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04/11/2016

A look back at 2015

Ah 2015 ... Thank you! Thank you for the discoveries: the joy of motherhood, the sleepless dazed state, the horror of falling hair, the joy of short hair. All this on a background of great travels, in Switzerland, France, Sikkim, Kerala and Corsica (all this with the baby). But of course there was a stain in the painting : I had to experience the inconsistency of the Company (at least mine*) claiming they want more women managers and then let them drown without lifting a finger when the transition back to office of the said women managers is not as smooth as planned after a long break.         

For me, the beginning of the end started in February when, two months after the birth of Baby Samurai, I received a message from my boss who wanted to shorten my maternity leave (I had a six month leave, as per the policy of the company, or so I was told since I was 6 weeks pregnant).           

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeedingBy the way, if anyone imagines that a maternity leave is anywhere close to a holiday (like me before the baby’s arrival) I am sorry to cut the dream: it is ANYTHING but a holiday. There is of course a kind of workaholic mother who buys a pump at the third month of pregnancy, gives birth with her Blackberry in hand, hires a nanny right out of the hospital and works from the house the first week. But the common mortal has non-functioning neurons (it’s hormonal) for a while. And since a baby, even the coolest one on Earth like mine, eats every 2-3 hour, there is a good chance that any videoconference be interrupted by a feed – in which case the only solution is to mute the mic,  adjust the webcam and pretend to care about what is going on in this meeting on increasing wages, a topic that usually fascinates you (or not) but that is completely beyond you right now.        
And apart from the fact that they feel completely disconnected, there are mothers who want to focus on their baby and just don’t want to switch on a computer. A lot of them are in their thirties, educated, ambitious and hard-working women who become breastfeeding champions who suddenly have only one thing in their mind: survive and feed their baby. Fierce, they do not let go; to set the tone, sometimes they even reach the point of screaming (inside) from pain and cry (silently) while applying cream and plasticky breast protectors on their cracked nipples but nothing will make him miss a feed! In the process they will not hesitate to continue breastfeeding after the six months prescribed by WHO; even after a year, let's be crazy ;)
They can also secretly take the baby and the grand-parents to a seminar in France to continue breastfeeding smoothly.

And well, these warrior-mothers, they believe they deserve to be left them alone for a few weeks, if only in the name of all the extraordinary efforts they have made for years (and even up to 8.5 months of pregnancy) to prove that they are as capable and bankable for the company than a man.            
That may be a bit pretentious to say so, in these times of crisis and job insecurity, but there is no way to put it otherwise, they won’t take any shit. They are like that, they have the power – even if sometimes takes a coach for them to realize it.         india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding     

So when you are pressurized to reply to mails during your leave (mails? What mails? But it takes you a week to gather the courage to cut your nails so imagine switching on a laptop. Now you understand... that mails... well...), and to get back on top of your game – but it doesn’t work, there is nothing to do, you understand nothing, you can’t even remember whether you have taken a shower in the morning. You can only try not to cry and hope that better days will come… And they do come, when the hormones finally calm down, or just that the storm has passed. But you find it difficult to swallow that bitter pill, even when you regain your self-confidence and manage to reach the objectives. You quit. And they call it a “motherhood crisis”, a crazy move that I will quickly regret.          

And there is very likely some truth in it. Perhaps, in my case, this difficult return from leave was the cherry on the cake, in a context where, to be quite honest, I was very tired. But leaving a company that taught you everything and a boss that taught you everything, developed you and made you feel “talented” is not so easy. Luckily I was helped by my new company which contacted me a few weeks after I got back to office. A couple of days after I burnt my breast pump. I was enjoying a break from the baby (who was sleeping, for quite a long time) and fully absorbed by the preparation of a seminar, I forgot the pump which was being sterilized in the pan. This incident is quite important since the company in question makes... breast pumps!  

* Doing some research, I found out that only 25% of new mothers go back to the office after work. And by the way, India ranks 115 (out of 128 countries) on « Empowering women at work ». So when they get pregnant they get fired or demoted or their salaries get cut. And if not, same things happen when they come back. They are however some companies who really go out of their way to retain or hire women who have been on a long break (they had to look at these pool of talents as they anyways find it difficult to recruit women here):

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding

This is called the “Back to Work” programme though I personally prefer “Back to Office” as being a stay-at-home is really a job, according to me!

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding

Cartoons from: http://www.awesomeinventions.com/doodle-diary-of-new-mom/   

09/14/2015

A story of rugby and alcohol

Any resemblance with existing persons is fictitious. Or not.  

Our small family recently completed its yearly pilgrimage to Kerala.

 

There I had to face a situation: in India, a baby is not a person but a rugby ball. As soon as they see a baby, arms reach out, they grab him and pass him to one another. I must be a not-so-good scrum-half: at the sight of these reaching out women - which were not all pretty sights, even for me (so I could only imagine for a baby), with missing or rotten teeth, mustaches and beards - I did not let go of the ball. Just because the three pairs of arms who welcomed us scared me away, feeling totally aggressed. While it is apparently an act of “politeness” to ask to carry my child, politeness I was supposed to return by handing the child in question away. Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t care one bit about going the impolite stuck-up bitch that would not let her baby go! 

And my baby played along and refused to leave my arms. Of course I don’t want him to be anti-social; I just want people to give him some time to adjust to all these new faces before being thrown into the scrum!

After holding on against almost everybody, people left us alone… I took advantage of the new found peace to let baby stretch and take a few steps. No sooner had he a foot on the ground that he got grabbed by an ‘uncle’ who had identified an opening and seized it! He got eventually passed in the arms of four women, who were not even from my husband's family...  

