Friday, August 31, 2012

Mum has cancer...our world has fallen apart

This post will perhaps be my last...or my last in a long time. Or maybe I'll be writing more to spill out that whole gamut of emotions I'm going's gone topsy turvy.

After much running around in circles, mom was finally diagnosed end of last month as having lung cancer. In an advanced stage, but with fairly positive prognosis.
Today we came back home from her first chemotherapy. She looks so frail and vulnerable....and to think she has to go through this five times all over again is plain depressing.
 Each day I leave home with great apprehension, thinking "how will she be today?"
My mum's being the brave soldier for most part. Really really brave and practical, with a stoic approach to the whole thing. That has helped. But she's weak and exhausted already. Some days i just feel miserable for her and break down in the bathroom.

Mums really hold the key to you life, I swear. Without them, you're bloody hell LOST!!! You dont realise the value of a person till they sort of go missing-in-action. I realise how much my mum was doing around the house for my Sonny, for me, for dad, for the household. She still tries, when she's still feeling ok, to do so many things around her, but age is not exactly on her side...she's past 70.

Suddenly equations around home have changed. Dad is so lost around home, mum has to tell him how to do each thing. I've had to re-learn to re-live in my parents home, the way they like it. Mum has become extra touchy about everything.

What's scary is logistics, liogistics, logistics.

The worst sufferer in all this, though, i feel is Sonny Boy. It's beginning to show and that's making me feel worse. He's emotionally distraught that I'm never there -- he was even telling the maid "my mum's always in the hospital". I feel guilty not being around him. When I'm not in hospital, I have to be at work...ugh.

I understand that what my mum must be going through is plain hell -- physically, emotionally....she worries so much...for us! So typical of mums, huh?

I'm trying too to put on a brave face, though its getting increasingly testing. It's turning out to be a logistical nightmare for me. Running two households (I've moved into mum's place temporaily), keeping the job (need the money for her treatment), the hospital rounds, staying overnight at hospital (the worst scene i swear), keeping constant tabs on mom, trying to look after the lil fella.......... eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. And the financial blow...gawd. Any of you out there with parents like me who dont have medical insurance/coverage, go get them covered today. I mean it. It's one of the biggest mistakes i ever made in life....bearing the brunt now.

The hubby dear has been super-supportive, touch wood. But has to travel soon, so not a good scene.

Ok all this is just one mad outporing, and an explanation for why I've not been here/will not be here on this space for some time at least....dunno how things will turn out. Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please pray for my mum.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to care for your ill, sick, unwell wife

I've decided this must be a tutorial. The mounting frustration for a woman, when her man can't take care of her when she's really down and out, is quite something, and adds to her illness.
No, I'm ok at the moment. But when I do fall ill, I keep telling myself I must write this post. (All my dear friends who tell me I must talk it out with the hubby, tell him what exactly to do, I've tried this...telling him what he can do to make me feel better etc, but somehow it just does'nt seem to register in his heart :-(

Since men, at least most of them, don't seem to know "how to", while for women it just seems so natural and instinctive.
(Ok, all those men who know how to already, don't read this and don't send me nasty comments, please.)
I'm hoping someday, my husband too will hit upon this when he googles the topic, (if he ever ever looks up the topic, that is!) and learn a thing or two.

So, if your wife is unwell, here are just some of the things you can do to make her feel a tad better:

1. Wake up earlier than her and get the household started. Anyone who's ill likes to stay in bed a little longer than usual. If you know her routine, good. Else just check with her the previous night what you can do in the morning to make things easier for her. Be specific. "I want you to stay in bed longer tomorrow morning, dear. So tell me what I can get done before you're up." She'll most likely turn down your offer. But please don't give up at one "no". Maybe heat the milk, pick up the paper from the front door, fill up drinking water, answer the doorbell, wake up the kids and take them through their morning ablutions, get the kids lunch boxes cleaned up and ready...

2.  But first, when you wake her up, please ask her how she's feeling. That you show concern will make her feel better already. If she says "not too good", ask what it is, listen to the answer, and offer to take her to the doctor/call doctor to fix the appointment. Take her to the doctor. Don't expect her to get there on her own.

