Parenthood: The ideal gap (http://dawn.com/2012/08/26/parenthood-the-ideal-gap/)

“Mummy, please help me prepare for my test. These spellings are so hard to learn,” my six-year-old pleads as he looks up from his English reader. “These Algebra equations are totally confusing!” my 12-year-old daughter sounds distraught. “Mummy will you please drop me to my tuition class? These two will have to wait as I have a test tomorrow,” The 17-year-old brushes aside his younger siblings’ pleas as unimportant.

“With the considerable difference in the age of my three children, I often feel dizzy by the diversity of their demands!” Ayesha Riaz, a stay-at-home mother, confides.
After their marriage Ayesha and her husband decided to plan their kids at least five years apart, so that they are able to give quality time and attention to each child. But at 42, she sounds totally exhausted and often wonders if this decision was wise. “I often feel bored with my monotonous life. After tending to the totally dissimilar activities and requirements of my kids, I feel I have no time left for myself.”
Asma, a working mom, made a difficult choice. She says, “In the early days of our marriage, we decided that completing our family would be our first priority as I had to go back to my career. I had three children in the short span of five years! It was a tough and very busy period for me as the physical and emotional demands of motherhood were like an unending roller coaster ride! However, those joyful but also extremely tiring years of sleepless nights and hectic days were finally over and now I feel that we made the right decision. After my youngest joint pre-school, I still had enough stamina left to pursue my goal to specialise as a gynaecologist.”
Saira, a home-based writer says, “I personally think that one should complete one’s family in the first ten years of marriage. The ideal gap, as I perceive is around three years between two children and if a couple plans to have a big family they should plan accordingly. I firmly believe that after completing their family, couples should strive for the best possible upbringing of their children, give them quality time and teach them to cherish the family bond which is one of the most valuable assets in life.”
Is there a perfect age difference between siblings? The answer varies from couple to couple. Personal choices, financial considerations and health concerns deeply affect the decision. Parents usually plan to have children three to four years apart. It seems easier for them to look after their kids one by one. But sometimes, it is too late when they realise that the prime years of their lives have been spent in raising their young ones. When they finally have time for themselves, the tide of youth is ebbing. With approaching middle age, and sometimes a failing health, they (especially mothers) often have to give up the dreams they had hoped to pursue once the kids grew up.
Saira discusses this phenomenon from the child’s point of view, “I am strictly against the ‘one late kid’ phenomenon, who ideally would accompany the couple when the older children would be busy in their lives. Often, this poor kid is bound to live in isolation, with his/her interests totally different from that of the siblings and has to grow up with already exhausted and aging parents.”
Dr Moin-uddin Qureishi states, “Where the health of the mother and child is concerned, a gap of minimum three years is ideal because in this period the mother regains her health and the calcium content of her bones is restored. The child also starts school and begins to manage a few things himself. But no rules can be set as there are many other health, social and economical issues e.g. working women or those who tied the knot a bit late in life prefer to complete their families in a shorter span.
Rukhsana Iqbal, a homemaker says, “In my opinion, there should be a gap of three to four years between siblings. Being a mother of three boys, I realise today how difficult it was for me to manage the house and the kids, not to forget my parents-in-law, which was compounded by the fact that all three births were through C-section. The gap is ideal for the simple reason that the child should be at least of an age where he/she understands that the love and attention he/she gets would have to be shared with the newcomer so that instead of a sibling jealousy, the child begins to look forward to the new arrival.”
There can be no set rule for the perfect age gap between children which would be the best for each family. It is a decision which is deeply affected by the spouses’ priorities in life. Although I firmly believe that there is a Divine Hand which can topple all human plans, once couples settle down after the honeymoon period is over, they should openly discuss with each other what they want from their future lives and go ahead with their plans in compliance with their dreams.

Reminiscence: Rain, rain come again (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69397)

26-8-12…The long awaited rains have finally arrived in Karachi. Its been raining on and off since yesterday.My grand children’s excitement again reminds me of my childhood days, when I myself was a careless (and naughty) little girl, and the way I and my siblings would enjoy the rain in the same manner, having a good time at the swings with my sisters or playing on the terrace with my brothers.
Rain always brings a strange potpourri of emotions for me. I am happy and sad at the same time as I enjoy seeing my grand children having a great time, but a sense of nostalgia also grips my heart as memories of the long past rainy days when my children were growing up and had to be pulled inside after they had been thoroughly drenched in the downpour, (because I worried like my mother that they would catch a cold or fever).

This article was published in The Review(Dawn) a few years back.

RAIN, RAIN, COME AGAIN!

It is a beautiful rainy day. Peals of happy laughter come floating through my window as I watch my grandchildren playing in the rain. My five-year-old grandson calls out to me “Please Amma, come outside, we are having so much fun,” he pleads in his little voice. Rain always holds a strange charm over me. Born and brought up in former East Pakistan, where it rains daily for more than half of the year, it always reminds me of my childhood days and of an era which now seems to belong to another world! I remember many nights waking up to the sound of the soft pattering of rain drops on the roof, or rushing to Ammi`s room for security when a thunder storm struck!

 

I walk out gingerly into the lawn and my grandson throws a ball at me, “Catch it, Amma,” he calls out too late. Always poor at sports, I miss the ball completely even though I make a brave dive. Thankful inwards that the wet ball did not hit my nose I scold my grandson laughingly, “You know that Amma is bad at catching balls”. We chase each other in the rain and are drenched thoroughly as my daughter-in-law comes out of the kitchen. “You will catch a cold Ammi. And children you have played enough in the rain, now come inside”. My grandson pleads for a few more minutes as I go back to my room to change into dry clothes.

 

As I sit in the warmth of my room sipping hot tea, my knees wrapped in a shawl, I am carried away to another rainy day a long time back.

 

It is raining hard and my children are having a great time in the backyard as they laugh and play in the heavy downpour. I glance out of the kitchen window worriedly as my eldest has a weak chest and catches cold easily.

 

Laying out hot pakoras on the table with a kettle of freshly brewed tea, covered snugly with an embroidered tea-cozy, I call out to my children “Now come inside all of you or you will be down with cold and fever”. “Please Ammi thori der aur,” they implore me and I give in reluctantly. After all, rain is not a frequent feature of life in Karachi and I want my children to enjoy every moment of it!

 

The torrent of memories sweeps me further downstream. It is a beautiful rainy day in Chittagong, a lush green hilly town, where my early childhood was spent. Like nearly every Sunday, Daddy takes us to Patenga, the lovely Chittagong beach, with its white sand (free from any pollution) and greenery along the beach. It starts raining as we reach the waves. Daddy perches me on his shoulders and walks into the water. Knowing instinctively that I am in safe hands I just fold my arms round his neck firmly and let out peals of delight as the blue water dances around us. The waves also seem to enjoy the rain as they race each other before crashing onto the shore. Ammi is calling out something but her voice is drowned by the sound of the rain and waves. The worried look on her face and her flailing arms tell us that she wants us back. “Thand lag jayeigi aap donon ko (you both will catch cold), let`s go back and change into dry clothes”.

 

My grandson`s voice pulls me back to the present. He is out again in the rain with his little sister. They plead with me to accompany them. “Ammi please do not forget your arthritis, you act like a child with the children”, my daughter-in-law protests but turning a deaf ear to her warnings I walk out into the rain again. I want this rainy day to be etched firmly in the memories of my grand children; a fond memory to cherish lovingly when they reach my age!