Mom on the job

Because the mother was in touch with the world, she was able to open my eyes to explore the world; because she knew the progress of the world, she was able to prepare me for it
Being a working mom is no easy task, so my mother tells me based on her many years of experience in this particular area. Being the child of a working mom also comes with its highs and lows, this I can say from per sonal experience. While some research may suggest that stay-at-home moms can provide their children with better care at least in the initial years of their lives, economic realities demand that most women resume their jobs as early as a few months after giving birth.

working-woman mother

But is this necessarily a negative thing? I think not. According to the self help book, Be Your Own Therapist, working moms exude confi­dence because of their regular interaction with the outside world and this can be benefi­cial for their children. “Research shows that children of working mothers do as well as those with stay-at-home mothers. Mom’s increased self-esteem and aliveness seem to counteract any ill ef­fects that might result from a loss in her availability.”

To me this makes absolute sense; while children of work­ing moms may wish to see their mothers more often, in most cases the time they do actually spend with their mother will he quality time. Sumera, 26, whose mother has worked for most of her life, agrees with this, “My mother was always there at the most important events in my life. Sure, I wasn’t able to spend as much time with her as I would have liked but we had a lot of good times together.”

There is overwhelming evi­dence to prove that children of working mothers are far more independent than those of their stay-at-home counter-parts. This independence is borne out of necessity  Ammar, 34, has two school going boys, his wife works as a teacher in one of Karachi’s finest schools. He says that both boys help mom out by polishing their own shoes and doing other small chores around the house “because they already realise that their mother can’t do it all.” Alifya, 30, works in a high stress job and says that having a working mom prepared her for the work/life balance she must maintain now. “My

mother taught my siblings and me early on that we would have to help her and my dad run things around the house. I didn’t always enjoy doing the chores they assigned but they instilled in me a sense of discipline that has been the cor­nerstone of my success as a professional and a mother.”

Her sister Nariman, 26. points out that having a work­ing mother also helps to strengthen bonds between sib­lings. “When something goes wrong, you know that you can’t always ask your mother to help because she may be unavailable so you naturally start relying on your brothers and sisters.”

Another great advantage of having a working mother, says Momin, 32. is that she has other things to think about rather than just her kids. “My mom has always worked and continues to do so. This means she has her own set of friends and interests and does­n’t always obsess about nee and my friends and what I am doing.”

Speaking from my own ex­perience I can identify with all of the above. Being the off-spring of a single working mom may not always have been comfortable — I wanted my mom to be at home when I got back from school, I re-member being unhappy when she had to work or go out of town on a work-related trip and I recall acting up in order to gel her attention sometimes.

Yet as I look hack on my childhood, I am grateful for the fact that my mother didn’t coddle me, she didn’t always offer easy fixes to problems, she made sure that I recog­nised the consequences for my actions and dealt with them on my own when necessary but that she always had the time to listen to my issues, to he my greatest cheerleader and motivator and to ground me with good values to last a life-time. Because she was in touch with the world, she was able to open my eyes to new avenues; because she knew how the world worked, she was able to prepare me for it. And while I still enjoy the days that she will pamper me by making my breakfast, I’m glad she taught me how to make my own early on in life and I wouldn’t have it any other way

