Pooja Kaushik is a new mum who has recently stepped to the world of motherhood. Based in New Jersey, Pooja recollects on her childhood memories, her opinion on being a mum at a late age (as per common perceptions of right age to be a mum) and her opinion on independence for women.
“It’s not easy going down the memory lane when you wished there were no memories at all. I had a turbulent childhood. My mother, unlike a lot of mothers that we see around us, was distinctly different. I say different, because it strains me to describe her personality which till her last day in Jan 2006, I could never comprehend.
She could never connect with any of her children at any level, be it emotional or otherwise. Coupled with her deep temper tantrums, things got worse as we grew up. She lived in her own world devoid of any connect to her own family. The easiest path I chose was to be completely aloof from her. Childhood for me and my brothers was indeed the toughest one. Thanks to the universe for at least giving us a loving and caring father who I am sure went through a great stress to keep a balance in the family.
Though when I try and recall some of her positive traits, she was extremely fearless, strong willed and stood up for what she believed!
I ventured out of my home at the age of 21 post graduation, and that was all I dreamt of growing up, to make myself financially independent and to create my version of happy life. I do not even have a picture of me and my mom together. It’s perfectly normal for me though. I grew up in a small city in Assam. Living in the midst of nature’s bounty I was always fond of hills, rivers, the limitless sky, the rain and cultural heritage of the region. I was a good dancer, classical and contemporary. I learnt the dance form Odissi for few years but dropped it, one fine day.
Strangely, I was mentally and emotionally fatigued by then and lost interest in hobbies. Some of the good memories of childhood were the constant musical orchestra and sessions at our house. My brothers were naturally talented musicians. Our house would resound with different instruments and soulful music during the spring season right before the festival of Rongali Bihu would begin. These were regular practice sessions of the musical band that my brothers were an integral part. Much later the music faded and my brothers lost their interests too. Guess the struggle was similar though we never spoke or discussed about it then. Each of us were in a cocoon who never really opened up to each other.
Coming to my marriage, I got married in July 2014 having dated my husband for almost a year. We both organized our wedding together and it is indeed one of my most treasured memories for this lifetime. It was during this phase, two months before our wedding date, we grew closer to each other, understood that we think similar and a lot of our interests ranging from movies, to clothes, to travel, to politics were almost similar. It certainly reassured me that I was on the right path. My husband is into IT industry. So just like any other folks from IT industry, the parent company places them in different projects worldwide.
So almost a year into marriage we got the opportunity to come to USA for six months which today has been extended to two and half years. It’s a very normal practice in the IT industry for short term assignments to become longer in duration. We welcomed this move as our finances were bleak and this change of base would definitely help us for a better future. I was already four months pregnant then. It took me few weeks to settle down and eventually venture out of the house.
I would go for my evening walks with the intention of getting familiarized with the neighborhood. While on my daily walk, I would cross paths with complete strangers, mostly Americans and locals. They would always greet with the most cheerful smile. It used to make me feel welcomed and at home in a new country. I started looking forward to my walks. Everywhere that me and husband would go, people especially women would be extra courteous to me and offer their wisdom on how to deal with pregnancy. I listened with rapt attention.
Some of my schoolmates who have been living in USA for a long time would call me often to keep a check. It helped so much. The biggest challenge that I faced was cooking. I hardly knew the art of cooking. But thanks to Internet and food blogs it took me few months but I picked up, slowly. The other challenge was because I conceived late, I would be always dreaming something bad might happen. I wish I took it lightly and enjoyed my pregnancy much more than what I did.”
Comparing the lifestyles in India and where Pooja is based, she shares, “Most families in India have domestic help and hence it does give some amount of respite even if they are part time help. Contrary to a country like USA, help is expensive. Hence culturally people are used to doing everything on their own. This can range from nurturing babies to plumbing or carpentry in the house. They are inherently by far much more independent than us.
Nurturing babies is also quite a contrast from India. For example here parents would not soothe a crying baby immediately. They would wait and let the baby soothe itself before running to hold them. It may sound a bit crude to us Indian mom’s. In fact even I was a bit judgmental about it but I realized later, it does help in the long run. Parents here are always around to protect, defend and nurture but they do it more practically than us. We tend to get over emotional. Toddlers are disciplined and constantly spoken to like a grown up individual. They are taught to help in the house, that’s how survival becomes easier.
