So. How *you* doin’?

2012 flashed by, ending in a lot of soul searching, outrage, and above it all, determination. Determination that we will no longer be cowed down, that this incident will not push us off the streets, that we will work to give our daughters a safer country.

So for 2013, my resolution is not to be a pushover. I try varieties of this resolution every year but it doesn’t work too well. One of the things I’ll grant the OA and I, is that we’re easy going parents where schedules are concerned. I’m strict on manners/behaviour and screen time, but those are the only two battles I fight. The rest I choose to let go.

Which is why when we’d make plans with friends and someone said they couldn’t go out at X time because their kids were busy doing something, I’d shrug and agree to change the time, even if it meant altering a plan I’d made for myself or my kids. So it was my lunch being skipped to suit someone else’s shopping plan. My kids’ naptime missed because another’s kids napped earlier or later and this suited them. Always, always, always us changing, shifting, altering, making way, being fluid.

I didn’t mind really. That’s what friends do. And being flexible and easy going is who we are. People flowing in and out of our house, laughter, chatter, an exchange of ideas, we love it. The kids have no stranger anxiety (unfortunately that is not always a good thing!), they’re curious and they have learnt to count in Spanish, take a map of Australia and put names to faces to places and say a few phrases in a number of languages. Of course they pick it up today and forget it tomorrow but it’s there and for this simple reason I’d not change the way we live. The only other person I know whose life is equally mad, is Aneela. Sometimes I think I am too trusting, but then as a friend said recently, this is a package deal. I am like this only.

Anyhow, the last year or two have given me plenty of time to introspect and I feel I’ve just been too easy going. It makes me an easy person to take advantage of. If a plan is to be made and it inconveniences anyone, that someone is usually me. I began to realise that my life was in a constant state of chaos mainly because I was always changing a plan laid well in advance, simply to suit someone else. Chaos is something I’m used to – but not something I’m willing to take on for those who don’t earn it. Not anymore.

For the last 4 years everyone I am even vaguely acquainted with, knows I have a knee problem. Most people know I moved out of my last home because of the stairs. I ask absolute strangers for advice because I am so desperate to heal faster. Yet, I have people who will not think twice before asking me to do something that requires stair climbing. No, I am not vain enough to imagine that everyone remembers my knee, which is why I’m quick to point out that it still hurts. Even then I have people telling me, eh, suck it up and climb for once. The point is, it’s never once. Today it’s your house, tomorrow it is the next person and day-after it is someone else’s party at a pub on the 4th floor. I have only one right knee and another 30 years to get through on it, even if my estimate is conservative. I don’t understand this sort of lack of consideration. Maybe it is because most people my age do not have this sort of an injury and have no idea how much it affects the quality of my life. I’ve had to move house, quit my job, stop carrying my precious babies, restrict my movement, go through a gazillion tests, do physiotherapy, let go of a number of heavy household chores and much more. This is my life. I live it without complaint because it is far better than many, many others’ and I am well aware of the privileges I have. But if friends won’t accommodate you, who will? If friends won’t say – hey, lets sit on the ground floor even if the AC isn’t working, then who will?

And this is just me. I’ve gone on holidays where the plans to sightsee are entirely suited to someone else’s kids’ schedule and diet. Mine have just gone along, eaten anything and slept anywhere. I say this not to praise them but because it’s not a big deal. We’ve all done it as kids – but parents now are madly anal about their kids’ schedules. What the hell are they doing traveling with them in a group, then? My kids will go to a home and take off their shoes at the door if required because you honor the hosts’ houserules. Of course after 4 hours of walking on the cold floor in only thin socks they both get sore throats and then the cycle begins. To say nothing of wet bathroom floors and mess on the kitchen floor. There are people who won’t bother with me for days on end and then ask me for a favour because I have a large network on FB.

Sometime last year I realised that I couldn’t tell the Brat to be more assertive in his dealings if I didn’t lead by example. And so I began to put my foot down. No, we would not be able to attend if the party was at X time because my kids were going for a playdate and I refused to cancel their plan to suit another. No, we wouldn’t be coming up for a quick drink before the movie because I was not willing to take the steps up and down for a 15 minute chat. If my kids don’t get along well with yours, I will only meet you sans kids. Our friendship will not be affected, but I’m not forcing my children to meet kids they don’t enjoy playing with. And if you have a no-shoes in the house rule, I’m not visiting in winter – my kids’ health comes first. If you insist on giving the kids junk every time they visit and cannot be bothered to make something healthy when you invite them, then they’re not being sent for a play date. No, it won’t kill them to eat Maggi yet again – but would it kill you to cook something decent when you’re inviting? A simple sandwich?

Here I will put in a disclaimer. I am willing to bend for an occasion like a birthday or an anniversary. Other than that I preserve the little strength I have left and don’t do general dinners if they require too much climbing of stairs. On the other hand I am willing to climb 15 flights for a friend who would do the same for me even just to say hi. I have finite time, patience, energy and health and no desire to extend myself for people who are rigid and don’t extend me the same courtesy. When I put in place this rule for myself, I resigned myself to losing a few of my more inflexible friends.

Strangely, all it did was open me up to relationships I didn’t realise were so good and give me a lot more time and energy to spend on the people who appreciate it and return it. I’ve often spoken about entitlement and kids. I seem to have missed that many adults have the same sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to re-organising your day, to expecting you to cancel a prior commitment, to dropping everything and rushing over just because they are free to do something but never returning that informality, to wanting everything done their way, almost like a 4 year old with poor social skills.

But I’m getting there, I’m reaching the point where I am finally learning to say NO. I used to believe that this was a skill you either had or you didn’t. But I seem to have been pushed into using it. I’ve begun to use my voice in the most random places now.

A few days ago we were shopping for utensils and the Brat and Bean were told to sit in a corner (and NOT TALK TO STRANGERS) because I was terrified they’d knock over something breakable. Apparently other parents didn’t seem to have that fear. One couple gave their kids a non-stick pan and egg beater each and sat them down on the floor. The din made me look up. Bang, bang, bang, screeeeech. The sound was ghastly and I lost my patience. Looking up and down the aisles I saw the kids. Of course I didn’t have the courage to take on someone else’s kids so I looked at the OA. He walked up to the kids firmly, bent down to their level and told them nicely, ‘Don’t do that beta. It belongs to the shop and will get spoilt’. One of them stopped and stared. The other defiantly went up a decibel level, bang, bang, bang.

I looked around and caught hold of a uniformed flunkey who was looking at us warily. Go find their parents, I suggested. It seemed like a good idea so he ran with it. The parents who as it turned out were standing a few feet away glared at us when the flunkey pointed at us. I might have melted away if it weren’t for the OA who looked at them and said politely but firmly, ‘Your children are spoiling the utensils. No one’s going to buy a nonstick pan with scratches.’ That’s all. And I nodded. By this time more sales staff walked up and the kids nervously handed back the utensils. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but in a country like ours where people seem to have no civic sense or concern for property other than their own, it seems to be the only option.

A few days later I saw a couple enjoying a meal at a food court while their kid happily yanked Christmas decorations off and smashed them. A listless maid stood by, looking around bored, not stopping him. I had the courage to tell her to stop him, ask the guard standing by to do his job and not let the mall get denuded and finally ask the parents who were sitting there ignoring all this, to keep an eye over and above the maid since she clearly had no idea of what was acceptable public behaviour. I might have come across as a nosy parker but I don’t care. It seems like people just stand by and let things go wrong, be it something as small as spoiling public property or an injustice taking place and an autowala getting beaten up.

