You won’t understand until you’re a parent

–  a line guaranteed to get the hackles of the calmest, zennest of souls up. One I heard incessantly until I became a mother. And then I was all  – ah ha! Now I am a mother so bring it on! The thrill of that knowledge was second only to actually becoming a mother! (Well who said anything about being mature?!)

And funnily – I did realise that the world did change after I became a mother. The sun didn’t shine brighter, the moon didn’t inspire poetry, the waves didn’t rush in further up. But I suddenly began to see what it was that kept a parent up at night  – it wasn’t just the colic – it was the knowledge that my child was in pain. And while you can ignore a nagging pain in your head and try to sleep, there is no sleeping while you know your child is in discomfort. I wouldn’t dare lie and say I did it with good grace. I was sleepy, I was tired, I was cranky – but I was awake and I was concerned too.

Of course you never win, because the moment that happened, my parents had a new one – You won’t understand until you become a grandparent.’ I wanted to bang my head. Or the baby’s. Or theirs. Any head would do.

What could be better than being a parent I wondered. How does it feel any different? Now I get mad at people who think their dogs and cats compare to having kids – because I have had dogs and I have had cats, deer, rabbits, geese, fish and a frickin’ blue bull too – and none of them came close to this.

So at the risk of annoying a bunch of grandparents, I hesitantly raise this. The Bean comes to me every morning as she leaves for school and every evening as she sets out to the club and trustingly hands me Lumpy (the damn Heffalump, you know!) and looks up at me with her huge eyes and says, “Mama, take good care of my baby..”

I hug her and promise to do so. And so it is that I find myself in the laughable position of sitting to have my breakfast, with a stuffed elephant tucked under my arm, or typing out a story, a purple elephant rocking behind me in my chair. I try to leave the darn thing in the nursery and get about my work. And all I remember is the Bean’s big eyes pleading – Take good care of my baby, mama…  And I grab the darn thing by its woolly tail/ grubby trunk/ tuft of purple hair… and go about my business, hoping against hope that no one sees me in what is not my finest hour.

Not the best example perhaps. In fact worse than those who compare their damn feline and canine ‘children’ to having human kids. But enough to give me that thrill of anticipation! Yeah okay – lock me up in that padded cell now.


86 thoughts on “You won’t understand until you’re a parent

  1. Great post MM.U have a way with words.An ability to stitch them together to convey simple human emotions and thoughts.Have u considered a book?

  2. Abhi ek baat batao. How different is it to take care of a sick spouse or a sick kid?
    I have stayed up nights worrying about the husband whenever he has taken sick. There was this one time he got some bug which caused him to throw up whatever he ate and he was unable to put anything down for 2 days. and I think my worry would be similar for my kids too! no?

    • LOL! I dont know .. when my husband is sick he is crankier than a kid. 😉 so HE is no different from a kid.
      but no – i would not panic over my husband the way i panic over my child … for a variety of reasons – one – he is an adult. there’s a huge difference in the way you react to a child and to an adult on most matters no? with a child you have to figure out what is wrong – an adult can tell you if they are feeling a stabbing pain or a dull pain etc. They can get up and walk to the loo to throw up while a kid will throw up in bed… it goes on …
      and finally – i think it depends on the person. i see a whole lot of girls here – roxana, GW, suki – all young unmarried girls, interested in what one doddering old mad mother has to say. so i think there is always empathy and love. but i also believe that inspite of this something else will trigger off – something deeper, when they have their own kids. lucky kids, if you ask me

    • Oh, I am way more worried for the kid than for the spouse. An adult is more capable of handling an illness or bear pain. But seeing a small, defenceless kid in pain (esp your own) just breaks your heart

      • absolutely. its the whole defenceless thing that worries you. also – its a diff in attitude. when i married my husband, i married him as an equal. when i gave birth to my child, i committed to being responsible for him/her

  3. So you are saying, being a parent cannot be compared to having a pet but being a grand parent can be compared to having a pet? 😀

    I agree with you that my views on many things changed once I became a parent but may be there are folks out there who already see what a parent sees and so it is wrong to say to them “you wont understand until you are a parent”. May be they do understand because of other life experiences..

    • i agree… some people do have empathy. like i have great empathy for many people. example – the manipuris. but i doubt i will ever be able to feel what they feel until i’ve lived in terror there one night, in the midst of raging fires and curfews.. no?

      • I think it’s true that you can really empathise and support and understand a person in a certain situation or set-up…but you can only feel it when it’s happening around you. Been a war refugee in Kuwait…curfews, snipers and Red Cross camps.

        How ’bout being the mother of a teen??!! I have all these theories…will eat my words in 4 more years, I’m sure!

        Happy Heffalump-sitting. You do weekends?

  4. If you received an older comment, delete that one. Error found. Use this. 😀

    Awww, MM, com’ere you! Lemme give the good gram-gram a kishy-wishy ❤ And one for my darling Beanie who turned you into that mush-filled thing 😉

  5. Would you like a straitjacket with that padded cell, ma’am?

    Seriously though, I think it’s bloody cool of you to do that. It would be much easier by far to just ignore it and you don’t.

