(I wrote this post a couple of days ago but only just got a chance to upload it now. Enjoy!)
I’m on my way to Mumbai for a work trip and am writing this post as I sit on the plane. There are still three hours to go until we land and people around me are fast asleep. I can’t ever sleep on a plane, so I’m writing this instead.
It’s standard practice that when a lot of us go away, we leave a handover for our work colleagues. I find it fairly simple to do and often enjoy the process because I know I’m going on leave – which may mean a holiday abroad. Leaving instructions for colleagues is one thing. The place isn’t going to fall apart without me, so I can stick my out of office on quite happily and go away guilt-free.
But going on a work trip means doing a handover the other way around – leaving instructions for Sukh and I dread it. It’s not because I doubt the home is in good hands, far from it in fact. Every time I go away, I know the kids are going to be looked after well. They will be fed, they won’t miss anything important that’s going on in their lives and they won’t miss me too much with Daddy to entertain them!
But I think there are still some things that only I know about as a mum; things that Sukh doesn’t usually have to get involved with because even though we can both do most things around the house, there are still some pre-determined tasks or roles that we naturally just slot in to.
And I’m not talking about gender stereotypes. After all, Sukh can cook, do the washing and ironing, clean the house and when Shalini was younger, he would even brush her hair and make sure she was neat and tidy for school. Now that’s she’s older she can take care of all those needs herself.
Even though he can do all of those things, normally it’ll be me who puts on the washes, folds the clothes and puts them away. Every Sunday night it’s me who irons the kids’ uniforms. I’m the one who picks up things the kids need for school. Just the other day, Shalini told me her pencil case had ripped apart. I had to rush to the shops with only two days before my flight to buy her a new one. The shops would still be open with me abroad but that’s a task that wouldn’t get done. I work full-time but Sukh works longer hours than me and simply wouldn’t have the time to get her a new one.
I’m usually the one that signs the kids’ school letters, remembers when the dinner money runs out so I can top it up, knows when they have birthday parties coming up so I can arrange the cards and gifts. That’s just how it works in our house. A lot of my friends who are mums say it’s the same in theirs. They’re the ones who are in the know about all of these things.
We have a calendar in the kitchen, which I insist should be used by the whole family. I note everything on there; who has what coming up when, family functions, when Sukh or I are off work. I smugly turn to the family if they forget about something and say ‘well it’s on the calendar’. It’s the holy grail in my house. I think every family needs one and I’m sure most do. How else can you juggle the social lives and routines of a family? I like preparation. I like control. I like to know what I’m doing weekends in advance whereas Sukh is a ‘take it as it comes’ kind of guy. That sends me into panic mode!
But there are things I can’t prepare for and I admit it makes me anxious. I’m away for twelve days this time. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever been away. It’s only because I’m selfishly tagging two days on to the trip just for myself. We have a couple of close family weddings coming up, so I decided to do some outfit shopping in Mumbai for Shalini and I. I’ll definitely be writing posts on my two days alone in the city.
The reason I’m so anxious is because Shalini and Shivam are now both at different schools. There is so much more going on now in Shalini’s life. Her high school calendar and timings are varied and there’s more to think about. I know Sukh will be fine but there are still things I usually have to note down on a separate piece of paper and hang it up above the kitchen calendar. So yes, more instructions for everyone!
The problem is – this time I forgot to do one. I forgot to pull out my notebook and jot down specific dates about who needs to be where when, what they need, what needs to be bought or prepared, or events they need to attend that we are committed to.
I know there’s always a phone and I can Whatsapp Sukh at any time. Shalini also has a phone now so I could always message her things I specifically need to remind her of. But it’s so unlike me. It goes completely against the most fundamental rule in life – be prepared, be organised. It’s not even a rule really, it’s just who I am. I don’t do anything without a ‘Things To Do’ list.
So I’m sitting here on the plane in a bit of an anxious state. I’m not in a panic – yet. But I keep thinking of all the things that should be written on that piece of paper hanging on the kitchen wall. There should be reminders of Shivam’s inset day at school, my nephew’s birthday party and that I’ve promised my sister that Sukh will pick up the birthday cake en-route. There are a number of things that I should have noted down – some are too specific to share with you but you get the gist.
Sukh will obviously read this post, so he’ll be reminded of two things now at least, as they will be there in black and white! I’m usually the one who remembers these things for the whole family, so suddenly expecting Sukh to reverse roles is a little unfair. It’s just been the norm for our family.
When Sukh goes away, he doesn’t have to leave me instructions on anything – unless there’s a reminder about something technical. That’s Sukh’s domain but otherwise I can just be left to get on with it. When I usually go away, especially to Mumbai, calls are few and far between just because I end up burning the candle at both ends. Things are always hectic and I don’t get time for lengthy phone calls full of reminders. We’re lucky to get a decent hello in sometimes.
I’ll still make a list in my phone of things I forgot to tell him and send it to him. It’s never the same though and I feel I actually need a physical handover, pinned to the kitchen wall. Oh well, what’s done is done and I have to just get over it. Writing this has actually calmed me down a bit and I might even enjoy the last couple of hours of the flight!