Feminism India

In Conversation with Tina from Mom Boss of 3

The Desi Outsiders had a rivetting conversation with Tina from Mom Boss of 3 about balancing life as a married woman, a Mum of three kids under the age of six, and her passion project that is YouTube. Grab a cup of tea, sit back, and join Ankita and Meenal in this chat with Tina.

A: Tina, we feel that there’s a chapter of your life that no one really talks about anymore. And that chapter is your life pre-Harpreet. So let’s start at the very beginning. What was your life like before you became the Mom Boss of 3?

My life is very different to what it is now - for sure. So I was living with my parents before I married Harpreet like most traditional Indian people do. I studied, I was very social, I spent a lot of time with my friends, hit the club scene - did all of that!
I’m an occupational therapist so I ran my own practice which I had started around 2009. That was when I was already married, however, I was just finishing my education before that.

A: We often discuss on our podcast how Desi parents tend to force their kids into either Engineering or Medicine. And yours was the generation that started that trend. And you have Desi parents! Then how did you end up doing Psychology?

I think my parents did have high expectations - they wanted us to do something with our lives. That being said, they were never really forceful and never made us go into Medicine or Engineering, or anything like that. And here I am, married to an Engineer! My mum actually wanted me to be a police-officer, I’m very tall, and she felt that I was a waste of height by not doing something more physical!

But education was something they really valued, and it wasn’t optional. They told us that we had to at least do an undergraduate degree, and then we could do whatever we wanted.

M: Speaking of yours being the generation that may have started the whole engineering and medicine trend, yours was also the generation that first got introduced to social media. You didn’t have the exposure that your kids may have now, but yours was the generation that was kind of in the middle. Your parents basically had no access to the internet and now we probably have too much access to the internet - what was it like back then? Were you on MySpace or MSN Messenger?

I was on MSN chat back in the day. I remember going on the internet for the first time and it was one of those free trials and I remember having no idea how to use it - there was access to everything! The internet is endless in how you can connect with people. It took me a long time to join Facebook, I joined in around 2009. I also realised that I don’t have to go to the library to get any books - that was also another big thing for me!*

I was a bit slow to join the other social media platforms - I would do chat rooms and stuff like that. That being said, I met my husband on desiplanet.com and I know many people who got married on that site, actually!

A: I’m curious to know if you and your husband were just hanging out on Desi Planet looking for someone to date, or if your parents found Harpreet on the website and sort of “arranged” the whole thing.

It was sort of just a chat room and one day we met, and that was it! We actually realized that we had some friends in common, but we had never met before that. He was from the west end of the city, I was from the east end of the city. So my parents had nothing to do with it!

M: On Desi Outsiders, we’ve also had a lot of discussions about how first generation desi parents who have moved from India to the UK or the US or Canada are the ones who kind of go a little overboard in terms of holding on to their desi culture - continuing to wear only desi clothes or refusing to speak English. They’re constantly worried that their children might go ‘off-track’ and tend to be even be more assertive than Desi parents back in India. Do you think back when you were dating and considering marriage, your parents would have been okay had you picked a non-Desi guy or a Canadian?

My parents are very liberal. I don’t know how okay they would have been with it, but eventually, they would have been okay with it had I chosen someone outside of the culture. Nine years ago, inter-faith and inter-cultural marriages were still sort of a new thing. And I don’t know if they wanted to be those parents whose daughter married outside of the culture or religion.

M: Did you ever have these kinds of conversations with your Mum and Dad before you got married?

I don’t remember having these conversations with my parents. They knew I was meeting people, but they never questioned who I was meeting. Like I said, they were very liberal and I don’t think they had many concerns because they trusted my judgment at that point.

A: You were also the first born so be it with studies or dating, it’s quite common to see parents expect the very best from their first born children. They tend to go a little easy on the younger kids. We know the red-room incident, you know. Do you want to tell our listeners what happened there?