    Ergo, you get a gold star for the patience that motherhood has bestowed on you. 🙂

  6. Of course, we do realize some things only after becoming a mom, the same is about all other aspected of life, u dont know till u experience it.. I dont know why this one becomes such a big deal though.
    As for beanie’s thing – so cute. See, I do similar things with my daughter, but I get super-conscious if grand parents visit. They keep implying that i give her too much attentions or that these days kids are too particular about little things etc.. how do u deal with this? Not just minor aspects, but even though I do discipline my child a lot, my inlaws and parents keep implying that she is pampered.. is it just a generational thing? Sorry I went off topic.. just curious if people are able to ignore these comments easily or how they tackle it.

    • well i get mad at my parents because they think i am too particular and fussy with the kids.

      we almost ‘broke up’ once over the disagreement… but we mailed each other and argued and debated and aired our opinions and i think we’re better off for it. maybe feelings were hurt at that time, but atleast we all know where the other stands on a certain issue now.. and i think that itself is progress.

      • How cute that you “broke up”. But I know what you mean. I think grandparents of yore were used to being depended on for advice and as parents had a more off-the-cuff approach to parenting. Even in the West there’s a lot of snickering about how parenting was not an active state of being. I love that many in our generation are more involved and particular…am sure some bordering on anal and paranoid and I’m sure that for our parents that seems odd. My mom gives me lots of advice, a lot of it useful but she’s also realized that I research, read, get my info from many sources so hers is not the last word in anything for me. A bit disconcerting I suppose. I try my best to be balanced but will not try to hide how intimately I care about every aspect of my child. Which I think to my parents often might come across as fussy.

        • Oh you guys hit the nail on the head. They think being detailed = too much attention. I dont get it at all. Also, u r right they do vacillate betwee u’re giiving her too much attention and you are too strict with her. And since we are in the US, every dam thing is attributed to being here.. oh u’re child is stubborn bcoz she is in the US, oh she took the toy away from baby bcoz people in US cant share.. blah blah 🙂 (ok I exaggarated a bit, but u get the picture :))
          I just do what I think is right.. it has nothing to do with being in the US.. I would have been the same in India..
          Mad momma.. i think the kids + parents + grandparents thing almost warrants a whole post.. please do consider doing one on that topic! I know u’ll have much to offer and the comments will be interesting and insightful too..

        • oh, my dad and i break up so often that i’ve stopped counting. short of sending him back his share of blood that runs in my veins, i’ve done eerything. but we’re still able to read each others minds… sigh. i think i have a love hate relationship with my dada. i love to hate him.

          and i think i’ll post on this. i think our generation does realise what a huge deal parenting is. which is also why it weighs omre heavy on our shoulders. we CHOOSE to be parents. they just took it in their stride as life. and that is why they didnt stress as much as we do. its because we have the element of choice that we obsess.

  7. hahahaha.
    As I was telling my mom yesterday, I seem to have twins.

    My son wants his Elpha (yes elephant) to be fed, bathed and put to sleep along with him.

    Of course you are wise enough to know what my mom said!

  8. Oh you can join me in my padded cell, I have Tigger and Winnie the Pooh for company too and we can all sit and chat. Except for when I give them their daily bath of course, just the way Nikki wants it.
    And you had a blue bull?!

    • yep- we were known in the entire city for loving animals and running a mini-zoo. so when a family friend found a baby blue bull had wandered out of the jungle near his farm and lost its mother and was starving, he picked it up and brought it to us. we fed it with a bottle till it got too big to keep in a house. and then we had to send it back to live near his farm and to learn to venture into the jungle once more

  9. … And thus you became a Nani 🙂 I can’t count the number of times I have been told, “wait till you become a mother”.. And I can’t wait! :))

    But I still think.. To each his own, MM. I have an aunt who can’t have children. She really thinks of her felines and canines as her own children. And I am not sure if I understand that kind of love, because I for one hate all animals (not the nicest thing to say, but it really is true).. But I am sure everyone’s allowed to have their own definition of family and love as long as they are not imposing it on anyone else.. No? And this isn’t about my aunt.. She lets her cats walk all over me at night.. And I hate waking up to an Alsatian sleeping next to me 😦

    • perhaps – 🙂 but i still feel damn annoyed when people compare their pets to babies i made in my tum-tum. i also realise that people like your aunt who cant have kids do shower every bit of love they have on their canines and felines, but i’m still not very cool with a canine or feline being compared to my child! i say this after having grown up with a house full of pets – including the darn blue bull!

  10. One question: Do you mommy types do this effortlessly, or do you have to scrape the bottom of the lurrrve reservoir to get yourself to do it? I’m a little worried, because I know my answer.

      • Chalo, I can sigh deeply now. The question’s only because when I read this sort of stuff, it sounds like a LOT more hard work/ giving of oneself than any of us on the other side of the fence can imagine or be prepared for. Like feeding, patting to sleep, making them burp and getting puked upon wasn’t enough to scare us off!

