What’s next?
Minu Ahmed Weekend

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So a woman has had her first kid, and after a considerable amount of time has passed, the air is always abuzz with silent questions and friendly nudges. And usually the impending question always comes in the form of another (vaguely disguised) question:

“Hello dear, so Bunty is in school now, don’t you think it is time that he has a new friend?”

“Hi beta, how are you doing, how is your health? You are still so young, why don’t you have another baby now, Bhutku and the new one will grow up together?”

Or worse, if you hadn’t already managed to lose weight from the first baby, or even had the misfortune to gain more, there will always be someone who gives you a conspiratorial arm squeeze and gush, “Hey! Are we going to hear any good news?”

I always have a response to the last one: “Oh yes! You see this huge bulge here; I call it Bhaat, my food baby.”

Conspiratorial smiles tend to melt into highly embarrassed expressions and sheepish grins, which I take great pleasure in.

If the assorted aunties aren’t bothering you with their prodding, then your mom is probably next on the list of interrogators. I actually made things really easy for my mum – got married early, had a kid soon after, so she got her charming son-in-law and grandchild without too much of a fuss. Well, minimal fuss from my end, but she had been harassing me since the day I turned 18.

Back then, she would choose all these 30+ years old established doctors (read: uncles) for me. If that wasn’t stifling (and humiliating) enough, she was grossly disappointed I didn’t study medicine, or English. Since my business degree was apparently a waste of time, her main aim in life at that point in time was to marry me off. I fought her off day and night, and told her repeatedly, when I found the right person, I would announce it myself and get married. And that’s exactly what happened!

After I got married, then my folks were worried about “what’s next”. I was looking for work, but they would drop hints about how they were getting old and wanted to take their grandchild to school while they could still walk around. Ignoring these eye-roll inducing statements was the only thing I could do at those moments, but life had other plans for me. Instead of getting a job, I got knocked up!

Couple of years later, I now have that job, but it’s not enough. It seems like there is some underlying competition as to who can “make it in life”. I wasn’t too worried about any of that, and I figured when the time was right, things would just happen. Of course in the meantime I read stuff online, and had casual discussions about when it was the “right time” to have a second child.

The Internet told me that most couples from our generation would wait to be more financially viable to be able to afford two kids. I agreed wholeheartedly, because kids are really expensive! Starting from the pre-delivery costs, doctor appointments, ultra sonograms, medicines, tests; and then the delivery itself, and then post-delivery care, like vaccines, more doctor appointments, diapers, more medicines and so on – everything costs quite a few bucks!

When I had Jellybean, I wasn’t working and the entire financial pressure was on The Husband. Thankfully we had help, from my parents and in-laws, so it worked out. But I’m sure not everyone is so lucky. Plus we also live with my in-laws so I had help to take care of Jellybean as well.

That’s the advantage of Bangladeshi culture and society - we don’t mind living in joint families and it certainly isn’t odd, as it is abroad, where families tend to be more nuclear. But with the advantages come the expectations, and I know a lot of women who choose (or maybe didn’t choose) to have kids within a short gap; so that the “hassle” is over at one go, because they have help to raise them.

That didn’t happen with me, I wanted to give Jellybean as much personal contact as possible, and time just flew by. As Jellybean approaches her fourth year, I can see how lonely she gets, because we aren’t always there or able to play with her as much as she wants us to. I feel sad for her, but I also have to think about our ability to have a second kid.

What will happen to my job? Can we afford another kid now? Am I mentally and physically ready to do all that all over again?

These are just some of the questions that I ask myself whenever I think about it. It’s stressful for me, and so I figured that since Jellybean came to us without notice, maybe Butterbean will as well?

Who knows!

Minu Ahmed

Minu Ahmed is your not-so-average homemaker, norm-shirker and abomination of awesomeness, juggling a career in communication, mother-hood and her fatter half. Questions? Send to [email protected]

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