Sue's post today, struck a chord. I started to leave a comment, but it was turning into a mini-post, so instead, I chose to blog about it. Hence, this post of mine...
Sue's 'no ayah' sentiment is something that I not only understand, but 'lived' by for a very, very long time. Being a bideshi-and-then-probaashi-bangalee until I moved to Cal, the concept of ayahs was, to me, a very Brit thing. A colonial hangover. My mother raised two kids alone in New York and then Bangalore. My aunts were doing it all over India. So when I got preggie and delivered my EO, I knew I was going to do it on my own. Having my baby run to somebody else for comforting and words of love; having my baby hugging and kissing someone else; having my baby transfer his affections to a woman other than me, his mother; letting someone else be the first to witness any of his 'firsts' and other milestones...ugh! Unthinkable! Soul-crushingly, mind-f***ingly unthinkable and cringe-inducing. No way!! Not for me!! Thank you, but no thanks!!
Well, the family that I had married into had very different ideas, including the MIM. For them, ayahs were a part and parcel of the domestic scene. Families with little kids could not function without them. It was unthinkable. But I was was anal about handing over my baby to anybody else, and yes, that included my in-laws and my parents. I was stuck to him like well dried and solidified Feviquik. The problem was that the MIM did not share my viewpoint at all. And it certainly didn't help matters that the SIL , a Calcuttan through-and-through, was visiting from Bombay with a four-month old and that she had hired an ayah for the entire time that she was here. So, I finally bowed down to pressure and hired someone; her ayah's sister in fact. But, obsessive-possessive natures are impossible to change, so even though I had someone, she wasn't allowed to touch my precious baby. And I mean literally! I let her help me out by drawing the bath water, washing the baby's clothes and keeping the room Dettol-clean, hospital spic-and-span. But I would feed the EO, bathe him, change him, put him to sleep...hell, I didn't even let her clean his potty! I never left him alone for even one second and I was, obviously, very tired and extremely sleep-deprived. But I was happy. Happy beyond measure! Because I was doing everything for him myself! I never went out anywhere at night, wanting to cuddle up next to my miracle at all times.
But things were not easy. People thought I was mad, crazy, unreasonable. The taunts I had to hear and endure broke my spirit. I cried myself to sleep many nights. Even my 'friends', the Calcutta-based ones, were so un-understanding and unsympathetic. They felt bad for the MIM who had to deal and live with such a stubborn idiot of a woman. I never felt more alone in my life!
Then I went to stay with my parents in Bangalore for three months -- maidless. Aah! The freedom and joy of it all! After I returned to Calcutta, I put my foot down -- no more ayah! I was adamant and stood my ground and nobody could make me change my mind. My son would have me and only me. And boy did he!
I am sorry to say that the MIM and I had a very tough time over this issue and it affected our marriage deeply. I stopped partying and going out anywhere at night. Anywhere my baby wasn't welcome, well, then I wouldn't be there.
In hindsight, I feel I could have been less rigid and a bit more compromising. Maybe I should have trusted my MIL a bit more with the EO, but back then, I just couldn't hand over a piece of me to anyone at all. And I do mean anyone and everyone. Did I ever hear the end of it? No. I still don't.
Do I regret not having help? NOT FOR A SINGLE SECOND. Do I wish I had gone about things differently? Maybe just a tiny bit since it affected my husband AND my marriage so much. But even then, the decision not to have an ayah was the right decision for me...then.
Now, I really need the help and I am grateful for it. I am so busy ferrying the EO to and from school and then his various activity classes and his birthday parties and keeping up with his social life in general, that I need an extra set of hands to help me with my YO. As a result of which, I am a lot less possessive about the YO. Does that mean I love him any less? My mind shouts a loud, clear and resounding "NO!!!!", but the heart? Ah well, that is another story entirely all together for the heart has a mind of its own...
Does it hurt that the YO first turns to the ayahs for comfort if he falls down and hurts himself? No, it doesn't hurt...it KILLS me. Even now. I die a hundred deaths when he goes, arms outstretched, to one of the ayahs for anything...be it a cookie, a toy, a few words of endearment, some soothing... But, this is a decision I made and have to live with. Yet, there are often [in fact, very often lately :)] when the YO chooses me over anybody else, when he wants me and only me. And these are moments I cherish with an insane kind of triumph and glee. And that's when I realise that I will aways be his mother and no one else can take my place.
So the decision to have, or not have an ayah, is a very personal one. What is right for you may not be right for somebody else. Hell, it can your decision can even change along with your circumstances. As it did for me. Like I said before, I don't regret not having one during the EO's time. However with the YO around, I wish I could do without one, but I would only be fooling myself.
What I would never do though, is deride someone for having/not having an ayah. I would never force my opinions on somebody else and put the other person on a guilt-trip regarding this decision. And very frankly, I think it's the mother's call more than anybody else's in this issue.
After all, the decision to keep someone who can do huge chinks of your job is a very, VERY big one. You have to be sure. The ayah is someone who ca stand in for you whenever you're not around. Having someone 'take your place' in your baby's life...well, it's humongously HUGE. And you just have to be comfortable with it.
In conclusion, I just have this to say -- if you know someone who doesn't want an ayah even though you feel she should have one...back off. If you can't be supportive, at least keep your trap shut!