Tuesday, May 05, 2015

SAHM and HFM....

One of the unfortunate side effects of being part of a Digital World, is that there is a need to label  everything.  You might question this,  saying one always used adjectives to qualify and describe stuff.

And there is a difference. The domain of the adjectives is more personal, local, subjective, and open to random useful change. Like milk, that boils, sometimes splits, curdles, aggregates, even gets hung up , and becomes paneer without making a song and a dance about it. 

 Labels is something more global. Someone decides what can be called cheese, and you comply, varieties/definitions/parameters  et al, without worrying whether you really need it. At some point you start believing in labels.  And forget that things were just fine before that.

Like with the label SAHM.  Otherwise read as Stay-At-Home Mom.   

In a boring digital world, this means someone who alternates between cooking, cleaning, child-managing, official picker-up of stuff around the house, catering to whims and fancies, visitors,  advising relatives,  and then stresses out at the lack of intellectual  pursuits and  what is called "me time" . (All these things are again labels, that mean something specific.  Intellectual pursuits defined by your professional training, and "me time" could be anything from stationery cycling , reading, writing,  gym , singing, socializing,  et al)

In my time, my mother was what you would call a SAHM.  Thankfully she couldn't be bothered by nomenclatures.   She was a post grad from Columbia University (1948) in Food, Nutrition and  Child Development, and was in her element  as a SAHM, despite assorted  obstacles in her path by those , who had very narrow views about things. 

She learned to drive  a car, so as to be useful when my father was posted away from home in his transferable job. At a time when  bread was becoming ultra fashionable at breakfast time, (with people mindlessly devouring it slathered with butter and sugar), her kids had fresh moong dal khichdi, sometimes bhakri, with poha papad  and ghee  along with a small glass of fresh orange juice, for which she would drive once a week to the big mandi to source her juice walla oranges, to the great delight of the vendors.  As someone who never tasted an egg in her life, she ensured that her kids had occasional omelettes with loads of dhaniya etc, and a lot of her effort was directed towards sourcing hand pounded rice, so necessary in our  B-12 deprived  vegetarian diets. I remember the Khadi Village shops would sell this rice, and after they stopped,  she had a threshing "hole" installed in our garage, and two old people would periodically come and do the slow manual dehusking of paddy she sourced and purchased  from admiring farmers on the outskirts of the city..

All this was just part of what she did.  She and my father played badminton and tennis on weekends, in a plot in our colony, with our neighbors. No special clothes, sarees tucked in , Bata canvas shoes, sometimes barefoot, and as soon as it was possible, we children started on our own regular sports in school and out of it.  One of my most abiding unforgettable memories is that of doing 30 suryanamaskars  everyday, till I was 13, without which breakfast  strictly, did not happen. 

She could do everything she asked us to do.  

When I started learning swimming, and  gave  the usual fake excuses, she got determinedly into the water, in her ancient swimming suit, and I  quietly followed suit, soon doing deep water jumps etc. All of us soon learned cycling (which she already knew)  and  eventually cycled daily to school  for miles. She was part of the group that often ran behind us, as we tottered on the bikes, pedalling on for dear life, during the learning days..  

This wasn't all.  She thought school was only part of what our brains attempted. And so we learned music, musical instruments, calligraphy with reeds, and  there was even a guy who came to teach sanskrit shlokas , because we went to English Medium schools, and she felt we shouldn't miss out on those.  There was never a running down of any cultures or religions.

The purpose of writing this is not to eulogize her.  Nothing would be enough. 

But the purpose is to show, how you do not need to fit,  in labels defined by society , as a Mom.  SAHM or otherwise.   You could have me-time, us-time or just time.

You have your own education, possibly in a unique filed. You continue to learn.  Your education is not over.  No one can be allowed to define your levels of expertise.  Your general life education is something you need to realize.  Your children are unique in the sense that you can guage their capabilities and guide them uniquely at various ages, and instill confidence in them. Young kids often pick up different languages  very fast below the age of 5.  Simply playing with different kids everyday.  Encouraging your kid to be bilingual or even trilingual is a great achievement.

Sometimes you find that you have inherent teaching abilities.  You do not need a job to prove anything to anyone.  Creating games for your kids as they play with friends at a very young age, could be your forte.  This is no less, and perhaps much more than doing something for someone, so he/she can make money out of it.

I have , at various times, been employed, unemployed, and now retired, but thanks to a general awareness of being gifted a wide education by my parents,  frustration and disillusionment has never been an issue.  It has been a continuing education all the way.

Being a Mom,  SAH or otherwise, is many things. Which do not need labels.  It is a smooth analogue sliding into one or more roles, innovatively, as per your needs .    

Sometimes it even improves your sense of humor

When I decided to take early voluntary retirement to attend to my father , and the kids education requirements,  someone asked me , "What do you do the whole day, now that you are home?  .  Dont you get bored ? "

 This required the taking of a deep breath , to cool down.

 I told them , "I do nothing. Take naps in the afternoon. "

Later, with the daughter into serious swimming, I did get into the pool myself to renew my aquaintance with the sport.  Waiting for her workouts to get over, I was once sitting next to the wife a a very highly educated person, in the viewing gallery, where she had stopped by  during her evening outing.

"Kya aap ko yeh sab pehenke swimming karnemein kuch sharam nahi lagti?"  was what her biggest worry was. 

Once again a deep breath. And then I let go .

"Kya hain na, jab mein yeh sab pehenti hoon na, tab khudko Madhuri Dixit samjhti hoon aur Pani mein jati hoon swimming karne....."

I cannot describe her expression in response to that.

Like I said, it improves your sense of humor.  

And so to hell with labels like SAHM.  Discard the labels.  

Be a HFM  (Have Fun Mom).   




  1. It is so good that she taught you music, musical instruments & calligraphy.

    1. Thank you . And yes, that was so much better than endlessly tapping on phone keys and smiling to yourself a la today ... :-)

  2. I will say
    "I like your mom and you"
    I smile as I read your entry this early morning...

  3. Lol. I love what comes after you take deep breaths ;)

  4. First time here and simply love it!!...

    1. Thank you , Sumana ! And welcome to Gappa ! Delighted to know that you are a poet. I do a bit of that too, and do check out my visual poetry blog Strewn Ashes (link in the sidebar).... Best wishes to you!

  5. Some blunt talk is what is the need of the day and no to do it better than you! I am happy to say that I am a HFGM :)