Day care dilemmas

In days gone by it was the done thing for a woman to devote herself com­pletely to her home and children after marriage, even if she had to give up a successful career to do so, but this is no longer the case. Many women wish to continue with their profession while jug­gling family responsibilities, and while some have the support of parents or in-laws to help them cope, others have no help from any quarter.
In this scenario, the need for profes­sionally run childcare and daycare cen­tres is of utmost importance, but so far the concept has not gained much ground in Pakistan. While a few multinationals and some local companies do provide daycare facilities they are barely a drop in the ocean. It may come as a surprise that the state actually has a law regard­ing the provision of daycare centres but unfortunately it deals only with females employed at factories. According to this Factories Act, Section 33Q-2, all regis­tered factories having more than 50 fe­male employees are obliged to provide a suitable area which can be used as a day-care facility by employees with children who are aged six years or less. Unfortunately this law is rarely enforced and even the few factories that comply offer this facility to just the executives and not the lower staff.
Apart from daycares belonging to vari­ous organisations, there are a number of independent centres mushrooming in Karachi but most of them are being run by unqualified and untrained staff that has little or no experience in this field. Such places obviously pose numerous hazards to the health, development and security of the child. A mother who sends her daugh­ter to a company owned daycare centre, feels that, “some women send hyperactive children to these centres and they cannot be managed by the staff; this has an ad-verse effect on the other children present there”. She believes that those mothers who have the support of their parents or in-laws should consider keeping their children under the supervision of grand parents rather than daycare centre as oth­erwise it’s very unfair. to the child to be kept away from home.
Apart from working women, some housewives too avail the facility of day cares as this offers them a chance to catch up on household chores and run their er­rands without having to worry about their children for a few hours. Some mothers also believe that a daycare centre pro­vides their child the kind of intellectual stimulation he or she needs and can help the child gain access to a good school lat­er on. While this may be true of some pre-school and Montessori set-ups, a day-care is simply a place for a child to spend time under adult supervision; it is not a school or a nursery.
It is also a good idea to spend extra time with your child in the evenings or on weekends to make up for the time spent at daycare as children can get insecure about being away from parents everyday. If you notice your child becoming either overly aggressive or quiet and withdrawn, check up on the centre immediately; there may be something drastically wrong..
When selecting a daycare, take your spouse along so he can pick up on the things you miss. Question the staff care-fully regarding their experience and note their behaviour towards their charges — af­ter all, your child will be in their hands, you have a right to ask anything you wish.
Check out the toys; are they baby safe? What are the bathroom facilities like? Who feeds the children and at what time? Ask if you can spend a few hours to observe the routine, this way you can also meet the other parents and get their feedback..
A daycare can be an ideal solution to your needs and can provide your child with the company of his own age group, all that’s needed is a bit of care in the selection process.

The ayurvedic Way

tired fired of the usual, exorbitantly ex-pensive, beauty and health products that don’t even deliver half of the miracles their ad campaigns aver? Well, why not try out the ayurvedic approach?
While it does not claim to perform any over-night beauty miracles, ayurveda’s holistic phi­losophy for well-being and beauty enhance­ment is sure to entice you in a big way because it works, its impact is long lasting, it has no side effects and most importantly, it does not drill a big hole in your pocket.
Derived from the Sanskrit words: ayyr (life) and veda (knowledge), this 2,500-year-old philosophy is not merely skin deep; it encompass-. es a complete way of living a healthy, balanced and beautiful life.
Zehra Azim, the passion behind the recently established Ayurvedic Skin Clinic in Islamabad, is a devout ayurvedic aficionado and is totally committed to winning over Pakistani women to the wonders of ayurvedic beauty care. A disciple of “Herbal Queen’ Shahnaz Hussain, Zehra has not only studied at the Harley Street, London School but has also trained with her mentor and teacher in India, specialising in ayurvedic body and face thera­py, and treatment.
“In Ayurveda it is the `inside’ and not the `outside’ that is important, so we do not claim to work any miracles but we do assure results that are long lasting, which will provide you a healthy life” says Zehra as she explains the philosophy behind her work.
Working with the outlook that the task of making you look beautiful on the outside firstbegins with making you beautiful from inside, Zehra utilises the training and expertise she re­ceived at Puncharma Institute, Delhi offering pearl, gold and diamond facials. “We use pearl, gold and diamond dust which revitalises the skin,” she explains. “The facials are used ac-cording to the complexion of the face. For ex-ample, with white and fair skin, gold gives amazing results.” Special oils are also used and all treatments focus on the whole body for which only natural ingredients are used, en-compassing ayurvedic treatments.
Hair being a vital area, a number of special­ised services are offered — like hair masking, hair tonics, etc. “All our products come from natural roots.”Since the word `massage’ in our society of-ten evokes negative connotations, Zehra, through her work, is also doing her bit to con­vey to the public the true meaning and essence of massage. “Massage is healing of the body and soul, it is the biggest art and is a treatment that is not provided by doctors.
“We also offer body wraps which are great for dry, sensitive skin and also help in weight reduction — it gives a new life to the skin and body.”
Having also studied the Dhara (flow) techni­que, Zehra swears by the wonders it performs on the central nervous system, profoundly re­laxing the mind. “It is ideal for mental stress’ and related problems like insomnia and depres­sion and is performed on the head or on the body or both,” she explains. “It is also great for mothers both before and after delivery, being helpful for both mother and child.”