Maybe I’m getting old and tired and cranky but I don’t understand why people can’t wait for the people inside a lift to exit before they force their way in. How do they expect the people inside to get out, if they’re standing in the door? I find it offensive to have to push past people and with my new found assertiveness I now stop right in the door, look people in the eye and say firmly, ‘Please let people inside the lift get out; only then will there be place for you to get in.’ One doesn’t have to be rude, one just has to state the obvious. It’s amazing how sheepish people look in the face of common sense.

But it’s been liberating. I feel less of a fraud for telling my son to assert himself now that I am doing it too. I hope he’s absorbing it and will find the strength to do it one day. I like giving of myself to people who make allowances for my eccentricities too. I love sharing my children with those who appreciate them and return their frank affection. I am still friends with everyone else, I’m just more reserved. I don’t know how long this will last, but it feels good right now and I’m in a happy place.

How’s your year going and what did last year give you? What lessons did you learn? What would you like to achieve this year?

135 thoughts on “So. How *you* doin’?

  1. Woah!!!! A big bear hug to you!!! Hope in 13 you meet super lovely people who love and understand you better :) but yes, ppl will never learn their ways in lift, metro bus etc …. This post was full of some common concerns!! Like how easy is to ask and how difficult is to give :) hope this year we learn to be better givers and make sure this world becomes one happy place for all :) n btw take a good care of your health :)

    Love

    Vandana

  2. Wow… Simply wow! I learn something every time I visit your blog! I have no patience for parents who have no patience with their children. If you did not have a plan to keep your child engaged or stay out of the way while you gilded over utensil shopping then why bring them there? Surely one of them could have bought the utensil no?

    This year is goin to be about me. Of course me includes me as a mother, wife etc but more about me. For instance I love to travel and no matter how many ppl have told me that traveling with a 7 or 8 monthis a bad idea, inertia is killing me. So I’m giving it a shot. Not ver far but somewhere closer and fun. Little things like this where we make up our rules than listen to everybody else…. Happy new yea MM! Don’t climb those stairs… Let them heal!

    • You go, girl! I’m sure you will enjoy the trip and nothing like making your baby a good traveler. I know people who will not change the baby’s schedule by a second and I’m wondering how flexible those kids will be as they grow up. Will they know that the world will not revolve around them?

  3. Nice MM! More power to assertiveness, civil sense is sadly lacking in many many places…speaking up and out should be something we all do, consistently.

  4. You go, girl. As life rolls by, we get more discerning. About people, choices, and what we will not stand for. :) Preserve your knee and heart for the truly worthy.

      • Thanks.See I am learning… :)
        Regarding you now being assertive (or you *changing* yourself), good for you. But mark my words, the *real* you will bounce back…. and then you will realize who you really are.
        P.S.: you babysitting for others 2-3 times a week, reminds me of me or my wife getting calls at night ( by kids standard) 9-10pm, to take care of babies so that the couple calling can go out ‘bowling/pubbing’ with *their* guests.

        • I don’t mind doing that either. Everyone wants a break. We often hang on to another’s kids so that they can go out for dinner. As long as the kids are well behaved, I don’t mind. And its nice to be able to leave my kids and go for a movie too. We dont save the babysitting for an emergency.

  5. I want to wish you and your family a very Happy New Year’2013.I have been reading your blog for the past two years and always find it very interesting but also your views and the way you handle your relationships is very endearing and sometimes borders envious coz I wish I could do the same.My resolution more for the moment is to be calm with myself and be more of a listener because I figured it helps my realtionship best that way.Do write more often….

  6. You know, this one really resonated with me. Even though our lives are really different, I see a lot of this happening to me. Plans get changed because something doesnt suit someone, random people get included in social gatherings unannounced, various people land up at home expecting to be fed and looked after — and in all of this, the husband and I seem to be the only ones who go about without a complain. Making changes here and there to accommodate other peoples “plans”, as if we don’t have any of our own. Even some of my closest friends sometimes behave in a way that makes me wonder if I am such a pushover that even my closest friends take me for granted. Call for help knowing that I will always make time, treat me like a yellow pages inventory for all things Goa, and generally be more demanding of my time and attention than giving of the same. The husband is kind of indifferent in that people issues in general don’t get to him. He is honest, frank and doesn’t think twice about politely letting know how he feels. I on the other hand, silently fester, feel bad, and taken for granted. He is constantly encouraging me to put my foot down. Not change plans. Not include someone whose company I dont enjoy in our plans just because some one else wants them around. Not be a mother hen for our brood of single male friends here. But I cannot always do it with ease.
    I too believe that being able to put your foot down and NOT be a pushover is a skill you are either born with and just die without. Especially because this happens with me in extended family, professional circles as much as with social situations. Maybe if things have changed for you, there is hope for me too.. eep!

    • Our lives are different, but we’re similar in temperament and outlook. Thankfully you’re learning faster than me. I’m 34 and finally learning the power of No. Even then i must admit, after saying No I feel very unlike myself. It is not me. I am not a No person. But it has to be done so that I’m not taken advantage of. I am the only mother working from home and you will not believe how many working moms’ kids I am babysitting through the week. And I don’t mind in the least. It’s what friends do. But they’re all women I love and want to be a support to.

      • That “this is not me” feeling that strikes soon after I put my foot down, creeps up faster sometimes. I guess I am yet to reach that point where enough is enough and I learn to make it a habit to stop being a pushover..

  7. Four years ago, I took this decision to remove negative baggage and restrict my interactions from people who took me for granted and expected me to drop things when it was convenient for them. And while it felt a little weird initially, I felt like I had a lot more control of my life.
    p.s. I’m one of those hosts who prefer footwear removed at the door. I know how I’d feel about kids walking barefeet on the cold floor. I keep two sets of slippers for kids to be worn or if its a large bunch of kids, I request parents to bring some indoor slippers. Its a little strange but its a solution and I didn’t have to worry about kids falling sick and could have a good time.

    • Do adults have to do it too? I know its done in most homes and I’m not so resistant to the idea but I hate removing them if I have come for a party in a beautiful silk saree and kitten heels because it means going down two inches to sweep the floor. Or in a dress and boots, and then looking really strange and incomplete once the boots have been removed….
      I’m glad you keep spares though. I am very uncomfortable when I have to go bare feet unless it is on the beach.

      • I am amazed that there is even a discussion about removing shoes when entering someone’s house. Having lived in India and visiting there every so often, I cannot imagine how anyone could let people walk with their outside shoes on, inside the house. It is not just dust or dirt, but countless germs from the outside. In most other countries outside of india also, removing shoes at the door is not unheard of, especially if one has young kids.

        • In that case, hold on to your socks and prepare to be further amazed because …
          1. Loads of people both in as well as out of India *don’t* take off their shoes in their own homes or others’. It’s an equally valid way of life, just like vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism!
          2. Since people no longer eat or sleep on the floor as they traditionally used do (leading to this custom) even the dust / dirt issue can’t be that vital. After all people visit in your living room and leave. They don’t get on to your bed or dining table (unless very very drunk :p)
          3. Unless you have a fully carpeted house, most of us in India sweep and swab once a day so unless someone has waded through a swamp, it’s not like they will bring in any more germs (if that is the biggest concern) on their shoes than on the rest of their person. If you have a fully carpeted house I’m happy to save your carpet by taking off my shoes. It’s also far more comfy than bare floors.
          4.No one wants to use your toilet/kitchen barefoot where the floor could be wet/dirty. Not everyone offers slippers even if three people here pop up to say that they do.
          5. It’s extremely annoying to come dressed to party in a particular way and then suddenly have one item of your outfit removed, so that you go down 3 inches and your saree sweeps. Or you remove your heels and end up barefeet in your elegant dress. Men in formal suits with no shoes. Just looks weird! And feels weird too.
          6. Athithi devo bhava and I’m more concerned about guests comfortable than my floors being clean/house being germ free. Germs are everywhere and if you’re concerned about them you should probably stop going to clubs/pubs/malls/shopping complexes/holding the railing on the escalators/using shopping trolleys or letting kids into the playground/play areas/school. It seems ridiculous to do ALL of those and then deny your guests the right to keep their shoes on. It’s clearly a mental block that most of us need to work on.
          PS: Here’s a list of the germiest places – they include your handbag, ATM butons, and your own kitchen counter! No shoes mentioned.

          http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/21423163/

          • It is just not eating and sleeping part. Kids play on the floor. You put your feet up on the sofa. Someone who has visited a publicc toilet enters your house with those slippers.. thing about it.