So if you don’t already know, my sister is YouTube superstar, Lilly Singh. And when we were younger, I really wanted to paint my bedroom red. We had just moved into this new home and my parents made me choose this beige colour instead. But then 6 months later, my sister wanted her bedroom painted red and they got the whole thing done! I think my parents were definitely easier on Lilly - but perhaps, I had already paved the way and let them know that everything was going to be okay. So they were a little more accepting and relaxed about the whole thing.

M: We also know that your sister took up Psychology herself because she was following your footsteps. That’s literally the only reason she’s ever given for picking her college degree. And as a younger sister 6 years your junior, she must have grown up looking up to you. But now, you’re on the precipice of turning Youtube into your career, the way your sister did. Do you think the roles may have reversed a little bit? Do you find yourself asking her for guidance and advice?

Oh yes, 100%. People used to refer to her as ‘Tina’s sister’ and now everybody refers to me as ‘Lilly’s sister’! The roles have definitely reversed in that respect. Lilly has been doing this for over 6 years now and she is someone I go to for advice and I really look up to her. She certainly is an icon - I couldn’t be more proud! People ask me how I feel being referred to as ‘Superwoman’s sister’, and honestly, I’m so proud! She is six years my junior and I’ve always seen her as my first born child. I love the fact that people love her, I also look to her for advice in other areas of my life too, not just for YouTube!

A: And when you started out, your channel was called “the neurotic mom diaries”. Why did you change that to mombossof3?

It was really a practical reason - when I have my usernames on social media, I cannot really have anything that long! There was some confusion between what my name was on Instagram and my name on YouTube. It was really unfortunate because I really love the name and I used to write a blog under that name, just for some friends when I first became a Mum. But I really love that name!*

M: One thing that really stood out to us while we were getting in touch with you regarding this interview is your work ethic and how professional you are in your dealings. We, first of all, didn’t know if you’d even agree to be on our show so we were pleasantly surprised when you responded within just a few hours. And every time we got in touch, you’d reply promptly - and when you didn’t, we would stalk your insta stories to see what you were up to!

I think that day I had to take my son to the hospital because he pulled his elbow! In terms of being on your podcast, when people ask me to collaborate with them, it’s very rare that I say no. I’ve been very lucky because my sister is so famous and she helps me with everything. If there is anything that I’ve learnt from her, it’s to be kind and to help people. We’re all a community trying to grow together at the end of the day.

A: And here you are at 7:30 am local time on a Sunday, doing this podcast with us while your babies are still asleep! I remember an Instagram story where you told us about losing all the editing work you’d done on a footage at 2 am, and we know that being a mom of three means you can’t sleep in after such a long night. On top of everything else, you’re also into fitness and working out. How do you still manage to stay so true to this incredible work ethic that you have and make it a point to get things done, despite everything else that’s going on in your life?

I have to say, there is no such thing as "balance". But I always stick to priorities. In January this year, I changed my vlogging style and I have committed to it. And I should make every effort to make sure that I stick to it. It’s not easy all the time, but this is really important to me. I feel that I can connect with the community of people who watch my vlogs and I'm sure they don’t care if I release a vlog at 9 am or 12 pm but this is a commitment I made to myself.

A: These days, everyone expects moms to do everything - be fit, have careers, don’t hire a nanny or a cleaning service, and be amazing mothers. But back when you got married, the norm was quite different. So many things weren’t expected of human beings in general. How did you look at things back then? What were the expectations that you had to fulfill?

We bought a home right before we got married. Shortly after, my mother-in-law came to live with us. Even though Harpreet is very religious, his family isn’t that traditional. So there are very few expectations of me as to what I need to do, I didn’t have to get dressed up and look pretty like I’ve seen other people do! In terms of motherhood, our expectations now are certainly much higher in terms of what we expect from ourselves. I think a lot of the time, the expectations we put on ourselves are misled. We expect to our house to be clean etc, but we know that with three boys under the age of six, that’s almost impossible.

