Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Lately I've been nostalgic for a place I'm not sure exists (anymore? or one that never did?).

I see people around me who are fighting so many small battles to make this home a home. To make it their home. To own it. To love it, in spite of...whatever it is that is trapping them. Their efforts exhaust me. I want to applaud them, but they also uncomfortably remind me of me not too long ago and I wonder how my cynicism has hardened into its own being, a tired creature with tired eyes.

And when I close my own eyes, it is the smell and feel of before, not the sight, which makes me long for home in an indescribable way. It smells of rain and grass and water from a rusty tap and there is a whiff of petrol and hot oil in a frying pan-maybe also the scent of frangipani, depending on which side of the grass you are crossing as you run. And it is warm, sticky and prickly-ants crawling up your bare legs; you scratch them away with the same hand you use to carelessly wipe sweat off your upper lip, leaving a streak of dirt there. Summer is endless. It will always be this way.

You're not sure where it is or came from or went. Geographically or otherwise.

So you think of leaving this feeling of loss behind. Hardening and cynicism isn't good for the soul. There is a niggle somewhere in your brain that the place you came from, the place you're going, the place you're looking for, doesn't exist (anymore? or never did?).

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I am knee deep in my own ideas about feminism and modern motherhood these days. The subject overwhelms me, much like my shelving unit which I plan on organizing on some distant day when I can tackle four years of expired batteries, grocery store receipts and leaky pens. Bang in the middle of PhD applications, preparing to go back to work, reading forceful polemic by French feminists and caring for a mama-obsessed, co-sleeping toddler, I realise how many hundreds of times a day I wonder what my own position is on all this.

Starry eyed and pregnant, I was all about the essentialist natural motherhood movement. I will have an epidural free natural birth! I will breastfeed exclusively! I will co-sleep! I will wear my baby day and night! I will take six months maternity leave! I will make my own damn applesauce! Well, I did. Natural birth, applesauce and all. Would I recommend it? Maybe not quite as militantly as before. I wouldn't go as far as those who say motherhood is "all joy and no fun." For me personally, it's a LOT of fun. I like wearing my baby, I like taking him everywhere, I even like the nonstop requests and tantrums of toddlerhood-they make me laugh. But maybe that's because I was lucky enough to read Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Ismat Chughtai and Elisabeth Badinter all in the first six months of my baby's life (remember, this exclusive breastfeeding thing means a LOT of reading. There's only so much time you can spend stroking a baby's head while he goes at you like a baby shark). Feminist literature-whether from the 60s or 2000s-made me simultaneously relaxed about the parenting decisions I made and angry about the pressure to make them.

Two weeks into parenting and I was pissed off at the idea of Total Motherhood. Mind you, I actually enjoyed caring for a newborn and my child was loved and wanted. It wasn't the staying home, breastfeeding or nurturing that was bothersome, it was the assumption of it being superior-the only way to earn my badge of being a Good Mom. All of a sudden, my Facebook newsfeed was exploding with ridiculous memes celebrating how moms stay in sweatpants all day, stepping on Legos and resenting their useless husbands while martyring themselves as chef/nanny/teacher/nurse/driver/insert other everyday task. I couldn't believe how much energy was expended on blogs about playground etiquette (for moms) and sharing sentimental articles about how "all bodies are beautiful" and pictures of celebrities out with their Baby Bjorns. Is this some kind of millennial problem? Are we so used to instant gratification that we constantly crave approval for our most mundane and personal decisions? Or is all of this part of some patriarchal conspiracy to keep women bickering about Bjorn vs Ergo while breastfeeding on their endless maternity leave (because you wouldn't just go back to work and leave your child wailing for more oxytocin, would you)?! Meanwhile, daddy changes diapers on vacation and gets a parade with a marching band. 

This isn't pure speculation, it's fact. Studies show that for every successive child, women become MORE productive at work and simultaneously make LESS money than their male and child-free counterparts. Men on the other hand are REWARDED for having a wife and children, since they are perceived to be more responsible and therefore better potential employees. What exactly did our foremothers fight for if women themselves devote all their time to perpetuating this culture rather than turning it on its head and demanding equal opportunities for financial independence and career fulfillment?

