Last month, I completed 2 years as a reluctant stay-at-home-mom. Woe is me, I know!! I summarized my first year as a SAHM in this blog post from 2016. At the conclusion of my second year, I realized that I often write about everything I do wrong with parenting and mothering. Even though there are some sparks of good mommy moments, those self pat-on-the-back episodes are supremely rare and for good reasons. Typically, I take to blogging when I need to vent, either about myself or things happening around me. For this post, I want to do something different.
Warning: This is a long post.
Instead of cribbing and complaining, whining and crying, screaming (in my head) and wallowing in self-pity, I am inspired to write about things I did right in the past year, in my second year as a SAHM. So, here goes:
1. (Re)Discovered my Creativity
I used to be creative. I am not. Anymore. As in, I used to be able to paint well in school. For a short while back in 2011, I was deeply into making jewelry. I never tried to sell any of my work actively but I did make a few bracelets for family and friends. I even made a bracelet each for both my grandmothers and one even wore it till the day she died. It warms my heart to remember that.
Last year, I colored some maple leaves. Literally, in terms of personal creativity, that is all I did. And, I loved it! I really did. I loved the focus. I loved concentrating on one thing at hand, unfettered by the goings on around me. I loved making something more beautiful from an already beautiful state. This is what I made:
2. Learned to make Quick and Healthy Lunches
I have gotten really good at whipping up lunches for the kids (and me). Honestly, I am not even sure what I did for lunch before TJ started preschool. Last year, TJ’s first year at early-preschool and Teju was still an itty-bitty baby, I would drop him to school and then rush back home for Teju’s first nap of the day. Then, I would hurriedly take a shower, start making lunch or keep everything I needed to get done ready, at the end of which, I would wake Teju from her nap, change her diaper (and sometimes not even that if I was running late), rush her from her sleepy state to her car-seat, strap her in, and drive to pick up TJ.
A year later, things have changed. For one, Teju no longer naps in the mornings. So, now after dropping TJ to school, I speak to my dad all the way back and straight to the gym. I drop Teju at the Gym’s daycare and rush off to get a workout. There, I either do my own thing or attend a class, then pick her up, rush home, try to get some parts of a lunch together, cut him a fruit as a snack for the ride home, and rush off to pick him up.
I started tentatively and later, more assertively knowing what to do for our lunches. I have a few staples but I also experiment with new combinations now and then. For example, check this out – Easy Lunch Idea for Kids: Chapati Tortilla Roti Rolls with Carrots, Paneer, and Hummus. Variations of this are a staple. Like this one:
My kids really enjoy these, even the little one (I cut them smaller for her). I started out with spinach and paneer for my chapati rolls, then more recently, have used Roasted Turkey Meat, and Pastrami.
I have also experimented with this:
I had store-bought dosa batter and one afternoon, in a creative mode, I cooked and flavored spinach and paneer together, then added it to the dosa batter and made Spinach Dosas for lunch.
Another time, I made these quesadillas and they are now my lunch go-tos: Just use easy-to-mush vegetables and flavor them easily with some garam masala or leftovers and don’t forget the cheese. Delicious lunch is ready to serve.
If you want to be even more creative, do something better than what I have here (even though, I was pleased with the outcome :))
Some other things I make are Mac n Cheese with grated Zucchini, or Broccoli, or peas and carrots; Indian Bambino Shevai with lots of veggies; Grilled Cheese with Carrots; and Japanese noodles. Today, I made Yakisoba with cut-up smokies and the kids devoured it.
In another burst of creativity, I made these Rice Krispie Pops. Here is my recipe for regular Rice Krispie Treats.
3. Learned to Develop Toddler-Friendly Activities
Diaper Garbage Truck:
Who knew I had this in me but oh…it exists…that ounce of creativity. I have surprised myself with doing things I never thought I would or could do. For example, I built this:
I couldn’t believe the finished product…like, I really did it! Then, after some time, this happened and it was awesome!
I also made this with some cardboard that we had from a delivery box. I was really, really pleased with this one:
Rice and Rocks
I had never heard of sensory play prior to becoming a SAHM. I created this out of my imagination and then I found further evidence of the need and value of sensory play and how other SAHMs had different versions of the same play.
(Please know that I really did feel bad with using so much rice for my child’s “play” when there are so many people who would love to have this rice to cook themselves a meal. I get that.)
I emptied a few pounds of rice in a big plastic container and then added some really old hard uncooked chana. Together, they became our family’s Rice and Rocks game. It led to hours of play time and I could relax as he enjoyed playing by himself. Just remember to put an easy to remove plastic table cover underneath the plastic container.
Of course, I didn’t anticipate that he would seat himself inside the container but in his defense, that gave him better access to all the stuff inside it.
I also did a smaller version with only “rocks”, this time using whole green gram daal:
I also learned how to make playable dough, paints for coloring, and face-painting all at home. Click here for my recipe for homemade non-toxic and edible paints with just THREE ingredients.
My very first toddler-friendly at-home creative activity was this: Homemade Dough for playing. Here’s the recipe.
