‘Maid’ for Each Other – My Elusive Search for the ‘Dream Girl’

You know I remember a time in the not so distant past when I was carefree. Those were the days, when my first thought after waking up was NOT whether the maid will come. I would wake up with happy thoughts of the lovely day ahead. AAh, the beauty and innocence of those days.

We were a Double Income No Kids (DINKS) couple then. A cook and a cleaner were more than enough and who cared if they didn’t turn up! A good opportunity to eat out and the house could wait another day before getting mopped! All that changed with our first baby. The first few months of the maternity leave were heavenly, and the two of us were enough for the baby’s needs. But we did realise that we will ultimately need some help. A year later, my parents moved in with us, and our needs increased. However, with a regular turnover of part time help and a crèche for my son, we managed. And then all hell broke loose, when I produced two more babies!! My battered body, older parents, hapless husband were no match for two demanding babies!! All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not enough! (mind you, it is not simple maths with twins – the effort is not doubled it is probably quadrupled, or quintupled or maybe hundred-tupled – whatever).

What we needed was some good, solid household help. But in a country of more than a billion people, it seems like an elusive search. The twins are 19 months now and we have still not found our dream girl(s)! But so what – we might not have found HER, but what we do have is some priceless experience from the last few years.

We have of course learnt a lot about hiring part time maids – we figured it is better to hire two cooks – one for morning and one for evening (chances of both maids taking an off the same day are lesser and so at least one meal is ensured), split the other household work also in the same logic, hoping at least someone would turn up. If you have fixed with them to come at 11 a.m., try not to panic if they haven’t turned up by 1, because you see, time management is clearly not an appreciated value here. But of course be prepared, that 6 to 8 days a month, they actually might not turn up. And even if you do have 6 by 6 vision, it is best to turn a blind eye to that dirty spot behind the door or under the refrigerator door. Better to wait for the weekends and get it done in front of your eyes – though be prepared, that they may also decide to have the weekend off.

maid 2

There was a time when agencies were cheap and honest (well at least some of them). Our first experience with an agency about ten years ago, led us to believe that this is a workable model. We realized our folly when one of the helps we hired left us on the pretext of a wedding exactly halfway through his contract (I realized later that this was one of the common scams); while another one literally ran away, because apparently she felt too hot in our house (we had only 1 A.C in our bedroom at that time – I assume it would have been a bit odd to invite her to sleep in our bedroom). After those fiascos, we decided to hire locally.

Once we hired this well dressed, bespectacled, seemingly respectable lady. We were fairly happy with her work (and thanking our stars) till we discovered Mr. Hyde behind Dr. Jekyll. We found out she had money disputes with her family and were horrified to hear her screaming matches on phone. Even our neighbours started to wonder what was wrong with us! We still managed for a year, till we discovered that she had falsely accused her husband of her own murder! We decided it was just safer to have a break up with her!

Oh and then there was this Mr. Perfect! A very highly efficient guy, who came home at dot 6 a.m. and did everything perfectly. We thought God is so kind till we discovered that he loved to take weekends off (which is when instead of resting, I ended up doing household chores). The last straw was when he cut his finger a bit and refused to turn up for about two weeks.

We also tried the straight from the village types, thinking they may be easier to mould and train (also cheaper) – but gave up quite quickly after realizing that training them was no piece of cake. Right from teaching them how to stand straight (and not lean on every wall), how not to clean dirty hands on the nearest curtain, how to sit on the western toilet, how to close the refrigerator properly and of course how to do the tasks they were hired for, we realized it is probably less stressful to do the work ourselves.

More recently we hired a Bengali lady (barely knows hindi as well as most of the housework) who also eats niramish (strictly vegetarian and no onion garlic) and that also became pretty nightmarish. Between having to explain multiple times to her what we wanted to get done, her slow speed and the three times separate cooking, we realized nothing was getting done. My mother was ending up looking after both the babies! We realized soon enough that this relationship was also not going to last.

And finally, I recently thought, I had found the ONE! A young girl, very pleasant, very nice with the babies, fairly efficient – what more could I ask for! This one was definitely a keeper! But god had something else in mind. My dream run lasted till I discovered that she had been robbing me behind my back! (chhann se jo toota koi sapna….)

And we are back to square one. But believe me when I say I am not promiscuous. I just haven’t found my dream girl. And I am not the only one. When a colleague told me that she went through some 20 to 30 maids in the last one year – I realized I am not alone. And I got strength. And I got hope. And I decided to restart my search with vigour.

And while you get some strength and inspiration from my words let me just go and clean my drawing room. You see another prospective “match” is coming to see (meet) me – please wish me luck that this time I get my dream.

Do like and share this post and tell me your stories too!

maid 5

It takes more than a village…

PHEW!! yes it does… especially when we are talking about raising twins. The first year can be especially tough and parents can do with all the help they can get. Between feeding, diaper changing, calming bawling babies everything may just seem overwhelming.

Abeer and Anvay were premature and it felt weirdly empty when I came back home without them. It also meant going to the hospital at least twice daily with pumped milk for them. Emotionally it was not easy to see the tiny bodies hooked to so many wires. It hurt to see little blue marks where the needles had pricked them. Physically it was tough to make so many trips to the hospital, while recovering from a major surgery myself. The pain naturally took much longer to go away.

Once they came home, focus was weight gain and they needed to be fed every 2-3 hours. Which meant almost no sleep at night! Being on maternity leave at that time, I took on the job of night time feeding.  I did manage to catch some sleep in between – but despite that it was quite exhausting.

Some days were tougher than others. Days when one or both of twins would be inconsolable. Nights when they were sick. Trips to the hospital were tough with two infants in tow. And we had a larger share than normal due to a number of extra check ups for preemies. All in all, a physically and emotionally draining first few months.