Let me be very clear when I say women DO perpetuate this idea, which benefits nobody but a privileged class of males. I won't use biologically deterministic ideas about what is "natural," but it is normal to want the best for our offspring. We do love our children more than life itself, whether we carried them inside our bodies or not. That's what makes the idea of there being a single successful way (one that not coincidentally relegates mothers to "natural" caregivers) to nurture them so insidious and damaging; it preys on our deepest desires and worst fears of not providing adequate care. 

A point that often isn't noted in the works of earlier feminist theorists is that the natural motherhood movement originally grew out of a a desire for women to reclaim their own bodies from a medicalized male dominated domain. Midwife led birthing, home birthing, exclusive breastfeeding etc. were powerful tools in the fantasy of creating a new, matriarchal world order in which women are allowed to trust their own bodies and take pride in their biological endowments. However, like everything else in the world, this idea has been co opted by a society that remains patriarchal and fundamentally unjust. Male gynaecologists are now making statements at conferences declaring that experiencing the pain of childbirth is necessary for mother infant bonding. A hysterical revulsion accompanies formula feeding or supplementation in mothers' meetup groups, prompting bottle feeding mothers to murmur apologies and explanations to complete strangers. And in the less academic but no less important domain of social media, it is de rigueur for stay at home mothers to constantly complain about how their "full time job" isn't afforded enough respect. On the contrary, nothing in society is given more respect than the work of raising children. But it is a perverse respect, one that rests on the Good Mom prototype (working mothers need not apply) and leaves no room at all for fathers, except as bumbling figures in the background. It is the very reason men who are in fact great dads doubt their own "natural" parenting skills. The cult of total motherhood, of being a mother first and a woman last, of having mom friends who wear mom jeans and do mom things, is damaging to us all. 

I am afraid to publish this blog, which probably says more about the issue than what I've written about it. I'm afraid of being judged, of having to justify that I am in fact a good parent, that I do actually love my child above all else. I just realised somewhere along the way that my incredible kid is better off living in a world where his mother is not expected to forever give up her body, career or self to nurture him. He's better off learning that beauty isn't what defines a woman's worth, so theres no need for platitudes about how pregnancy and childbirth makes you automatically "beautiful." By the time I get around to cleaning that shelving unit, I just hope I have more ideas about how best to raise a feminist myself.   

Monday, June 29, 2015


One Year of Motherhood in Facebook Statuses

July 1st, 2014: Thank you everyone for the warm wishes! Emaad and I are blessed to have welcomed Reza into the world with so many friends and family there for us. All three of us are happy, healthy and very much in love!

July 6th, 2014: Never thought I'd see the day when I define a two hour nap as blessed beauty sleep.

July 15th, 2014: Scientific observation of the day: the sound of mama's head touching a pillow, fork touching a plate or hand touching the shower faucet will stimulate baby's bowels and appetite.

July 21st, 2014: Feels so strange not to be going back to work next week.

July 23rd, 2014: Already folding away littlu's newborn sized clothes! Big boy outfits here we come :)

July 30th, 2014: Thank you for the toughest and best thirty days of our lives littlu! Through every night of endless walking, singing and burping your dad and I still can't believe how blessed we are to have you. I am the luckiest mom in the world to have your poop on my shirt right now. Happy one month baby boy!

August 8th, 2014: I used to care about world affairs, now I am obsessed with my child's bodily functions and nothing else. Thank you Facebook friends for keeping me in the loop about something other than the contents of my baby's diaper.

August 16th, 2014: Made it through vaccines and their painful aftermath! The baby did too :)

August 21st, 2014: First date night without baby!

August 24th, 2014: You know something's changed in you when scenes from Baby's Day Out are suddenly terrifying.

August 28th, 2014: You know the news has been on a lot when your baby can't sleep without Tahir ul Qadri's voice in the background. ‪#‎inquilab‬ ‪#‎sideeffectsofrevolution‬

September 2nd, 2014: I miss school bells, my students' faces, the crazy things I read in test papers, inhaling lunch between fifth and sixth period, misspelled words on the canteen menu, the excitement of designing new term projects, the sense of achievement before 9am, battling over the one working printer and copy machine, the smell of library books...it's September and I miss work!

September 16th, 2014: How is it even possible to sleep through episodes of The Walking Dead but wake up every time I hear the baby's pacifier fall out? Clearly I have superpowers now.

October 4th, 2014: "We have transcended space and time. There is no day. There is no night. There is only cluster feeding."

