Q&A with a travelling dad
We’ve been discovering many new-age parents who have so much to learn from! In our next edition of #DadVersations, we spoke to an adventurous couple,Karan Kochhar & Shubhreet Kaur who are ‘Raising Karma’, their 2 year old daughter, in the most progressive way ever! Being travellers, the couple has moved countries every 2 years till Karma came into the picture (she has been to 9 countries already!!). Karan is a seafarer by profession while Shubhreet gave up being a journalist & TV news anchor after motherhood and is now an avid mom blogger!
Fun Fact: Many of the toys Karan buys for Karma are secretly for him!
Q: You’ve travelled the seven seas Karan. So what made “The Captain” anchor? Was it Karma the kid, or just karma?!
Karan: Nicely put. The “Captain” loved his life. He travelled far and wide. Sometimes, with his lady love and other times alone. He did crazy things, he had lots of hobbies, he hung out with his friends and most importantly he had TIME! And then Karma struck, and everything changed, FOREVER!!! Hahaha.. While I’m kidding there, that story is not completely false. A lot does change, but with a silver lining. And it’s not something that can be explained to the unparent. We were there too, and we never got it then either. What got me to step ashore? Well, after Karma came along, it subconsciously was just never an option to stay away from her, and my ship just sailed away into the sunset, without me.
Q: Jokes apart, how has becoming a parent changed your life and routine?
Karan: If you look at then and now, the change is dramatic. A complete 180 degrees around! But what most people don’t realize is that the change is very gradual. Nature prepares you well for each step, every change in the journey is a tiny incremental one. So whether it’s the first poonami (a tsunami of poop!!) , putting to bed, colic, spit up, steps, words or bruises, you have to be there and you have to be part of it. All the changes that do happen (gradually) around you become irrelevant and you learn to prioritize the important things in life. It really only seems tough before and after, but while you are in it, you glide through. One thing Shubhs and I do wonder sometimes is – what did we do with ALL our free time before we became parents??
Q: Work, travel, husband, dad… how do you keep it all together?
Karan: By not doing any of these things properly. Hahaha. Kidding, I do my best, and it’s not always perfect (ask Shubhs, she’ll tell you!). But that’s ok, because I have my priorities right. And it’s the opposite to how you have said it. It should be – dad, husband, travel and then work.
Q: The first diaper change, to bathing to shopping – you do it all for Karma! Did you do an informal crash course, or watch youtube or read books before you became Daddy?
Karan: I follow this very successful method called the ‘Mess it up - Get yelled at - Learn’ Cycle. Generally, in life, especially after marriage, it is a very effective way of learning. Guys don’t like reading manuals and being told what to do. And I’m a guy. I do it the best way possible – my way. And then when it doesn’t work, I immediately learn the better way. It’s sort of a crash course – something gets crashed and you learn really quickly.
Disclosure: Ok, I do secretly youtube and read up from time to time, but it’s mostly an afterthought.
Q: How do other men in your family/friends react when they see you as a totally hands-on dad, Karan?
Karan: Thank you. I like being called a ‘totally hands-on dad’. Yes, I am proud of it. Well, the close ones really appreciate it and tell me what a great job I’m doing, even though they sometimes get an earful from their better half’s about not doing enough. The not-so-close ones, well, that doesn’t matter, does it?
Q: Have you two divided baby responsibilities on a daily or weekly basis? Tell us all (yeah, I’m a big snoop!)
Karan: That’s simple, I do Mondays to Sundays and Shubhs takes the other days. Haha.. No, Shubhs and I try to do it 50-50 every day. We have demarcated duties which are primarily – dress up, diapers, meals, drop off, pick up, play time, bathing and sleep. We negotiate almost everyday as to who keeps what duty and keep mixing it around. We have never used parental or domestic or other help for Karma since the day she was born. So, we are both pretty good at managing things ourselves. Sometimes I’m stuck at work or have class (or have a night out with the guys) and Shubhs ends up doing everything. I try compensating for that by giving her a night or a day off whenever possible.
Q to Shubhreet: What parenting skills do you think Karan really rocks at (and you are a teeny weeny bit envious of)…?
