5 Reasons to be a lazy housewife

It’s been about six months since I was paid to work. The last four have been a whirl of poopy diapers, endless nursing and crash courses in Incy Wincy Spider and Patty Cake. So, is the sacrifice of a job and social llife worth it? Desperate to convince myself that indeed it is, I compiled this list in one of my anonymous Twitter accounts. Now, since I have someone to watch the infant for a few hours, I shall expound on the advantages of being a lazy housewife and stay-at-home mother.

 

  1. Cleaning shit is better than eating it: Success at work is often contingent on how eagerly one can lap up the boss’s frothy diarrhoea straight from the source. Office politics stink way more than any number of dirty diapers. I feel my life is cleaner now than it has ever been before.

 

  1. Housework is bad for your baby: Domestic drudgery is no longer necessary. All the latest studies say that a spotless home can keep your baby from developing a robust immune system. And if you have a dirty dog, you’ll be doing your child an even greater favour.

 

  1. Dirty laundry means dirty laundry: And there are unholy piles of it, nothing metaphorical about it – but all you need is a washing machine, not a PR campaign or social media clean-up operation. No one can drag your name through the mud, partly because you aren’t really meeting anybody to do nefarious things with. And since you’re no longer part of professional power struggles, no one cares enough to gossip or dig up incriminating things about you.

 

  1. Spreadsheet isn’t a single word: It’s two words on my calendar, done every Tuesday. Could never quite figure out those fucking Excel sheets. Spreading out the 100% Egyptian ones is so much easier.

 

  1. Baby talk means more than small talk: A heartfelt goo-goo sometimes makes more sense than the meaningless noise that small talk often is. This really hit home a few weeks ago when someone asked me how my father was. I paused – at that point of time he was grappling with an interesting dilemma and I was wondering if I should mention it. I started to, but seeing my hesitation, my guest stopped me, ‘Oh don’t bother, I am just making conversation.’ Now, in a way this was nice. She gave me an out and I appreciate it. But at the same time I felt a rush of irritation – what is the point of ‘conversation’ if it is purely dramaturgical in nature? Small talk is a way of filling in silence and a polite way to make listening unnecessary. It is a fundamentally dishonest mode of interaction. When a baby coos and gurgles, he or she is communicating love and a sense of connection. There is nothing false about it. My baby never talks about the weather. Yet, anyway.

 

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What not to say to a woman in labour

Four months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. And I am still surprised that she isn’t hiding in my uterus because of the unspeakable, scary things that were said to her mother during labour.

Oh, this pain is just 20 percent of what you’ll be feeling a few hours later’ 

Why, thank you doctor for that uplifting assurance, given while I was practically rolling about the floor in agony. I don’t know why some practitioners seem to relish freaking out patients in pain – another woman I know was even told that ‘if this pain is Kanyakumari, just you wait till you get to Kashmir’. Guess what? Such statements are NOT helpful. I was fairly stoic up to the point that I met this doctor, but I completely broke down after her cheery reminder. Instead of getting through each moment, I started seeing labour as this huge mountain of pain that I wasn’t even halfway through.  She also did not take my reported pain seriously, which meant that I went through several hours alone in my room rather than in the labour area where there were tools that could have helped me cope. In the end I was taken to the delivery room when I was almost fully dilated. I should have used her face as a stress-busting ball.

‘You do not need an epidural’ 

NOT your call to make, doctor. There is no excuse for disrespecting the reasonable desires of a patient. In the end I had to kick up a huge fuss and was given pain relief only when I was 7cm dilated and it was removed (against my wishes) when I was at 10cm. The anaesthesiologist was quite annoyed when she was sticking in the needle because my hard and fast contractions kept interrupting the process. But wait, she was a bitch too. See my next point.

