Privacy as a parent? What's that?

When you have children, you sign over your right to privacy. It is an instant process, with no clauses attached explaining when you might possibly retrieve it.

 |  4-minute read |   15-09-2020
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I remember reading about individuals running marathons inside their house, restyling their home décor, baking fancifully in the quiet of their havens when the lockdown set in. As for me, I remember tripping over those tiny crazy balls and Lego litter, landing in an ungainly full split on the floor, hobbling slowly to my laptop after locking myself in the room, wheezing a sigh of relief while sinking into my chair before the hammering began on the door. Strangely enough, I don’t remember what life was like before I had kids, even though I strain my furry brows and look at clothes that were my second skin, 20 years ago. 

When you have children, you sign over your right to privacy. It is an instant process, with no clauses attached explaining when you might possibly retrieve it. That is the law of nature. When I leap into the shower, a little person bangs urgently, needing to use that very bathroom to pee in. I loofah and lather at breakneck speed. The relentless knocking and bamboozling of the doorknob continues as I try to wriggle quickly into some clothes, and then the incoherent mumbling outside the bedroom door starts the second I bang it shut.

The laundry arrives, the building plumber summoned four hours ago lands up with a surly look to fix the kitchen tap and mommy must be informed, the pest control chap decides to make a pest of himself and land up almost at lunchtime, excited squeals over make-up deliveries must be communicated, or simply ‘that’ turquoise eyeliner in my vanity caddy just needs to be used there and then to try out the new Snapchat filter, the junior is ravenous, the microwave goes kaput, the washing machine turns moody, the eggs make themselves scarce, or the Worcestershire sauce simply cannot be found. There is a nonsensical, inexplicable, seamless sync. The moment I switch off mentally, that very instant the medicine ordered from the chemist arrives, the intercom squawks, the watchman rings the doorbell to hand over some random society notice and the maid calls to inform she is on leave for the day. Or worse, asking me to vacate my room to let her mop. Hemmed inside pigeon-hole apartments, it is a consistent struggle to hang on to some sane semblance of privacy.

main_hassled-mom_get_091520015357.jpgI don’t remember what life was like before I had kids, even though I strain my furry eyebrows and look at clothes that were my second skin, 20 years ago. (Representative photo: Getty Images)

I don’t mean to sound like a relic, but when I got my first mobile phone, privacy was paramount. The precious phone was just a tool for me to communicate with when I wanted to, and for him to get in touch with me. Over two decades later, the electrician is on call, a dozen carpenters are on speed dial (often the globular, gleaming doorknobs turn mutinous), vegetables, fruits, sweets get ordered on the multitude of WhatsApp groups and relentless calls from V-fast courier must be answered at all times and at all costs, even if I need to dangerously sprint from the scullery. From my insurance agent to my chartered accountant to my hairstylist, everyone is sending me messages every day on WhatsApp with investment proposals as I find myself inscribed in a multitude of WhatsApp groups from Grade Six to Post A levels, project coteries, surprise birthday planners, alumni boards, family groups. By virtue of my work, time dissolves into an unending flurry of calls throughout the day, most of the time from unknown quarters, informing me of new launches, brand developments, imminent changes in the lifestyle segment, and I turn around and tell myself I need to get a life, forget lifestyle, amidst the chaos streaking through my 24x7 routine over the past few months!

Writing is a lonely, selfish job. Me and my thoughts alone: we marinade, josh and chivvy, collapse and conquer. Sure, my thoughts nest privately inside my head, brewing, fermenting, growing even when pandemonium thrives in the environment. Blame that sublime halo that develops when you work, nurture, cook and carp. I am used to orbiting on my own, tracing my own trajectory, tuning into my own self, re-working at my own pace. Now I have honed my chops at dodging, timing. My friends with a grown-up brood wake up leisurely, curate their thoughts uninterrupted and map out their day. Sounds like Utopia. I’ll get there, one day, somehow.

Meanwhile, my mini republic remembers my passwords, logs into online accounts to book promptly and order, and is learning to spare the doorknob and desist from bludgeoning those doors that segment the residence into public and private spaces. Those didactic modules on mindfulness, streaking across Insta are so passé, and fancy time management mantras make my bushy brows kiss the ceiling. The truth is, I have learnt to navigate the mid path by steering through the pandemonium. It is called the art of shuttering the din through selective hearing. And yes, I feel empowered enough to conduct tutorials, even as my karate kid and small judoka lunge for each other's jugular. Call it the magic of motherhood.

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Writer

Shilpi Madan Shilpi Madan @shilpimadan

The author is a Mumbai-based senior luxury and lifestyle journalist, and a parent in progress.

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