Shubhreet: I’ve always joked Karan is the more ‘maternal’ parent because he has been involved from day 1. Honestly, he reads more books on raising kids than I do. He changed Karma’s first diaper when we got her home from hospital and can manage ‘poonamis’ with ease (his term, not mine!). Not to mention, he is an expert at sleep training. Let me make it very clear, he gets no bonus points from me. This is how parenting should be with both mom and dad equally involved! It was a joint decision for us to not call grandparents over to help when Karma was born and do everything ourselves. It was a lot of work but we did it based on our research and how we wanted to parent. We are not perfect but we enjoyed it! That is what we try to encourage new parents to do as well – work as a unit! Some days will be tough, some will not. I don’t know if I’m envious of his parenting skills. She prefers him taking her to the park to play everyday instead of me. I’m not complaining because I can drink my chai in peace. But he did name her and people have actually told us that if they have a daughter, they will name her Karma. So he gets all points on the name. I do get jealous when people say – Oh she looks just like her dad! And I’m like - Dude, 9 months I carried you, puked my brains out and you come out looking like your dad! Hahaha. But she has my personality so it’s cool! ;)
Q: The most looney thing Karan & Karma have done when Shubhreet wasn’t looking?
Karan: Ermmm, you will get me into trouble here. I’ll tell you this, you know the saying – when the cat is away… So when mom is away, we do a lot of crazy stuff. It usually involves getting very messy, a lot of dancing and screaming and jumping and sometimes stuff breaking. One thing we are good at is cleaning up before the cat, er, I mean mom returns.
Q: What keeps you sane, Karan?
Karan: I meditate everyday! For about 2 minutes by which time Karma is either sitting on me, or pulling at my hair, arms, legs or clothes, or is yelling dada, dada, dada dada, dada and so on.. But I would like to know what makes you think, I am sane? A wise man once told me, do not panic until there is blood. This advice has served me well.
Q: To Shubhreet: How difficult was it to let go of your TV anchor career and jump into mommyhood? At any point of time did you feel you lost your mojo?
Shubhreet: I was anchoring till about a week or so before I delivered Karma. My producer used to joke that one of these days our live bulletin will air me going into labour. Haha! If I’m being truly honest, I never saw myself as a mother. It was never a part of my plan. But the second Karma popped out and we heard her cry, we couldn’t stop laughing. One minute I was screaming in labour and the other, I was laughing hysterically. Up until that moment, I didn’t realise how much you can possibly love another human being. And yes, I do miss my career. That part was tough and I think it’s okay to admit that. I loved what I did and hopefully, I will get to do it again. But overall, having Karma has actually made me more confident about myself. I always thought I would feel more dependent or insecure. But it has made me fierce and I really feel I can take on anything and anyone. Haha! But that is how nature works. A lioness defends her cubs with all her might and it makes her stronger.
Q: To Shubhreet: How challenging was it to take up your new profession as a Mom Blogger?
Shubhreet: I had a lazy start to be honest. A lot of people would comment on our photos and tell us in person that they really like how we are managing Karma and how we should write about it so more couples try it out and not be scared of parenting. And then two of our best friends in Singapore – Akshat & Roopa – actually set up a blog and bought a domain in Karma’s name and gifted it to us! Cutest thing ever! I wasn’t very regular for the first year and we shifted countries again. Then I decided to give it a real shot since I hadn’t gone back to full-time work. In some ways, it’s not been that difficult in terms of coming up with topics to write and the actual writing since I was a journalist earlier. But I didn’t realize how much other work is involved in it – setting up blog, the way it looks, social media and trying to get followers. Luckily, I had help. Our cousins Praerna & Arjun gave me a big push and helped me revamp my blog from scratch when they were visiting us in Mumbai. I have a great network of fellow mom bloggers who are always ready with advice and support. I can safely say my blog would not have grown without these people in my life. You know that saying - It takes a village to raise a child. I don’t agree with it. But it definitely takes a village to raise a mom blog! ;)
Q: To Shubhreet: What is the one thing you look forward to doing when Karan is busy with Karma?
Shubhreet: That’s easy – Netflix while chomping on pepperoni pizza. Haha! I’m a TV person and I love watching shows. Movies are not really my thing unless it’s Marvel. I can’t wait for Karma to be old enough so we can watch the entire X-Men, Thor and Avengers series in order from start. I’m hoping she turns out to be as big a Marvel fan as I am.
Q: A non-child friendly place you landed up at and walked out of?
Karan: Interesting, let me think… No, we’re pretty stubborn like that. We take our child everywhere, whether they like it or not.
