A Gift to Mothers: A Life Beyond Motherhood

9005980_xxlBeing a mom is no cakewalk. People might claim to understand that, but only moms know what the journey is like. A mother needs to be on her toes, literally and figuratively, 24x7x365. It is only natural then, that many women, after attaining motherhood, tend to immerse themselves in their new found world and the expectations that accompany it so much so that they tend to forget their original self.

Self-preservation is a critical part of being an effective parent. At the end of the day, how your child experiences you depends on how you feel and what you do. Only mothers know how guilty they might feel when they unconsciously hold a grudge against their child for having taken their past life away from them. The sense of freedom and being carefree is gone. It is important to deal with the fact that the situation has changed in the absence of which, somewhere along the journey of motherhood, existential questions surface. What has happened to me and to my dreams? Is this really all I should be doing? How do I get back to being who I was? Is it selfish to want to do something for myself? Will there be a day when I am able to sit back and relax?

A mother who might be caught up in these questions every day, might find it tough to think about parenting at a conscious level on a daily basis. Remember the time when you tried to reach out to your mother or father or spouse to discuss something of utmost importance and you realized they were so caught up in resolving their own issues that you refrained from communicating with them? Hopefully your child would not experience the same. It is, hence, important to shift the focus of your unconscious mind from yourself to your child. That would happen only when you are able to make a conscious effort to be at peace with your life or to make some fundamental changes that result in a happier and more peaceful state of mind.

Many women around the world traverse the same journey and hopefully, you would feel better knowing that you are not caught alone in this quagmire. Also, know that there are professionals who are trained and specialized in helping you work through your unique situation so that you can carve out a life that is designed to realize your dreams. These professionals are called ‘coaches’. Life Coaches work with you to address aspects of your life that are intertwined with a few others and not limited to your profession or your relationships.  Coaching is goal based and action oriented and is different from counseling or therapy.

To know more about what coaching is and if it is for you, visit http://lifebeyondmotherhood.com or email me at namrataa@lifebeyondmotherhood.com.

This blog post is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.

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Are we raising entitled kids?

entitled-child2-640x320It is definitely true that our parenting methods are vastly different from generations past – we have far fewer kids, and we treat them as friends and equals, trying to make the family a democracy instead of what was earlier essentially a dictatorship. Earlier, responsibilities came before rights. But by giving kids rights much before they have responsibilities, if at all, we have created extremely entitled kids.

Much of the blame lies with us as parents. When a kid wants, she gets. With both parents working, most families today have more money and less time, and this reflects in our interactions with our kids. Many parents want to be the cool parent and the nice parent and this, along with the constant guilt of not spending enough time with our children, leads us to give in to their demands. But what starts off as an indulgent gift of another Barbie soon escalates into an entitled child who wants everything ‘right now,’ and thinks that the world owes him. This behaviour is not just limited to families; these children are bringing their attitudes into the workforce. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, corporations like Land’s End and Bank of America are hiring “praise teams” to keep up with Gen Y’s demand for constant positive reinforcement.

So can we change this sense of entitlement? For many teenagers, two of the methods most advocated are volunteering and going out to work. One way is to get kids to feel more empathy, by volunteering among the less fortunate. This will give them a real sense of what ‘need’ really is – ‘need’ is not the newest fashion or the latest toy, but food in the belly and just a single piece of cloth to cover oneself. And though it may not always be possible for all children to do, kids who go out and work quickly realize how hard it is to earn money, and soon develop a healthy respect for money – how difficult it is to earn, and how easy to spend.

Have you used any other methods to change this sense of entitlement in your kids? We’d love to hear from you!

This blog post is a reproduction of Gayatri Kulkarni’s blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.

The Final Outcome

8list-child-safety-headerThis blog post is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.

In one of the discussions I was having with a group of parents on raising kids, one of the fears expressed by most parents was that of protecting their child from the unknowns in the environment. Every day, we witness a new form of ‘unsafe’ and it seems paranoid to assume that our child will experience it at some point of time. But that’s how we tend to be. We tend to be paranoid and rightly so. The truth is that anything can happen at any point in time so one can never be careful enough for what might be in store.

To be able to expect that we can protect our child from all evils may be a bit like saying that we will start living in Mars.

So, what do we do? This is a tough one for sure, but when in doubt, it is best to go to the basics. Consider starting from ‘A’ : ‘A’ as in Awareness.

How much time do we spend in trying to get ourselves up to speed on what is happening around us…for instance, what do we know about party drugs? What do we know about webcams that can act as spy cameras? Do we know how to handle a fire?

Agreed that it is tough to know everything while we focus on earning a living and managing a household, but well, our being aware is really the first step to our making our kids aware of the evils that exist. Educating our children about the ways they could be harmed might be our best shot at keeping them safe.

The next question is, however, when is the right time to educate the child. As a parent, I believe, our best guide is really our intuition. The more tuned in to our child we are, the more we know the best time for something or the best way to get a point across.