            • I’ve thunged about it. Okay, so someone visited a public toilet and took their slippers off at your door. What if they didn’t wash their hands and then touched your kid or your food with the same hands? Is that going to be the next step in hospitality? Asking our guests to wash their hands when they enter our homes? :) Change their clothes incase someone on the bus/train sneezed on them?

              This paranoia around hygiene in a country as filthy and germy as ours…. amuses me! All research says the germs you get are through water, through uncooked food, through kids playing in the bus and touching the same seat. Yet we gun for the poor chappals!

              I have no issue with people who are paranoid about health. But then they should show that paranoia by being careful in all ways and I’ll avoid them in toto. This general old time hangover where you make guests uncomfortable by asking them to remove an item of clothing is just annoying. And goes against the whole guest is God ideology we live by.

  8. i agree about telling off kids.
    i did it when i lived in kuala lumpur and i felt i had done the right thing only after i had spoken . not rude. but firm.
    i tried to smile while i pitched the message. so the children would get that i was not speaking out of anger, or deep desire to connect a cricket bat to their bottoms.

    often the kids were too far gone to pay heed — years of ‘turning a deaf-year training at home’ i’m afraid.

    i agree, mad momma, it’s called ‘manners’ . so i definitely WILL insist.

    you take care of new delhi
    and i’ll police chennai, ok.

  9. i live on ground floor. just saying!!
    i so agree with you on the lift …the other day one driver asked me to move my car quickly from the school alighting point. I took the time to roll down the window and say two children are getting down. I will not move until they close the door and move away and plus i hav no intention of standing here and whiling my time here. and yes I did bark at a girl for happily overlooking that I was in the queue.

  10. Hi, Wish you a very happy new year. You are bang on as usual!! Hugs to you and kids and take care of that knee. I did these things long back and now it seems I have become a sort of a loner, but it is still okay because there is less of pretense and insensitivity to handle and that too from those whom we considered so close and precious.
    take care

    • you’re right. perhaps we’re brought up to seek approval. To get along. To adjust. And I believe they’re virtues. It’s a good way to be. But in an increasingly selfish world I find myself a misfit.

  11. its amazing how many people have ‘friends’ who take time and effort and energy for granted. it seems to be universal. also what is with the lack of simple manners these days? how will children learn if adults dont display it? happy ’13. take care!

    • I don’t blame the people who take advantage. If I lie down at the door and ask you to wipe your feet on me, I shouldn’t complain I suppose. Not every relationship is equal and its up to those in it to create that balance if it doesnt come naturally. I see my fault and now I have to change :(

  12. The lift thing is a pet peeve of mine too – although I’ve never worked up the courage to actually tell people to stand aside while people exit! The one thing I have been very vocal about pointing out is queue-cutting. What is it with some people and their utter inability to respect a queue? By the way, I have an iffy right knee too and I identified with quite a few other things you mentioned in your post.

    Here’s to being more assertive this year. Happy new year!

  13. MM, I can so much identify with this post. Saying “NO” is such a task for me but I am learning :) Parenting, I believe is an art which requires loads of patience and lots n lots of love. If you look around most kids are nowadays hyper, rude and ill-mannered. The parents crib about their kids but rarely realize its about them, kids are just their reflection. Sadly no one has time for their kids and as such kids end up creating problems for everyone around them. I hate it when my kids have to pay the price for being good.
    As for friends, I just have accepted that for now its best to enjoy my own company and be with my kids. Its much more fun. We are able to enjoy and live life at our own pace. Wishing you and family a very Happy New Year.

    • Bang on. I love my own company and that of my kids. i have a lot of time and energy for them and none whatsoever for people whose kids are being brought up by help and have no manners. Its tiresome to have to put with bad behaviour when I’m unwilling to take it from my own kids.

  14. Last year was not one of my favorite years but it did teach me a lesson or two about trusting my gut/ instinct. And threw up a couple of wonderful surprises, along the way.
    It taught me to be thankful for all that I have, but mostly, for parents who brought me up the way they did – showing me that I am already all the person I need to be and that none of the trappings of the sick, patriarchal society we live in, should ever leave me feeling any less of a person than I am.
    This year, I plan to travel – nothing fancy on the cards yet, but there is the Delhi/ Udaipur trip in Feb (I can’t wait to cuddle your babies. Rev and I are already imagining all the fun things we can do with them), a Bombay trip to attend a friend’s wedding in March (cos I have been terrible about attending friends’ weddings/ staying in touch with some and I plan to rectify this) and more planned, in the pipeline.
    This year, I plan to trim off a lot of the excesses – starting from the many extra kgs gained to the many things I like to sometimes hoard. Like the many clothes in my cupboard that I know I will never wear, but am not-yet-ready-to-give-away, I have people that need to be ‘given away’ too. That is my WIP project.
    Happy, happy to you and yours. Here’s hoping 2013 brings a lot of laughter, your way.

  15. Sigh. The issue about lift exits and general nuisance in public – so many times. It makes me wonder if it is easier to point out bad behavior and disruption in public when it is with strangers one won’t see again. Not implying that it is easier to do it with strangers, but still. At least you can walk away knowing that in all probability your paths won’t cross with theirs again and have hopefully left them with something to chew over.

    In our society complex, when I politely pointed out that it was not possible to exit the lift if people were trying to rush in, one person told me that I was being intolerant and fighting with her. We also had to endure unpleasantness from a neighbor for some time when we requested them to not use the common area in between the four apartments on our floor for their kids and friends to play cricket and ride their noisy scooters and tricycles all day long when there is a playground in the complex where everybody else gathers to play.

    It seems that you are unreasonable and quarrelsome if you do this. Gender frequently gets dragged in and you are accused of not being a lady. Really how do you even tell them that you don’t even care for this logic? It gets worse if you are the only one doing the complaining. Isn’t K being a good neighbor by not saying anything? She may complain in private, but she has not directly broached the issue with me. That makes her good and you bad. Her silence is the decent thing to do. Not tell me to stop my children from doing something obviously out of the line.

    With the ensuing unpleasantness, I sometimes wonder if it is best to just let some things slide with people you have to see on a day-to-day basis, but who are not exactly friends. With friends at least, they know us well enough to understand that when we begin to say ‘no’ there really is a reason why we are taking that stand.

    I hope your knee heals. It reminded me to get up and exercise and not take health for granted.

  16. I learnt to take of my health first and others later. And good too and in good time too cuz I have the nasty big ‘C’. Yup, and the invasive kind too. So now everyone better fend for themselves and let me recover. Surprisingly or perhaps unsurprisingly everyone reacted funnily. I didn’t receive the attention back from them that I showered on them all these years. Oh well, thats how it goes:-) so I’d better learn to take care of myself nah?

    Love you MM for stepping up. Totally worth it, shall be, when the Brat follows suit.

    The best in 2013. More mad posts though please. I thrive on them. They’re heartfelt, as real as it is possible to be on a blog and totally relatable.

  17. Dear MM,

    My very best wishes for a wonderful 2013 for you and your family… Hope your knee gets better… Did u try yoga dear? I have knee issues too and yoga seems to alleviate the pain a little at least…
    I agree MM, most of the parents simply do not care… It bothers me a lot but somehow I am such a chicken when it comes to telling the kids or parents… I hate myself for that and keep cribbing to my husband!!!