Everyone pitched in – in whatever way they could. While nani helped in overall baby care, nanaji became the de facto provider of medicines, milk bottles etc. etc. Mausi came down from Bombay to help. Arnav also took on big brother responsibilities – like bottle feeding 🙂

Daddy has a special gift for calming down crying babies and putting them to sleep. I bet no baby anywhere in the world has been put to sleep with their dad loudly singing (while rocking them) songs from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham!!! I can’t claim it will work on other babies – but it worked like magic on ours. (of course only when sung by dad – none of the others ever dared!)

Once I joined work, nana and nani became the primary care givers during the day. Hats off to them for managing two babies so well. And once my travel started, dadi came in from Jaipur to provide support whenever required. And while Babaji could not physically come – his willingness to manage alone was a huge support by itself. The San Francisco, trip would not have been possible without chacha, chachi volunteering help.

In case of a working mother, the ‘village’ extends to the workplace. I am very lucky to be working in a very supportive organisation. Even before the twins were born, I was advised to work from home due to the high risk. My then manager agreed. Despite all the rest, they were born 8 weeks early – I shudder to think what might have happened if my manager had not agreed so readily to let me work from home. Once I joined back, my new manager was happy to support flex hours or work from home as needed. He also helped me move to an office location closer home. My team members were always there to catch the ball if I dropped it. A supportive workplace can do wonders do reduce the stress involved in bringing up infants.

And now all of you, who have read my blog and supported it, have become part of our village too by encouraging us. Please keep reading and sharing.

As I end, just a few tips for new parents, (or older ones too):

  • Feel free to ask for help. As Harry Potter Says, “Help shall always be given to those who ask for it”. It might be tough (it is for me), but it will help you get through, and it will actually strengthen relations.
  • Get your ‘me’/ ‘together’ time. In our case, it didn’t apply only to me or my husband. It applied equally to nana and nani too. We made sure we give breaks to each other. Many times we went out in ones, or twos or threes, for dinner/ shopping/ movies/ parties.
  • Do not take anyone for granted – not even each other. We were all giving up on something or the other – sleep, fun, work. It was a community task – but it is important to appreciate everyone’s role.
  • Change roles – sometimes, changing roles can also give one a breather.
  • Try online shopping! I got addicted when I started shopping for my older son’s birthday! It saves you time and gives you more choices. And I don’t know if you have felt it too – but whenever an online order is delivered – I feel the same excitement as I would on getting a gift!
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Try and ask for a supportive work environment. The new Maternity Bill that got passed last year is a huge step towards supporting new mothers.
  • Finally, this too shall pass! When you are through the exhaustion, the fatigue, the sleeplessness – you will be able to look back and appreciate the laughs, the tears, the milestones and the stronger you!!

 

A new year… and new hope…

Another year has begun and it is time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the new year. As I look back, I realise it is actually two years and not one, two years that are rolled into one. I cannot remember when one ended and the other began. Two years that were no short of a turbulent albeit exhilarating roller coaster ride. Two years that were at the same time very challenging and equally joyful. Going from a difficult twin pregnancy to premature babies to discovering that one of them has special needs – we pretty much covered a wide spectrum of experiences and emotions in the last two years!

2016 began with a wish for a new baby and ended with two little bundles of joy! The grandparents, parents and the little ‘big’ brother were as pleased as they could be. 2017 went by in a whirlwind of managing babies Abeer and Anvay! Everyone pitched in – grandparents, mausi-mausa and even big bro Arnav! He loved carrying them around like his personal dolls!

The twins are now a year old – and I feel I am able to look up and breathe a little, reflect some and  share some more.

The last eight years have been awesome fun with our first born Arnav – we just loved the little bundle of joy and I was surprised at the strong love that such a little thing could evoke in me! We decided to be ‘cool’ parents i.e. not hold back on doing anything, just because we now had a small baby. Arnav watched his first movie with us at less than 2 months of age! And before he turned 1, he went on a trip to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in the bitter December cold! We were not daunted by the fact that the train that we had tickets for, changed its route and avoided our stop completely!! We nevertheless took a 7 hour bus ride to Jodhpur, followed by another long bus ride (this time in a local bus with open windows) to Jaisalmer – all with a big suitcase, a big pram and a 10 month old!!

So to cut a long story short – we loved parenting so much that we wanted more (well one more) and were gifted with two!! And it is great fun but a lot of hardwork too 🙂 But we have decided not to be overwhelmed by the hard work and follow the same policy of not stopping fun because of the babies. So in their first year, the twins have watched most of the new movies, been twice to Jaipur, been all the way to San Francisco and back (2 infants in a long haul flight – GAWD!) and to Bombay. And we are hoping for more adventures this year 😉

But why am I writing a blog? Because I have realised over the last two years, that this is becoming one of the best ways to reach out to people – whether those I know or those that I want to know. I am one of those people that immediately resort to google when faced with a question – and the number of searches I did in the last two years would have probably surpassed all my searches before that! I looked up everything from conceiving, to having a healthy pregnancy to all the horrors that can happen with premature delivery to managing premature babies and finally to understanding the number of medical terms that were coming our way once we found that all was not right with Anvay. I also read personal stories of people who were in similar situations – some gave me hope, some scared me, some gave me useful information. I also scoured blogs on creative ideas, birthday ideas and everything was there for taking. However, I found very few people who were blogging from India.

So here I am, wanting to share my thoughts, ideas, suggestions, learnings with all those who would like to connect. This is my first post – already delayed by about 3 weeks (Hazard of being a Triple A mom – unable to finish anything in time) and I would love for you to connect with me, encourage me and share your ideas and stories as well!