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!

The Real makers of Pakistan’s Future

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August 14, 1947, is the most important day in the history of Pakistan. In 1947, this was the day when, under the inspiring guidance of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and after a long struggle, the Muslims of India achieved a free homeland.

We celebrate this day in a befitting manner. The official festivities begin with flag raising ceremonies in Islamabad and the provincial capitals. Most schools hold special Independence Day programmes, flags are hoisted on rooftops and terraces, and children wear badges on their arms.

But sadly, over the passage of time, all this has become a sort of norm. We all do these things not from patriotism or love for Pakistan, but because everyone around us is doing the same. The fervour and love for our homeland and the fierce sense of ownership, which should be the essence of the celebrations, seems to be missing.

I was born to parents who had witnessed the Pakistan Movement. When Pakistan came into being, they, and most people of their generation, gave up their ancestral homes, properties and friends without a second thought. Their hearts filled with hope, they happily migrated towards the land of their dream.

For them Pakistan, ‘The land of the pure’, would be the country where peace, honesty, dedication, tolerance and justice would be the order of the day; where the Muslim majority would lead their lives in compliance with the teachings of Islam and also let non-Muslims freely follow their respective religious beliefs; where the three golden principles of Quaid-i-Azam, Unity, Faith and Discipline would form the base of society and where the law would rule supreme!

Tragically, after the initial few years of Pakistan’s creation, things began moving in the wrong direction. Greed, lust for power, corruption and putting personal gains over national interests started gnawing into the roots of our new found homeland. There was a total lack of will on the part of the people at the helm of national affairs to root out illiteracy and poverty from Pakistan.

And the resultant downslide in the conditions of our country has not stopped to this day!

Today, Pakistan is facing multiple troubles. Religious fanaticism, political instability, ever increasing foreign loan burden, corruption, illiteracy, inflation and an immense shortage of electricity and gas are only a few of these problems. The Pakistan that our forefathers dreamed about and the one that our great leader envisioned, is no where to be found!

Friends, our Quaid had great faith in us. On one occasion he said, “My young friends, I look forward to you as the real makers of Pakistan, do not be exploited and do not be misled. Create amongst yourselves complete unity and solidarity. Set an example of what youth can do. Your main occupation should be in fairness to yourself, to your parents, in fairness to the State, to devote your attention to your studies. If you fritter away your energies now, you will always regret.”

Talking about the importance of education our great leader stated, “Without education it is complete darkness and with education it is light. Education is a matter of life and death to our nation. No sacrifice of time or personal comfort should be regarded too great for the advancement of the cause of education.”

This year, on August 14, when we hoist the national flag on our rooftops and terraces let us resolve to work hard to raise the prestige of Pakistan in the world. When we pin Pakistani flag badges on our dress, let us pledge that we shall use these arms to root out corruption, injustice, greed and illiteracy from our homeland.

I feel that I and the people of my generation have failed miserably to put our country on the right track. By giving up the teachings of Islam and the guidelines our Quaid gave us, we have contributed towards the downfall of Pakistan.

But I am pinning my hopes on my young friends. Children are called the architects of the future of a nation. With your concentrated efforts, you can pull out Pakistan from the quagmire it is stuck in. By adopting the guiding principles of Unity, Faith and Discipline, and with dedication and hard work, you can guide Pakistan towards a bright and prosperous future.

Friends, let’s join hands and vow to strive and sacrifice with dedication and love for our country, just as our forefathers did.

In the end, I would again like to quote Mohammad Ali Jinnah, our visionary leader, “We have weathered the worst storms and the safety of the shore, though distant, is in sight. We can look to the future with robust confidence provided we do not relax and fritter away our energies in internal dissensions. There never was greater need for discipline and unity in our ranks. It is only with united effort and faith in our destiny that we shall be able to translate the Pakistan of our dreams into reality.”

Long live Pakistan!