More recently, I made homemade paints for face-painting:
4. Celebrated Halloween, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Christmas w/o completely losing it
Starting October, life gets really exciting for a lot of us. Fall truly is, the best time of the year, in terms of celebrations and festivities. Halloween and Diwali were a day apart last year. So, the busy-ness was a little much. However, I decided not to stress over it as much as I usually do and we celebrated Diwali our own way…by making memories instead of ruining them with undue stress. The two Diwali posts I wrote, Of Rains, Memories, and Cultural Comfort: Diwali Series Part I and Multicultural Kids and the Legacy of Family Rituals; Diwali Series Part II will tell you all you need to know.
this, (including cooking an entire traditional Jewish meal all by myself for the first time)
not to mention, these crafts (painted pinecone with decorations, and homemade ornaments with pictures of family members)…
pretty much meant that at the end 2016, I was starting to settle into my SAHM role. The year wasn’t over though. Three very significant events occurred in 2017.
Mummy was hospitalized on February 3. She passed away on March 5. I stayed in India for two weeks to perform death-related rituals and events held to celebrate Mummy’s life. I missed the last one, instead,
5. Traveled 3 continents in 1 day to be with my daughter to celebrate her first birthday.
6. Not let my mother’s passing and my own grief affect my kids.
Not directly, anyway. I hope. I think of my mother all the time. She is constantly on my mind, in everything I do. Everyday. Everyday, I live with the regret and guilt of not having been nicer, kinder, more thoughtful, and more giving toward her. That guilt will be my burden to bear for the rest of my life. Perhaps this inner guilt has manifested in my outward impatience, snappiness, and other attitude issues toward the husband and kids at times (similar things I now regret over doing to my mom when she was alive) and yet, life moves on. When I see smiling photographs of myself right after Mummy’s hospitalization, and after returning to the US upon completion of the death rituals, I am enveloped with even more guilt. Why was I smiling so much? Why does it look like I was having a good time wherever those photographs were taken? Why wasn’t I ruminating more? On the other hand, navigating those emotions while having to also maintain the facade of normalcy for the kids’ sake is no easy feat.
When my grandmother passed away on the day of my birthday (and hers) over 2 decades ago, as a young teenager, I wondered if my birthday would ever be celebrated again, if it would forever remind my father of his mother’s death. However, what I found was a birthday cake and the whole family around me singing ‘happy birthday’ and celebrating my day with me. That, could not have been easy for him or my mother and yet there they were, celebrating their daughter’s birthday, looking reasonably happy, no matter what they were going through on the inside. That is a lesson I will live by, forever.
I celebrated my son’s 3rd birthday when my mother was still in the hospital. I made it home on time to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday within a few days of Mummy’s passing. I know this is what she would have wanted. I know this is what my father wanted because he told me so.
When I am too overwhelmed by my grief, which while constantly on mind, sometimes flows over at the most unexpected of times, I allow myself a few minutes to cry. Yes, both kids have caught me in those moments, whether it is sinking into the floor of my kitchen in quiet tears in the midst of cooking or while putting my son to bed or some other random time. Sometimes they wipe my tears, sometimes my son asks, “What’s wrong, Mommy?”, sometimes he gets me a Kleenex, and at other times, they stare, not sure how to help their mother.
Still, for the most part, I am able to wipe those tears and get on with the activity at hand. When outside, sunglasses help. When driving, not having to talk to anybody as the kids quietly listen to their music, helps. When in the gym, listening to my podcasts to take my mind off, at least temporarily, helps. That grief, that is a part of me. Only my sisters and my father will understand the depth of that personal grief.
For now, with each day, as I rush my kids to the many things we do every Tuesday and Thursday when TJ is not at school and the busyiness with which I surround myself when he is at school, allow me to, at least on the face of it, not let my mother’s passing and my own grief affect my kids’ routines, activities, and schedules.
7. Launched two new ventures: theParentVoice, Magazine; and Essaberry, an online novelty store
Don’t forget to check out theParentVoice, Magazine – an online space for multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, and interfaith, families. We are always looking for contributors. So head on over to the website and consider writing for us and sharing your story.
Essaberry – So far, I have only done one showcase of my products. While I neither made money nor recovered the cost of the booth, I learned a great deal. It was sad to not make money (which was largely due to the fact that the cost of the booth was ridiculously high). I have a second showcase coming up tomorrow. Since I don’t sell handmade items, the cost for “commercial exhibitor” booths are always high. If this continues and I don’t make any money, then despite my best intentions and passion for what I sell, I will have to close the metaphoric shutters on this venture. Still, it has been a lot of hard work and I look forward to tomorrow. I am slowly working on Essaberry’s Facebook page. The website is still under construction.
Even though the stress of it all does get to me, for the most part, I have been doing well, SAHM identity and self-worth wise. I have to admit I have a LOT of help from my husband. Here is a piece I wrote about how awesome he is right around this time last year. Some things have changed but a lot still remain the same and when I hear stories of other husbands who don’t move a muscle to help out, I am grateful to have the kind of husband I do. I know a lot depends on the choices we make and whom we choose as our partners (if that was the case), what we are willing to put up with, what we compromise on, and what we are okay with letting go. Still, I really and truly appreciate all that my husband does and I know that my life as a SAHM, despite its many personal challenges is immensely and tangibly more doable because of him.
So, there you have it. Accomplishments or not, I have learned a lot of new skills or rediscovered what I already had in me but didn’t know or have the potential to fully explore until this life event 2 years ago. For now, life is good. Sometimes, I am still that “reluctant” SAHM I was when I started out on this journey. Mostly though, this reluctancy has been replaced with gratitude. More on that in November.