Have you been following A Cup of Jo’s “12 Surprising Things about Parenting In . . .” series? Go there and read the entire lot after you’ve finished my post. I call dibs. The series just closed with India and it was an enlightening read. Here are a few take-aways:
“On babies and breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is encouraged here, but among certain sections of society, formula is a status symbol. Using formula implies that you are wealthy enough to employ an ayah (nanny).
(When he was a baby, a relative told me Arlo “should have the pleasure of drinking from a bottle“. Now I get it. I don’t agree with it but I get it.)
On full-time nannies: Indian families who can afford it (typically middle and upper class families) hire full-time nannies, called ayahs, whether both parents are working or not. Even if you can’t afford an ayah, there’s a very strong tradition of family members and neighbors watching your kid during the day so you can go out on your own. I think this is partly because the country is just not very child friendly. There are a lot of dangers, and it gets incredibly hot. When it’s 110 degrees out, it’s hard to take kids anywhere. Many Indian and expat women would never dream of taking their children with them to run errands or go to dinner.
On hiring a housekeeper: Our housekeeper, Kanti, comes Monday through Friday, for a few hours every day. Also, I have to admit, I like having another person around the house. I think it’s typical in the U.S. to be somewhat isolated in the house with your kids. It’s much more common here to have ayahs, relatives and neighbors around all the time—a difference I really appreciate.”
While in San Francisco, we visited family who were anxious to meet Farrah and see Arlo. When Farrah met her Dida however, she was tired and just wanted to lie down with me in a dark, cool room and sleep. We planned for her to sleep on the drive and stay asleep in the carseat but ha ha – PLANS. What Farrah did not want to do was socialize. When I reluctantly handed her to Dida’s eager, outstretched arms and she reluctantly went, it was but a minute before clamoring for return. My pre-maternal manners kicked in and I apologized, but Dida softly shook her head at my apology and said “She does not know us and that is our misfortune.” I was touched by her words of familial bond despite having only just met, and grew wistful for the community of caregivers scattered across the tides.
When I think about all the people in all the world who love my children – that is my fortune.