Being pregnant itself was a new roller coaster ride. On top of that when you have to manage such a ride in a complete unknown territory, it does seem doubly challenging. Since the healthcare industry thrives on medical insurance, the procedures for even as simple as finding a doctor to visit is somewhat complicated. Both of us had to learn these procedures, check on how to get the best deal and then we fixed our clinic and doctor who would deliver my baby.
We were completely alone throughout my pregnancy but thanks to my friends, who guided us about these procedures. There were a lot more tests that I had to go through, some of them were already done in India but they insisted it had to be done under their supervision.
Being independent for long, marriage did not change much. Though a little before pregnancy I quit with the thought of starting a family and our shift to USA put me into a complete domesticated life. I was being driven around by my husband everywhere, he would buy groceries and take care of bill payments too. It felt different and I would wonder how life changed.
But I was still happy that I was pregnant without any complications and eventually had a beautiful baby. The first few months were exciting, exhilarating, exhausting yet fulfilling. However now that my son is 16 months old I have started missing my fiesty independent life.
But I kept myself connected. Life in USA can get very lonely and dreary in winters. Thanks to technology I kept my sanity with my connect over social media, blogs, websites, reading about articles on women and their real life stories. It became my only connect to the outside world at a certain point. These stories helped me pull through every day with a smile.
Since I was working five days a week earlier, I used to despise being connected with the virtual world in my free time. So from a person who was completely shut from social media and browsing in general became an addict post pregnancy. I must admit here, it was the only platform that helped me stay connected with the outside world while I struggled my way through post partum recovery and dealing with motherhood. I started to look for help in upgrading my knowledge on parenting. The virtual world was the easiest and effortless option that was readily available for me. It was then that I found many websites, blogs, articles that made me feel I wasn’t the only one struggling with a newborn.
It is very crucial to find your connect to make you sail through motherhood. Virtual platform is a great medium to do so apart from friends, family etc.
I feel motherhood should be an informed and well thought out decision between a couple rather than being a societal pressure. It is a huge responsibility and not many of us have the luxury of money and extensive help. Parenting is a tough job that needs to be equally shared by both in whatever way they can. So the question of losing one’s identity comes into the picture when the mother is over burdened.
There will certainly be a change in the way you look at life post motherhood and of course initial few months or years may be of struggle but that will even out and gradually one gets a hang of multitasking and managing schedules. That’s how you get back on your feet again. I am still struggling though with my 16 month old boy. But I am sure I will get there soon.
Being a mother the one thing I have worked on immensely is my patience level. I feel when a child is born, a mother is born too. I could have never been a person to love unconditionally. But in spite of the sleepless nights, my long long days with never ending household chores and tending to my baby, I still love him more than what I did yesterday. God only knows why? Forgot to mention the tantrums, getting kicked, bruised, messing my hair and the list is endless. There were times I have locked myself in the washroom and cried. Minutes later I come out and shower cuddles and kisses to the same little devil who in the first place made me miserable. Irony isn’t it?
There are scientific theories about the biological clock but to be honest I am not sure how much of importance one should give to it. Today even younger couples in their 20’s are struggling to conceive naturally. Thanks to technology there are alternate options available for becoming a parent. But to think about the biological clock and to maintain nature’s course, we simply cannot get married. Procreation should not be the basis of marriage.
In fact a beautiful marriage eventually leads to procreation or even adoption if the partnership is strong. My idea of marriage and relationship was a non conformist one ever since. Largely, perhaps as I did not see this partnership in my own parents. Hence I always visualized marriage as a strong partnership. It may not be perfect though when I say strong partnership.
I would definitely want to go back to work once he is a bit older or starts school. Not sure of a corporate job as a break severely dents your career. But there’s no harm in trying. I will also keep looking for options other than doing a full time job, if at all it can work out. But I am keeping my fingers crossed and ears and eyes open for opportunities.”
We thank Pooja for reaching out to us and we surely wanted to feature her story as we definitely found it interesting. Her story, we hope will connect with many more mothers reading this piece.