3. Most people who are unwell would like something warm to drink first thing in the morning (that's how I am; there may be other preferences). It's usually soothing. Ask if she wants tea/coffee or anything like milk/warm water to drink. And make it. It's not all that difficult. If you don't know how to make any of these, ask, and she will tell you. Or she'll get out of bed in frustration and make it herself (don't rule that possibility out either! but try anyway)

3. If you can manage to make breakfast, nothing like it. The humble toast will be acceptable, usually. Or if you can make some broth/ porridge/ ganjee, do that. Nothing fried or elaborate. Or if she's up to it despite being ill, maybe order in her breakfast of choice, depending on whether she can stomach food from outside. In terms of Indian food, something like idli, pongal/khichdi, ganjee, a plain rava upma may not be bad options to rustle up, if you can manage them. Google recipes the previous night if you want to make a serious effort. Or call your mom/aunt/her mom and ask (that'll also make you popular {if you call her relatives that is, not YOUR mom} and maybe offers of help will pour in). Don't try to surprise her. It'll help if you check with her if ingredients are at home. She'll possibly give you an easier option than you wanted to try.

4. Try and take leave from work, at least for a day to be there for her. The gesture will be so appreciated, you will not imagine it. I may be generalising, but women don't think twice about using up their leave to care for a sick husband/child. Somehow men don't seem to do it as willingly. Do it, and see her glow.

5. Offer to call in for help, if you really can't manage. A hired nurse for an illness/fracture that may make her immobile will sort things out, if you can afford to pay for it. Else, offer to request the help of a family member/ relative she's comfy with. People might be more willing than you think. Just make sure you help them in their time of need/ illness.

6. If you have kids, and she has something contagious, keep them away from her. Tell them what it is, don't make them cry for their mother. Take care of their basics -- feeding/ bathing/ playing/ entertaining. If it's older kids, get them ready for school. It' ok if they don't bathe for a day. It's ok if you fill their lunch boxes with an easy meal one day. If they are old enough to communicate, ask them what you can do for them, and ask them to help you too, since mummy is ill. You won't imagine how cooperative they might just be. But don't be angry if very young ones don't understand. It's bad enough for them not to have mummy by the side; they definitely won't be able to handle an upset dad. Some kids will know their mum's routines better than you will. And they might be more handy in the kitchen and around the house than you are -- they'll show you a few things.

7. Once the kids are packed off, discuss with you wife what to do for lunch. If she's feeling better, you both together might rustle up something in the kitchen. The same goes for dinner. You can in fact tell her that you don't really know what exactly to do, but want to help her and make her feel better. Tell her she just needs to give instrutctions and it will be done. Admit that you'd rather do what she wants than try something and bungle up, if that's a possible thing for you to admit. The idea should go down well with the wife.

8. Draw her water for the bath, if she feels up to it. Offer to massage her head/back if she has an ache (you need to do this only for a mere two minutes -- it's not such a un-doable task).

9. Make sure she takes her medication. Ask "did you take your medicine?" Bring it to her bedside. If she's looking better, offer to set her up in the TV room, or any other place...a change of place might cheer her, rather than wallowing in bed the whole day. Check on her every half hour or so if she has a fever.

10. When you're talking to her, pay attention. Don't sit in the TV room on a sofa and yell half-hearted "Do you want something?" while she's in the bedroom. She may be too weak to scream back. And too pissed if you don't care to walk over to her.

11. Mean what you say. Even if you're upset that you had to stay away from work, and do all these things you don't like doing, don't show it. In the way you speak, in the way you treat her. That hurts. Try to make small cheerful talk, pleasant things, myaybe look at your old photos, play her favourite tape of soft soothing music -- don't bring up a subject in  that you know usually triggers a war between you two.

12. And please, don't keep pointing out saying "see i'm doing so much for you". Women are far more sensitive and will notice it themselves. You don't have to tell them. Most often they thanklessly do these things for you every day.

13. Keep noise levels in the house down. Noise can make one feel more ill -- that means no loud TV, no screaming kids, no thumping music, and don't call over your boisterous friends and have a "boys' day in" because you're at home anyway, for heaven's sake! Save that for later.

14. Most importantly, don't let your enthusiasm flag. Don't start the day in the perfect way and then tire out and just plop down and say "i can't do this any more". Looking after someone who's ill can be tiring, taxing, and a continuous process. Accept that first.

