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It all started when my in-laws expressed a desire to go to their native village for the summer. They’ve always been the de facto carers of my little ones while the Husband and I chase corporate dreams. It’s a job they really enjoy, one that they see as both their duty and their right. This attitude and concern of theirs has been a tremendous support to me and I am able to tackle the pressures at work, knowing that the home front is in two pairs of very capable hands.
And so when the in-laws said that they would like to go on their annual vacation, it led to some frantic thinking and frenetic activity on my part. My senior at work very categorically informed me that working from home as an option could not be offered to me for a variety of reasons. I could, however, apply for leave in order to look after my little La Niña and El Niño. But I would have to take work home and keep to the deadlines that had been set for me at least a month before.
Moving to my parents’ house for the three weeks in question was not an option. My dad was out-of-town right then and my mother has not been too well for a while now. We were all worried about her health. I could not entrust upon her the responsibility of looking after two very hyperactive children, even though she had graciously volunteered to do so, knowing that I would not ask.
A colleague suggested that I leave them at a crèche. I wasn’t sure how well that would work out, considering that they’ve always grown up in the home environment and have not spent so much as a moment in a crèche.
And so I proceeded on leave, with a difference. Work would continue as usual. The advantage of the system was that at least I would be with the children. I would just have to manage my time better, multi-task as best as I could and figure out ways to keep the children occupied and ‘engaged,’ a very popular word with corporates in today’s times.
And so began the task of managing the responsibility. I knew at the outset that it wasn’t going to be easy, but the three weeks I spent chasing the twin goals of children’s welfare and deadline adherence often left me tearing my hair out in frustration.
Every time I switched on my laptop, my children would gather around me, wanting to watch me work. El Niño would threaten to bawl unless I let him sit on my lap while I worked. This forced me to be a one-handed typist and considerably slowed me down. Then La Niña would insist on typing out the names of the whole family in Microsoft Word. She has known the spellings since she was four and is quite proud of her achievement.
To be fair to them, I’ve always been hands-on whenever I have been home. So they naturally expected me to spend as much time with them as possible, to take them out to the park every day, to read to them, play impromptu games with them and generally make maximum use of our time together until Aaji and Baba returned.
Add to that, the fact of my being the only adult interaction that they had throughout the day until the Husband returned home, and you will understand how hard it must have been for them to compete with Mamma’s work ‘distraction’ when once they have had the loving attention of both grandparents.
Suddenly they found Mamma far more amenable to suggestion if they wanted to watch Tom and Jerry or Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah on TV or their much-loved DVDs of nursery rhymes and The Adventures of Dora the Explorer. It wasn’t easy, but I learned to understand when their energy levels were at their peak and when they needed winding down. Afternoons were for lazy siestas, sometimes forced, but at least they offered me the opportunity to catch up on work.
At other times, they would try to play by themselves, but they would quickly insist on me participating in their games. I got the feeling that perhaps Baba, their paternal grandfather, is an active playmate of theirs.
The challenge honed my time management skills. It also taught me the benefits of waking up early and sitting up late after the kids were put to bed. It meant sleep deprivation, but once you’re a mother, you are used to the lack of sleep. So what’s new?
The most important thing was that my kids and I enjoyed being together so much. I must do this again, but without the pressure of work hanging on my head.
(This post was originally written for Parentous, an online community for parenting related issues.)