October 15th, 2014: It's 4pm and I'm still in my PJs singing ninni baba ninni to myself while baby scowls and wriggles. I think we can give up on the daytime nap for today.

October 24th, 2014: Baby may not be allowed screen time but mama can't stop watching BabyTV HD. Right now they are showing men in top hats playing violins in stripey outfits with animated penguins flying across the screen. Amazing.

October 29th, 2014: Maths refresher: the amount of effort I put into putting the baby to sleep is inversely proportionate to the length of his nap. ‪#‎sleepstrike‬ ‪#‎daythree‬

November 1st, 2014: SECOND time in a week someone's told me my "baby brother" is really cute. Time to shop for some grown up clothes, I think. Goodbye, 2007 jeans and pink sneakers.

November 11th, 2014: "You might be the same person deep inside, but what the world sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord." Society's Mommy Problem

November 14th, 2014: Contract signed, timings confirmed and I'm on my way to being a functioning member of the work force next semester. So panicky that I might have worse separation anxiety than the baby.

November 16th, 2014: My Life Journal, By Baby Reza
8pm: Fight sleep. I'm a busy guy.
11pm: Cry because she gave me the WRONG pacifier. I like the blue one best!
12am: Pretend to sleep and scream as soon as she goes to the bathroom. Just a practical joke to keep her on her toes, lolz
2am: But I'm hungry tonight frown emoticon
3.30am: Really, really hungry!
5am: Hyperventilate because she handed me to the one that doesn't have breasts.
6am: Oh look, it's morning!
7am: Wakeupwakeupwakeup!
8am: Why can't they BOTH tickle my tummy?
9am: Ugh, they've been such a pain! Must stop sleeping through the night to help train them!

November 17th, 2014: They are having Screen Time in the Real Bed while I lie in the little one with railings and floating animals. I have sworn to open my eyes every ten minutes till they realize TV is bad for THEIR cognitive development--Baby Reza.

December 10th, 2014: When will they write a parenting book with an appropriate chapter on how to unwrap a Snickers bar REALLY QUIETLY?

December 12th, 2014: 15th birthday with Emaad and first one with Reza. So much to be thankful for! Can't wait to turn 77 with these two :)

December 20th, 2014: This is way too familiar! "Your typical sleep routine involves bouncing your baby on an exercise ball, in a closet, in the dark, with white noise at full volume, while sweating profusely, standing on your head, while praying 'Please dear God, please let my baby sleep.' After a refreshing 10-20 minute nap, he awakens."

December 30th, 2014: I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. Happy half-year baby boy! Thank you for making all this a thousand times more fun than anyone said it would be.

January 29th, 2015: And three years makes three of us!

February 13th, 2015: After smearing poop in my hair I had to clap for myself, because She didn't appreciate the performance at all. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me skills nobody appreciates--Baby Reza

February 14th, 2015: I hope everyone's V Day was as great as mine was until my balloons flew away. Now I'm having to reflect on the transience of life--Baby Reza

March 4th, 2015: 8.15pm: OMG my baby's actually asleep for the night, I feel so free!
4.00am: OMG my baby's awake for the day, I feel like a zombie!!Going to have to rethink this early bedtime business.

March 10th, 2015: Baby Reza's To Do List
-Open all drawers and cabinets
-Taste all potential poisons and choking hazards
-Practice long, withering looks for when strapped in carseat/fed bland vegetables
-Drink tea from a Real Cup
-Get hands inside soiled diaper. This is a priority item for when diaper-changer is wearing white
-Draw on at least two items of parents' clothing
-Escape crib-prison

March 23rd, 2015: Managed to finish lunch by 9pm. In other news, the leaves, yoga mat, dirty sneaker and stale cheeto out of the trash that my kid tried to eat today didn't do any harm! ‪#‎winningatparenting‬

April 19th, 2015: Reza's Sunday morning nap with his dad=cup of coffee and remote in my hand. There should be more weekends in a week.

May 2nd, 2015: Just spent two hours at the mall with my kid, so I'm logging 45 minutes of high intensity interval training in my workout diary for that valiant effort. I also learned that my bag can withstand having strawberry smoothie poured into the main pocket.