    Sujatha R

      • Wonderful Post. Couldn’t agree more.

        My MIL is also suffering from severe knee problem. We had it checked from many doctors. One says it is Osteoporosis. The other says it is due to friction between bones at the knee (constant movement, less rest). Whereas the Ayurvedic doc says the nerves are twisted into a bunch of knots. The pain can be reduced only through knee exercises and oil massage. If you’re interested I can get you the names the next time I am there. Take care MM.

  18. Writing after a while so I hope I’m not counted in one of those who don’t bother but then I am not asking you any favours on FB:) You know, I am a bit of both (accommodating but then I go voerboard when I decide it’s time for NO). And I just want to tell you to maybe toe the line a bit. I am exactly this person (less now) who has had plans canceled last minute on me (when I’m 8 months pregnant alone with a kid while husband traveling etc.) and cheerily accepted it. And please all the nationalists don’t pounce on me but it happens to every time in India the most. 3 times I made my mom cook for someone and they didn’t show up or canceled 2 hours before. I was so appalled. The thing is my parents are not this way and I never was but I got fed up of it. So I cut someone off who later made a ton of effort and now I look like the a**hole. I also did a lot of soul searching and realized in 2012 that I had cut a lot of people off and slowly what happened was that that was my only way of dealing with things. Of possibly getting the upper hand.
    So this year, I still don’t want to be a doormat but I want to be more balanced and I also want to have the balls to speak my mind. Like hey, remember the last 3 times you bailed on me? Well, that’s not going to work for me any more. And then if nothing changes, do the necessary. So I’d ask that if there was a friendship that you cared about and were disappointed you at least vocalise it – you’d be shocked how not self-aware people are; not that that’s an excuse but at least you gave the friendship a chance till the end.

    My resolution is a bit similar but it’s more about maintenance and preserving quality relationships and making this year more about PEOPLE. My husband and I are both the sorts who feel every need filled by each other and our children and tend not to extend ourselves too much. I still will never be the one with the largest social circle but I realized I want more relationships in my life. I live in NYC and I want people in my life of every color, age and opinion and show my already shy daughter by example how to put yourself out there, just a little bit more. So it sounds a bit prescriptive but I am in the process of identifying quality people in my life that I want to make an effort toward. And also let go of my old notions of who fits the bill (i.e. Indian, woman, mom is not the only criteria which is what it started becoming) and really allow for spontaneous influences in my life. I also want to work on existing relationships we take for granted – parents, aunts and uncles, school friends, cats (yes I just said that). You like?

    • I like. :)
      And no, there is no particular relationship I am disappointed in. I just realise who is willing to make how much effort and I repay it two-fold or back off. There’s no more or less to it.

  19. I so get this. I work full-time, volunteer, take my kids for activities, and yet we are the ones who are always ok about a change in plans, and always flexible. I was done with that shit last year. Lost a few ‘friends’… but life is simpler.

  20. MM, I think your health is what comes first. No matter what, you need to stay fit and healthy to take care of your precious little ones for years to come- please don’t think twice to step up and say NO to whoever it is that is inconsiderate of your health. I think ‘true’ friends do understand . Happy 2013 to you and your family! Hope you have health,peace and prosperity in the new year!
    -Dee

  21. Oops, now I’m thinking I was one of those, insisting you host us when you had that navel issue. Sorry! And I’m one of the lift-rushers. Learning to wait before allowing people to get out, not to interrupt people when they are speaking, to actually allow others to talk. I actually don’t mind though when people correct my manners, because sometimes I need to be reminded!

    n!

  22. but, but, but…I dont have an AC on the ground floor :(
    No, but I know what you mean and this is something that I have also started from the last year and I feel so much better. I have cut out some of the scum from my life and every few days I see other people with the potential of being scum and they get added to my mental list of “off with your heads”

    I have to come and see you and get a bit of Christmas cake- we didn’t get any this year with marks grandmum passing away just after Christmas and all that :( and give you your gift :)

    • yes. That might be because you don’t *live* on the ground floor, woman! Come soon. I have your gift waiting. Already organised what you asked for. And the cake shows signs of finishing real soon!

      • when, when, when I come? im ever ready- you tell me your convenience and Ill haul baldy to drive me over!
        hee…Ill make arrangements with the landlord next time you’re over…you can sit there and ill come down to chat :p and you also have a standing offer of being carried up the stairs by a bald, fat, chikna man :p

        • Next Friday? Stop calling him baldy – I can bet I’ll be balder than him, faster than him :p
          I can make a thin, pockmarked grey man carry me up also. He offers all the time!

          • taking this offline and sending you an email…i dont think your readers might be too interested in our dating game :p

  23. Wow, I just want to nod my head to each line.. And I have lost a friendship because I reached a point where I had decided that enough was enough and did not want to bend anymore for that person’s sake… I feel liberated and happy now… I still have a lot to learn … Great Post !

  24. Welcome to the dark side MM. Trust me, you wont have any regrets. I used to be you some years ago-accommodating, uber considerate but now I am percieved as a ‘snob’ by folks who clearly weren’t friends to begin with. A label I would have gotten worried sick about then but now, I dont give a shit and it’s been a fun, fun ride.
    take care of that knee!

    • Is it an age thing? Does one just learn to get more assertive with age? I’ve been called a snob because I didn’t respond too effusively overtures by a few other bloggers. But how much can I spread myself thin? I started blogging 7 years ago and made my friends. I couldn’t keep making more and more and more friends every year. I just don’t have the bandwidth. Nice little hate campaign they ran against me. Thankfully it died down after a while.

      • Could be an age thing…am not sure. I can only speak for myself-it was a particular incident with someone I looked at as a friend that made me realized how much I overextended myself. I have become patient and calmer with certain things but intolerant and inflexible with others. But the beautiful thing is I have established deeper, truer, stronger relationships with a handful of folks…less truly is more.

  25. You know madmomma, I am struggling with some of this myself. Especially the bit about disciplining your kids when kids outside are behaving rather badly. It always happens, we go out, I tell little Ahana to not touch things at the store, to not play with things that don’t belong to her, to not snatch, to be polite and every single time we are in the company of other kids, some kid will do something that she has been forbidden to, and then Ahana will say “but xyz is running around”, “but he’s jumping on the couch”. OMG it is exhausting and I can’t help but feel like an overstrict mom at times that I am trying to raise a well-behaved child, when the rest of the world seems to be going to hell. And I know this happened when we were kids and we would feel terrible that we got talked to, but the other kid went scott free!
    How do we deal with this?

    • The same way we did, babe. I hated my mother at that time. I can’t thank her enough now. I am sick of telling my kids – their parents, their rules. You are my kids, my rules.

  26. Say it again sister! I really feel bad for my daughter sometimes but I impose on her for the sake of other kids, these days I am just apologising to her after wards and promising to try harder next time. I think she understands, but I am also worried – she is already so much like me – and although we generally look and act like we come from two different planets, my husband is also very flexible when hanging out with others and it becomes overall very frustrating with all of three of dealing with shit. Of course we don’t do this bending way too often, because of our weekday schedule which is ridiculously insane, but still I feel its hurtful for the kid when we make her give things up all the time.. Oh well. I don’t know what to do about it too clearly, gotto think though.

    And heavens, is that knee thing still so much pain? Why are you subjecting yourself to this? I thought you talked about having diagnosed it several months ago? Are you just neglecting the physiotherapy etc. and making it get worse? Should I come up there (freezing though it is) and open a can of whupass on you? Should I?