Many of us might already be on this track but for those of us who have not yet embarked on this journey, here are some tips to get us started:

a) Establish an ‘awareness regime’ for yourself – Earmark a particular time in the day or week when you would be able to spend time reading up the issues that are plaguing today’s generation, what are the happenings in your city, what are some issues your child’s school is working on addressing, etc.

b) Earmark some thinking time – Reflect on instances when you believe communication with your child seems to have not worked. Did you fail to get a point across because you might have been using an authoritative stance? What do you think might get your child to listen to you?

c) Create a communication window – We don’t really plan the time we spend alone with our child. It may be incidental and hence, communication might not be clear or complete. Try sitting around the table after a meal or at tea time or hang around after a hobby class. The frequency is not as important as the quality of that time and how intentional you are about communication.

The ultimate outcome of parenting, perhaps, is an individual who is aware of what is out there and who is confident enough to make a choice. If the child is aware and educated about the environment, chances are, he / she would make an informed choice or hopefully, want to communicate to solicit advice. In the absence of a communication window, the child is likely to be drawn towards experimentation and the rest may become an uphill task to deal with.

Parenting Lessons from the Cricket Field

family-playing-cricket-beach-19683791This blog post has been reproduced with permission from Parent Edge, a leading Parenting magazine in India.

I have been a fan of cricket for as long as I remember. Though I don’t have the time or the inclination to watch every match that is aired on TV anymore, I do follow the progress of the Indian team with great interest and sneak a peek at the occasional IPL match. And so, it is with much delight that I have been tracking the spectacular performance of young Team India at the Champions Trophy. I thought about what may have caused such a dramatic turnaround. To be termed the best time on view and, what’s more, the best fielding side in the tournament is no mean achievement. What can we, as parents, learn from this?

Instill self-belief: To me the biggest factor in this transformation is the belief this bunch of 20 somethings have in themselves. They do not care too much for past records, nor do they seem to worry all that much about media and expert opinion. Instead they are oozing with confidence and a can-do spirit. Likewise, in our interactions with children, if we can consistently demonstrate that we believe in them, and that they should back themselves, it can go a long way in making them well rounded, confident and purposeful.

The sum is greater than the parts: The current Indian team is devoid of legends- it has no individuals who overshadow the team with their individual talent or their personality. However, as a team they seem to be performing way beyond expectations. And that is the second lesson- as parents, all of us are eager to make our children feel very special. Our focus is all the time on honing their talent and sharpening their skills. Not to say that we should stop doing that, but can we also educate children, even as they are growing up, on the importance of doing things together, looking out for each other, and developing a genuine sense of team-spirit? In this super competitive world, I think this is really important.

Learn to spot the hidden levers: Dhoni has been crying himself hoarse for a long time now on the need for fresh legs on the field. I must admit that even I at times thought the point was being exaggerated. But, I stand corrected. The fielding by India has been top notch, and has proved to be a great source of “competitive advantage”. Swift and canny fielders have saved precious runs and, as importantly, got critical breakthroughs. There is an important insight for parents here- often, we emphasize the obvious things- like, learn to bat well, or become a good bowler- but miss laying emphasis on the seemingly peripheral related areas. There are many related aspects that add up to delivering a good performance and often by ignoring an area that does not seem like the core, we may end up under-performing. Children will be prone to be carried away by the obvious. It is up to parents to do a more complete assessment of any situation and guide children.

Build resilience: Another most important lesson (linked to the point on self belief) is that there are going to be ups and downs, but if we stay committed, and do the right thing, the tide will turn. Team India has demonstrated this beyond doubt under the astute stewardship of Dhoni. As parents, if we can do the same with our children- back them when they fall, help them stand up and run again, all the time teaching them that all of this is par for the course, we would be taking important steps in building resilience in our children. To me, resilience is the single most important attribute needed to make something of yourself, and it is better to start young!

Written by Sudha Kumar

Too much choice?

image-20150303-31835-kbn4ubIn the good old days when I was growing up in the India of the 70s and the 80s, we had very few career choices.  You either chose science and became a doctor or an engineer, or took commerce and became an MBA, a CA or a banker.  I don’t remember any of us bemoaning the lack of choices – most likely because there weren’t any, but also maybe we were too young and un-exposed to really know what we wanted?

Fast forward to our children’s generation, where they are faced with a bewildering number of choices. And Indian universities are still a little behind their western counterparts – here, the enormous range of courses a kid can study in college, and the ability to mix and match courses to create a unique degree of your own, is mind-boggling.  As my son gets closer to going off to college, the brochures landing in my mailbox make my mouth salivate – wow! this college allows you to mix a minor in liberal arts with a major in engineering! That college has a wonderful co-op program, that helps you work and study from the second year itself!

But while I am drooling over these options, I see the opposite reaction in my son, and his many other friends.  Faced with so much choice, they are bewildered and confused and don’t know what to choose.  So in some ways they are on the other end of the spectrum from their parents – we had so few choices and they have so many – but on the other hand, it is the same conundrum –  are the kids too young to be making career choices at this age?

There are various studies showing that too much choice confuses the consumer. One of the best books I have read is The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar. Her research shows that  we can handle more than a few choices, but an overabundance can paralyze us.