‘Wow, you really piled on the kilos’

OK, I admit it. There was no need for me to have used my pregnancy to have inhaled huge slabs of steak (for the iron, of course) or those tall, icy chocolate milkshakes (for the calcium of course), but the delivery table was not the place to chastise me for my lack of discipline. The anaesthesiologist kept whining about how my back fat was making it more difficult for her to give me the epidural and wasn’t it a shame that pregnant women used their condition as an excuse to overeat. It wasn’t enough that I was bare assed and in excruciating pain. I had to feel shame over my body too, which despite the unsightly flab was actually doing something pretty cool – giving birth! I finally snapped and told the doctor ‘If I apologize for eating too much, will you do your job?’ Luckily, she did, but though my physical pain eased I was left with an uncomfortable and unnecessary feeling of embarrassment.

‘Do potty! Do potty!’ 

I am a modest sort of person when it comes to my body. Changing rooms are like torture chambers to me and when I am in a stranger’s house, I leave water running when I take a piss. One of my top fears in the run-up to giving birth was pooping on the delivery table. I know it isn’t rational to worry about such things when a little human being is shooting out of your uterus and tearing its way out of your vagina, but that’s me. It was one indignity I didn’t want to go through. One of the nurses, unfortunately, did not know this, so when the time came to push, her advice was to ‘push like when you go potty’. I froze immediately and told her that I’d rather let the baby calcify inside me than do potty. She just chuckled, pretty much climbed on top of me and screamed even harder, ‘push push push. Potty karo potty karo. Do potty do potty’. At that moment I gave up and the poor baby had to be suctioned out with a vacuum! Advice: LISTEN to what a patient is telling you.

Silent but deadly

I’ve been thinking about the silent treatment recently, having just been on its receiving end. Wallowing is boring so I thought I’d think about it with a little more detachment.

Some background: I lost my temper not so long ago. One moment my anger was a hard little knot in my stomach and the next there were entrails and shit and blood spattering everything in sight. The issue itself was not very major, but it was a matter of principle. I felt sidelined by some relatives and, deeply hurt, lashed out in a way that I am not proud of. Words were shrieked over both ends of the phone. My cat cowered under the sofa and my baby, as a side benefit, was stunned into silence.

We didn’t intend to make you feel this way, they screamed. But you DID make me feel bad, I yelled back. You did you did you did. You were secretive, you excluded us, you who always insisted on acting as one big happy family.  No no no, they said. You wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway, so we didn’t tell you. You are disingenuous, I spat, hypocritical. And then the phone went dead.

Well, the said event was a family vacation. Truth be told,  I have a small baby and going on a whirlwind international tour was hardly possible. Still, I was enraged that my small family was not even told about this plan. I was constantly in touch with this trip’s organisers but they didn’t breathe a word of this to me until their tickets were in their hands. To add insult to injury, one of them rued in an email that it was too bad I couldn’t join. I hadn’t even been asked! Did they think I might spoil their plans if I was told? Show up uninvited to blemish their holiday photographs with my postpartum lard? Did they not know me at all? Their behaviour breached a familial code of conduct. The secrecy seemed deliberate and I could not understand why.  They were nice people, I thought we were genuinely fond of each other, our relationship was generally smooth, so why this and why now? These were people who expected and were given frequent updates on our lives and emphasised how important it was to be a close family. I breached a code too. Instead of staying quiet, I unleashed my hurt in a less than ideal way.

So, should I have stayed quiet? Silence is golden, isn’t it? I beg to differ. In relationships, if silence is golden then dog shit should be selling for $1000 an ounce. After the fight, my husband and I both sent out emails explaining our feelings to our relatives. I even apologised for the discussion becoming too heated. The hope was that we could resolve our differences and come to a better understanding. After all, hadn’t they also professed their deep and abiding love for us and our child? If a relationship is worthwhile to all concerned then open and honest dialogue can solve most problems. Communication is key, we all know. Psychology 101.

