Readiness is all.
But when it comes to having a child and becoming a parent, readiness plays peek-a-boo. Try as we might, saying ‘yes’ to 9 months and 90 years of parenthood is something that makes our knees knock, our Adam’s apple swallow itself and the heart zoom out the thoracic cavity and into our mouth, all within seconds of hearing “planning a family” – an act of such bravery it seems that it can put Gladiators to shame.
When I got married to my friend from school, little did I know that the physics chemistry mathematics engineering permutation and combination that he excelled in will one day make him pronounce an exact date for father-hood. ‘5 years from our wedding day’ and the bomb dropped - a bomb at least for a Literature type like me who viewed most things subjectively and certainly not in set numbers – even, odd, prime or whichever else. I did not understand the deadline, and after 2 years of our marriage I happily realized neither did he, when he again pronounced-without-prompt – ‘I’m ready!’ So much for Mr. Calculus and miss-calculations!
As we enter our 3rd year of parenthood and look around, attributing to ourselves greater wisdom than we have actually acquired over the last few years, we wonder what makes people ready to have a baby, or rather, what keeps most of them saying abhi nahi! Once upon a time, the first child was conceived in Shimla, Udaipur or Goa – on the honeymoon itself, that is. The second after 3 years of the first, as Doordarshan advised. And if the rest were to follow they just did anyway, in no particular order of merit. Today, the only people talking about childbirth as a logical next step soon enough after the wedding vows are the ones who contributed their 2 cents to the population nearly 3 decades ago. It is their progeny which is the abhi nahi variety in a typical educated urban working professional setting.
Why readiness is not ready to come.
Life is no longer about Mehta & Sons or Kumar & Bros. Life is no longer about a handed down pattern of work and profession, with a swivel chair and a business waiting to be passed down to the daughter or the son, or a letter of recommendation for accommodation into daddy dear’s ex-office. Mostly, life is contained somewhere within cut-off scores, entrances, jobs, designations, apartments, cars, better jobs, better designations, bigger apartments and fancier cars. In short, life is about Ambition, and why not. Not just the feel-good variety, but ambition for reaching points in time where we feel financially stable and materially sound enough to afford anything from Rs. 5 an egg to Rs. 5000 a month play-school fee and eventually Rs. 5 lakh a year higher studies tuition fee for the ones we will call our progeny.
However, in the process of the pursuit of what makes us happy and will hopefully keep ours happy, time is the victim for it refuses to stop ticking. More time at work means lesser time at play, and hence wondering how we will find time out from our work schedules, impending promotions, travel plans and shifting jobs to plant the seed of the first step even, if you know what I mean, let alone bring up a whole new being. Life keeps us very busy. And then we decide to keep our life busy in return.
Even if busy means worshipping football and beer, Saturday nights and rock concerts, cosy coffee shops and cosier corner seats in movie halls. When love knows no bounds, it may prefer to rock the lover to sleep every night, rather than a hiccupping baby. And then every office party has at least one well-wisher who may be a father-of-two himself but who considers it his life’s dharma to warn you – ‘Life changes after a baby. Be prepared!’ With a picture of a mysterious future looming out their voice and a baby crying in their arms, they put a little germ of doubt in your head, making you cling to your partner in complete fear of having to forgo the couple-y activities you so enjoy, together.
Talking of doubts, often times the doubt about becoming a parent is about traits of our own personality. Interestingly, no other age or stage in life brings in a battalion of self-doubts as planning a baby does. Not love-at-first-sight, not the 21st birthday celebrations and not even the permanence of marriage. Am I patient enough? Am I too independence loving to be tied down by maternity gowns and feeding bras? Will I ever be able to think straight without my weekly dose of movies? Are oxytocin, ovulation and ovaries relatives or are they pills? And mostly, will I make a good parent?
But why readiness should come, soon.
That bum with a baby at the party who told you life changes after you have a baby was right. But whoever told you it’s only about pee-poo, burp cloths and sleepless nights was wrong. It may not be a one-way ticket to a luxury spa but neither is it a contract which pronounces you to stay-sane-sober-celibate for the rest of your life. It is simply a step forward into growing up in life. And sometimes, you have to leap to see for yourself what the other side of the fence has to offer. No joke, becoming a parent, but in all seriousness, no one can tell you about it either – neither ones like me who say ‘Go for it!’ nor others who sing paeans of the latest contraceptives. Parenthood is for you to see and experience, and to finally understand.
Money is important, ambition even more – one as insurance for the future, the other as assurance of self-worth and self-love. But neither needs to stop in its flow once a baby enters your life. If anything, you will find greater avenues to spend the former and beautifully reinvent the latter to include your baby and his/her future within its folds.
And before you even learn to spell their name right, you will find that time has itself shown you paths around which it can be better organized. This is not to say time will conspire to increase your day to 25 hours. This is just to assure you that you, as an individual, will learn to manage the 24 given to you, automatically, and in a fashion better suited to everyone’s needs – including your own.
And no, that certainly does not mean you will not spend those hours drinking, partying, socializing, dancing, shopping, gossiping, reading, eating, etc. You will do all of that still, but with an added array of items and activities, like baby food, baby shopping, baby gyan sessions, baby parties and baby book reading, on your platter. Who said you’ll miss out on fun? I promise you, that you will only end up adding to your kitty so many more joyous reasons to celebrate!
Oh! About that patience! Well, no better way to learn it than to test it, perhaps. And the self-doubts, forget them all, and go make a baby. I cross my heart and tell you this that they are born so blinded with love for you that everything from your cracked voice to your funny nose is soul food for them. Because those belong to whom they call their parents. (Of course, the flying pink hearts last only till they grow up enough to realize you are no Lata Mangeshkar or Richard Gere. After that, you can burn this post away!)
Just one more thing - Happy Baby Making. And may the best swimmer win!
(First published on Parentous.com)