So, what can we as parents do?  For one thing, along with my son, I am doing detailed research on the various courses available, and how they will fit in with my child’s interests and abilities.  So much has changed between our generation and our children’s that it is important we find out as much as we can about the various options.  At the same time, education has become expensive, and the world intensely competitive, so it is also important to find out the career prospects and employability of these courses – this is something I find kids are too young to have a good perspective about. And again, because you as the parent know your child so well, it is important to ask the right questions to understand why your child is interested in a course – is it really his interest, or is it because all his friends are talking about it?

As parents, there is a strong a role we play in our children’s career choices, and it is important that we play it well.  For more details on this, do our read the article, “A Parent’s Role in Career Choices,’ in our latest issue of ParentEdge.  You will learn a lot!

This blog has been reposted with permission. Written by Gayatri Kulkarni for Parent Edge (http://parentedge.in).

A Gift to Mothers: A Life Beyond Motherhood

lbm_smallBeing a mom is no cakewalk. People might claim to understand that, but only moms know what the journey is like. A mother needs to be on her toes, literally and figuratively, 24x7x365. It is only natural then, that many women, after attaining motherhood, tend to immerse themselves in their new found world and the expectations that accompany it so much so that they tend to forget their original self.

Self-preservation is a critical part of being an effective parent. At the end of the day, how your child experiences you depends on how you feel and what you do. Only mothers know how guilty they might feel when they unconsciously hold a grudge against their child for having taken their past life away from them. The sense of freedom and being carefree is gone. It is important to deal with the fact that the situation has changed in the absence of which, somewhere along the journey of motherhood, existential questions surface. What has happened to me and to my dreams? Is this really all I should be doing? How do I get back to being who I was? Is it selfish to want to do something for myself? Will there be a day when I am able to sit back and relax?

A mother who might be caught up in these questions every day, might find it tough to think about parenting at a conscious level on a daily basis. Remember the time when you tried to reach out to your mother or father or spouse to discuss something of utmost importance and you realized they were so caught up in resolving their own issues that you refrained from communicating with them? Hopefully your child would not experience the same. It is, hence, important to shift the focus of your unconscious mind from yourself to your child. That would happen only when you are able to make a conscious effort to be at peace with your life or to make some fundamental changes that result in a happier and more peaceful state of mind.

Many women around the world traverse the same journey and hopefully, you would feel better knowing that you are not caught alone in this quagmire. Also, know that there are professionals who are trained and specialized in helping you work through your unique situation so that you can carve out a life that is designed to realize your dreams. These professionals are called ‘coaches’. Life Coaches work with you to address aspects of your life that are intertwined with a few others and not limited to your profession or your relationships.  Coaching is goal based and action oriented and is different from counseling or therapy.

To know more about what coaching is and if it is for you, visit http://lifebeyondmotherhood.com or email to me at namrataa@lifebeyondmotherhood.com. You can avail of a Mother’s Day special complimentary trial session till 8-May.

This Mothers’ Day, gift yourself a new life – YOUR life – a Life Beyond Motherhood.

This blogpost is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge (http://parentedge.in).

Quit smart

aid1794110-728px-quit-a-job-while-on-maternity-leave-step-17With the kind of stress that corporate jobs tend to create, many men and women are choosing to opt out of the rat race to lead better lives. Studies have shown that one of the primary reasons that many women tend to opt out of their careers post having a child is the lack of support from the husband and the family in raising the child. Interestingly, there have been many cases recently, wherein women are moving to full time careers post having children while their husbands are choosing to take on parenting as a serious responsibility.

It is interesting to note that there is no longer a taboo associated with choosing to lead a life that allows one to focus on parenting. This holds good for both the parents. With the kind of changing climate conditions which bring with them new age diseases including many learning disorders, parents are left with limited options and are happy to move out of their full time jobs. Making such a fundamental shift, which impacts your day–to-day life, does entail some unique challenges. If you are such a spouse, who has chosen to take the plunge, you might fear that your decision could adversely impact your relationship with your spouse, albeit temporarily.

Some things that you can do to ensure that you preserve happiness are:

a) Make a list of all the things you and your spouse have wanted to do but have not been able to for lack of time. Include the mundane tasks, of course but also add some exciting ones, like planning a vacation and starting a fitness drive at home.

b) Find productive ways to be engaged through the day. Productive may not always mean you earn money out of it though it is hopefully something that will enable you to earn some money at some point in time. It is ok to invest your time to learn more about something that you want to do.

c) Make time for your social life. It is now time to contact all those long lost friends, meet your relatives and just hang out at some interesting networking events.

d) Don’t shy away from spending within a budget. Agreed that you are no longer in a full time job but denying yourself small pleasures can pull you down. If heavy expenses are something you would like to avoid, indulge in the less expensive things. Go low on money and high on time.

e) Pat yourself on the back for having made a tough call. Remind yourself every day why you chose to give up your job and do something to prove to yourself that you made the right decision.

At some point in time in our lives, the family we hail from, the premier schools we went to and the fat pay cheques we used to get, all seem irrelevant. What matters, at the end of the day, is happiness and peace and anything that leads us to that is justified. What say?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column on ‘Relationships’ in The Goan (http://thegoan.net).