        • well honey – you’re married now. and you know how its changed your life and the way you look at things. i’ve done things for the husband i’d never have done for a boyfriend (dont let your imagination run away with you)…
          similarly i didnt think i’d have it in me to stay up nights and wipe up puke – but i dunno.. you sort of just rise to the occasion, go with the flow and its not a big deal really..

  11. Becoming a parent has changed my whole goddam personality. From being a self centred, career oriented, unemotional person, I have become one of those “Oh what’s wrong with you!” kinda woman who is ready to cry everytime she sees a small kid begging or even at emotional movie/tele scenes (horror, horror). Becoming a parent is the only “life changing” event that has happened to me.

  12. I love, I love, I love 🙂 (The Beanie, being Mommy and Heffalumps)

    But see, I am still waiting my turn to be mommy. Don’t make me go yearning to be grandmommy already 🙂

    Like I said, lots of women dream of their wedding days, I dream of when I can hold my baby in my arms. And in my dreams, its the prettiest picture 🙂

    Its lunch time now. Has Lumpy been fed yet?

  13. How cute!may I suggest that you put Lumpy into a sling on your back( as traditionally kids are carried around in Africa)then he won’t hassle you as you go about your chores and the rocking motion will put him into a deep sleep till his sweet little mommy comes home…btw should I bring some snacks when I join you in the padded cell?:D
    As a mother’s day message I got said-having a kid is a momentous decision as it means having your heart walk outside of your body for the rest of your life-cheesy but oh so true!?

  14. Awww…if I liked you earlier I love you for doing this :)) It’s the sweetest thing!

    My dad once took a doll of mine to a work trip so if not me at least my doll could see a new country. My dad not only took my pink rag doll but also took her out of the suitcase and put her in his briefcase so she could go out and about :))

  15. Can fully identify with that. Over here its a zoozoo doll that gets carried everywhere. Would have never done anything that silly if it was not for the kid :-D)

  16. Awwwwwwww… I have a piglet that I take care of like that. Much to the disdain of all my neices and nephews who like to beat the daylights of the poor piglet.

  17. Thought of writing a sentu-laden comment, thought better of it, so I’ll just quote the mug my Mom bought my gran once. “Just when a woman thinks her work is done, she becomes a grandma!” … and if there’s one thing close to feeling what a parent does, it’s nursing a sick, aged parent. The inability to express what’s going on, the total dependence, the suffering of the patient… and then the sense of helplessness, total dedication of the nurse. It’s a pretty damn terrible experience. I think I pick motherhood over that :-/.

    • true. its worse. we have had to nurse 4 old family members and have them die in our arms. 2 of alzheimers. theres nothing worse than having a loved and respected elder lost control of body and mind before they slowly slip away…

  18. The sister who has a 10 year old daughter recently decided to get a golden retriever pup as a pet.for about 2 months the pup had to be fed cerelac once every 2-3 hrs(even in the night).And with the toilet training, walks, vaccinations, trips to the vet and dog proofing the house, she was telling me that she has not worked so hard even when her daughter was a new born.Just remembered this when you mentioned the comparison 😀

    • 🙂 true. pups have to be fed all night. i remember my brother and i rigged up a bulb to keep the pup warm between our beds once when we got a newborn whose mother had died on the roads…

  19. Actually I still feel the same about my “canine” kid T as I do about my two legged menace V:-) I cannot count the number of times I have stayed up at nights with T’s sorry head in my lap because she’s exhausted from puking up all the garbage she ate(and wasn’t supposed to). I also anticipate with equal glee and pleasure the woofing and the hyper tail wagging that will happen along with my son’s excited squeals when I come home from office.

    So for me…whether mama of a tail wagging baby and no tail baby the journey feels the same.

    • really? 🙂 well i am fond of my pets..
      but no.. inspite of coming from an animal crazy family, i dont know if I or anyone in my family remotely feels about the animals, as strongly as we feel about our kids. and yes, we’ve done it all, fed the pups with bottles, hand fed the chicks, kept squirrels warm inside our shirts….

  20. I hear you…

    I remember when we had our first one, we constantly heard that our problems will end when (and I quote in sequence):

    0) When the mother and infant reach home after the C-section.
    1) The baby starts holding her head up.
    2) The baby starts to sit up.
    3) When the child starts to walk.
    4) When the chils starts to speak.
    5) When the girl starts school.
    6) When the girl reaches a higher class.
    7) When she crosses her pre-teens…

    I asked my mother a some time back as to when I can start stressing out less; she reminded me that I was nearly 41 and she hasn’t stopped freaking out because of me yet…

    What to do??

      • This comment reminds me of my Granddad. Everytime my dad (who, thanks to his work posting, stays alone) calls them (which is thrice a day!) my Thatha always asks after my dad and his first question is always if he has had this breakfast/ lunch/ dinner.
        All other questions on other things, including the granddaughters that he dotes over, follow only after he knows his oldest baby is well fed. Never mind that the ‘baby’ is past 55! 🙂

  21. MM…I had a baby girl last week…just wanted to let you know (though I don’t comment too often so I wouldn’t expect you to remembr me). Ok now excuse me while I try to catch some zzzzs since she just went to sleep.Yaaaawn

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