I’m turning 35 in August and I have this crazy expectation that I need to be super fit at 35! As someone who was very fit, I am really struggling with this - but I keep comparing myself to people who live a different life!

M: At the same time, I’ve also seen on your videos and others on YouTube of mums who talk about their daily life and routine and people actually go up to moms and congratulate them on doing a good job, and tell them that what they’re doing is hard. Which it most definitely is because you don’t get a holiday from being a mom, even after your child goes off to college. But Tina, my grandmother had 8 children and back then, having three kids was like the minimum number expected. On top of that, there were no modern appliances helping her out with laundry or the dishes - life was pretty rough back then. No one would congratulate her for everything she was doing single handedly. Do you think social media has played a big role in this shift of mentality?

Now having 3 kids, I’m considered a mum with a lot of kids! I think social media plays a big role in the expectations we have of ourselves. Mothers are expected to do a lot more compared to back then - but now the expectation of things like organic food, keeping your kids bacteria free - it’s amplified by social media. When I look at mums on social media, everything is instagram perfect! I think ‘why doesn’t my kitchen look like that?’ The expectations we have of ourselves is definitely amplified by social media and if you’re not the fit mum everyone expects you to be, you become that mum who never got back into shape.*

A: Episode 22 of our podcast was on Motherhood. It was released in time for Mothers Day here in the UK. In that episode, I personally expressed a lot of fears I had in terms of becoming a mother which had mostly to do with making sure that I could raise and eventually release a good human being into this world because somewhere, as a control freak, I feel that I really wouldn’t have much control over all the influences in my child’s life. In that episode, I also specifically shared a fear which made Meenal a little uncomfortable. It was a question of what I’d do when my child came up to me with an issue that conflicted with my values. The example I gave her was, what if my 25 year old son told me that he could only feel sexually attracted to 13 year old girls, how do I make sure I’m there for him, but at the same time, help him. I think you’re the perfect person to ask this question because you have three little sons!

I think it's easy to react the wrong way with something that goes against your value system.
Looking at the future, I can say that I would want to highlight with my child that this is not something we accept. I would still want to help him figure it out, but I would also let him know that based on the value system I have, it’s just not acceptable.

Saying that it goes against whatever society believes in is kind of a slippery slope because there are a lot of things that people don’t accept in a society that they will eventually accept. For example, homosexuality wasn’t once accepted. But the key thing is to say that it goes against your own personal value system as opposed that of a society's.

M: From your vlogs and videos, we have seen that you have followed the path of religion to name your children and maybe even follow religious teachings to raise them? With all the freedom of speech and liberty we have these days, and all the information we are exposed to every day - literally on our fingertips compared to 20 years ago - how would you feel if one of your kids decided that perhaps religion wasn’t for him?

Harpreet and I have talked about this before, and the biggest example that we’ve had is that one day our kids might not want to keep their hair. So if our kids are old enough to know what they are doing, I think that we would speak to them about it and let them know why this is important to us and then leave the decision to them. We would still love them all the same!

A: Now, it’s time to ask you something we always like to ask our guests. What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of becoming a first-time mother?

Just go with the flow! Everything will come to you eventually and if you are not experiencing motherhood as you think you should, it’s because you’re reading too much into social media and other people’s experiences. There are mothers who look at their first born child and don’t feel that they love them, and that is completely normal. Mothers feel alienated when they struggle - but not everything is as perfect as it appears and every experience of motherhood is unique. But if you are struggling, do reach out for help!

And what advice would you give to a mother of more than 2 kids under the age of 2?

You just have to take it one day at a time. It can be challenging at times, but having your children grow up with a small age gap, they can be best friends and it’s incredible! So if you’re struggling, just remember that this too shall pass very quickly!

You can find the full conversation here:

A fifth-year medical student successfully placing my stethoscope the wrong way around every day. I'm a podcaster, sports enthusiast and I guess, a feminist.