Instead, we got the silent treatment. That’s power play 101 for you. They replied to none of our honest, heartfelt missives . We do not know their position, we do not know their reaction to our position, and now there doesn’t seem to be any way of bridging the gap.  A problem that could have been solved with apologies and an open dialogue from both sides will now forever fester like the aforementioned dog shit. Yelling at people is immature and aggressive, but silence is even more so. It is fine to take some time out to cool down, but this is distinct from ignoring an argument altogether. Here is why using the ‘silent treatment’  as a way to avoid or react to conflicts is so futile and indeed, toxic:

 

1)      It halts communication: Without honest communication, relationships may as well not exist. Sometimes, communication means dealing with conflicts. Relationships do not always play out according to a script in which everyone sticks to their roles. We might as well sit around the family table with talking dolls for company. Yes, sometimes silence can help keep appearances up, but it takes its toll.  Silence can be the death of a wife who never raises a voice of protest against an abusive husband. In less extreme situations, it can result in living a lie just because the truth is uncomfortable. We all know the scenario: parents and children, husbands and wives who are virtual strangers to each other even if they are living under the same roof. It creates a culture of secrecy and resentment. Sometimes, you need to fight to make things right.

2)      It is a damaging display of power: In giving someone the ‘silent treatment’ you are asserting power by taking complete control of a discussion. You shut people out, with the implicit message that they are not worth your while. By abandoning an issue that is important, you abandon the people who have the issue. You take away their power vis-à-vis their relationship with you. You put them in their place – and that place is always going to be very far away from you. Silence destroys relationships. This paper on the use of Silence in Discourse describes the result beautifully: This form of power is detrimental, as it not only is a form of ignoring a specific issue that possibly needs to be further discussed, but it is also a form of disempowerment to the other individuals of such conversations. The use of silence as an impediment of conversation or dispute weakens the quality of interaction, as well as the relationship between the disputers, which as a whole is a form of destruction.” 

3)      Silence is a form of emotional abuse: The silent treatment messes with your brain, seriously. Most people who dole it out don’t exactly rub their hands and say ‘let’s scramble  xyz’s anterior cingulate cortex today’, but what they do know is the power of disengagement to seriously hurt those close to them.  This neuroimaging study, among others, explains how ‘the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was more active during exclusion than during inclusion and correlated positively with self-reported distress. ‘ This disruption actually causes pain to people. It’s that crushed feeling you get when you’re not invited to a friend’s birthday party or when your lover no longer takes your calls. Some people understand this very well and are adept at using silence as a tool of low-grade torture.

4)      Giving the silent treatment gives you a forked tongue and horns: Seriously, when you’re the one doling out the silent treatment, your targets aren’t thinking of you as the silently suffering martyr. If they don’t think you’re just indifferent, they think you’re the devil. By presenting a blank canvas, you’re inviting people to paint you in the most unflattering light. After all, you’re not making yourself present to paint a clearer picture of the actual situation. Your intentions will not matter. Even though giving the silent treatment is an act of passive aggression and egotism, your behaviour may also be the result of a serious feeling of hurt as well as a fear of overt conflict. But unless you say so, no one will ever know. You will forever be misunderstood and will forever misunderstand those you once held dear. Ask yourself: Is it worth it? Rejection begets rejection.

5)      Sage advice: The next question, of course, is, how should one deal with the silent treatment? The obvious first step of course is to initiate a conversation but if multiple attempts do not lead anywhere, you need to withdraw too. Silence does not truly indicate detachment or indifference. It is a tool that is designed to get a response out of you, be it guilt, grovelling or something in between. It is also usually a game of chicken. Don’t give in if your own convictions are at stake. If you are a people-pleaser like me, this can be hard, but it is worth the effort. And if there is no end to the silence?  Use the enforced meditative space to evaluate your relationship and the motivations of the people in it. What if the silence ends but the original issue is not discussed? Not acceptable: conflict has a purpose and it can result in the growth of understanding. By understanding, I do not mean ‘agreement’ – I mean an authentic insight into and acceptance of another person. Pretending something didn’t happen is futile because the seeds of conflict are still there.  No feedback? Just paint on the forked tongue and red demon eyes and get on with your life as happily as you can.

