Real Talk: Were You Prepared To Be Parents?
We’re back with Real Talk, where we sit down with real parents and ask them to share their parenting stories – the good, bad, and ugly – so you know you’re not alone. Again, we chatted with Ankush Jain, father to 3-year-old Vivek; Sonali Sharma mother of 6-year-old Shreya; Mitali and Ajay Shah, parents of 4-year-old Vrinda; and Hemant and Simone Brar, parents of Krish, 5, and Zain, 2.
The Swaddle (TS): How would you describe the experience of being parents in the first few years of your child’s life?
Mitali: It’s a rollercoaster ride!
Sonali: It was really great. My husband and I had always wanted to see someone grow and watch it happen right before us. In the first few years, there’s something new happening every day. They learn new words, and one sees so many behavioural changes. It really is quite a wonderful experience.
Ajay: The first few years have been quite amazing. I’m not going to deny my wife did most of the heavy lifting. I know it was tougher for her, but I’d still say pretty amazing.
Simone: With Karan [who is autistic] it was difficult; perhaps experience made it easier with Zain.
TS: Would you say you were adequately prepared for everything that being a parent entails?
Sonali: I’d say I was pretty well prepared. I knew what I was in for.
Ankush: No, I don’t think I was!
Hemant: I was absolutely unprepared. And I don’t know any parent who would answer that differently.
Ajay: I was totally unprepared and I had no idea how it was going to be. I remember the sleepless nights, the sudden realization of the responsibility that comes with being a parent. When we had to pick a school, that was pretty stressful. … I remember being told by friends of mine that I’m playing with my daughter’s future by putting her in a Montessori school. It’s almost as if at every opportunity you’re reminded that everything you do, every decision you take will impact your child’s life. But we do our best, and once we make our decision, we stand our ground.
TS: How would you say being a parent has changed you as a person?
Ankush A lot changes once you’re a parent. Your focus shifts to your child. I can say I don’t go out that much after my son was born. And I’m also a happier person now.
Sonali: Earlier, my husband and I would go to restaurants and see parents there with a kid who was crying, and the noise would bother everyone around. We’d think, “Why can’t they keep their kids quieter?” or “If they cry so much, why bring them out in the first place?” But after you have kids, you know that parents need to go out, too, and kids don’t always stay quiet. I would say it’s made me more empathetic and patient.
Ajay: After I became a parent, I had newfound respect for my parents. I’ve changed the way I look at parents, everywhere. When I see people who don’t respect their parents, I make sure I point it out to them. Being a parent really isn’t easy; it’s perhaps the most misunderstood job in the world. And especially as a father, distance is a big challenge. I have just a few hours in a day to prove myself to my daughter, who thinks the world of me. I’d like to be respected and loved by her forever. Another thing that happened after my daughter was born is that I realized I need to be around for as long as I can. That’s when I seriously started focusing on being fit. I run the marathon every year, now, and I’m careful with my diet. It all began with her birth.
TS: Do you think parents today stress about unnecessary things?
Ankush: A lot of things are difficult when you’re a parent, especially in Bombay; it’s a stressful place. Finding the right pediatrician, deciding on the right nutrition—it’s all difficult. Sure, we could be less stressed out, but if you find a way to do that, tell me how!
Hemant: One thing I’ve been clear about for some time now is that education isn’t something I want to worry about. We [Indians] think that education is everything. It’s a part of life; it isn’t bigger than life. I think we should let them enjoy their childhood. They’ll figure it out when they have to.
Ajay: I think most of the parents around us suck. (Laughs.) Before your kid is four, he’s going to drawing class, singing class, roller skating class. So, he goes to school, then to class. On some days there are two classes, and by the end of the week, the child is exhausted. People try to make their kids into performers. We don’t.
TS: What are some of your funniest memories from those early years?
Sonali: Once, Shreya asked me why I don’t dress up, like all the women in the TV serials, before going to bed. It was quite hilarious!
Ankush: My son’s grandmother picked him up and he slapped her! But all of us had a good laugh.
Ajay: We wake up on my wife’s 31st and daughter’s first birthday and we hear a racket at the foot of the bed. We find that Vrinda has pooped in her diaper, and the shit has overflowed, and it’s just everywhere! On the bed, on the sheets, on the floor, on her face. She probably ate some of it, too. We didn’t forget to click a picture before cleaning her up!
Another thing that happened was when I went to pick her up from school and she ran out onto the street. I yelled at her, saying she shouldn’t do that. She stopped in her tracks, turned around, looked me in the eye and said, “You run on the road all the time, naughty boy.” And I’m thinking, that’s different, I’ll explain it to you later, for now let’s just get home safe. Sometimes she really stumps us!
Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Real Talk is a sometimes-series that shares real stories directly from real parents. So you know – whatever crazy, happy, awful, weird, funny parenting experience has happened to you today – you’re not alone! If you would like to share your parenting experiences with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.