    • I think this is a family thing. Like attracts like you know, and the OA too is very very flexible. But he doesn’t hurt as easily as I do and is cooler with people throwing us over or imposing on us. So what I’m trying to say is that your husband couldn’t be any other way – else you wouldn’t be such a fit as a couple. Naturally poor V doesn’t stand a chance with both of you like that.
      My fear is that we’re raising very adjusting kids in a world that is increasingly me-centric. So doormatty kids will be stomped all over. We’re a country of one billion and more. Its every man for himself except idiots like us and our kids.

      As for the eff-ing knee, I’m this close to giving up. Come whupass if you like. I’m all out of options :(

      • Oh no! I don’t know what to advise – but I suspect that you don’t rest it properly either. I mean totally rest it. & I guess the prvs diagnosis was wrong then. :(

        The child is a bit doormatty actually, though she is recently showing a bit more spunk – which is also frustrating in itself as I don’t know how to deal with it. We have resolved to fly off the handle little less at each other this new year, lets see how far that goes…

  27. Way to go, more power to you to say “NO”.
    As for me, ‘friends’ , what friends, most of them unfortunately went MIA quite soon after my son was born. Some on their own and some on my decision since I found that many of them made decisions for me – “Oh but we assumed you would not be able to come…”
    Thankfully our schedules and lives are devoid of these who make decisions on our behalf. I am g;lad tho’ coz the ones who stuck are stuck for good and you know that since they are the ones who will always ask what to cook for my son if we are visiting and keep a room ready in case we decide to crash for the night.
    Last year has also been an year full of going with the flow especially when it came to my professional life. I used to think that I had it made when I could align my work schedule to my son’s school schedule and take it a little slow for a bit. But as the year ends, I have realized that I have actually paid a bigger price by doing that since that has not helped at all when it came to work ! My boss takes me for granted in the sense that he knows I will work even at 1 in the morning coz I am working from home and I have passed by 2 promotions/role changes coz I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a more aggressive work schedule.
    In the new year, I resolve to take my head out of my self imposed cocoon of my son’s comfort and decide to take a step that will take me further in my professional life keeping aside all my preconceived notions. The last thing I want to do is look back years from now and be telling my kid how many sacrifices I made for him. coz believe me that is the saddest thing to do. Our kids do not want us to make sacrifices, they want us to be role models. If I want my kid to take on the world, I need to show him how..

  28. So glad for your insights. All of them – not just this one. I disagree with you frequently as I haunt your blog but agree more often.
    About this new attitude: good on you! It’s dificult to have to change what you believe to be a personal strength because you know it’s time to do so (like here, when you know that it’s costing you peace and health). You know that proverb about your treasures being worthless if you can’t give them up when you need to? (I obviosuly don’t or I’d have quoted it better!) Something like that I think. But you should’nt beat yourself up for coming to this hardline stance at 34 either. The 34 years of generosity, kindness and suspension-of-ego that your Doormatdom made possible are important too, though it may not seem that way right now. I don’t know about you, but for me, most of my Doormatty moves were/are informed by a desire to help others rather than fear that I’m unable to think of myself: the latter takes no effort, the former much strength. Not only did your Doormatdom make your kids adjustable and laid-back and shored up oodles of goodwill amongst your freinds (even some of the manipulative ones know in their hearts what you did for them), it’s given you a sense of satisfaction that is unrivalled. Most importantly, it has contributed towards who you are today. Doing for others selflessly is empowering when you do’nt let it feed a feeling of superiority. Nothing in your substantial writing suggests to me that you are self-righteous or judgemental, although what do i know?
    That being said, I’m all for your current new leaf. If your satisfaction at being a kind and laid back person is getting outweighed by the difficulties it earns you, heave-ho to the old attitude (as you’ve done). Also, if your moves are fuelled by fear rather than free personal choice. I used to have similar struggles as you in my 30s but the last few years of that decade saw a rising awareness of the need for change too and now, at the ripe old age of 40, I have found new strength to do me-first thinking. Hope it’ll last until I commence my 41 st year shortly! I notice a lot of my girlfriends have traced this exact trajectory too: oen of the faces of female mid-life crisis of our generation perhaps? (There’s a post in this somewhere.) Here’s the thing: for me, I am happy that I am able to think of others, sometimes even at my own cost, and hope to share the value and joy of that with my 6 year old. But like you, I’m even happier to model for him that you can think of others AND ALSO do right by yourself. If I slip from that state of perfect equilibrium from time to time, as human nature (and the law of averages) suggests that I will, I intend to favor Doormatdom to selfishness. Because it adds to my sense of fulfillment and enriches other lives in the end, in whatever small and glancing way.

    As one of your commenters said, it probably IS only a matter of time before the old you pops back up and grimaces up 4 flights of stairs to check out a freind’s new wall paint (maybe ‘because your opinion means SO MUCH that it would be a gift to me!’) or some other such banal thing. When it does, I hope for you that you let yourself be for a bit and remember that your temporary Doormatdom is more about not hurting others than weakness. Then, after your binge, slip quickly back into your me-first persona coz Doormatdom still sucks! Any of this make any sense to you? It does’nt to me but I had promised myself I’d do more vocal commenting this year so there it is. :-)
    From one mad momma to another: more power to you!

    • ;) I love when people say they disagree with me. i love that they feel free to tell me so. And I’m happy to know that you agree at times too. No two people can agree on everything. My closest friend is a vegetarian, and I find it in my heart to forgive her ;) And now she’ll kill me.
      I like the way you articulated this. Yes, a post in there somewhere. Now that we’ve been introduced, I’ll wait for you to do a post on it.
      That particular commenter actually does know me pretty well and I’m terrified I’ll snap back as predicted :(
      I’m glad your resolution to comment brought you out on the page. I look forward to reading more from me.

      • I’d love to share more thoughts with you, girl. WIll get to work on that post soon and then..now, how does this work in the blogospshere? How’d I tag you etc? Just insert a link to this post right? BTW, my blog link was broken inthe original comment but is fixed here. Haven’t blogged in a whiel but intend to resume soon.

        Now that I know you’re receptive to all opinions, I’ll venture to post the latter half of my initial comment that I hekd back before. No offense, ok?

        A bone to pick: I fully ‘get’ your beef with shoes-off-indoors policies but have to point out that your tone is confusingly contradictory. As someone who values flexibilty and respect for other people, why the petulance at a pretty reasonable request? I know you’re in a phase of trying to assess when other peoples’ requests are thoughtless (so you can stnad up for yourself in those moments) but this seems a bit mislabeled to me. Your suggested alterations to the no-shoes policy are fair but so is just speaking up to your host to accomodate your kids cold feet. I’m assuming they don’t have kids or they would have found this out for themselves. If they do’nt, then informing them of the consequence of cold floors and thinly clad feet on developing consitutions is doing them AND others a service (and to be fair, you DO say that your new stance is to be open about stating your preferences so kudos). As for the dressing aethetics, given how common it is to not wear outoor shoes indoor (even in American homes her in the US), it’s not asking for much to either dress appropriately (ie. not have your ensemble hinge on footwear) or negotiate a shoes-on policy for the night with your host beforehand. A doormat mentality doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced by a my-way-or-bust one, right? There is something in-between perhaps?