May 6th, 2015: "Your views on parenting are just as important as your views on politics, education, social issues-but no one would expect you to agree on those all the time...mothers are expected to share one giant megamind and support and love each other constantly. Yeah, that would be great. But it's unrealistic, and frankly, really sexist." You Say Mommy Wars, I Say Healthy Debate

May 12th, 2015: Pretty sure my kid thinks the only reason he learned how to walk is so he can run away during a diaper change and leave a trail of shit across the room. It's cool that he has such clear goals in life, though.

May 24th, 2015: Trying to take a nap without Reza hanging off me feels oddly incomplete. He better miss me half as much on his day with his Nano!

June 18th, 2015: Use last chance to buy a doughnut at 12pm: check! Ramzan Mubarak guys, I'm one Islamic year old now! --Baby Reza

June 30th, 2015: Happy birthday to the light of our lives! May you have many more with endless love, laughter and blessings.

Friday, May 8, 2015


An Open Letter to People Who Are Not My Child But Refer To Me As “Mommy”

There was a time, not very long ago, when we were friends. Our friendship was probably based on a mutual enjoyment of each other’s company, which implies that we used to talk about our lives and interests and what’s in the news and maybe I used to tell you you’re an idiot and make terrible life choices and you’d listen to me because I’m a reasonably intelligent adult. I’ve always had opinions, you know that. And let’s face it, I’ve never been particularly well-dressed and have lived in my yoga pants ever since I realised I don’t need to wash them that often. When I popped out a person ten months ago and made you proud owner of a little nephew, this did not change. I still have opinions, I’m still a slob, I still live in my yoga pants. I’m still not cool with you trivializing my ideas or experiences by attaching the word “mommy” to them.

Yeah, I’m someone’s mommy. I have vague shit colored stains on my T shirt and while I’m talking to you my kid is wiping his snot on my pants. You talk to the side of my head while I shout “Don’t touch that!” and “What’s in your mouth?” I get it. Try and move past that, okay, just the way I’m graciously overlooking how you are wearing the shirt you stole from me in eighth grade and checking Foodpanda menus while I describe my latest night of sleep deprivation. I used to have opinions about politics and we used to have long conversations deep into the night. Nothing I’ve ever done so far is as political as raising my kid. When I’m indignantly discussing Nestle’s history of promoting formula feeding in impoverished communities which don’t have access to sterile utensils, don’t say “Awww that’s such a mommy concern!” When I wear my five year old yoga pants because I know I can squeeze in a workout during naptime don’t tell me I’m wearing “mommy pants.” When we’re talking about how we should move to Finland because the education system there is so enviably fantastic, don’t say “right on mommy!”

By all means, tell me I have a huge butt and need to get that workout in, or share my indignation for greedy food conglomerates and test driven education systems. Tell me to go change my disgusting snot covered pants. Hell, just talk about your own day without worrying that my perfectly functional, albeit exhausted, brain is incapable of processing anything unless it directly concerns my baby. If I’m not following you because I’m so damn tired because I haven’t slept and I ate toddler leftovers for lunch, I will tell you myself, thank you.

I love you all for loving my kid, for swapping late night sushi, smoking in the living room and impromptu beach plans for sitting in our smoke free house eating takeout at 7pm, making plans for the weekend four days in advance. I love that you offer to babysit even though I wouldn’t for a second trust you to look after my kid unless I want him coming home and saying “fuck” as his new word. I love that you listen to my stance on breastfeeding and hypnobirthing and potty training, occasionally feigning interest and looking up from your phone. It’s great that you’ve embraced my mommyhood, but I’m not YOUR mommy. You know what makes a woman feel instantly unsexy, frumpy and deeply aware of the shit stains on her T shirt? Being called “mom” by EVERYONE. When I’m parenting, I am one hundred percent a parent, but when I’m with you, I’m still one hundred percent a person who thinks and reads and even occasionally wears nice underwear and well fitted jeans. Besides, I’m raising a boy. The most important thing I’ll ever teach him is that women are more than whatever unimaginative labels you affix to them-starting with his mommy.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Dear readers,
Some of you know that I used to find it so easy to blog. Someone actually told me "it must be like taking a dump for you!" Well, it still is-because these days going to the bathroom entails having an audience or clutching a baby monitor, so it's NOT easy. My brain is all over the place. I will be forever indebted to you all if you help spark my cerebrum by leaving a suggestion for a blog or even a listicle in the comments. Get me started again! THANK YOU!