Q: Your most memorable experience/incident while travelling as a family.
Karan: This has got to be our first trip to Goa with Karma. She absolutely loved the beach and the water. She walked fearlessly into the water, without looking back, and holding her ground against the little waves. Anytime during the trip, if the beach was within line-of-sight, she went straight for it. Night or day, it didn’t matter. The sand was like water to her and all she wanted was to bathe in it, all the time. She ended up having numerous long showers every day, trying to get the sand off, just in time for the next sand bath.
Q: Since you are “the travelling family” please tell us 3 child friendly places we all must visit!
Karan: Singapore – It is possibly the most child friendly place in the world. Everywhere you go, there is always something for kids. The attractions are even more amazing - the zoo, bird park, universal studios, Sentosa island and much more. Not just for kids, but great family activities too. Barcelona - Hands down, the best place to travel with kids in Europe. Right from the airport where families with young children use the VIP lines, to the entire city which stroller friendly. The monuments to see, the beaches, the public transport, all have special access for families. Copenhagen – This city is in this list because of its people. Random strangers on the bus or at the park would come up to talk to Karma. Everyone was so nice to us which made it a great experience for us.
Q: Travelling with a toddler – the 5 must haves in a parent’s bag?
Karan: That’s easy, for me it’s just 3 – iphone, chips and chocolates. I’m kidding again, for me it’s really just 3 – Water, Diapers and Wipes. Everything else is manageable. It REALLY is! Try it sometime. (And I guess that’s why Shubhs is in charge of packing.)
Q: Where are you three heading off next?
Karan: Next up is our trip to the US – It’ll be Karma’s 10th country. This was actually a study trip as part of a management program that I am pursuing. I was initially planning to make the trip alone, but then an apple fell on my head and I realized that it wouldn’t be the same without Karma and Shubhs. So now the three of us are off to Los Angeles – Vegas – Disney Land – New York. We have some road trips planned too. It’s also gonna be Karma’s longest flight. Yikes! Wish us luck!
Q: To Shubhreet: What do you admire most about “Karan the Dude” and “Karan the Dad”?
Shubhreet: Karan The Dude – He gives everything his 100%. Be it work, parenting, travel or friends. Our house is a dharamshala and we have friends over to stay every month and we love it. He works really hard. And not many people know this, but he studies hard too. He does a new course every couple of years. He’s currently doing an executive MBA from Cornell University and somehow manages that in his schedule. We shift countries at the drop of a hat if an opportunity arises. He’s always ready for a trip. And he makes sure he gives Karma his time even during busy days. He doesn’t fret over small things and looks at a bigger picture – what he has instead of what he doesn’t! He’s a sorted boy like that! LOL! Karan The Dad – He’s a feminist Dad and proud of it! He wants her to choose her own path, form her own opinions, wear what she wants etc. He doesn’t care if she’s gonna be straight or gay, get married or not or comes first in class. He wants her to be her own person! And I’m grateful and relieved that I found a partner who is this progressive in his thinking. This is how I want to raise Karma and Karan is right beside me on it!
Q: ‘Raising Karma’ – you both are truly raising Karma together! How do you think the mindset of dads who believe bringing up the child is the mother’s role only, can be changed?
Karan: I think really a cultural issue that is deep rooted in our society. Not just ours, but most countries across the world. However, it is a belief that is gradually changing. If you compare our parent’s generation to ours, the difference is stark. Back then there wasn’t much of a concept of a hands-on dad. Today it’s very different. You see more and more fathers are actively involved with their children. I’ve heard some of my older friends say that they didn’t hold their kids for the first 6 months as they were scared to do it. I couldn’t imagine that. Clichéd as it may sound, I love every moment that I have spent with Karma and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think that every Father has a strong in-built paternal instinct, but societal structure and norms may prevent him from embracing it. Usually it’s the grandparents who are the culprits. With all the right intentions, they come in as subject matter experts and take over the initial care giving, depriving the guy of taking the first steps towards fatherhood. This cascades on to the father taking on the role of an outsider, who only spends a limited time everyday without taking on parental responsibilities. I would like to encourage every father out there to get in the game and get their hands dirty (literally!). It is never too late and it’s really not that difficult once you are in it.
Thank you Shubhreet & Karan! You make it sound so easy! Happy globe-trotting with Karma!
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