Happiness is coming…

Be honest, there is just so much in one’s life to be un-grateful for. And at so many levels mind you. Firstly let’s take the physical aspect of oneself. You could always be a little thinner, taller, prettier, fairer. The list could just go on and on. Then of course, there is always the all important question of money. Or lack thereof to be precise. If only you could have a little okay make that a whole lot more) of that precious com­modity what a life it would be. People who say money can’t buy happiness obvi­ously don’t know where to shop!
One can only imagine the thrill of breezing into those world famous designer shops and picking up (without a care or a thought in the world!) the latest shoes, bags, clothes, jewellery, etc. Not to mention the luxury car the chauffer would keep the shopping in to take you hack to your ten bedroom man­sion, via the exclusive club of course, where you would stop over for a relaxing spa treatment before heading home to a beauti­fully prepared meal by your fab­ulous cook!
Yes you guessed it. The list can go on and on here too. And why stop at just the materialistic side of life. Your children could definitely be better looking, smarter, more popular, more tal­ented, which in turn leads to the contentious topic of your spouse. Now whoever heard of liking what you got in that de­partment? And the out-laws? Oh I’m sorry. I meant the in-laws. Let’s not even go there. So you
see how easy it is to be over­whelmed by a persistent sense of discontent and.failure Of course, harbouring discon­tent can he rather taxing. It’s ex­hausting really, feeling cheated and bitter with life and all those around you all the time. You spend the better part of your life waiting for your lot to get better to realise it only got worse. The better part came and went and you didn’t even realise it. You were too busy being greedy for a slimmer, more aquiline face and body to understand that your fragile youth and robust health were the beauty you were chas­ing. And you wasted them away pining for something that could never be you.
Better still, what irony to ac­tually get what you want only to realise it wasn’t what you were looking for after all. Like those parents who constantly feel bogged down by their children’s neediness and can’t wait for them to quickly grow up and become independent. Yet they look hack with such sad­ness at all those wasted, pre­cious moments they could have enjoyed with their children who now, as adults, have no time for them.
Or the wife who wishes she had relished those quiet weekends with her husband; eating, laughing, loving each other instead of secretly pining for the glamorous din­ner parties she now regularly at-tends with him but can’t remem­ber the last time they got a chance to genuinely connect and enjoy each other’s company. Or the man who spent his entire life chasing fame and fortune at the cost of forsaking his family for a better future. And then woke up one day to realise that he had alienated the very family he was working so hard for. Today he may have attained his goal but finds no one meaningful in his life to enjoy the fruits of his lahour with. Then there is the woman who looks at her bored, fat, comfortable life and won­ders whether those trying days were better. With strange envy she recollects her slim and trim self, running around, keeping everything together, with no time for any random thoughts of boredom and unhappiness that now seem to plague her all the time.
To mistake wants and desires with fulfilment is perhaps part and parcel of human tragedy. It’s as inevitable as man is fallible. Strange how those very wants and desires that fuel the world’s evolution at one level accounts for its devolution on the other. The desire
for bigger, better, best: has taken man to themoon, but has left his life on earth a little less worthy.” The sheer length and breath, quantity and variety”. of consumable things in this world of ours today are mind boggling but so are the environmental, ethical and economic ex­cesses committed in the name of advancement and civi­lisation. The sheer ingenuous greed that catapulted the finan­cial world to new heights of wealth and abundance has even­tually lead to this tsunami-like global recession, the rippling effects of which are far greater than we can fathom.
So who should one envy? The ordinary man gleefully chasing his child around the public park without a care in the world or the business tycoon shaking hands over a multimillion dollar project to build parks like the one this ordinary man enjoys the summer breeze in?

