I only wish Pallavi Aiyar had written Babies & Bylines a decade earlier. My wife and I had our daughter in the winter of 2008. Being away from home in New York, we were basically on our own, with no family around to help us out. No amount of self-help books that we read or motivational videos that we watched had prepared us for the part-dream and part-nightmare that pregnancy and childbirth turned out to be. Just as Aiyar explains in her memoirs, as first-time parents, we were underprepared to accept that our bundle of joy didn’t always look cute or that she “slept in half hour increments interspersed with hours of full throttled yowling”, or breastfeeding—although highly recommended by the World Health Organization—was not always a pleasant experience.
Such are the challenges faced by young parents, especially working mothers. Parenting is a 24x7 commitment. But that is not something you can tell your boss. These are some of the issues that Aiyar, an award-winning journalist and writer, discusses in her memoirs. With irreverent humour, she narrates how she gave birth to her two kids and brought them up and still managed to stay afloat professionally, in cities as diverse as Beijing, Brussels and Jakarta. Yet, she concedes that despite having a very supportive husband, the going has been tough.
Aiyar says even the most feminist of husbands often fail the equal parenting test as they assume less responsibility for the time-sensitive, human resource side of child rearing. It is mothers who are forced to face the non-negotiable demands of life, which can range from supervising a three-year-old's bowel movements, brushing a six-year-old's teeth or to arrange a major interview.
Unfortunately, not just these aspects, but even the traumas associated with childbearing are never properly discussed. These are expected to be transmitted from mothers to daughters. Babies & Bylines is a delightfully cheeky attempt to break the mould and educate not just the would-be dads and moms, but society as a whole, which badly needs a lesson in effective parenting.
Babies & Bylines: Parenting on the Move
By Pallavi Aiyar
Published by HarperCollins India
Price Rs 350; pages 222