15. And all this does not mean you need to suffer. Make sure you eat and take care of yourself too. If it's something contagious the wife has, you'll have to take precautions not to get it from her. Because if you fall sick too, the situation will only get worse. (If it's something like pox, you may have to pack off the kids and stay with her).

16. Check with her if clothes need to be put into the washing machine (if you have kids, the school uniforms may be the emergency washing needed), if dishes have to be loaded in the washer, or if you have a maid/help what instructions must be given.

17. Just as you kickstarted the household, you might also have to wind things up -- shut out lights, lock doors, bring in the laundry, put kids into bed (after getting them to study/do homework/ feed them), put out the coupons for the next day's milk supply etc.... and remember, YOUR WIFE DOES MOST OF WHATEVER YOU DID THIS ONE DAY, EVERY DAY, DAY AFTER DAY.

18. NOTE: If you really really can't do any or all of this, or just find it too daunting, at least offer to take her over to her parents or any close aunts who live near enough for her to bear the journey, and with whom she'll be comfortable recovering. She needs some rest.

Please, any woman who reads this and wants to add her own tips, please leave a comment and I'll add that to my growing list!

NOTE: This post was inspired by my other post which I'd written down in February 2011 titled "Why can husbands never care for sick wives?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

How much can a woman do?

It's a rant that goes around in circles. Like me.

I haven't been around a long time. But when emotions build up, this is really the place to come to. To vent vent, vent, cry out in words and go back to life post 7 p.m. and cook dinner like nothing really happened. Though I may be all Hiroshima inside.

Today's been bad. Goes without saying. That explains the presence.

What all must a woman really do? This is something bothering the hell out of me. I'm sure a lot of women do much more than I'm doing now. Maybe without complaint. Maybe they're sharing it all. Maybe they're happy. Maybe they're sad. Maybe they want to throw hot rasam on the kitchen wall.

I mean look at all that I can think of -- work, earn, cook, keep home, clean, manage maids, care for husband, child, ageing parents, take emotional shit from people, go back and still smile at boss while gritting teeth, look good, cook and eat healthy, sun the winter woolies, air the summer cottons, buy a new raincoat, exercise, diet, keep good relations with neighbours, call the in-laws everyday, buy the soap, put away the boiled and cooled milk in the fridge, buy the medicine, catch up with old girlfriends (to retain sanity), set out the clothes that need ironing, call the aunt who always has verbal diarrhea, pack the child's bag, buy the onions, switch off all the lights and fans that spouse leaves on, don't forget to wear kaajal or the eyebags get highlighted, boil the drinking water, fill the forms, decide what to make for breakfast tomorrow, humour the neighbours in conversation in the apartment when all you want to do is go home and flop down, but then go home and head straight to the loo and then to the kitchen and then it will be more than 3 hours before you can actually flop down. Feel guilty you're not doing enough. Cry yourself to sleep. Wake up all bleary eyed and start all over again. Three days of annual vacation DOES NOT offset all this crap.

I mean is there an end to the list?
Is there a day when you can mentally not have a "to do" list?
Aren't there moments in life when you wish everyday didn't seem like a chore or a string of them you "have to" do rather than want to.

And to top it all there's no room for yourself, your reading, your TV watching, your thought process about things not related to home and hearth (chances are it's always interrupted by thoughts of home and hearth). It's just thanklessly moving from doing one thing for someone to doing another thing for someone else. Forget being thanked. Getting criticised. Or worse, ignored.
And whoever said doing all this selflessly gives them joy, I mean, please, for heaven's sake don't say it in front of me. Not today.

And I hate it when the man is emotionally "switched off" -- to to all these things that happen around him. I cannot understand that capability of being more alive to your TV channel, your raucous comedy shows, your Blackberry and your laptop, your office colleagues and your overseas boss, than to the wife and child around you. And being incapable of doing things at home naturally because he's part of the household, but rather needs to be told what to do. Aaaaararrrrggghhhhh.... Couldn't be bothered by all these "small things" mentioned in the big paragraph above. I mean if you make it into a list and give it to a man, he'll scratch out 90 per cent of them as "unnecessary", give it back to you, and ask what's cooking for dinner.