Sweet nothings

one of life’s unfair rules is that any-thing that is worth eating is too sugary, too greasy or simply not availa­ble. Take sweets, for example. They are yummy, feel-good, com­fort foods of the first order. It’s a different story that we curse them later when we discover those cou­ple of extra inches around the waist or an extra filling in our teeth. But all is not lost, it seems. There are still some good, old sweet foods that that will not make our cholesterol level shoot up or take us on a mile-long guilt trip.
On the contrary, they are great substitutes for harmful foods and contribute to good health. These foods include marshmallows, mar­malade, chocolates and even ice cream! And the best part is that byreplacing fatty and extremely sug­ary foods with these, we can still manage to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Marshmallows and pastilles Health-wise, it is better to eat marshmallows than creamy cakes as they contain significantly less calories. This delicacy is benefi­cial for our muscles, strong im­munity and even brain. It is also great for our hair, nails and blood vessels. The best time to eat this treat is in the afternoon, when glu­cose level in the blood takes a dip.
Marmalade
Marmalade contains pectin, agar or gelatin. The first is extracted from apples, watermelons, citrus rinds, sunflower baskets and sugarbeets. The second is derived from brown and red algae (seaweed), and the third is an animal protein. Far more useful than sugar, mar­malade reduces cholesterol in the blood, normalises the work of ali­mentary canal and removes toxins.
Muesli
Muesli breakfast is deservingly called a beauty breakfast. It re­duces cholesterol level in the blood and helps improve diges­tion. Muesli is rich in potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron and helps to maintain the balanced function of the nervous system.
Ice cream
It is very easy to blame ice cream for its high caloric content, but it’s not as bad as that. Ice cream contains 30 minerals, 20 vi­tamins, many useful enzymes and about 20 protein amino acids. Moreover, it has been scientifical­ly proven that ice cream lifts our mood, leaving us with a sense of joy and satisfaction.
Honey
By its caloric value honey is similar to sugar; however it con­tains more vitamins and minerals
as compared to its white competi­tor, Among its numerous healing properties honey helps our body to cope with cold.
Chocolate
Chocolate is the best antioxi­dant. Have you ever noticed that when we feel low, we crave for a piece of chocolate? Scientists have noted this as well and proved that chocolate “stimulates brain activity. Besides, thanks to its polifenolam component, choc­olate protects blood vessels from devastating impacts of free radi­cals.
Halva
The word halva is Arabic for sweet. It contains a good amount of proteins and fibre, minerals and oils. Even though halva is a high-caloric product, it does help in rejuvenating and improving functions of the di­gestive and nervous systems. Depending on their ingredients vari­ous halvas are rich in protein, so­dium, iron, copper and magnesium.
Indulging ourselves in our favour­ite sweets helps improve the bluest of our moods; but we should know the right time to say “enough” and brush our teeth immediately after eating anything sweet.