 

Without transition:

Statistics show that Indians drink less than Europeans (4.3 versus 12.5 litres per year per person) except that we should remove from the equation women (who do not have the right to drink), pious men (who do not drink out of religious conviction), and all those who drink home-made alcohol, which kill mostly in silence, and sometime loudly (when more than a hundred people die, like it happened in June in Mumbai). Malayali drink 10.2 litres per year, quite far behind the guys of Andhra Pradesh (35 litres). For many Indian States, taxes on alcohol represent nearly a quarter of the State income (22% in Kerala); whereas it is less than 1% in France. This makes it difficult for States to tackle alchool consumption, as they regularly try. Only the Gujarat has been holding on tight, but the black market has been exploding. Increasing taxes (already at more than 100%) or making alcohol illegal is fine but it does not help much... 

 

india,wedding,kerala,baby,rugby,alcohol

 

(1) In India:  http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/kerala-increases-tax-on-liquor-beer-and-wine/#sthash.PNIRO4yJ.dpuf ; http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-05-16/news/62239496_1_total-prohibition-vm-sudheeran-kerala-government ;  http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/the-alcohol-economy/article5436924.ECE ; http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-datadelve/article6344654.ece 

 

(2) In France: http://www.alcool-info-service.fr/alcool/consommation-alcool-france/culture-alcool-consommation-vin#.VfZl8Jf3aJ8  ;  http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/comptes-nationaux/tableau.asp?sous_theme=3.2 & xml = t_3203 ; http://next.Liberation.fr/vous/2011/02/17/Quels-sont-les-pays-qui-consomment-Le-plus-d-alcool-dans-le-monde_715595

03/14/2015

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

I had managed without the help you usually get in India. Of the mother-in-law. Or of a night nurse. Or of a Japa, these very traditional nannies, often from Kolkata, who assist mother and newborn during the first 30-45 days after birth. Day and night, they take care of everything, bath, massage, food etc. Without any support (as I didn’t feel any was required), I thought the three of us had done pretty well these first months! But I had to start thinking about succession for when I would resume work... 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsSo came the time to hire an ayah, which is in India a maid cum nanny, if possible with some cooking skills... Although Indian women prefer to be employed by foreigners (they work less to earn more while being treated more humanely, as they themselves say), we didn't get many options. ‘Working less’ implies that they do not work on Sunday nor Saturday (they don’t necessarily get days off with local employers); and that they work from 9 to 5 – which doesn’t help when you have yourself to be in office from 9 to 6 (the few times where you leave before 8 p.m.). And in case they themselves have young children (i.e. most of them) or they live very far (i.e. almost all of them), you know you can say goodbye to extra time which is bound to happen... And if you want her to speak at least some English, you might as well ask for the moon... 

I was therefore about to say yes to a nanny who didn’t know a word of English, had a little girl and lived in the far east (of Mumbai) when we gave a last interview. A Christian (therefore English-spoken – don’t ask, Indian Christians usually speak better English than Hindi), with a 27-year-old daughter, who lives close by, who is used to work 12 hours a day and on Saturdays, who has already worked with foreigners (and “they do not stand any dirt at all” she added!) and who asks for less money than others. Too good to be true it seemed! According to her, her old age is a handicap to find job today: being in her fifties, mothers fear that she cannot run after their kids! 

In 24 hours, she had made friends with the cat. The cat that terrorizes everybody as he is kind of gigantic; even the Pest Control guys did not dare enter the guest bedroom he was sleeping in. The cat that slaps your feet to get your attention and spits when pissed off. So, this cat, from the first day, she started conversing with him as he was growling in his cupboard hideout!

In 24 hours she had reorganized the cupboards (food and clothes). Ironed pillow cases, a first for them. Dusted off the vacuum cleaner and then below the sofa, then the fans.

Within 24 hours she had taken over my food diet and timing! If mummy digests well, so will the baby. I thus learned (but let me doubt that) that the impressive farts of my son are due to my love for potatoes... Well, I don’t know if potatoes make you fart but I can tell you about the peas she cooked for us the first night... If her goal was to clean my intestines in fanfare, she definitely scored! No chilly in the food, plenty of fibers, garlic and ginger (condiments that she loves to prevent gases) and I even have to fight to eat my ‘regular’ yoghurt (“but low-fat is better, it doesn’t make you fat”)! 

And then above all, above all, in less than 24 hours Baby Samourai ended up on a mattress on the floor with an Indian cloth diaper! I almost got a disapproving comment when I put a Pampers on him to feed him: apparently Indian mothers come to know the pattern of their offspring’s pooping and put modern (absorbing) diapers only at that time. I am not sure the intestinal clock of my baby is properly set! And I don’t particularly enjoyed being peed on... I also had to fight with her for him to not spend the full day naked: where doctors say the baby needs one more layer of cloth compared to me, she said one less! 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsAnd as for her age is concerned, it shouldn't be too much of a problem since, as she repeats frequently to the baby: "no carrying business, no carrying business". In other words, he can forget spending his time in the arms – in fact he already doesn’t spend much time in the arms but he likes to fall asleep on our lap, especially if we sing 'Ooooom' bouncing on the exercise ball (surprisingly she did not look overjoyed at the idea of working her muscle on the ball!). I also got an admonition on the subject. She is not cold in the eyes that one! At the same time she is not wrong, he does need to learn to fall asleep alone... 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsIn 24 hours, Mary Poppins took charge of us, me my house and my son. As for me, while I thought I had been managing rather well, I was left with the impression of being a college girl who is doing all wrong things with her doll in her pigsty! 

Let’s hope it lasts ;)

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