(I think I wrote a similar post a few months, did I? I sound so familiar to myself!)

P.S: I haven't been feeling like writing. I don't know what's happened. Maybe too many things on my mind. Maybe mid-life crisis. Maybe my mom's undiagnosable illness.

My dear dear Aparna and Aparna, Uma, Garima, Sahana...a thousand apologies.
I've been off the grid and not reading either. Guilty on two counts :-(

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Angelina Jolie on the Importance of Being A Parent

Hi guys,
I'm back
Quick explanation for not being here for well over a month: Just didn't feel like blogging.
Quick explanation for suddenly making a comeback: reading Angelina Jolie's statement in the newspaper today morning! I'm sure we all read/heard/saw Angelina Jolie's statement about Everything important in life being related only to parenthood. You haven't? Ok. It's still ok. There, now we all know it, and most of us have probably run the statement in our minds over and over in a loop like a tape in our little heads.

C'mon, you must have asked yourself "Really?? Hmmmm....." at least.

It's great if she feels that way, I mean, great for her kids too!!! It's also fine if there are other women who share her views. As far as they really believe so, deep within their heart and are happy with the way it is.
But damn! Does it put pressure on women like me who don't think so or feel that way.

I have nothing against parenthood. I have nothing against Angelina Jolie. I don't want to be judgemental about anybody coz I hate being judged.

But, honestly, saying just one aspect of life is all-important is, I think, a rather simplistic view of your own life. Can we, women, complex as we are, be defined by just our motherhood/parenthood? I mean why leave the men out...ok we humans are complex creatures, so surely our progeny can't be our only "important' aspect of our life. And honestly I also take offence on behalf of all those people I know who can't have kids for various reasons or have chosen not to. I mean, they all have various aspects of their lives, apart from parenthood, that they are involved in and are happy with, and they are important too.

What irritates me about Miss Jolie is that when SHE says such things the world will sit up and take notice. It only reinforces  a stereotype, what Indian society has been saying all along to its women -- get married, have children, care for them... that's your purpose in life. If you have a career, put it on a backburner; have no interests of your own; self-sacrifice. You interest lies solely in your family. Etc Etc Etc.

No, no don't jump on me yet.
Agreed, our children, our family are important to us. They are  a crucial aspect of our life.
BUT, they are not the be-all and end-all of our universe. An individual can't exist like that. At some point there is an individuality, some aspect of us cut off from our relationship with anyone else except ourselves that needs to exert itself.

I'm not saying every woman must concentrate only on career, or that we must neglect one to uphold another aspect of life. We do some great balancing acts around here and I think we should pat our backs ourselves for that.

But there's a need for all of us to acknowledge that we do have our individuality, that we do sometimes strive to achieve things other than making babies, feeding them, raising them well. That too. But, note it's THAT TOO.

We have aspirations to learn something new, challenge ourself on skills yet to be learnt or master those we already know, learn a new language, a dance, go climb a hill or mountain by ourselves, learn karate....i don't know what else....FOR OURSELVES. Not for our spouses. Not for our parents. Not for our kids. And yes, these things are important too.

You can't nullify all other aspects of life and say all that's important is related to parenthood. The rest is, well, nothing? Doesn't work like that, right? Ok I think I've said too much, all in a rush, a flood of thoughts unleashes...what are you people thinking out there???? I'm sure there are MANY counter-views....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

10 things/games to do/play indoors with your child this winter

Been too blah to blog.
Had a great vacation over two weekends ago and wanted to put up some pictures and write about it...but it never really happened.
Meanwhile the Hubby was travelling, the Sonny Boy was ill, the ageing parents busy and cranky, my boss missing in action, and my life pure hell.

In the meanwhile, lil boy had to be entertained. I'm starved these days for ideas. Bangalore evenings in November and December can be cold. Which means visits to the park are few and far apart. Moreover, considering Sonny has pathetic immunity, I'm not willing to risk taking him out in the evenings and put him on one more bout of antibiotics for a cold and congestion he will catch (it's ok if i sound like a paranoid mom).

