phone calls and visits in person are still the best way to stay in touch. 

I am grateful to be within driving distance of both my sister, and sister in law. Our work schedules are busy, but not so busy that we cannot make time for our loved ones. I’d like to raise our daughter in a fun filled home full of love and laughter. While I may not be able to recreate my magical childhood, I can try my best to make sure our baby grows up loved and cared for by the people close to her. This is again something I have learned from mom. 

I’d like to end this post by quoting my niece. I once asked her who she loves the most. Without any hesitation she said ‘Adi’ which is what she calls my mom. Grandmothers usually go by Ajji but it was difficult to pronounce when she was younger, so my niece began calling her Adi and it stuck. I asked her why she loves Adi so much. She responded point-blank by saying, ‘because she is the best.’ Kids can be many things but they are honest to a fault!

Miss you mom!

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