        • Okay, I’ve written a long response to this on another comment but i repeat.
          Yes, I am flexible about people wearing shoes or not in my home, so I don’t see why they can’t be flexible about people keeping their shoes on or off. Maybe they expect it on a daily basis, but why don’t they thoughtfully make an exception on the night of a party? After all the home will be swept the next morning!
          It might seem petty, but for those who aren’t used to walking around barefeet (and I’m never barefeet) its physically *very* uncomfortable – ask other people who are used to footwear. Like missing your underwear or something! I keep wriggling my toes in discomfort and wondering what I’m missing.
          If people who have a no-shoes rule care about their guests’ comfort, they need to give them an option. Because as time goes by, I’m shocked by people doing wine and cheese evenings, sake and sushi parties and whatnot – but still falling back on the age old – take off your shoes outside by threshold rule. It’s incongruous. I don’t *get* why they make this request anymore in this day and age when you’re not sitting on the floor – it made sense in the good old days. Today your Italian sofa is 2 feet away from the ground and no one is working in their paddy fields and carrying dust into your home. Clearly there are no more germs on my shoes than on my coat, so what is the point?
          Forget about my kids’ feet – what about mine!
          And you’re right. I have found an in-between. I very firmly don’t go indoors if swinging by to drop off my kids or pick up homework or coming by to leave some homemade cake. We’re still friends, I’m bringing food, but it’s bloody cold, I’m in sneakers and I’m not taking off my shoes in this weather even if I love you.
          And finally, I’m willing to negotiate on everything else. But everyone has their non-negotiable and the shoes are slowly becoming mine. Yes, I know I sound as nutty to the no-shoes types as they come across to me!
          Okay, I should breathe, count to ten and go to sleep ;)

          • LOL, MM….toe underwear (love the tag!) really means a lot to you doesnt it? Didn’t mean to cost you sleep and make you fume!

            Good on you that u take a stance if it bugs you. Not judging you AT ALL for your very definite preference. But it sounds to me like youre judging the no-shoe-ers. I agree with your suggestion that it’s good hosting to allow guests to remain fully dressed, and that includes the footwear of their choice. But i have a harder time stomaching the westernized argument about serving wine an cheese demanding a shoes on policy. People, even hosts, are allowed their preferences without judgement just as you are yours. For what it’s worth, I encourage guests arriving at large get together to retain footwear even though I am the one cleaning the next day. I agree that it’s only decent.

            Stopped fuming now? :-)

            • Oh I’m not judging them for what they do with their own darn feet and shoes. I’m judging them for telling me what to do with my feet and shoes! ;)

              I know lots of people walk that middle line, but this is probably my only quirk. Call me for a jagran or a sangeet or something and I’ll come prepared to take off my shoes, cover my head and sit on the floor. Tell me the dress code is LBD and then make me take off my shoes… and I’ll groan at the back of my head and quickly start coming up with excuses not to attend.

              And yes, stopped fuming. Mainly because I’m eating Christmas cake and I can’t think angry thoughts when my mouth is full of magic.

          • Ahem, ahem…I have a strict no shoe rule in my home :) And simply because 99.99% of the time the kids play on the floor, we sit on the carpet as easily on the sofa and I do not vacuum every single day !!!! The floor is my kids’ playground.

            • Arre baba, you have carpetted floor plus you are your own housekeeper. What is the excuse in an Indian room with cold stone floors and daily maids? :)

  29. “They feel entitled to re-organising your day” — so there are many like that haan ? I know one or maybe two who will cancel dinner invites a day before, when I have done all groceries and made arrangements and then have the gal to suggest me that I invite on a certain other day. Makes me real mad. Solution: I say I am busy and never again extend an invitation.
    Also if my kids get bored because of different age group or whatever reason, I try to minimize interactions to the minimum. No point spending a Saturday gossiping at your home while my kids are getting super bored.
    Good lessons.
    Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year.

    • I’m willing to forgive that too, if there’s a genuine emergency. Trust me, I’m really flexible because that’s the way my folks were and I sort of grew up being accommodating. But the world is getting more particular, people want you to call before dropping in, plan a month in advance, blah blah. and the very same people will not give you the same luxury. that is when i get pissed. shubho nobo borsho to you too.

  30. Good one…I am at the other end of the spectrum where I have actually cut myself off from all ‘so called friends’ who tend to taake advantage of my polite behaviour. Am nearly friendless now :( will set the right expectations upfront while picking out friends!!

    • I think everyone goes through a phase of consolidation. I met a lot of new people on the internet and have gone on to have real life friendships with them that mean a lot to me.

      • I totally get it MM. And the reason why the blogosphere has the capability to offer truer friends is beacuse you can immediately identify one of your kind when you read them…a sneak peek into the hearts through their blog.

        Now I am all eyes for finding out my new friends this way ;)

  31. I enjoyed your post MM! EVEN though you told us your experiences – I realised one thing that even though the incidents may differ in nature but the bottom line remains the same – there are certain things/people who need to be tackled in a particular manner so as to ensure harmonious co-existence – this does not mean that we have to shut them completely but yes they must know that they are welcome only through a proper channel and they can’t walk all over us..
    And about The secret art of saying no – How I wish I knew it – sigh!
    But that doesn’t mean I don’t even try- coz i do try saying no even if it is really difficult for me- especially from last 4-5 years- and luckily sometimes I am able to say it – so i am guessing one learns with time- it doesn’t come easy at first but then there has to be a first time..right?.
    As I grow older I am getting better at it.
    As a child – (I almost don’t feel like admitting it) I was a big pushover.
    So much so that I’d lend my favorite pen to my bench mate if she forgot hers- and write with a pencil myself only because she had asked for it and I didn’t want to say no.
    And in return she wouldn’t even share an eraser with me if i lost mine :-(
    But luckily I am a much stronger person now- or so i believe – i have learnt to prioritize and I think I am earning more strength with each passing day -
    Although one thing that I can never tolerate – bullying rude behavior – my heart sinks at the very onset of a rude incident and I mean it literally. So I avoid hanging out with people – who I once thought were friends – people who don’t think before they speak – even if it is unintentionally so.

    • That is exactly what I’d do – lend someone my pen and use a pencil. Wake up at 4 am to tie a saree for a hotel receptionist room mate – every single day! It’s just the way we were brought up, to help. Now I realise no one will ever give me back the time and attention I gave them. I should have spent more time investing in my self :(

  32. been a long time since i commented…half way through I was about to ask the question – “Will you not be losing friends being more reserved?” – I read it completely to realize you had covered that too. But yea when everyone is doing what they think is right for themselves I suppose it is only fair that you do the same. Last year I learnt to just be more careful in every walk of life. :)

      • generally in all walks of life mad momma…extra careful when it comes to money yada yada…was never serious about money beforehand or never thought of investments. After watching around realized that one never knows when the hand of fate strikes on you. So it does not hurt saving that extra penny these days. was very flippant about it for a long time after i started earning. Always used to wonder what is the point in buying a house (and other materialistic needs). But sad as it may be if one does not own a car in USA (even if he does not need one) I guess people sort of end up thinking that the individual is not capable of buying one. So taking extra care in explaining my position to folks and friends, so that people do not understand me to be a stingy individual, but more of a necessity based person.

        • Madmomma, I so agree with you. I’m 34, but I had this realisation in my mid-20s and I’m so happy that I did. I have fewer friends (not ‘just a few’, but ‘fewer’), but more meaningful relationships. Now I have friends with whom I could leave my child if I had an emergency operation or hospitalisation (which has happened twice in the last 2.5 years).

          I agree with your views on shoes. I hate to suddenly lose height when I enter people’s houses dressed for a party. My fix is simple, I ask them for house slippers and if they don’t have any, I just wear my footwear. (Half-an-hour of ‘sholessness’ can give me hip pain for days.) I *don’t* have a no-shoes-indoors policy, but 80-90% of my guests insist on taking off their shoes!

          Have you noticed (or is it only me?) that those who are inflexible, especially regarding their kids’ schedules, are the ones most likely to enforce the no-shoes-indoors and similar policies? Have you also noticed (or is it only me again?) that their kids roam indoors in shoes/sandals because ‘the floor is cold’. Duh. Like, you I don’t cut them out (they are not bad people; just insensitive). I’m very careful, though.

