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Family Support
by The Man from Matunga (MFM)

Teenage Family Angst

When I was a teenager, I used to hate my extended family that came complete with the baggage of constant gossip, endless visits to this cousin and that uncle and inter-family politics, all of which would get my goat. Over a period of time, I slowly distanced myself from most of them, using my studies as a convenient excuse for getting out of attending family functions. My parents and I had many arguments about the importance of family vis-à-vis friends and I would constantly harp on how I really did not need family, other than my immediate one, since I had such good, close friends.

Most of my friends are now scattered all over the world. My family is mostly still around.

The Absence of Family Crutches

I shudder to think what would have happened during the surgery if we had been all alone. Managing a house and work, running small errands in the hospital, staying overnight; a single person could go mad doing all this without help. 

I sometimes imagine a scenario, in which we are bringing up the twins alone, with both of us working and without family support, leaving the children in crèches with unknown people or with "bais" and maids, not knowing how they are being handled. It gives me the shivers. And yet, people who are alone have no choice but to go with such arrangements. When you have parents, parents-in-law, uncles, aunts and cousins around you, someone or the other is always available to take over some small task.

It may seem selfish that I have suddenly realized the importance of family now that I need them. So, be it. Yet, this realization has not been sudden. 

I have seen how it has helped my sister Meeta bring up her daughter and son. Her daughter Rhea was born three years ago. Meeta and her husband Jayesh live with Jayesh's parents and his sister, Neelam. In that family, there are so many people, apart from Meeta and Jayesh, that from the third month onwards, Meeta was able to get out, travel and socialize, without having to worry about who would take care of Rhea. Rhea got so used to staying with the rest of the family that when Meeta and Jayesh took a fifteen-day trip outside Mumbai, when Rhea was less than a year old, she hardly missed their absence. 

I hear horror stories from my friends in the US when they have a child. Help is expensive, sometimes prohibitively so and with both parents working, a tremendous amount of stress builds in. Invariably, they get one of the grandparents to come and live with them to take care of the child. This again goes to show that when it comes to the crunch, the people who help out and make life easier are family. The big advantage in the US however is the easy availability of a large number of children's aids, which go a long way in making life easier for the mother and the child. And once children are school going, things probably become a bit easier there than in India. 

No Work and All Play Makes WFM Crabby

WFM had entertained thoughts of working at least partly through her pregnancy. Her emergency surgery however complicated everything and being an elderly primi, the pregnancy was classified as precious and the gynecologist firmly told her to take bed rest for the entire duration of the childbearing period. When we protested she relented a bit and gave WFM permission to move around in the house till the end of the first trimester and occasional outings and a little more freedom of movement in the second trimester. However from the 28th week, she would have to be on complete bed rest, to tide over the crucial period from 28-35 weeks, during which the incidence of premature labor is high. Work was totally out of the question.

Enforced bed rest can be a problem for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, there is just so much television you can watch, just so many books you can read, and just so much of the Internet that you can surf. After that you just long to get out. WFM would get a little crabby just lying in bed and I tried everything possible to keep her entertained. This meant that I too had to adjust my working hours and lifestyle and I found myself coming home between 6.30PM and 7.00PM, something that I had never done earlier, ever. To make up for this though, I started going to work at the unearthly hour of 6.30AM and I learnt how to delegate more work to my staff-members. Earlier I often used to get work home or work from home using remote access telecomputing. I stopped all this for the entire duration of the pregnancy. 

Once home I spent all my time with WFM doing things that we had never done before. 


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