Maria Goretti: The art of staying in control when the kids ‘know everything’

For Maria Goretti—cuddle monster, dragon slayer, collector of moments and unstoppable smiles—motherhood is a loveable, learning journey.

By Shilpi Madan

Her twitter handle reads (in this order) ZZ’s keeper (she’s mommy to Zeke Zidaan and Zene Zoe), television host, chef, advanced PADI diver, 1/2 marathoner, mountain climber and cookbook author. Whew. And she is just back from Paris (post six magical, gruelling weeks at an intensive patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu), having polished up her baking prowess on whipping up the delectable Charlotte among a melee of other drool-worthy goodies. Now she is headed out again, this time to London, for an intensive upgradation of her yum pursuit. Former VJ Maria Goretti is busier than the proverbial bee. We were lucky enough to lock her in an indepth conversation in between her global trots.

A few excerpts

You are emotionally welded to your kids. How did you survive six full weeks without being around them?

Oh, I had great wi fi over there in Paris and did face-time with them every morning and every night. Their schools were shut for vacation at the same time, and Arshad (Warsi, her actor husband) was around at home. We had planned our schedules accordingly as one of us is always around for the children. So because they were fine, I was fine (smiles broadly).

Zeke (pronounced “Zeek”) is a teenager. Zene still has a few years to get there. What does their attitude spell?

“I know everything” (bursts into laughter). So that is the biggest change I am grappling with at the moment. They are pushing boundaries, slipping into the rebel mode.

And how are you handling this?

I have no clue (eyebrows reaching the ceiling) Honestly, I just go along with the flow. Some days I get it right, some days I am totally off the mark. There is no book that can ever guide you on raising children. It is personal trial and error. You just have to trust your own instincts and navigate yourself as a parent every day. So yes, there are instances when I lose my cool and hit the roof. On other occasions, I deal with issues very calmly, firmly.

So what kind of a mom are you—good, bad, ugly?

I think I am a pretty liberal mom. But there are certain limits, like no late night parties. I need to know, all the time, where you are and with whom. I explain stuff to them, reasons for saying “no” when I do, that there is no one to drop or pick them up…I talk a lot to them. I explain to them that this is the time to concentrate on studies. See, you have to strike a balance. You can’t clamp them down with too much parent control. But I always hear them out. The key lies in listening to kids.

And explaining as well, as you said. So for instance what are you explaining to Zene these days?

Children have more access to television and the web these days, to programmes that are age appropriate but also have characters dressing up in different styles. I am teaching her to respect all cultures. She is experimenting with different looks like all kids her age, and she needs to understand and respect what she can wear, where. As my teenage son is busy with football, playing drums…I find myself getting more time to spend with Zene. Just chatting, doing homework…

Of course, you meet with opposition.

Of course! (laughs aloud). She argues aplenty, gauges how much she can push me. She has seen Zeke go through the same phase with me. The advantage is that I have heard pretty much the same arguments from Zeke already so I know what to expect and how to deal with them.

So what does your stance look like?

Be tough. Sometimes I get fed up and lose my temper. Mostly I play the same league— push and make the rules clear.

What about Arshad?

He talks a lot to the kids. He’s great with them.

But you do the dirty job of disciplining…

Which mom doesn’t? Like Zene might throw a fit and say “You’re the worst mom, the most horrible mom” and I stay calm. As I always tell them, for me your well-being is more important to me than your opinion of me.

What is your stay-sane philosophy?

I talk to my girlfriends. I am lucky to have a fabulous gang. I meditate. I have my work to keep me busy.

Make a mommy confession.

I feel there are many people living inside me (laughs), so I do not know which one wakes up on which day. Some days I am cool, on other days irate…

One thing that all of you do together.

We cook. It could be something as simple as just boiling noodles, but we hang out in the kitchen together now and then. It makes for great bonding. Else we trace a mid-path and watch a show on the telly or a film, on my bed.

Last word?

Don’t be too hard on yourself, or on your kids. Sometimes it is just okay to leave it and let it be, anything that you are arguing over. Step back, breathe in. I am still learning.

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