Here are things we've been doing in the evenings at home and might help you keep your li'l one entertained on cold winter evenings (P.S. My Sonny is a li'l over 3 years so do keep that in mind in terms of kind/level of activities)

1. Play pass the ball -- All forms of it still excite my Sonny. I thought they grow over it fast. But hell, no!!! Change the ball, (colour/size/type -- plastic, rubber, inflated etc). Play alternate days. If you have a long hall, sit on the floor at opposite ends and just roll the ball across back-and-forth. I didn't know kids can derive such fun out of such simple things. Tell her/him it has to come straight to mummy and watch them concentrate.
2. Dribble the ball -- Sonny loves it and can sometimes go up to 26 at a stretch when he's concentrating. I'm proud of him, and it gives them a sense of achievement. If they can't dribble, play bounce. You bounce the ball off the floor once and he/she catches it and then he/she bounces it off the floor once and you catch it. Needless to say, it improves their eye-hand co-ordination (realised Sonny's a bit slow on this too probably coz he doesn't play ball with the other kids at playschool!)
3. Honestly, he didn't know how to hop on one leg (wish i could find the link to a story on how most kids these days lack this "skill". Went back after reading and checked on Sonny -- of course he didn't!). So one evening we practised hopping on one leg. He really loved it! Now he can hop a few steps without falling down. We tried it with him holding one leg up, with me helping him by supporting him with one hand etc. Since he knows the rhyme "Hop a little, jump a little, skip a little.." he told me "Amma next we'll do 'skip'." And quickly followed it up with "What's skip?" Some games we played so naturally as kids just don't exist any more. I remember playing hopscotch where we'd draw these 7 squares and play what was called "bachcha"  doing all sort of combination hops, with a piece of stone placed on an outstretched hand, or on the head!
4. Paints/crayons/sketch pens -- the best forms of evening entertainment. When he's really bored with freehand painting and scribbling and scratching on white paper sheets, and is done with his numerous colouring books, we "finger print". Paint various colours on all finger tips -- all together or one by one and keep pressing it on plain paper. Random prints will do fine. Or draw an outline of something easy -- say a star fish and print within, if the child is older. Finger-print a border and it's good to go on display. Kids love to get their hands dirty. I think at least 80 per cent of them should!! Keep an old cloth handy to wipe away. Use water colours.
5. Make a slide indoors. The foam cushions we have on the sofa come in handy. As do the little diwan cushions. We throw in a teepoy/rectangular coffee table and we have our own slide! Make a path of small cushions and tell him those are the "steps" up the slide. Then create a tiered layer of cushions, where he can climb up and come "sit" at the head of the slide. The "slide" is a really tiny short legged side table we have that we slant against the tiered cushions and wedge against other cushions that are wedged against a wall (all this to make sure nothing slips out of place). It's not hurt-proof I agree, but he can't really harm himself much doing something like this. Besides, once they get a kick out of it, they love arranging the cushions themselves. Just make sure if you use a table/wooden board etc for the slide, that is one thing you, the parent, adds on.
6. One more good ol' simple game from the good ol' days. Snakes and ladders. By now they get a thrill in "winning", "getting there first", feel sorrow when "bitten by a snake" and have to slide down...I'm having a tough time teaching him it's fine to lose, but boy! Is that a tough lesson for these brats to learn?!! Working on it.
7. Puzzles are an alltime favourite. If your child likes puzzles, put the favourites away for a while and bring them out after a month or a few weeks. There is a thrill in being able to recall the puzzle and doing it instantly. By now, if your child can identify numbers, letters, there are many flash card games for the age group that combine a bit of learning too.
8. Books. Reading. Storytelling. Always wins hands down.
9. Sticker books!!! I love them. And so does Sonny. Those that leave a page blank for you to fill on your own and make your own story (I think Paragon books has a series on animals) are the best. Then there are those where you have to stick it in place -- a sort of fill in the blanks.
10. Play outdoor things indoors. Kids hate being told "not inside the house". But when u give in, they derive a vicarious pleasure from it.  A game of plastic bat and ball cricket inside is not too bad (stay away from the TV). Or teach them traffic rules -- you become traffic cop and they have to go around the dining table on their tricycle/push car/truck and follow your signals -- stop at red, go at green, no speeding etc
11. some TV. It's the laziest of things to do, and hence down on my list, but it can be a lifesaver sometimes, specially on days when u just want to plop down yourself, after a hard day's work outside ;-).