          Vswajithkn, you can’t be more right about having to pander to people’s expectations, even if one is so damn secure in one’s space. The case in point is the car – when we were a DINK couple, we didn’t feel the need to buy a car in Bangalore, where public transport is good and, and our offices, friends’ places, malls and movie halls were at walking distance from home. But, BUT, people – relatives, especially – wouldn’t stop asking us why we didn’t have a car and was that because we didn’t have the money for it. Diplomatic mockery (stemming from a madmomma-style realisation in mid-20s) realisation is my favourite defence. I would tell them we’re poor and willing to accept donations to the car fund :)

          • Oh yes! The ones who won’t allow slippers are rigid in a thousand other ways too. I realise that you’re either easy going or not. And that manifests itself in so many ways.

            Love the last line about the car fund. I’ve tried this to great success for many other issues.

  33. Hello MM,
    I guess as we grow older we become more intune with ourselves. Nice post!
    Sorry about the bad knee. May I suggest you try a ayurvaidyasala( specifically if you can find one from Kerala Kottakkal) I have tremendous faith in ayurvedic treatment. My sinusitis problems, back aches(because of tennis) was healed because of this treatment. I have been living in the US for last couple of years and since it is hard to find an ayurvedic practitioner here(or they are very expensive), I have tried acupunture and they work magic. Having worked in the IT field I started having shoulder and elbow pains and acupunture nipped the problems right in the bud.
    Hope this helps.
    lots of love.
    Aarthi

    • I have a lot of faith in ayurveda but i don’t trust the chains popping up in Gurgaon. If I could find one trusted practitioner (not a clinic) I’d jump at it without a blink of an eye.

      • I should have asked you this long ago. I know this trusted place in Kerala, but once they diagnose your problem, they need you to spend 14-21 days at their hospital in Kerala, getting treated. It is a whole package – food is served accordingly and you are advised a routine to follow. It is a no- frills place that did wonders to my friend and her back problem. Let me get the details and mail it to you.

  34. Wow all I have to say is ,your friends are really lucky to have you in their lives.you don’t mind babysitting your friend’s kids, you are so flexible and accommodate them..I need to take some tips from you in that regard.

  35. Read this post right in time. Was getting sucked into this never ending chasm of favours that I need to keep doing for people who never bother to even keep in touch once their work is done.

  36. Really great post on common issues. Oh Belated Happy New Year :)

    I was just introduced to this blog (Not directly) through stalking and I trust that someone’s word when it comes to reading / writing. I must admit your blog is really good I haven’t gone through all the pieces don’t think I ever can. or maybe I can :p

    Coming back to this particular blog I loved it and could relate to it in ways more than one like giving a piece of my mind to people misusing public property. And specially the “Can’t say NO” God, things I go through after a yes at times. Sigh! But I guess I’ve come to terms with it and surrendered myself. I can go on and on but i think I’ll spare you and others here :p

    Anyhow wishing you and your loved ones a great year ahead. Looking forward to many many pieces from you. Oh and hoping your knee recovers quickly. Tc! Happy writing :)

    • I think we should start a campaign. First off I’m going to make big signs that flip people off if they are talking on their phones and driving. My other pet peeve! they slow down traffic and also cause accidents.

  37. I was nodding my head all the way when I was reading this post.
    I have too many peeves to list here :( The one time I tried to be assertive, I lost many friends and made many enemies. So I went back to being a doormat because that did not require much effort from my side.

    However, long association with my MIL (she is as assertive as they come – and more) has taught me to not take things lying down. Now I cancel dinners, outings and events if it interferes with my kids’ bedtime. I have become such a militant that if there is a wedding reception on a weeknight I don’t go if I don’t find somebody to babysit.

    Wish you and your family a very happy new year and Pongal.

  38. Good for you. You are the most generous person I know, but I’m glad you’re trying harder to take care of yourself. Please do take care of that knee.

  39. Kudos to you, MM. I have always been a fly-on-the-wall kind of girl, but not one without her opinions and likes and dislikes. I love giving of myself to people who appreciate it too, but have often been walked over because I have been too kind. I have often not been able to say no and have had to face endless woes thanks to the same. Of late, I have been wondering about my non-assertiveness too, and thinking of the effects it will have on my parenting. Your post gives me hope, courage and determination. Thank you!

    Wish you and yours a very happy new year 2013! Hoping to read more posts from you this year. :)

  40. Dear MM,
    I am been inactive here since a month (coz things like marriage happened) and you know what, I have missed reading your blog the MOST.
    I just love how very articulate you are, and reading your blog is such a learning experience…always
    Whenever i become a mom, I want to be just like you.

  41. Tsk tsk, MM, you aren’t supposed to wear heels with that knee! :)

    And umm…I stay on the 2nd floor of a row house with no lift. Add to that it’s a duplex with all most of my books upstairs. We also remain barefoot at home, though I don’t feel walking in with shoes on will make my ‘dharm bhrasht’! Have done it many times myself when I am all outfitted to go out and realize I have forgotten something.

    Fingers crossed, though, as I’m positive I am one of those friends for whom you will be willing to climb those floors plus one to access the books!

    Standing up for yourself- go girl! Between you and Starry, I get inspired intermittently. :)

    You know already about the kid holding her own. :)

  42. I think I identify with this post not so much for myself but for DD’s sake. I have always had only a handful of close friends. And I have been okay with that unlike the DH who has a friend in every gali koocha. We have been emphasizing to DD that she have a large set of friends so as not to be dependent on the same 1 or 2 children that are her best friends, because they may not be part of every social scene. Lately, this has become even more important, since the one or two BFF’s have started becoming mean and also excluding DD. However the other day when I mentioned to her that she needs to have more friends and it’s okay to not be as close to these children, she piped up saying “But mom, you are close friends with their moms.” It occurred to me then how much my social life dictates hers. My New Year’s resolution is to listen to DD more, both the spoken and the unspoken she conveys. I have since clarified to her she’s not required to be best friends with people since I am friends with their moms. I can meet my friends without involving the kids. An important lesson learnt at great cost to my child.

    Happy New Year MM, I hope you all have a pain free, healthy, happy, safe year

    • Thanks Meera. It’s a scary realisation isn’t it? That our kids are forced to be friends with kids whose parents we befriend, even if they don’t like it? This has been my big learning last year.

  43. MM, great resolution! I did the same, and am happier this way. It’s all about setting limits – and this applies to every relationship, even people you’re very close too. Small adjustments never hurt, but when they go on to become big sacrifices, it doesn’t help anybody. I have seen several cases where if 1 person was constantly giving into the needs of the other (unfairly), it blows up one fine day. Because the favors keep getting bigger and more frequent (mostly even without them realizing), and the other person feels more and more used. Ultimately, nothing is more important than your own health, so take care. Happy new year! – Kutty’s mom

  44. Always, MM. All the time! I’ve found myself picking up the tab for dinners and drinks more than once. And this was even true of a time when I was freelancing and had much less cash to spare than my other “professional” friends. Being the organizer in charge of a get together that wasn’t even my idea to begin with. Putting up with unexpected additions and alterations to plans already made (notably girls including boyfriends with a “What? I thought he was called too! I mean, wtf!), and it drives me insaaaaaane. I’m taking a leaf out of your book, and starting to say no. My peace of mind is just as precious as anybody else’s precious plans.
    Y’know, I’d gone to watch Life of Pi a couple of weeks back. There was a big contingent of kids with their mummies in the row just behind me. The mummies were busy on their phones, and the kids were bored and smacking their feet on the floor. Hard. I let it slide for a while. But it got so bad that I couldn’t even hear the dialogues. I turned around and told them to please tell their kids to keep quiet, because the din was really ruining the movie for us. It worked. Distasteful? Yes. But, well, someone had to say something!
    I hope I’d be half as good a mother as you are. Happy new year to you and yours :)

  45. Dear MM,

    I discovered your blog very recently and have been visiting ever since. You have no idea how pleasantly shocked I am to read every single line of yours with a sense of déjà vu… And this one truly touched a chord with me. I’m a 29 year old mother of a 4 year old boy and have been an on-off working woman.
    Everything seems theoretically perfect in my life –
    a very understanding husband who will stop at nothing to help me pursue my interests (He is much wiser, calmer and a perfect balance to my highly mercurial personality),
    a job which is not so taxing on my health ,
    lovable parents-in–law who are just besotted with their grandson and let me go to work in perfect peace knowing my son is in safe hands,
    my highly energetic parents whom just about everybody loves (my parents get along with my in laws like a house on fire! I always regret not having inherited my dad’s spirit),
    a high voltage energized kid who ensures I appreciate life’s little pleasures.