My two paragraphs of fame

I was ego-surfing the other day and discovered that an essay that I’d won a prize for back in my youth was published in a book — Branding India — by Amitabh Kant. In his book review, the editor of the American magazine Travel Weekly, Arnie Weissman, actually referred to my piece as “one of the most thought-provoking” elements in the tome. Needless to say I was extremely chuffed because truth be told, no one has ever said that I provoked any thought in them (I’m rarely provoked to do any thinking myself). My new best buddy Arnie quoted me at length too. And called me Singh — Shakespeare, Shaw, Singh. Oh baby. I am now a great thinker. Kiss my toes, give me some cake, and I may think some thoughts for you.  Here’s  the article:  Summer Reading

What the world is reading about…

Article Appeared in The Indian Express on October 13, 2008. All Text is Copyright.

The Globe and Mail – Anger Erupts Over Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Even though he is being lauded for his diplomatic prowess, former Finnish president and ‘peace broker’ Martti Ahtisaari has managed to rack up an impressive list of enemies, says columnist Doug Saunders. Ahtisaari was most recently credited for playing a key role in the interminable talks with Serbia that resulted in the Albanian-majority Kosovo becoming an independent nation earlier this year. This did not win him any popularity prizes with the Serbs who “saw him as an advocate of European interests” and bitterly resented the loss of Kosovo. Saunders cites instances of Serbians calling Ahtisaari a “Nazi” and his winning the prize a “sick joke”. Nonetheless, his efforts ended years of violence and allowed Serbia to move towards stability. Ahtisaari’s much-criticised “lack of neutrality” says Saunders, is what makes him so effective. “He has not always pretended to be guided by high principles…he is simply interested in getting the conflict to end….” Behind his “bland Scandinavian facade”, Ahtisaari knows how to “dangle very solid carrots and sticks at the bargaining table”.

Forbes – A Prize Tarnished

According to Stanford professor of medicine Abraham Verghese, the most startling fact about the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine is not who got the award, but who didn’t. The committee’s choice of French scientists Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi to share half the prize for ‘discovering’ HIV, was a “slap in the face for American virologist Robert Gallo, “dismissing his role in the saga of scientific discovery around AIDS”. Gallo first described retroviruses and his lab identified HIV in 1984 around the same time that the French scientists did. However, since the virus he studied came from a sample sent by Luc Montagnier, Gallo was largely discredited in Europe but did fight back. This did not help him win friends there. According to Verghese, “not to give Gallo the Nobel Prize when rewarding other breakthroughs in AIDS winds up diminishing the prize’s lustre”. Claiming that the Nobel judges are unduly influenced by “politics and personalities”, Verghese says the solution would be for the “US (recession and all) to institute a prize that eclipses the Nobel, at least in monetary value and eventually in prestige”.

Der Spiegel – The Nobel Literature Debate: Big Sam Has Bigger Problems

French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio may have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but Americans are still smarting over the comments made by Horace Engdahl. The permanent secretary of the award’s committee infamously remarked that US writers are too “insular” and “insensitive” to produce anything of literary merit. It is ridiculously easy to refute such claims, says writer Ulrich Baron, suggesting that Engdahl’s vinegary comments may come from sour grapes: “Engdahl’s collection of somewhat pompous works never quite made it to the best-seller list of the New York Times. After one well-meaning critic called the work “airy”, could the sledge hammer now be falling?”

http://www.improbable.com – Annals of Improbable Research

Discoveries that promise to unveil the secrets of the universe and life-saving medical research are all very well, but there are smaller mysteries that are equally worthy of attention. And the bi-monthly Annals of Improbable Research in the article “Research that makes people laugh and then think”, applauds those who plumb the depths of the irrelevant with the Ig Nobel Awards. This year’s winners include discoveries of use to pet lovers (fleas on dogs jump higher than on cats); hypochondriacs (expensive fake medicines work better than cheap ones); and the experimentally inclined (one winner said cola is a spermicide, another discovered the opposite, the rest is up to you)….