A taste of home

No matter what country you live in, one of the key challenges for a desi in any part of the world is acquiring a truly heart warming, gratifying meal. Sure you might be indulging in the all-too-hip burgers and fish `n’ chips and pizza home deliveries day in and day out. But there comes a time when even the most westernised of desis looks back and wishes for the simple goodness of honest, wholesome Pakistani cuisine like daal-chawal or the more festive biryani, tik­kay and kebabs.With a culinary assault that the British like to label as the “Asian invasion” though, it was to some relief that I came to, learn that desi food is not a rarity at all, even in the kingdom of England. In fact, curry and chicken tikka stand parallel to, if not above, the English tradition of fish-and-chips as the nation’s favourite food today.
My first memories of having English food include a number of rather flaccid meals seas­oned largely with salt and pepper and con-verging peculiarly on potatoes of all kinds and shapes: mashed potatoes, jacket potatoes, baked potatoes, hash browns, potato chips,
potato pie, potato cakes and the list goes on. If things got really adventurous, some addi­tional lemon juice or vinegar would find its way into the recipe but that is about the most there is to English food. gora waiters carrying dainty little trays around the place, we were greeted by the presence of two solemn looking desi bairaas sporting bushy whiskers, gelled back hair and smart waistcoats.
Seating ourselves at the table, we picked up our menu cards. Presently, one of the waiters came up to take our orders; tandoori chicken would do for now along with a help­ing of chicken biryani. To my surprise, the waiter stared at me for a good three minutes in utter disbelief and then said, “Bibi aap yeh naa lein; aap ko suit nahin kare ga. ”
Hardly believing what I had just heard did a waiter actually tell me off, what was this world coming to? I adamantly asked him to bring the same. “Laikin madam, yeh goron ki dish haye,” he reiterated. My mercury lev­els rose higher still; what did he mean it was a goron ki dish? It said tandoori chicken and biryani right there on the menu card; what was so gora about it anyway?
Finally succumbing to my instructions, a very distressed waiter returned with the order. Truly enough, tandoori chicken turned out to be a curiously sweet curry loaded with salt and pepper with the occasional chunks of It is little wonder hence that I could not help but anticipate visiting the city of Manchester, home of the Curry Mile, Rusholme and imagine helping myself to good old, proper desi food. Sure enough, as evening sets in, the entire
Wilmslow Road
lights up like the food streets of Karachi and Lahore as if awaiting a grand celebration any minute. Desis of all shapes and sizes step out with families and kids, laughing and chatting loudly as they make their way to their favour­ite eat-ins. Twinkling neon lights reveal rows of endless restaurants named in the desi tradi­tion: Darbar, Dildar, Kebabish, Lal Haweli, Lal Qila, Mughli, Nawab, Punjab, Sanam, Shere Khan, Shalimar and numerous others. There is hardly a gora as far as the eye can see and for a split second there, you forget that you are in fact in the heart of England.
The first time I walked into one such res­taurant with my husband, I found myself smiling in spite of myself; instead of the usu floating chicken; as for the biryani, it was lit­tle more than a sorry little pile of yellowed rice bizarrely topped off with a fried egg and no meat whatsoever..
But every restaurant trip is a learning expe­rience here; apparently the definition of tan­doori for a gora is anything smoky and sweet whereas biryani is largely a tasteless vegeta­ble rice dish instead of the heady, exotic meat pilaf that we desis are used to. What’s more curry, for all we know, is a meat stock spiked up with double cream and butter whereas ke­bab is anything on a skewer, be it meat, fruit, vegetables or even marshmallows!
Bitter sweet experience has literally taught me though, that it takes time and a love for food to pinpoint that handful of restaurants that truly chum out the best there is to desi cuisine here in England. In my quest to find that rare gem in an ocean of eateries, today I step into yet another restaurant to try out their “authentic” Pakistani cuisine.
This time though, I have planned things out well in advance, and so I ask the waiter, “Bhai koi desi dish bataiye ga.” He gives me a funny half-smile that he reserves exclusive­ly for his Paki clients, “Madam fikr hi na karain,” and then turns to his fellow waiter, “Oay Amjad, laga toe karhai apnay `ishtyl’ ki!” Sure enough, Amjad does what he does best and soon, I smell the rich aroma of my desi karhai sizzling in the kitchen. Long live the Asian invasion, I think to myself; now this is what I call authentic Pakistani food.