    Despite the seemingly perfect family picture, my life is slipping to the dogs over the last two years… See, my MIL is a very naive person all right, but she is getting a little insecure with age. And she has a very annoying habit of comparing people. I have a very low threshold of patience and it doesn’t take much for someone to get me hopping mad.

    I share a very healthy, sporty relationship with my husband’s sister who lives in the US. But constant references by my MIL (who visited her twice recently) on how efficiently her daugher manages her home and how well behaved her kid daughter is (as against my brat) often sends me running for a drink of water to keep me from exploding. Isn’t it just too obvious that lifestyles are vastly different between the Indian Joint Family and the American Nuclear Family? In my personal opinion, kids tend to be better behaved in a nuclear family as compared to a joint family for the simple fact that if I were to raise my son alone, I will obviously falter in the beginning until I find the Golden Mean. But once that is established, I’m all good to go with him. Now with due respect to all our doting grandparents, I have to say it is difficult to discipline a child in a joint family, when he knows his mom is not his only sanctuary. If mama says no, heck, I have grandma !! Many may disagree, but this is something I have seen and experienced.

    A sensible woman will just shake her head when such unfair comparisons are made in a conversation and poiltely assert her take on this and then move on without carrying any emotional baggage.
    But not me…. I never let her know the way I feel thinking it may offend her. Then the rest of my day is ruined. I sulk and spit fire at my poor clueless husband and generally make life miserable for the both of us leaving my poor MIL totally oblivious to all of this.

    See, I’m basically the type who will think umpteen number of times before saying something faintly cheeky to everyone around, lest they get offended, but won’t think a split second before mouthing the foulest, meanest, stupidest words to the man whose only fault is not being aggresive enough for me.

    I am a really confused woman now… On one hand, I’m claustrophobic and gasping for space, and on the other, I take one look at the beautiful sight of a grey benign woman running behind a little boy learning to bicycle and my heart melts like butter…

    Now, I know with all my heart that such frictions can be resolved only by maintaining inner peace. And I’m not a fundamentally cranky person either, you know !  But I realise that my problem is that I seek approval for everything I do or say.

    So my target for this year is going to be to breathe deeply and be more assertive & politely let people know I disagree. How I’m going to achieve this, I do not know yet…

    But I do so hope it does not kill anybody ! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with all of us. Reading you is like talking to a like minded friend !

    Clueless,
    Ramya

    • Ramya, how I could relate to all this!!! You just typed out exactly what I went through for a few years, and thankfully it has ended now. Only difference is that I am the one in the US, and my co-sis in India. Constant comparisons, not subtle, said in the harshest way.. and me doormat keeping quiet and then venting to poor hubby later, how familiar that sounds!
      All i can say is, it does not help anybody to stay that way. I decided to change things when they visited the last time.. and no, not by retorting back rudely or anything. The best way is to first realize that someone comapring u does not make the comparison valid or true, so no, just because ur mil feel that ur sil is great does not make her better than you. I got my confidence back, the day I stopped trying to impress them. I just focussed on what I am good at, and what I believe in, and living my life and raising my kids my way, vs trying to be good and adjust for their sake. All this while still being calm and kind to them, because after all, I fully realize that they’re good people, just that they compare unfairly. Like ur case, I have a lot of good things to say about my in-laws too. One fine day, the realization will come to them. The worst thing you can do is try to defend yourself that things are xyz in the US, and somehting else in India etc.. doesnt help. Dont try to change pre-conceived notions that they have, stick to what you believe in, and follow the routine that you want/choose/feel is the best for your family. Just bcoz your SIL does things a certain way, does not make it right. Also, with kids, there are phases. No kid is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.. dont let unfair comparisons hurt your style of upbringing. Just make sure you’re raising your kid with those values that you want to inculcate in him. Take care.. and hope it goes all upward for you. Keep it in perspective, this is smething minor for all the other beautiful tings u have, esp a supportive hubby. -kutty’s mom

      • Thank you Kutty’s mom !! Makes me hopeful !! Bringing up a child in a setup like ours is team work actually! And I know we will do a great job ! Moreover I definitely don’t want to accelerate my aging process by carrying negative baggage …
        I feel better already !! Thanks !

        - Ramya

    • I wish I had a solution, Ramya. :(
      Sadly, I must say this is a dance, you will have to dance alone.
      I see you already appreciate how much she does and the freedom that gives you to lead some semblance of your own life. And I appreciate that you appreciate that. So few people really feel grateful to those who help them. That is half the battle won, isn’t it?
      I’d suggest you find gentle and humorous ways to tell her how you feel.
      If she says your son isn’t well behaved enough, laugh and tell her ‘I agree Ma, you need to be more strict with him!’ Or something like that. If this is your permanent situation and you have to live together, and this is the only little problem, I’m positive you will soon have it worked out.
      hugs
      mm

      • Thank you Mad Momma !! You have a great point there about using humor as a tool ! I wonder where my sense of humor has disappeared ! It feels much better to have someone listen to my rambling… Hubby does all the time but poor guy his position is a little dicey , you know… Thanks for the reassuring words, really !

  46. Perhaps when the kids have their summer break, can you take off for about a month and go to Kerala? Their Ayurvedic massages and holistic treatments take some time, but are very effective. If you send me your details, I can forward them to a friend there who will take care of all the details and get you booked into the right place.

  47. What if the negative energy sapping people, who are always going “me, me, me” live in your own house? And what if at forty plus you have not learned the art of saying “no” to them as, i. it would hurt them, ii. the scene following is not pretty?
    Hopeless case, I know. Just venting a bit in your space. Sorry. For what it’s worth I have been reading you for years, and have learnt lots from you. Sometimes I don’t agree though :-), but this one, is bang on.

    • Oh dear God. I have no idea what I’d do in such a situation. Probably have a huge dust up. When you live together I think its important to draw lines early. All my sympathies…

  48. Hi MM,

    Just got back to the US from an India trip a few days ago so havent read your blog in a while. This post resonated and made me realize that this doormat issue is not as uncommon as I thought so I dont feel as bad for struggling with it for a while! :) I am also one of those people who has trouble saying no, because I was also raised to be accommodating/polite and inherently am relaxed about various things. I think a part of my reluctance with saying no for a while was because I inherently believed that it displays a lack of generosity of spirit…I still hold that belief somewhere I think, although at some point I realized that this generosity of spirit thingy cannot come at the cost of my family’s happiness or their wellbeing. Also, as I’ve grown older, my patience has worn thin because I simply do not have the bandwidth to accommodate people who refuse to understand my very real constraints. Yes, that has meant letting go of some friendships but it comes with peace of mind. Balance is tricky and I do try it with family for instance – works sometimes, doesnt at other times…so wishing you good luck with that!

    • You’re absolutely right. It DOES show a lack of generosity of spirit. Which is why I’ve never done it before. Now though, I feel like I’m spread too thin and unable to keep doing this for those who don’t respond. And yes, that it came at a cost to me.

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